Chris Cameron /

Hugo Boss and GAES approach Cape Horn

The latest from the Barcelona World Race

Friday March 11th 2011, Author: Andi Robertson, Location: none selected

After eighth placed Hugo Boss and ninth placed GAES Centros Auditivos round Cape Horn tonight, there will be just three of the Barcelona World Race fleet left in the Pacific, including Central Lechera Asturiana in Wellington where Juan Merediz and Fran Palacio await the repair of their broken mast.

Andy Meiklejohn and Wouter Verbraak were expected to pass Cape Horn at around 2000 GMT this evening while the girls on GAES Centros Auditivos are only around three hours behind them. Dutch co-skipper Verbraak today confirmed that the duo have had a tough Pacific and were looking forward to the release of the ‘big left hand corner’ and the challenges and opportunities the Atlantic should bring them:

“It feels great for us to be getting there….I was only supposed to be going to the Cape Verdes, here I am at Cape Horn!” quipped Verbraak.

He added: "We’re pretty excited to have Cape Horn not so far away, but it’s not making things easier – we’ve had a lot of snow and hail storms through the night, and the wind really up and down. At the moment we only have 10 knots but some times in the squalls we have 35-40, so it’s pretty challenging times. It’s as if the Southern Ocean is desperate to show us it’s not over until we’ve really rounded Cape Horn.

“Cape Horn is a big milestone for this race, and obviously for Andy and myself it’s the third time so we know what it means to go around it. It influences a lot of more light airs and a warmer climate, so we’re excited to go into the Atlantic and make our way home.

“This next part, especially for the group ahead of us, there are some difficult weather situations for them to negotiate, whereas for us it looks pretty much downwind so we’re pretty happy with that. We’ve said all along, from the moment when we were in last place, this race isn’t over until we’re back in the Med and we’re still in contention, so we’re looking for any opportunity we can have and see who we can overtake.

“Andy and I myself are in good shape. One thing that has been really strong on our boat is that we’re a great team, we’re very balanced between ourselves and we have complementary skills that we learn from each other. And so we’re good in that sense, and I think that’s going to be a player in the way up the Atlantic.

Today’s prelude to their passage was the first time that either of the co-skippers have been contacted live on air since their exit from the Cook Strait because they have been very strictly rationing their energy use: “The fuel situation is not that great, so we’ve had generator problems where a coolant part of the generator has stopped working. This happened well before New Zealand, and thanks to the support and creativity of our shore crew we have managed to find a solution using another part on the boat and plumbing that in, which wasn’t straightforward but we managed to do it. But that was a big up, and means we don’t have to stop for fuel, but we do have strict strict rations so unfortunately we haven’t been able to go into the videoconference, which is big shame but it’s good to be talking now.

[Rounding Horn] “I was never meant to go past the Cape Verde islands! Normally there would be a bottle of strong liquor on the boat, but I think on this occasion there will be a lot of candy, maybe an extra delve into the supplies of chocolate!

“For us ever since New Zealand we’ve been bouncing into this low pressure system ahead of them, and as we all know the conditions just behind the low pressure system are not very ideal for sailing, so we’ll see what happens. We just crossed a line so we’re happy with that, and ahead there’s still some challenging times. It’s actually fun to have somebody to race against, and we’ll see when Groupe Bel comes out she’ll be another potential competitor that we’ll keep our eye on.”

For both of them it will their third passage of the Cape of Storms. The complex pattern of multiple low pressure centres was giving them variable breezes, anything from 10 to 35 knots within minutes of each which was making it hard for the duo to find an ideal sail-plan.

Caffari and Corbella look like they might be able to reap a reward for their prudent strategy across the Pacific, but like Hugo Boss they are expected to have little time for souvenirs and tourism. Indeed it was shaping up to be unfortunate timing for Caffari’s Spanish co-skipper Anna Corbella. She may be set to become the first Spanish woman ever to race round Cape Horn and add to her honours as the first Spanish female sailor to race the Atlantic solo – finishing 13th in the 2009 MiniTransat – but with 104 miles to the rock at 1600 GMT it was shaping up very much like the girls would pass into the Atlantic during the hours of darkness.

It will be a considerable triumph for Corbella who disliked sailing when she started at four on her parents’ small yacht. It was only when she started racing in the 420 that the bug bit and since then she moved through into an Olympic 470 programme which she progressed She helped prepare Jaume Mumbrú’s MiniTransat and then was leant his boat to compete on her own. Considering she only stepped on an IMOCA Open 60 for the first time just over one year ago, hers is an achievement to be proud of.

But time will not be waiting for either Hugo Boss nor GAES Centros Auditivos as a high pressure system is set to develop off the Argentine/Uruguay coast which would effectively force them out on to an easterly routing up the Atlantic. Their most recent routing suggests they need to get north and west as possible, perhaps set to be the first boats to route west of the Falklands and maybe even through the notorious Le Maire Straits which separate Cape Horn from Staten Island.

Meanwhile from the South Atlantic, Iker Martinez reported from Mapfre: "The big picture for last few days was very hard for us, we’ve been floating not sailing. We have gone too much west in the high pressure, and we couldn’t do anything else. We have had to wait to hoist the spinnaker because we didn’t have this halyard and then we were too late. So we just try to manage the situation and now we’re happy because we’re sailing fast again. The leader is a little bit more far away, 500 miles, which is a lot but we’re moving so that’s good, and we’ll keep going."

And behind on board Estrella Damm, Alex Pella said: “Yesterday we spent more of our time clearing kelp and seaweed from under the boat, it was stuck everywhere. We were unlucky because we had to go backwards. We are pretty happy now because we are going north and the waves are smaller and the weather is pretty good. We are going upwind in 15 knots, with small waves and pointing home. It is a tricky part of the course, because there is no clearly defined route, it is a bit unstable. We have a big front in two days and we need to see how we do with that, how we can work with that and what the others do. It is quite uncertain how it will go and there are many options, but for sure the race for us is wide open.”

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