40 knots for 30 hours...
After the stress and challenge of the one-time Cyclone Atu, for the four IMOCA Open 60s which had to deal with it, today was time to put the nasty depression behind them and get back into the racing groove. If a bit battered and bruised, Groupe Bel, Estrella Damm, Hugo Boss and GAES Centros Auditivos have emerged with their boats and equipment in good shape.
A relieved looking Pepe Ribes on Estrella Damm remarked: "our bruises will heal, but the main thing is the boat is okay." Ribes was pleased with their routing through the system and the big, very disturbed and confused seas which had caused them to go into survival mode for 12 hours. For 30 hours the wind was not less than 40 knots, and they had periods up to 50 knots. He said the conditions were much worse than they had been expecting.
“It was not good. We crossed the eye of Atu, or rather we found it, by thinking we could sail inside it, but no, you can’t sail in these conditions. We knew that, but we did not dodge it. I think that having Groupe Bel close with us influenced our decision. I don’t know if you remember the film quote, ‘Do not underestimate the power of The Force’ - well we felt the power and the force of nature. It gave us 30 hours of 45 knot winds and spells of 50 knots and a very confused seas. We had to take down the mainsail and sailed for 12 hours with only the staysail, trying to survive.
"Alex and I feel like we half succeeded, considering we have had to swallow tons of Ibuprofen, Alex with a bash to his ribs, and me under my ribs on the right side. The Pearl does not seem to have sustained any damage at first glance. What a boat we have and how it holds the road, and it has done the equivalent miles to four circumnavigations on the clock. What a relation we have with her.
"I did not eat anything solid for 30 hours only energy bars and shakes because it was impossible to do anything and do anything with anything which was not attached to the boat, so you were in the bunk or on the floor.”
Ribes and co-skipper Alex Pella both sustained painful bruising in separate incidents, Pella falling against a winch while putting in a reef and Ribes while wrestling with a headsail furler. Three times Volvo Ocean Race veteran Ribes confirmed they were drained after their exploits but they were joint quickest boat of the fleet this morning and already trying to hunt down Groupe Bel. Their fellow Wellington pit-stop partners have been between two and three knots slower and Estrella Damm had made 11 miles on Kito De Pavant and Seb Audigane during the morning and early afternoon.
A temporary outage of Mapfre's tracking beacon has seen Spanish duo Iker Martinez and Xabi Fernandez miss out on accurate reporting of their exact whereabouts today, but there is little doubt that they are still pacing leader Virbac-Paprec 3. Mapfre’s Iker Martinez admitted they are finding it tough to hold on to the pace of Virbac-Paprec 3, was 28 miles ahead of them this morning, although they are pushing very hard. “Now we have had a change of wind and the manoeuvres have got more complicated, and to keep closer to Virbac Paprec 3 we really have to work a lot. We really would like to get to the Horn and start going up and now it looks like we have favourable winds, that will allow us to go directly there.”
“We are doing good, much better than we thought. I think we used the little time we had before the race well. Even if it was not a lot of time we used it well and we had a real great help in Sanxenxo, we are very grateful to Pedro Campos and all the guys there that gave everything to help us prepare the boat and that we think has made a difference. The routings suggests we could get to Cape Horn on 3 March.
"For the moment we have to face a weather situation, because we are going to have a heavy storm. Looking at the routings we see that this storm is coming and if we go fast we could arrive to the Horn just as it is starting, but if we end up behind it could take us full on and there is no escape because we have to round the Cape and this should be done just before or at the beginning of this great storm and that doesn’t look good at all”.
Loick Peyron commented from Virbac-Paprec 3: “We get to the last gate in 70 miles and then finally we will be free. We have had a very unsettled wind, it is icy cold and it is raining, sleet on the deck. The weather is cold so Jean-Pierre is in the sleeping bag resting. And so I currently play with the pilot, push button sailing,”
“From here it will be quite windy but I think we are lucky because we are between the two depressions. It should be quick and so in four days we should be at Cape Horn. We have worked hard and made a lot of sail changes and operations to adapt to the wind changes. And on deck you get hot very quickly and then cool down quickly. So the choice is not just what sails but what clothes. We are proper fashion victims.
"Mapfre sails well and they are very serious customers. We watch their position, their speed and course, one imagines their sail combinations and their weather. The race is full of excitement, it is thrilling.”