Mapfre back up to speed

As Spanish duo stop to fix halyards in the Barcelona World Race

Friday March 4th 2011, Author: Andi Robertson, Location: none selected

After their detour and four hours halt to try and sort out a halyards issue, the crew on Mapfre have clearly channelled their frustration and disappointment into simply pressing the accelerator pedal back to the floor as they immediately try to make up the 200 miles that they lost to Barcelona World Race leaders Virbac-Paprec 3 yesterday night and this morning.

Since getting back on course and up to race speed Iker Martinez and Xabi Fernandez have already clawed back nearly 20 miles on the race leaders Jean-Pierre Dick and Loïck Peyron.

In fact the leaders, seeing the fate of their pursuers, and the size of the margin which was opened so quickly after Cape Horn, might just have given themselves a few hours of much needed respite to recharge their energies after a very fast Pacific since Wellington and a robust passage of the Cape.

Seeing the Spanish duo get back into racing shape, Dick and Peyron responded over the later part of this afternoon’s schedule and Virbac-Paprec 3 was the quickest of the fleet on the 1400 sched.

The loss will be felt deeply by Martinez and Fernandez especially after such a promising rounding yesterday, pulling miles back on the leaders on the approach to the Horn, but the repairs which included a difficult mast climb in building wind and fading light for Iker, add another dimension to the duo’s transition from highly supported Olympic and Volvo athletes, to the demanding self sufficiency of solo and short handed IMOCA Open 60 racing.

They had to find a quiet location, between Lennox and Neuva islands at the entrance to the Beagle Channel, slowed or stopped for close to four hours, while they managed to get themselves one useable halyard.

Martinez reported: "After the Cape the wind dropped a bit but before that it was very strong. We wanted to press Virbac-Paprec 3 and we did, which was very hard but very pleasing, but when we pushed they responded immediately. And this after 24 hours with very strong winds we wanted to use a halyard which was at the top of the mast, as the wind dropped after the cape but it was completely jammed, and so we tried to use another but it was also jammed. So in the space of five minutes we had no halyards to use. To start with we thought we would fix it in a short time and that it was a small problem, but quickly we realised we had no means to climb the mast because we did not have a halyard to pull me up. But fortunately 12 days ago when we were off New Zealand we had moused an extra halyard guide, so we decided that I would climb the mast myself and Xabi would not pull me up and would use the guide for safety.

"It was a very complicated and difficult procedure and so we went north to look for an island where we could do it. We had seen some places, there was one, but it was 60 miles away and it would be dark when we got there. It was a complicated place and there was a bay on the way to Ushuaia but the problem was the time it would take it us to get there, so we did not have any time to wait to get there. We decided to go somewhere we did not know but it seemed like there was a chance of dropping the anchor in 10-15m of water and so decided to go between Nueva and Lennox Islands. But our luck was in when we approached and saw some fishing buoys. Incredible.

“We started work immediately in falling dusk and it was getting windier. So it was impossible to stay up the mast and work We fixed the second halyard and as soon as we get some calms we will try to fix the other one. We got off the buoy in very light winds but now we are on the course we want and making 17 knots. Of course it's sad that we got so close, but the distance now is by no means irretrievable. If we get back to 100 miles away from them, we'll be able to start thinking about that again, but if we don't, we won't be able to think about that. Also there may be the possibility that we'd have to stop over at a port for repairs and as we said before, if it's not absolutely necessary for safety reasons, we don't want to make technical stopovers and incur 48 hour penalties.

“We already knew that if we didn't stop in New Zealand that this sort of thing could happen, because you check over all of these things on land, but our aim is still a Barcelona World Race with no stopovers.”

From leading by 77 miles at Cape Horn yesterday Virbac-Paprec 3 have stripped out a margin on Mapfre of 252 miles.

Delicate balance for Dominique Wavre and Michèle Paret

Approaching what will amount to their 11th Cape Horn rounding between the vastly experienced Dominique Wavre and Michèle Paret in Mirabaud, the next three to four days will be delicately balanced for the duo. Paret’s anemic condition has stabilised slightly according to Wavre today, but his partner and co-skipper is weakened and mostly resting trying to restore her strength.

Wavre said today that they now cannot discount a stop somewhere for blood testing and treatment for Paret, but at the moment their main focus is to get past Cape Horn and then review the situation.

“Michèle rests for the moment. She is prone to anaemia but has been resting for 24 hours. She fell over in the cockpit yesterday and since then has been trying to recover. It is important she takes her time but the situation is stable for the moment. The concern is for the health of Michèle. She has been very courageous, making sure we got through the operations and all the watches until she was too exhausted. She drew too much on her reserves. Now we will make an assessment after Cape Horn” said Wavre today.

"Now we are in preservation mode, but we know there is not as much wind in front and those behind will compress in to us, so we will need to preserve the boat as much as possible and to look after the health as much as possible and to see whether she can recover from her anaemia. So it will be a delicate balance these next few days.

"It is similar to the Vendée Globe just now for us because we can’t expect to push 100% all the day. Certain operations on the foredeck become difficult, so it is a bit more preservation just now.

"We have to consider that if Michèle is not able to eat properly then she may get more tired and accordingly it might be necessary to get some blood tests done. And so we cannot discount the possibility of a stop. Our motivation has always been to get on to the podium, but now it is days and a week at a time. The race passes to the second level, the health of Michèle is the priority.”

Mirabaud is firmly in the cavalcade of five boats which are likely to compress over their course into Cape Horn. An awkward, unstable transition – a void of variable winds between the weather systems – will make life especially testing for Renault ZE Sailing Team and to a lesser degrees Neutrogena and Mirabaud, but it is the duo behind – who both stopped in Wellington – Groupe Bel and Estrella Damm which may make the bigger gains, avoiding the vagaries of this change. In fact after Renault ZE Sailing Team, on a routing which sees them at Cape Horn Monday evening, there seems to be every chance that the four other teams could pass within the following 24 hours, likely less.

But there are additional variable in that mix: Neutrogena have been slowed and at times erratic today, victims of unstable winds or perhaps a technical problem of some description, while Estrella Damm’s Pepe Ribes reported today to his team that he has sustained an injury to his knee, compounding the bruised ribs he suffered during their battle with low pressure Atu.

From Renault Z.E Sailing Team, Pachi Rivero reported: “In principle we were going away from the system but that changed on the most recent models. We see in the European model we would get it, but we would not catch it on the GFS American model.In any case there will be less breeze than with the last one, 30-40 knots. We will take the loss that comes to us from behind but not ahead. We have had a hard night, with changeable conditions and they tire you out. When there are big winds, sailing with reefs, staysail, solent you pace yourself accordingly, but when the winds are lighter, say under spinnaker and full main, and changing all the time it is more tiring. Now we have 15-16kts of wind and you have to be active, and on it, changing the rhythm. Neutrogena, Mirabaud, Groupe Bel and Estrella Damm have not lost since they left Atu and now come chasing in after each other, with hardly any transitions.”

In Wellington now Juan Merediz and Fran Palacio are investigating all options to keep intact their dream of bringing Central Lechera Asturiana back across the finish line of the Barcelona World Race. Full technical assessment of their fractured mast is under way.

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