Breeze building to gale force
Over the last 24 hours there has been a wholescale change of conditions for the IMOCA Ocean Masters New York to Barcelona Race boats are they head out into the Atlantic. From hunting down the slightest zephyr since the start, the leaders have dived southwest overnight, into a building breeze, forecast to reach gale force later today. From shorts and flipflops yesterday, the sailors are now into full thermals and foul weather gear, bracing themselves for a big afternoon and night time ahead of them.
While the Team Neutrogena crew of Spanish offshore race veteran Guillermo Altadill and Chilean José Muñoz, have fallen off the pace of the front runners, 76 miles behind at 1200 UTC, only 2.2 miles separates the lead trio of IMOCA 60s them in terms of ‘distance to finish’.
Technically the mixed Spanish crew of doublehanded round the world sailors Anna Corbella and Gerard Marin hold the smallest of leads aboard GAES Centros Auditivos.
In reality the race is not to the finish at present. Instead it is to be first into the stronger winds en route to the centre of a depression lying to the leader’s southeast. In this tactical race the French duo of Marc Guillemot and Morgan Lagravière aboard Safran hold the advantage. On the water they are furthest south, some 50 miles south of GAES, and this positioning enabled them this morning to be first into the stronger breeze. And this has worked: At 12.00 UTC, Safran was averaging 16.3 knots compared to GAES’ 11.8. Marc Guillemot said that at the time Safran was beam reaching in 28 knots of wind, a bumpy sea her speed regularly into the low 20s.
Part of the skill of shorthanded offshore racing is preparation, and encountering the depression and its big conditions is the something the crews have been anticipating since they left New York on Sunday. “I didn't want to get in the red zone before, so we didn’t hang around if we had to reduce sails, but nor were we in a hurry to do this too early either,” said Guillemot.
Similarly on Hugo Boss, New York Times journalist Chris Museler reported that co-skippers Ryan Breymaier and Pepe Ribes yesterday carried out a complete survey of the boat’s health in preparation for today’s big conditions. “Pepe did an engine check and rig check and Ryan was checking running rigging looking for chafe.”
Even so, in the building breeze, a number of technical issues have come to light on the boats. This has even extended to the immaculately prepared Safran: “We have had some serious computer issues last night and the computer is not working anymore,” admitted Guillemot. “I am setting up the new one, but I haven’t had any information about the other boats’ positions recently.”
On Hugo Boss, the cover for one of the water ballast tanks has blown out at the transom. According to Chris Musuler: “It isn’t able to hold as much water as we want in it now, nor can it keep the water out when we want it out - that is a problem we’re going to have to figure out how to address. And there is some water coming into the engine compartment, which is a concern. This is a long race so it is something we’ll have to work on.”
Similarly on GAES, Gerard Marin said they had lost time with the mainsail down as they repaired a batten car fitting on their mainsail. As to their tactics in staying north compared to Hugo Boss and Safran, Marin added that in their oldest generation boat they had no choice but to choose a different route compared to their newer or better developed rivals. “We are sailing less miles - I don’t know if that will work for us, but obviously following them isn’t the solution.”
While the boats are set to experience gale force winds this afternoon, conditions are set to abate a little this evening with the boats due to cross to the north of the depression’s centre in the early hours of tomorrow morning. With this the wind will veer through 180° into the southeast and the boats will tack to exit the depression, still in strong winds. From the mental anxiety of the first two days, this is where the IMOCA Ocean Masters New York to Barcelona Race gets physical.
Spirit of Hungary officially retires from race
Nandor Fa, Skipper of Spirit of Hungary, announced at 1200 New York time today his regrettable decision to have to officially retire from the IMOCA Ocean Masters New York to Barcelona Race.
His new boat was put to the test for the first time on the transatlantic crossing from Trieste to New York where he and co-skipper Marcell Goszleth arrived only on Saturday at 1000. The boat now needs some repair and maintenance time to get back into shape for Nandor's on-going sailing programme.
Fa, famous in his native country for being the first Hungarian ever to sail around and subsequent singlehanded and singlehanded non-stop, commented: "I am terribly disappointed not to be racing with the other boats and skippers and to have to retire from this great race. From the start we took on a big challenge to get here in time with a totally new boat and we just did not have enough time to get everything done. There is no point in taking any risks at this stage - for us as sailors or for the boat - and so I know this is the right decision today - but its still a tough situation to accept. I am happy to have been here in New York with the event, it has given IMOCA Ocean Masters and Spirit of Hungary a great profile and platform to build on."