Back on track

Hugo Boss' Wouter Verbraak and others report from the Barcelona World Race

Tuesday March 22nd 2011, Author: Andi Robertson, Location: none selected

Hugo Boss is back on track. For co-skippers Wouter Verbraak and Andy Meiklejohn this Barcelona World Race may have conclusively proved from the outset that the best laid plans can indeed go awry, but they have once again adapted to their changing circumstances and are today powering north-east, having resumed sailing at 1814 GMT yesterday evening.

If there is any tinge of regret regarding the sequence of events that led up to their unexpectedly lengthy pause in the Falkland Islands, there was little trace of it from Verbraak this morning, when he spoke of how pleased they were with their newly repaired boat. “It’s very nice to be out sailing again instead of being stuck on land. We thought that a technical stop would be an opportunity for the race crew to tuck into warm beds and just potter around and relax, but there’s been none of that! We’ve been flat out organising logistics for the sailmakers so that they have everything in place, so I’ve just been running around delivering lunches to the sail loft in the local gym hall, so that the sail makers had no chance to get out as they’ve been flat out on the sails! At the same time our technical manager Ross Daniels attended to the generator and the mast track. So all in all it was a busy time but a good time and now we’re happy we’re on track again.

“The strangest thing is that we’ve gone back into a watch system, and even though we have three hours of sleep it feels that we only have five minutes, because the three hours is so much shorter than a full night. Other than that, we’re setting in quite well. We had not too strong winds overnight, which always helps. We’ve had our routines for 75 days so we’re quite used to them.

“We’re anticipating way too much wind! The forecast is for gale force winds, 35-40, luckily it’s downwind but you should never underestimate any system like this, especially here the models tend to underestimate the wind. So judging by what the guys ahead of us had a week ago, we could be in for some rough weather sailing for another 36 hours. Strong conditions are always the same, there’s not much to gain and there’s a lot to lose, so we’ll just keep doing like we’ve been doing from the beginning of the race. Which is to make sure we nurse the boat through it and make sure we’re a little bit more on the safe side rather than the fast side when we have a chance. I think we’ve been pretty good at making good sail calls and doing well in strong winds, so we’re pretty confident and we’ll handle this system with caution.

“The most important goal is to be home in time for Easter holiday. This is a big thing in Norway and pretty much the last opportunity to go skiing, so that’s most important! The other thing is no more stops: one stop is enough, and make sure that we get to Barcelona. And then to do a good job. There’s a lot of kudos in making sure we sail the boat at 100 per cent, always looking for perfection in our position, and being creative when things are little different than expected.”

Equally strong, if not more severe, conditions are also looming for We Are Water. On the final approach to Cape Horn having exited the East Pacific ice gate this morning, a large depression looks set to overtake Jaume Mumbru and Cali Sanmarti in the next couple of days.

Trade wind trials

For those boats approaching the Doldrums, the opposite conditions are providing a different trial. Renault Z.E., Estrella Damm and Neutrogena have spent much of the past 24 hours languishing under a baking sun with poorly established trade winds that has plummeted their average speeds to just 5 knots or less. Renault Z.E. has lost almost 100 miles to the leaders in 24 hours, while for Estrella Damm and Neutrogena a single puff of cloud can have a big difference on the tiny margins which separate the pair – back to 18 miles this afternoon, having been half that this morning.

As Alex Pella described this morning, they have been racing a front towards the Doldrums, which yesterday once again overtook and virtually becalmed them. "We've had two days very stopped, working hard to make up just a few miles. The girls on GAES Centros Auditivos are pretty fast and Renault Z.E. are escaping away. Right now our situation is that we’re racing against a cloud line, I think now we’ve started to move a little, we’ll pull up more, and right now we’re going at eight knots. We’ve seen Neutrogena under the boom and now right they are on our stern, we can see with binoculars so they must be 10 miles away. We would like to reach the Doldrums with this wind and then go a little faster to keep this cushion of miles. The leaders are a long way away, and Renault Z.E. is going to be hard to catch.

"The situation is that light winds affect the sail cloth because the sails are flapping a lot and we have to be careful of breakages. We’ve furled up the Code 0, and we have the main heavily sheeted on. We’ve learned a lot in this round the world race about how to sail the boat with little wind. We always try to be thinking ahead. At 4,000 miles from the finish you have to be monitoring pretty much the entire fleet.”

Meanwhile for the front-runners, more consistent northern trade winds currently leave few tactical options open. Speaking to his team earlier today, Iker Martinez explained their battle onboard Mapfre with leaders Virbac-Paprec 3, currently 219 miles ahead of them: “We are going 200%. Anytime we are nearer from the leader, she just moves away. Here on Mapfre each position report is awaited with baited breath. We’ve still got some cards to play with and the first one will come most probably in the Canary Islands. If it goes well, we will face a new battle. If not, the French pair will run away once and for all. It is clear that we have to do something carefully considered, nothing crazy.

“We’ll see if it is possible to catch them! To be honest, we are quite surprised at how fast she is going. But we hope to turn things around. We keep trying!”

Central Lechera Asturiana to re-rig

The last boat still in port, Central Lechera Asturiana today reported that after 19 days of repairs, their mast is expected to rejoin the boat in Wellington from nearby Hakes Marine on Thursday. Replacement rigging is also in transit from Valencia, and once the team have been able to re-step the rig they will undergo sea trials before deciding whether to rejoin the Barcelona World Race.


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