Falklands exit strategy
There is a certain, almost automatic solidarity between islander and seafarers, both having the pace and rhythm of their lives dictated by the ocean. Often they share the same fatalist outlook underpinned by the knowledge that neither will beat the power of nature.
In the Falklands it is the resolute, hardy islanders who have taken Andy Meiklejohn and Wouter Verbraak into their houses and made them feel completely at home while the Barcelona World Race co-skippers finish the sail and hardware repairs to Hugo Boss which they hope will let them get back on to the race track on Monday morning, ready to cut off the advances of Forum Catala Maritim, which passed Cape Horn this morning at 0715.
Meiklejohn reported: "The repairs are going well, the guys from Doyle are here, they have the tools and the gear and they doing a great job, working last night until about 0100hrs and then this morning they are going again at 0700hrs, so we are hoping to have it finished pretty soon and be back on track. The boats are difficult to sail and are very weight conscious and so things are built close to the edge and there has been a few small failures because of this, in hindsight maybe we could have done something about, but everybody is always pushing for those last few grams, so a small repair to everything but it all adds up in the big picture.
"There are a few key sails, we had the mainsail problem, without a main you can’t go far, so no mainsail no go. There are a few other little problems around the place, we cant continue without a mainsail. The guys from Doyle’s have been fantastic in their support and their problem solving. It is unfortunate we are where we are just now. Ross our shore manager got on the RAF flight at the very last minute, these guys flew from New Zealand to Chile and then Chile to the Falklands, but it looks like they might be spending a little more time here than they bargained for afterwards!
"We have used the biggest building on the island which is the local defence force building which they have given us for the next week, we won’t need all that time, but it is fantastic we can spread the mainsail and the Code Zero out and could not really ask for anything more.
"We are feeling good, we are largely over the fact we have had to stop, that is a real shame for us, for Alex Thomson Racing and for Hugo Boss that we have had to stop, but we all have to go forwards form here, to take the positives out of it. We will get the repairs done and move on at 100% or as close to it as possible and so we are looking at having a great leg back up the Atlantic and showing what the boat can really do.
"It has been fantastic, the locals have been so nice, the first couple of nights we were billeted with a local woman who cooked us some great meals and it was kind of like being at home. It’s like that. A lot of people have arrived here on boats for a short stop and 30 years later are still here . So we rather would stay here any longer, but it is a lovely place.
"We are working towards Monday morning. You have to have a deadline for these things so they don’t drag on so we are pushing for tomorrow morning sometime. How realistic that is we will make that call later on this afternoon. We still have a race on, we still have a boat which we put a long way behind us, and it is now back in the picture, so there is still a lot to play for and we want to make up miles on the guys in front.
"We talk a lot about how physically hard it is, we talk about things outside of the boat, family friends, old war stories, the past and future, we talk about whatever pops up. Wouter has done an amazing job. I keep telling myself this all the time. He jumped on the boat for ten days and here we are 80 days later. We are both stubborn, very determined characters. But we have a good way of working through our problem solving and we have a common history, there are a lot positives and we would not have got far with all those positives.”
For Gerard Marin this morning was a special landmark in the young Catalan sailor’s career when he passed Cape Horn. For a decade he was a leading light in the Europe singlehanded dinghy, vice world champion in 2002, third in the European championships in 2007 and fifth in 2002.
“Who would have told be ten years ago I would be here now?" he recounted today. "We were training in the Olympic port in Barcelona then, now here I am on the other side of the world at Cape Horn. It is so very different that dinghies, in dinghies you can go to the limits and can be very aggressive all the time, here in an IMOCA Open 60, you cannot go beyond the limits and the race is so long so you cannot push the boat too hard. You think that you can push so hard then realize that, no, you have to look after the boat. Everything can change in an instant. This racing makes you reflect on your reasons for it even more, it is a race of passion and you have to think a lot.”
For Marin, one of Spain’s rising ocean racing stars, his horizons have broadened considerably since making two successful Mini Transats. Now he has completed the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific Oceans and admits he is motivated by race up the Atlantic perhaps with Hugo Boss. For his first passage of Cape Horn, the 29 year old IMOCA Open 60 rookie, had to be content with a night passage, albeit lit by a full moon.
For co-skipper Ludovic Aglaor, also on his first major IMOCA Open 60 passage, this was his third rounding of the Horn once on the Jules Verne Record with Orange 2 and once in the opposite direction aboard Gitana 13 from New York to San Francisco. And as the progression goes it was the fifth rounding of the Horn for the evergreen former Kingfisher, once on delivery from New Zealand with Ellen MacArthur, once in her 2000-1 Vendée Globe, with Nick Moloney in 2004-5 and then in the first Barcelona World Race with Albert Bargues and Servan Escoffier.
Meantime Jean-Pierre Dick, leading now in the trade winds by 144 miles from Mapfre revealed today that they had a close shave a day and a half ago: “All is well. We have 15 knots of southeasterly wind. We are going well, quite fast. It is pleasant, especially after what happened the other day. A day and a half ago we had a squall with 35 knots of wind. We broke the front ballast and it took some hours to repair, finally finishing a few hours ago. Now we have ideal conditions. And we are satisfied with what we see ahead.”