Robust conditions take their toll
From the leading duo counting down their final 750 or 800 miles to Cape Horn to those nearly 5000 miles behind fighting to make it across the Tasman to the Cook Strait, the vast majority of the Barcelona World Race fleet today are either racing in strong winds, or expecting them imminently.
Virbac-Paprec 3 and Mapfre, some 78 miles apart this afternoon, are trying to outrun the approach of a fast moving low pressure system, the regenerated, reinvigorated Atu (Atu v2.0?) and escape around Cape Horn into the Atlantic. But it is the fleet’s tailgunners on We Are Water which has struggled the most today after being temporarily knocked flat by a big wave, taking water inside the boat.
Jaume Mumbrú and Cali Sanmarti reported that they are both fine, but unable to gybe due to a broken lazyjack and other sundry problems the duo were making slow southeasterly course during the early afternoon, before heaving while they baled water out of the boat and try to sort out their electronics problems. The impact of the wave ripped apart plastic spray curtains which protect part of the cockpit. Part of the electrical equipment is not working at the moment.
And Dee Caffari and Anna Corbella last night (day time local for them) suffered a series of involuntary tacks when GAES Centros Auditivos’ autopilot hiccupped twice. With two sails partly in the water, the duo had their hands full, choosing to run north and take some pressure off themselves and the boat. The robust hard reaching conditions, with the wind slightly forward of the beam in difficult seas, made their choice of sacrificing some miles to Hugo Boss a difficult one, but a necessary one at the time.
“Things are horrible. We are upwind in 35 knots of wind and it is pretty wet and miserable," reported Caffari. "We had an ‘everything’ problem, the good thing about it all was that it was daylight when it happened. It was a catalogue of disasters and it took us quite a lot to get through it. And I just had a very brief time in the bean bag and I said to her that I feel like I have been beaten up. I feel quite exhausted by it. We are really wanting this wind to drop now.
"We have come back on course now. We decided that we cant run away to the north for ever because it does just make the course worse afterwards. We are back where we should be after having a bit of rest and recovery. We are now just upwind and it is 30-35 knots. According to the forecast by 1800hrs this evening it should start to ease and then we go through our daylight hours upwind.
“It was a bit emotional at the time but we did manage to giggle about it, we found the funny side of it, the fact that we were so ridiculously wet. But everything is still working, the boat is okay. We got the sails back on board, so of all the things that did go wrong we dealt with it all well.
"It was really good, because I just jump on deck and get on with then I think that she gets a lot of confidence in that, so she drove while I got the sails back on board, and she drove while I sorted the pilots, so she got a bit of a battering each day. We both warmed up and put some dry clothes on and since then we have recovered. It is really good to see her confidence grow so much and in the boat. And we looked after each other, she just said to me that the only thing she wanted was that I not go in the water. I said I was not planning on it!
"It is really nice to see Anna progressing, most of confidence and she says that comes from me which I am surprised about, but now she is confident in what the boat can do and making choices like what sails to put up and I am pleased about that, because it makes my life easier. So it is working for both of us.
"And she asks questions about, like this is not what you said the Southern Ocean would be like, and I say it is different for me too. It is nice to hear her talking to other skippers in the fleet and sounding more knowledgeable and confident."
The duel at the front of the fleet between Virbac-Paprec 3 and Mapfre now sees the French duo taking a clear advantage of their more northerly track. Individually both sets of co-skippers reported that they were struggling with the very changeable and unstable winds – requiring many sail changes and constant vigilance – in the brisk, but variable breezes sent by the low pressure centre which was just to the south east of them today, slightly closer for the Spanish duo.
Despite the intensity of the battle with the Virbac-Paprec 3, the evident chagrin at losing miles to the French pair, not to mention the extreme cold – 4°C and the fact that it was in the middle if a dark, dirty night - it was again an inspiration today to see the pleasure that Fernandez, Spain’s three times 49er world champion, double Olympic medalist and twice Volvo round the world veteran, takes in answering questions put to him by the young local Barcelona school children.
The duel with Dick and Peyron is dismissed for a few stolen moments Fernandez’s smile breaks his lips, the twinkle in his eyes lights up the gloomy fug inside Mapfre as he takes time and pleasure to answer each question fully. One of this race’s unique and pure pleasures, one which perhaps will inspire a new generation of round the world racers?
“The situation is a little more complicated than the last few days," Fernandez reports. "We have spent the last 24 hours with a lot of showers, one after the other and so we have had no rest. And an area of light winds has really struck us and so we have been losing some miles, little by little.
"There are some clouds with showers which bring you squalls and more wind which give you a good push but not in the direction you want. For example we are on a course yesterday of 100-110° and suddenly you get a 50° shift, that is you pointing 50° off your course. On the other hand there are another kind which tyou get which suddenly see the breeze drop from 20 knots to five or six knots, totally quiet and you can do nothing. It pours with rain. And in these hours you are given to wondering how the other boat is going. You kind of assume that it is the same for us both, but the truth is that we had another bad cloud and a spell with zero wind.
"I think they are going a bit better than us, we are fighting to stay with them. Although we have got a little bit back I think we can see some compression into Cape Horn. To pass Cape Horn first? ...Well it is a big enough achievement at all to pass Cape Horn, but first would be better.
"The target is just to go as fast as possible we need to simply get there as quick as possible. If we are slowed or delayed it would be difficult. There is always acceleration of the wind there, and so aside from Virbac-Paprec 3, we just want to be there before the storm gets us.”
And the duel for third evens out again this afternoon as Renault Z.E’s Toño Piris and Pachi Rivero fight back, 19 miles ahead of Neutrogena this afternoon both sailing at even speeds.
The duo on fifth-placed Mirabaud also reported in - Dominique Wavre: “We will do all that we can to attack third place, but it is a bit difficult at the moment because tomorrow we have a big depression coming and that will put us in conservation mode not to break anything. And so it is a bit of a difficult position. We are expecting two storms between now and Cape Horn and so it will be difficult but we will be doing all we can to get at third place.
“Mirabaud is in good shape. We have no big concerns. Yesterday there was a problem with a wind indicator but we use the spare which is a bit less precise but it is a little les precise. The boat feels a little tired, but everything is intact. We have been surfing at 22-23 knots. The wind is lifting and so we go a little north again to wait for the shift and then to return to the south on the back of a major depression heading in the direction of Cape Horn.”
Michèle Paret: “We mostly have enough food to get us to the finish. We have cut back on our consumption. We will have a bit less food for the last week but we don’t have any great concerns. And it is not normal to have to stop to take on food.
"At the end of the South Atlantic before the south I felt a bit weak and so we spoke with the doctor and he said I was a bit anemia. And what we had in the boat’s pharmacy would not be enough until the end of the race. And the treatment is long term. So the preference was to get a supply from New Zealand and as soon as I started to take the iron I have been feeling better. And so I continue to take it to make sure I don’t risk a new weakness.”