Chris Cameron / Barcelona World Race

Spanning the breadth of the Pacific

Barcelona World Race tailenders still struggling in Cook Strait as leaders take on the south Atlantic

Sunday March 6th 2011, Author: Andi Robertson, Location: none selected

Not for the first time in this Barcelona World Race, and almost certainly not for the last, the contrast in fortunes between the pacemakers and the backmarkers of the fleet is vast.

The only thing that Loïck Peyron and Jean-Pierre Dick seem to be struggling with on their ascent of the south Atlantic on Virbac-Paprec 3 this Sunday afternoon is deciding if their nearest rivals Mapfre are indeed following in their wake, or whether Iker Martinez and Xabi Fernandez will break to the west of the high pressure system.

Otherwise it is fast, easy sailing for the French duo, enjoying rising temperatures, robust spirits, and even a chance to appreciate the wildlife, as Dick reported: “We had a night of fast reaching. Our option is taking shape. Even if we sail further to get round this east side of the anticyclone, we feel good about it for the moment. It remains to be seen what Mapfre will do, to go off and shave the west centre of the high pressure. They are not going that way and at the moment are in our wake with less wind and seem to be on the same route as us. Who knows? They are good and tough, so we have to be wary. We have a good Atlantic rhythm, sleep, work, freeze dried…Just now we are both on deck working when we can. And after two months together working, then things just happen naturally. We saw some funny dolphins yesterday, black and white. Loïck saw a seal with beautiful moustache.”

In Wellington, New Zealand, Juan Merediz and Fran Palacio are desperately trying to convert their huge motivation and desire to finish their Barcelona World Race into a solid, workable plan: a means and methodology to successfully re-join the two broken halves of the mast they broke in the Tasman. In fact their mandatory 48 hours stop will expire tonight with little real progress. Saturday was spent with Southern Spars assessing the damage to their Central Lechera Asturiana rig and many others on board looking at their other jobs and problems. And Sunday has been equally frustrating with strong gales not even allowing them the chance to lift out the remaining upright section.

Juan Merediz, joined by phone from Wellington today said: “We are very motivated. But on a technical level there are many complications and it is nearly impossible, but that is nearly impossible so there is still some possibility. The major problem is that, and there are many things broken, we are lacking a genoa. And if we want to stay in the race we must satisfy the IMOCA Measurement rules. It was already complicated in Barcelona to change the rig and so the logical thing is to be able to join the two pieces.”

First priority today is rest and recuperation for Jaume Mumbrú and Cali Sanmartí on We Are Water. They had to abort their entrance in to the Cook Strait in rising winds, big breaking seas after suffering further sail problems.

After having seemingly made the clear decision that they would be fighting on and not stopping in Wellington, the duo were exhausted and at a low ebb when they finally managed to take refuge in a sheltered area of D’Urville Island, to the west side of the entrance to the Cook Strait. As long as they do not accept outside assistance they may stay on the mooring they have found there and leave in less than 48 hours, to return to the race track. But by all accounts some of their repairs which they made since being knocked down in the Tasman last week, have been negated and the duo anticipate making enough running repairs to get the boat moving safely again.

Mumbrú said: “All the repairs that we had been doing the last few days got ruined in a few hours in the huge, boat breaking waves. The door closed in our faces. When the sea does not want you to pass through, you can not pass, there is no way of getting around it. We are both OK and We Are Water though somewhat hurt, is good too. "

For both teams there is the backdrop that the autumn weather patterns in the southern oceans are already being reported by teams, and so time is of the essence for both We Are Water and Central Lechera Asturiana.

Pachi Rivero and Toño Piris have been accelerating rapidly towards Cape Horn which the third placed duo should pass Monday evening. As the leading duo engage with their depression in front of them, Rivero and Piris have been fastest in the fleet this afternoon making 18.1 knots and an average VMG of 18.7 knots.

French solo-skipper Thomas Coville passed within an estimated 3 miles of Estrella Damm today, making clear visual contact with the IMOCA Open 60.

From on board Estrella Damm, Pepe Ribes reported: "The straighter course is better for us to recover. We had options to gybe but we preferred not to expend the energy. We will gybe in about six to eight hours when the wind shifts to 300 and then it will be straight to the horn. It is a bit of an extreme option but it’s the best for us now. We are still getting better but my knee remains the same. If I forget the painkillers then it is sore, with them it is okay. Yesterday I made one bad move and I had a lot of pain. Today I am a bit better. We are about 800 miles to the Cape and it is early to predict the exact conditions, because it all happens so quickly down here. All the systems are moving so quickly down here.”

From ninth place, Dee Caffari reported from GAES Centros Auditivos: “We are back in it with 30 knots or so, so we have had a little bit of respite and now we are back in it, so it is kind of the norm. At this point in the Pacific I have the feeling now that it is about just getting out of here. The enjoyment level has disappeared somewhat. As I said to Anna it is the last push, it is the last few thousand miles. She said she felt like she had hit the wall, like you hit in the marathon, and I said it is typical of being down here. In a week’s time it all starts to be more positive for you. I think it is the last days’ push for her in the cold and wet and the grey and the wind. We have a lot of layers on. Bu we have a secret weapon which is a hot water bottle which we can sit with. It is like having a baby but it is very warm and comforting, so we pass the hot water bottle at the watch change, so we discuss it as well as the weather. But everything is still wet, cold and damp inside with condensation which is not good for boats and electronics.

"I have not a chance to look to far in advance because we are struggling for information and so I am quite limited, but if we get it right to the Cape it will not be too bad, but we can get there between depressions so we get some strong winds to get there and then get round before the next strong winds come along. So hopefully that will make it quite manageable. But Anna has requested nice sunny conditions so she can take a picture, so I will see what I can do. The nice thing is that the Atlantic offers compression, so where we are losing touch with that pack ahead of us, there is a chance for high pressure in the Atlantic and so for the rest of us to come up fast. That is what happened in the Vendée Globe and I am positive it can make some difference.

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