Yesterday’s Spring Equinox sent the Equatorial sun high into the sky, beating directly down on those Barcelona World Race skippers sailing through the low latitudes: temperatures are running high across the fleet in the Atlantic Ocean.
“Conditions are fine, we’ve just gone through a fair amount of squalls and no wind, as you can see it’s quite light behind us, not a lot going on, and the day is starting to warm up. I think yesterday it was 30° and yesterday night it was 25 so we’re going to have the same problem. You really feel it when you’re putting up and taking down sails because conditions are changing all the time,” explained Neutrogena's Ryan Breymaier.
The Neutrogena duo of Breymaier and Boris Herrmann (GER) are not just feeling the heat physically, but after 80 days of racing – many of them no more than 50 miles away from their nearest rival during a virtual match race first with Mirabaud, and now with Estrella Damm – they have the mental pressure of still being just 20 miles behind Alex Pella and Pepe Ribes (ESP). This afternoon both boats are averaging less than 4.5 knots, making progress sticky in every sense.
“I don’t think it bothers us to have someone close," continued Breymaier. "It’s good, it gives us something to mark ourselves against. We actually saw them for a little while yesterday off in the distance which was pretty cool, first time we’d seen another boat in the race since Mirabaud back in the Indian Ocean one time. All we can do is hope the conditions are good for all of us, it’s certainly not very easy for us to keep up, that’s for sure.
“My thoughts are always the same: Get there as fast as possible, get there as fast as possible, get there as fast as possible! It never changes!”
At the front of the fleet the crew on Mapfre are also working hard to maintain pressure on race leaders Virbac-Paprec 3, whose slow but steady gains now put them 192 miles ahead. Iker Martinez explained today how they were pleased with their Doldrums crossing, and now needed to wait patiently for any opportunities. One such opportunity may come in the form of a high pressure system set to form off the Azores which could raise tactical questions for the lead duo of whether, and when, to make a break for the African shore. For Martinez and Xabi Fernandez the race home cannot come quickly enough: the pair admitted that they are running low on both fuel and diesel, but took solace in a Spanish proverb that hunger is said to make you make cleverer decisions!
“We have got out of the Doldrums and we are already feeling calmer, we are going upwind with nice wind, and we’re trying to shorten the distance [to Virbac-Paprec 3]. The opportunities to gain in this race…? It’s complicated – in the equatorial zone, we made some big moves and it worked out well for us. We’re fighting hard, and will have to wait for 4 or 5 days. Right now it is important that they do not gain any more distance on us, and seeing the weather forecasts it doesn’t seem that there are any great opportunities anyway, so we need to be patient.
“Physically we are really well, we’ve done three Olympic campaigns, and endurance in those competitions is vital. We’ve been very careful not to hurt ourselves, particularly in the deep south. The only thing we’re light on is diesel and fuel. We’re so hungry right now you can’t imagine, but we have a Spanish saying that you get more intelligent when you’re hungry!”
The next boat to meet the high pressure zone of the Doldrums will be Renault Z.E., still holding pace with the leaders and pulling away from Estrella Damm and Neutrogena. Behind these two, GAES Centros Auditivos is also steadily gaining on the boats in front, and hold firm to her position as the fastest in fleet, the only pair to clock over 300 miles in the past 24 hours. With solid reaching conditions, the all-female duo can expect their purple patch to continue.
Dee Caffari reported: “A big thank-you to GAES and I hope they’re enjoying the race as much as we are. We’re trying to do a good job for them and make it entertaining, and it’s thanks to them that we’re here, so it’s important that we all enjoy it.
“I think [our arrival] will be huge. To have a local Spanish sponsor and to have a local Spanish sailor on board as well will make a massive difference, and I think Anna underestimates just how big it’s going to be. I think it’s going to be impressive and I think she’s going to be overwhelmed by it a little bit.
“It makes a big difference to know that people are behind you and people are following you, and people are proud of what you’re doing. We’re trying to communicate as best we can. With no video going back, it’s really important that we still try and communicate as well as we can what’s going on so people understand what we’re doing every day. We hope we’re doing that well, and that should encourage more people to follow us.
“Because we went through the high pressure a couple of days ago we saw the guys in front move away, and knowing that we’re going to close that gap a little bit is really nice. We’re very lucky with the forecast we’ve got, and of course everyone else is going into transition zones or Doldrums or light airs, so it’s really nice to have the bonus while everyone else is suffering because it shows up a little more, so we’re pretty happy with that.
“We know we’ve got five days until the Doldrums, and we’re not really sure what the Doldrums are going to deliver to us, so we’ve got our fingers crossed for a quick passage there. And then that’s the last push then once we get to Gibraltar then we’re on the home straight and can think about arriving in Barcelona.”
Hugo Boss returned to the race course late this afternoon, allowing Forum Martim Catala to line themselves up for a promising-looking battle up the Atlantic with the black IMOCA 60. The Spanish boat is less than 120 miles from Andy Meiklejohn (NZL) and Wouter Verbraak (NED) this afternoon.
Meanwhile We Are Water continue to enjoy rapid surfing conditions on their approach to Cape Horn, having today entered the final ice safety gate as they surge along at over 15 knots.