Leaders round Cape Horn
At 1020 GMT this Thursday morning Jean-Pierre Dick and Loïck Peyron on Virbac-Paprec 3 led the Barcelona World Race fleet past Cape Horn. They were followed just four hours and 20 minutes later by Spain’s double Olympic 49er medallists Iker Martinez and Xabi Fernandez on Mapfre. With just under 7,000 miles to sail to the finish line in Barcelona, the lead of Virbac-Paprec 3 was only 72 miles.
Since their enforced 48 hours pit-stop in Wellington to replace essential mainsail batten-cars, Virbac-Paprec 3 crossed the remainder of the Pacific to Cape Horn in 15 days 1 hour and 35 minutes, their aggregate time since leaving the start line on 31 December of 61 days 22 hours 20 minutes.
Mapfre’s passage time of 12 days 8 hours and 20 minutes not only ensures that the Spanish pair have set the bar very high as the time to beat for the fourth of the race’s ocean trophies, but the hard driving pair have surpassed the record from the inaugural edition of the race of 14d 00h 31m for the 4,270 miles passage which was set by Pachi Rivero and Javier ‘Bubi’ Sanso on Mutua Madrileña.
With the Cape Horn now diminishing in their rear view mirrors, Dick and Peyron said that they passed Cape Horn in strong westerly winds required them to pass ‘very, very close’ as they sought some respite from the very challenging conditions thrown up by the low pressure system, formerly cyclone Atu. For the French duo, their pleasure and satisfaction was doubled as both had individually failed to reach Cape Horn in the 2008-9 Vendée Globe. Dick described it as a certain ‘revenge’. But both pairs have been match racing at a furious pace across the Pacific and this is likely to continue on the climb back up the Atlantic.
“It is a great day, one of the magical days in your life, all happiness today to be with Loïck passing Cape Horn," said Dick. "The weather has been rough last night with more than 35 knots of wind, and the waves were very impressive we were pitching right into them so it was difficult with the wind. We did not know how much we how much sail to set, so we tried to do our best to keep up the speed but not risk the boat too much, so we seem to have succeeded with Cape Horn this morning.”
"For the moment the boat is fine. You see the state of the boat today, there was a lot of water over the deck last night. It is a different feeling each time. Last time we did not have a time to see the Cape with Damian [Foxall], it was dark and today we had more chance to see Cape because it was dark and today we had more chance and to be very, very, very close. We have the photos and the film and so it was a magic, magic moment we will remember for a long time.
"It is going to be a tough match between the two boats, we are ready for it. We will try to do our best to arrive in Barcelona first, keep on doing what we have been doing trying to go fast, do have a good strategy and not break too many things on the boat. We have to make sure we go direct to Barcelona, no more stops now. That is what we are going to do.”
Mapfre's Xabi Fernandez was perhaps slightly more subdued: focused, determined but very clearly content to be passing in second place, particularly in contrast to his previous Cape Horn roundings on the last two Volvo Ocean Races. On movistar, five years ago to the day, they were fighting a technical problem with the keel which saw them stopping in Ushuaia, while in the last race on Telefonica Blue they had a rig problem which meant they were in last place: "It is good to start pointing north. I don’t think there is going to be big changes in the weather, there are some squalls around so we have to be alert and ready to put reefs up and down, but we have to go fast. Now Virbac is going to do a lot of miles now. They are going to be very, very fast.
"I think this so far is the best time. We had quite a lot of problems on the boats before. Movistar and Telefonica Blue we had broken pieces, we were last which was not very nice. But this time we are good and good in the race, so we are very happy. It is good to be here and to be pointing north into better weather. Rounding together with Iker is special especially arriving here in second place. So it is a very good moment.”
While the Pacific is now behind them, the battle of the Atlantic is just starting. As yet unknown is how the two will compare in upwind conditions which often prevail heading back up the nouth and then the north Atlantic, but the first obstacle to contend with is a high pressure system developing off the Argentine and Uruguayan coast.
Elsewhere in the fleet Dee Caffari reported from GAES Centros Auditivos: “The wind is due to drop in intensity in front of us and so we are hoping it will be a much more comfortable ride.
"The Southern Ocean has its own little dramas and so you do inevitably slip a bit into survival mode. Cape Horn is looming but there is a lot of activity before then. It is really a case of knowing we have to keep the boat in one piece so that we can really push in the Atlantic and on our way home. So at the moment it is a little bit of a balance between conservatism and keeping an eye on where everyone is.
"We noticed that the luff of the mainsail was loose. A batten car and an intermediate car had come loose above the third reef, so we waited for the wind dropped so we could drop the main and I could replace them. After that it was about saving some things which were not happy having been out on deck, little things. The biggest issue at the moment is the Fleet broadband not working so it is making getting weather very difficult.”