Upwind to Gibraltar
Since rounding the southeasternmost peninsula on Spain's Mediterranean coast at breakfast time today, the seven IMOCA 60 competing in the Europa Warm Up have been on the wind, the breeze out of the NNW. As a result different strategies have come into play as they attempt to make headway towards the Strait of Gibraltar.
Jean-Pierre Dick and his crew on Virbac-Paprec 3 continue to lead with a small advantage over Vincent Riou's PRB. This morning they and Francois Gabart's MACIF chose to plunge out into the Mediterranean on starboard. However earlier this morning Armel le Cleac'h and his crew on Banque Populaire chose to break from the leaders and tack into the Spanish coast off Almeria and on towards the Costa del Sol and the three boats behind have adopted a similar strategy.
At the 1600 UTC sched Virbac-Paprec 3 led PRB by 3 miles and both boats had just tacked back towards the Spanish coast, while in third place MACIF, was continuing on to the southwest. Interestingly, so far neither strategy had proven to be a winner.
At present Virbac Paprec 3 has 100 miles to go before she reaches the entrance to the Strait. However between now and then the weather conditions are set to completely change as a zone of high pressure moves across the Iberian Peninsula causing the wind to initially back into the west in the early hours of tomorrow morning, disappearing altogether mid-morning tomorrow before eventually filling in from the northeast in the early hours of Wednesday morning.
This combined with spring tides in the Strait will make the boat's progress over the 24 hours tricky, but at least there will be less of the bone shaking ride.
Earlier Vincent Riou reported from PRB: “We’re sailing upwind in winds up to 35 knots. It’s not that awful, but sailing upwind in a 60-foot boat, as we have been doing since yesterday isn’t much fun. The boat is slamming and suffering and it’s very wet. We just have to grin and bear it until tomorrow morning off Gibraltar. The wind will ease right off and it’s likely the four frontrunners will be back together”
Armel Le Cléac’h reported from Banque Populaire: "With the boat continuing to slam, it’s not that enjoyable. We’re heeled over all the time and getting very wet. The wind will ease right off when we pass Gibraltar. So the second part of the race will require a different way of sailing. We seem to be sticking with MACIF. Since the first night we’ve been within sight of each other. We keep crossing paths out here. But the boats are very similar to each other. And we have similar strategies and come up with the same ideas."
Jean-Pierre Dick on Virbac-Paprec 3: “We’re really in the thick of it. Headwinds, which are strengthening with gusts of up to 30 knots, but the important thing is we are cutting through the seas. It’s true that we’re making headway even if it is at reduced speed. Macif and Banque Populaire are at just seven miles from us, which is no distance, but it’s better than nothing. PRB got up to within a few miles of us this morning and we were within sight of each other. But they’re now about three miles back, which means we can remain hopeful.”