Who is haunting who, or is it who is hunting who? When second placed Mapfre went into ghost mode early this morning it meant that, for the second time in this Barcelona World Race, the top two boats pressed the ‘invisible’ button in close succession.
Today Spain’s Xabi Fernandez reaffirmed that one of the key reasons for utilising the ‘Ghost’ mode again is because their weather options have opened up more, giving the Spanish Olympic medallists an opportunity to develop any new strategy unseen by the long time race leader Virbac-Paprec 3.
Jean-Pierre Dick and Loïck Peyron are due to re-appear this evening again, returning from their self imposed exile from the public tracking system.
When the two boats were both last ‘live’ Virbac-Paprec 3 led by 250 miles, Mapfre sailing east of the track of the leading boat.
As the duo play with the extending tentacles of the Azores anticyclone, which is effectively barring the direct route to the Strait of Gibraltar, it may be that Mapfre are simply calling the bluff of the French duo Jean-Pierre Dick and Loïck Peyron, or perhaps they have chosen to head away from the lighter winds closer to the centre of the high and invested east to try and fine more wind pressure and a better angle closer to the Moroccan coast?
Fernandez reported this morning: “Yesterday we saw that the weather was getting a bit more complicated between here and Gibraltar and Virbac-Paprec 3 have more complex winds, so we decided to play a bit with this since the weather forecasts change each day. And we thought it makes sense to play this card before Gibraltar. Yes, the main alternatives are to go north or east, but a few days ago the option looked to be going north was the only option. So Virbac-Paprec 3 and us, we have chosen to do this because the options are all a bit more open now.”
He added: "Fortunately we realised early on that we were going to be low on food, so we starting saving up and rationed what we had, so I think we will be okay until the 5th or 6th. The passage to the Canary Islands is changing all the time, so we don’t know where we go through the islands. We will decide later on, because it’s complicated. We have had no health problems at all, not even opened the medical kit once, some fungal stuff here and there, and took a couple of asprins, but nothing we have ever worried about."
With the two leading boats engaged in their supposed cloak and dagger moves for their approach to the Canary Islands, Virbac-Paprec 3’s track through or past the archipelago should be immediately apparent this evening.
Having endured hurricane-force winds, We Are Water duo Jaume Mumbru and Cali Sanmarti are looking for the first suitable, practical option to put their composite repair skills to the test after their boom was snapped in two by the force of a big, breaking wave last night, some 650 miles to the west of Cape Horn. The duo, who seem to have had more than their fair share of the race’s big storms, were making good progress towards the Cape which they should reach late Sunday, sailing only under staysail or jib.
Mumbru explained: “Now the worst of the storm is over and so we are are trying to sleep a bit and build our strength and try to get closer to land which will be complicated. We broke the boom during the storm. We were following it closely with the weather forecasts and it followed the pattern. The pressure was very low, wind from the bow and we sailed only with the storm jib.
"We took the main down very early and for the two days prior to the storm we were preparing, taking everything off the deck which we thought could break. It is difficult to explain how chaotic the sea was, the winds and the cold. This is another cruel thing for us, we felt confident and happy because we felt like we had done a good job preparing the boat. The boom was perfect and secured so all we can think is that it was pushed sideways bt the force of a wave. We can only think a wave hit it. It has done a lot of miles, so we are feeling a bit unlucky.
"The boat was sailing well under storm jib only, we had two ballast tanks full in the back to stabilise the boat. We had some snow showers. Now the wind has started to drop, we have about 35 knots, and the sea is a bit better too. It seems the worst of the storm is behind us. We are optimistic that we will be able to repair it, at first glance it does not look like it’s impossible, but we are 400 miles from land and 500 miles from Cape Horn. We carry on with a storm jib, or staysail."
Into the North
Emerging into the Northern Hemisphere this morning, there is no let up in the tussle between Neutrogena in fifth and Estrella Damm in fourth. Only 22 miles separates this pair after a productive night of Doldrums work by the American-German duo Ryan Breymaier and Boris Herrmann who have kept themselves firmly in contention at this key stage of the race. And Estrella Damm still only has 142 miles of deficit to Renault Z.E Sailing Team. Without doubt this is setting up as a second half of the Atlantic battle which will be every bit as engaging as it has been since Cape Horn. The two red boats were due to pick up speed later today as they too breathe the oxygen of the strengthening NE’ly trades
Renault Z.E Sailing Team’sToño Piris reported today: “We crossed to the North yesterday at 13.44 hrs and we gave our offering to Neptune: the alcohol free beer (cold, cold, cold –My God,,,, 40º degrees on deck) some Jamón Serrano and the last small piece of chocolate we got”
“As soon as we get into the North Hemisphere we had enjoyed some nice puffs. Nice gusts that heeled the boat…!Great”.. A nice welcome into the North!”
Preparing in Wellington
And good progress to report for the Central Lechera Asturiana duo Juan Merediz and Fran Palacio who, three weeks after they arrived with a broken rig, have managed to step their repaired mast in Wellington. The duo intend to make two trial sails to fine tune their rigging before making their final decision.
Meanwhile from Hugo Boss, Wouter Verbraak and Andy Meiklejohn reported: "This is our last bag of porridge, and in fact we are happy about that because it means the weather will get hotter from now. Complicated (their weather) means opportunities, we have had 52 knots a few days ago and so we don’t need any more of that any more, we are happy to be sailing downwind in about 20 knots of breeze with the spinnaker up. Life is good. Last night we made a gybe east and my the looks of things we can skirt the eastern side of the high and just get to the north of it. The more challenging thing will be the trades, at the moment they are not really there. We are hoping they will begin before we get up there. We are back into. We have been doing it for eighty days, a couple of days on land does not change a lot.
"We are back to normal quickly, after 80 days you are pretty set in your ways, it is pretty standard three hours on and off, and we eat every six hours, it was a little break to be back on land but it has only taken a day or so to get back into it. Being an island everything has to be brought in so our choice there was a little bit limited, we have tuna and salmon wraps for lunch now and that too is a signal that the weather is starting to get warmer. Teamwork is certainly one of our strengths in this race, a lot of the teams in this race have a skipper who is used to single handed racing who has brought someone along, the two of us come from the same situation, we have not done of this two handed racing before, so we have a great team spirit and things are going well.
"Every time we go and do a sail change we realise how hard it is we are wondering how on earth they can sail a boat like this single-handed around the world. In that way thinking about going to do the Vendée Globe is a huge challenge and definitely neneds a lot of preparation and a lot of balls, but it is an interesting idea and an interesting challenge.
"We are still very motivated, the Hugo Boss has very strong key core values: perfection, position and being creative. And those values we can still apply every day in what we are doing, so we try to apply them every day in what we do, to do a good job: good sail changes, sailing the boat to its maximum, and being creative in finding a way through the weather, using the circumstances to their very best. A very big motivating point for us is that the Easter holidays are very close to our ETA and I definitely want to make that so I can go skiing in Norway."