Cape Horn woes

Keel issues on Groupe Bel and Neutrogena as Michele Paret's health is still in question in the Barcelona World Race

Tuesday March 8th 2011, Author: Andi Robertson, Location: none selected

It is hard to judge whether the Pacific is extracting a particular taxation from the Barcelona World Race fleet on their deliverance into Atlantic or whether it is simply the accumulation of hard miles since the start, or recent problems among them are all purely circumstantial.

But with the news Monday night that Kito de Pavant and Seb Audigane’s Groupe Bel have a problem with their keel which will need proper assessment, none of the fifth to seventh placed boats will climb the Atlantic towards home at full speed.

Fifth placed Groupe Bel’s De Pavant remained upbeat today, admitting that he and Audigane do not really know exactly what the problem is, but that the head of their keel has been showing some movement (this was also a problem in the Route du Rhum, causing them to retire from the race). The duo planned to pass Cape Horn before seeking shelter to assess their problem. Groupe Bel was 30 miles the Horn at 1700 sailing in a strictly conservation mode making nine knots. This being de Pavant's first Cape Horn rounding.

De Pavant explained: "There are two or three concerns on Groupe Bel. Last night we heard some strange noises in the boat and a few hours later I realised that the head of the keel had developed some play. We were going fast between 15 and 25 knots, but it was really when the wind dropped and the keel start to move more with the waves that we realised it was worse than we thought. We don’t really know exactly what the problem is, but it can be bad because it happens below the axis of the keel and so there is really not much that you can see. We have done all we can to secure it and make the boat safe to be ready for anything that might happen. We have decided to carry on out course in the direction with the wind and the waves and as soon as we are passed Cape Horn we will turn left towards Ushuaia and make a complete diagnosis. We modulate our speed, not too quick and not too slow because it is important the speed is as consistent and regular as possible.”

Their fate contrasts slightly with that of Ryan Breymaier and Boris Herrmann on Neutrogena who were visibly delighted to pass Cape Horn today at 1135 GMT  taking 14 days, 16 hours and 50 minutes to get there from Cook Strait. A live link with double Route du Rhum winner Roland Jourdain, owner of their Open 60, saw the American-German duo receive warm congratulations from Bilou and their ‘home’ support. But they also explained the detail of their own keel ram problem which has compromised them for the last five days and which will handicap them until the finish.

Breymaier, for whom it was the first Cape Horn rounding explained the problem: “We have a problem with the rams on the keel. In the ram we have a problem with the joints inside one of them. So we can only use one and so it is hard to be at 100% all the time. We need to reduce the angle of the keel and so are about 70% of potential just to protect the boat a bit. The last four for five days we have worked hard with the keel and for the moment it is the best possible state. And so we intend to look after it very carefully to make sure we can finish the race.”

Neutrogena passed Cape Horn almost in tandem with Thomas Coville on the maxi tri Sodeb’o. Herrmann said that the world girdling tri had passed within a couple of boat lengths of them and they had been able to hail each other.

Dominique Wavre, expected to make his ninth Cape Horn rounding at 0500-0600 tomorrow morning and confirmed today that he remains very much in solo mode on Mirabaud. The health of his partner and co-skipper Michèle Paret remains relatively stable, but she is resting in the bunk most of the time and Wavre’s time is split between managing the boat, looking after Paret and grabbing whatever sleep he can.

"Michèle has some nausea when she is upright but she is okay when she is lying down, she is recovering in the bunk, but is still sick. We are sailing conservatively, a little under-powered and we try to play a bit with the gusts and squalls. There are 195 miles to the horn with an ETA of between 1500hrs and 2000hrs this evening, but all depends on the winds. I try to sleep and to help Michèle when she is awake. It is a little peculiar the rate but we don’t take any risks to make sure we can go on. Today I imagine passing the Horn and then heading for the Falklands and to take a view on Michèle’s state of health. And if it is okay, we will be very happy to continue to Barcelona.”

The Cape Horn rounding of Renault Z.E Sailing Team on Monday evening proved an almost Mediterranean interlude for Pachi Rivero and Toño Piris, as the crew experienced sunshine, light winds and were accompanied – as if to order - by dolphins. Their strategic options may be relatively complex but their Farr design is in good shape for the Atlantic and should, ironically, be able to profit from their stricken rivals behind them.

On International Women’s Day Dee Caffari, approaching her fourth Cape Horn rounding, spoke from on board GAES: “Hopefully Anna and I are a shining example and an inspiration to women. It is nice to be down here as a female team, to be part of it all and doing a good job, and showing that girls can go and do the same thing."

When you first started out on your professional career, did you ever think that you would now be approaching your fourth Cape Horn and fourth circumnavigation? “Never! I never even imagined I’d hang out in this part of the world as half as much as I have. A lot has happened in a very short space of time. It still makes me chuckle to realise that this will be my fourth lap.”

And what do you feel about the achievement itself? "I feel as if I am very fortunate to have been given the opportunity to do what I have done. The nice thing with this circumnavigation is that it has allowed me to offer Anna the opportunity. It is almost a bit of payback taking someone down here the first time and letting them round Cape Horn. I am very privileged and it is nice to be able to share it with her.”

It is the inevitable question, but what are the advantages and disadvantages racing around the World in a race like this as a woman. "Hopefully we are showing that this is one of those sports that women can compete on equal terms with men. We are out here on the same types of boat, in the same conditions doing the same thing. There is no easy option because we are girls, or another way round things because we are not a team of boys. It is the same for us as it is for them. It is a unique sport in that respect, but also it just goes to show that, like in business, you can be on equal terms with the guys, it just takes a little more oomph sometimes and a little more creativity to get you there in the first place.”

Who has inspired you in the past? “I am very fortunate that my position now has been made easier by those women before me. I can remember watching Sir Peter Blake, and then Tracy Edwards taking the Maiden team round and them arriving in particular tand thinking ‘wow that’s quite impressive stuff’. Since then, there has been Emma Richards, Miranda [Merron], Ellen doing such a fantastic job and Sam [Davies] who just enjoys every minute she has on the water. They are all inspiration to me and I aspire to be as good and enjoy it as much as they do."

And you are of course an inspiration to many men as well! "We are definitely all out here for everyone."

What would your advice be to women looking to fulfill their dreams, or do something out of the ordinary? "Sailing round the world is quite an extreme thing and for everybody they have their own version of sailing round the world, a little challenge or a big challenge. The big thing is not give up and not take the first defeat as ‘that’s it’, that’s the only thing you can do. Keep going, stay at it and be bold. Dare to dream. You can definitely do more than you think you can.”

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