Just four miles between Estrella Damm and Neutrogena

The latest updates from the Barcelona World Race boats as Virbac Paprec 3 crosses the Equator

Friday March 18th 2011, Author: Andi Robertson, Location: none selected

The numbers never lie, but it is the on-board computer which delivers the devilish detail. While for Estrella Damm, the rising stars of the Barcelona World Race trio fighting for third, the five-hourly rankings report will have been a spur to keep them pressing home their advantage, pulling back miles on their nearest rivals Neutrogena and also on Renault Z.E Sailing Team.

But for other pair of crews, the rankings reports more recently have become more of a source of stress than satisfaction.

“Sometime you are afraid to log on to the internet and see how many miles you are losing!” grimaced Renault Z.E’s Toño Piris this morning, confirming that he and Rivero had hit the wall-like transition zone of variable breezes.

And for Boris Herrmann on Neutrogena, now only 153 miles behind Renault Z.E Sailing Team, but correspondingly with their lead over Estrella Damm shrunk to just four miles this afternoon, there was the same reticence to log on perhaps this afternoon, fully expecting to have lost their long held fourth place to the Barcelona duo Pepe Ribes and Alex Pella.

Herrmann reported: "We obviously lost a bit, this might be the last position report showing us ahead of Estrella Damm and we definitely have been a bit handicapped with the keel we can’t cant fully, also we had lighter breeze I think because their speed since yesterday afternoon has been better so they must have had some better breeze. We do all we can to sail as fast as possible, making lots of sail changes, and we had between the big kite and the gennaker, to play with the wind shifts, now we are down to the gennaker, and VMG running as close as possible to the rhumb line, that is our strategy, we don’t think this area in front of us is anything predictable we just detail it as a mini doldrums to go through as quickly as possible.

"If we do our routing it shows us going west, gybing away from the rhumb line, and we don’t want to do that because we don’t see the weather pattern here very reliably enough to take such an extreme option to gybe off the lay line and go sideways for a day or something like that, That is what the models show, so we prefer to stay on a course as close as possible to where we aim. We see Renault moving at only seven knots but we too are getting slower every hour too, I think we have some compression for a while with Estrella and hopefully get much closer to Renault and it is going to be a very challenging two days for Estrella and us, this light wind sailing is always more of an effort than you might think. The big kite is a heavy sail to get up and down and it is so warm and the sun is burning down on us.”

The difficult, widely expected cold front transition zone is still likely to see considerable compression between the trio, but it is Renault Z.E Sailing Team which was first to endure the pain of seeing their speedo plumbing the depths of single digits, making only 3.4 knots.

REnault's Toño Piris reported: “It does not look very healthy for us going through some light stuff, especially last night and we are going through some big squalls, we are feeling like this is a wall we are hitting, and we need that wall to kind of stop so that we get a bit of relativity to it, and we can get through it and us not slow up with it completely. That is what we have been waiting for, for this cold front not to keep going north and then even if we can get out and grab those northerly winds and feel like we can get there, then maybe we can keep moving rather than the other guys just getting closer to us and to the wall. Yes it is not a very relaxing time for us. Sometime you are afraid to log on to the internet and see how many miles you are losing so, sometimes it’s a bit like that!”

Meanwhile Jean-Pierre Dick and Loïck Peyron on Virbac Paprec 3 passing north across the Equator at midday today, at the top of the rankings just as they were when they passed southbound here back on 13 January when they held a 40 miles lead over Foncia.

Today the duo’s lead was still shrinking, down to 167 miles ahead of Mapfre and the Spanish Olympic medallists’ challenge was still growing even if their waistlines have not been. Iker Martinez admitted today their enforced diet and the heat is starting to take a toll: "At first it's funny, but now that we can not eat much ... it’s not that much fun.

"We have passed the coast of Chile, Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil quite far from the coast. A high pressure near Buenos Aires has prevented us from making a shorter route and we see now how the race is still getting longer... Every day that passes we are closer to get to Barcelona and although on the one hand we believe in hunting the leader, on the other we have that fear behind the ear that we can suffer some serious damage that prevents us from finishing. But hey, it is normal, when there is something you care about you are afraid to lose it, right?

"If all goes well, we'll be in a week more between Cape Verde and the Canary Islands, almost smelling 'papas arrugadas' (canarian crinkled potatoes) and Canarian gofio (Canarian flour made from roasted grain), ¡I can’t wait to be there! We trained hard this winter in those waters and we will feel like home, so ... go, go!"

And for Gerard Marin there is the knowledge that he and Ludovic Aglaor should complete a comparatively quick passage of the Pacific sometime between Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning on the vintage Forum Maritim Catala. They had 370 miles to Marin’s first ever passage of the Cape of Storms.

Dee Caffari reported from GAES Centros Auditivos: “It is very bouncy out here. It is pretty miserable, a bit grey, the waves are very messy, the seas short and sharp, so we are slamming quite a lot. We have 25-28 knots of wind, and I think that tonight when it gets dark the front will come through and I should that will be quite squally with a lot of rain. And then quite a big change of wind direction to get to the nice downwind stuff. We have 24 hours of bouncy, horrible stuff to go.

"I am really concentrating on looking ahead, I want to take those miles down. It has been really difficult those last 48 hours, traversing the high pressure and these guys had really good, fast conditions, so we have lost miles to them there. There is still the Doldrums and a fair amount of time to go. So I am still confident and aiming to get those miles back and maybe finishing a little too close for comfort.

"The showers made us feel great and were just at the right time. It depends how desperate you are for a shower. It was 15 degrees and we were quite desperate and it was quite hard work, it was certainly nice to put lots of layers on and have a hot drink after that. Yesterday the sea temperature was 20 degrees and I could happily put the bucket over my head and enjoy it.”

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