South Atlantic restart?

South Atlantic could be a reshake of the dice for the Barcelona World Race competitors

Monday March 7th 2011, Author: Andi Robertson, Location: none selected

Relief, release and recharging will be especially welcomed by the peloton of five Barcelona World Race duos which are due to start passing Cape Horn imminently. And a restart in the south Atlantic for this group is possible.

In fact for Renault Z.E Sailing Team’s Pachi Rivero and Toño Piris, who were due to pass the mythical rock at around 1800 GMT this evening there will be huge satisfaction to be passing in third place, a great interim result for the duo who have known each other since their formative sailing days in Santander but which only joined forces for their present campaign ten months ago.

They have three Cape Horn roundings between them. Rivero was last here with Bubi Sanso on Mutua Madrileña in the first Barcelona World Race, while it will Piris’ third following two Whitbread/Volvo Round the World races, 17 years ago on Galicia Pescanova and subsequently with Chessie Racing.

Of the five due to pass the around, 28 hours is expected to separate Renault Z.E. Sailing Team and their Barcelona sister-ship Estrella Damm, due on Wednesday evening and only really Renault Z.E. Sailing Team and Groupe Bel, which stopped in Wellington, have been sailing their last miles in the Southern Ocean at close to their optimum. Neutrogena have had their technical issues and Boris Herrmann sounded today like he was very keen to get around the corner in the Atlantic. Mirabaud also are sailing conservatively as are Pepe Ribes and Alex Pella on Estrella Damm.

Herrmann admitted that Neutrogena had been knocked flat, or nearly flat four times yesterday. He reported: "It is very windy, we are going fast. Yesterday we had up to 62 knots and four knockdowns. I would say we had an average of 40 knots yesterday, and that one gust of 62 knots which lasted about a minute but that was enough to throw us on our side and it was a little bit of a shake up. We are now changing between the second and third reef and the Solent and the trinquette so we have rather small sails, reaching here, trying to be gentle on the boat and not surf too crazily against this very confused seas. It is very cold, you really feel it on your fingers, and it is raining and that hurts you because it is so cold, it is like ice rain, The water is cold now 5.5 degrees. It is cold.

"We are 360 miles from Cape Horn, so I think we will arrive in darkness. I think it will be like the start of a new race after Cape Horn, with Groupe Bel, Estrella Damm, Mirabaud, Renault and Hugo Boss will not be very far behind and there are going to be so many tactical options, and actually the most tactical thing is just ahead of us when we re-enter the Atlantic.

"We are fine, we have a spare sleeping bag which got wet when we broke our ballast, but now we have it out because we could not deal any longer with just our thin blanket - it was getting too cold. We are a bit stressed from this weather and with our technical problems, I feel with every hour we get closer to the Horn more and more relief. We are going to be safer as well, a bit safer after the Horn.”

Alex Pella added from Estrella Damm: "I am looking forwards to passing Cape Horn for the first time. It is something mythical and exciting, but most of all I am just looking forwards to pointing the bow north, to have fewer waves, and for it all to be a little calmer. It is hard and difficult, with complicated conditions, and the stress of possible failures. So we have a great desire to pass. It will be like a great ufffffff. As if to lift the weight of the East Indian and the Pacific off all at once. We saw the Sodebo yesterday. We called to them by radio but it didn’t work, we called them on the small hand held and later when we were on deck we heard something in the radio, but it did not work or we could not answer. He was peculiar, and to think that it is alone on that boat in a front of 40 knots!"

While some are certainly compromised, either boat or crews or a combination of both, the South Atlantic and the ascent through or round high pressure systems promise a new race for this group, placing a whole new set of demands on the crews. But, initially, after a demanding Pacific, there will be the welcome chance to return to the Atlantic rhythm.

We Are Water arrived in Wellington this morning. Jaume Mumbru and Cali Sanmarti will make full use of their 48 hours technical stop to repair their electronics, restock their supplies and perhaps even get some proper rest. They dropped sails and started motoring in Wellington bay at 1236 GMT and docked  at 1348 to start their 48 hour long mandatory stop.

And at the front of the fleet, the two leaders strategies for the south Atlantic high pressure system are now lined up with both Mapfre and Virbac-Paprec 3 opting to go east, a fact which seems to have allowed Jean-Pierre Dick to breathe a little more easily, but the winner of the first edition of the race still confirms that this stage of the 25,000 miles course prove be one of the keys to overall victory: “We will pass to the east of the anticyclone and the wind will drop and they will catch, we do not know how much difference there will be when we get clear of these weather features, but the effect will be that of the rubber band. On our part it is important not to lose the morale. Our morale is good, we are in the lead of the race, we have a good boat and the race is well on. After so long now you can start to see the end and what we want, that is to win this race. Even if we get back into zones of lighter winds we will try to keep the boat moving nonetheless. We still need to vigilant, because in only two minutes many things can happen. The conditions improve, but we would rather have more wind."

Dick continued: "We have not had much sleep up until now but now with Loïck we try to sleep as much as possible at the moment because we do not have very fixed watches. It is not like it was with Damian when we were very disciplined, but Loïck brings a more Latin outlook maybe. But then I am much more experienced and less stressed. The decisions we take are with more flexibility.

"As far as being followed we are quite content for the moment. It is not easy because we there are always pros and cons. Mapfre has some options the way they are coming, but if they had gone the other way then it would have been more uncomfortable. The South Atlantic is usually a place to make gains, but then of course there is always the Mediterranean, but I think the South Atlantic is an important component in winning this race.”

From their competition on Mapfre, Xabi Fernandez said: “We are trying to sleep a little more and to rest all that we can. In the end we go to the east, we waited as long as possible to make the decision, and in the end here we are going by the east. Possible one because still they are many days and are destroyed after the beating we have taken in these last days. In the end we go by the East. We were waiting for all the possible one to make the decision, going high, and in the end we go this way. We fire up the computers as little as possible and connect to the satellites as little as possible, trying to save power and energy."


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