Back into the washing machine

Safran leads the charge out of the depression in the IMOCA Ocean Masters New York to Barcelona Race

Wednesday June 4th 2014, Author: James Boyd, Location: none selected

Following the retirement of Nandor Fa’s Spirit of Hungary yesterday, the four remaining boats in the IMOCA Ocean Masters New York to Barcelona Race are today exiting the depression, they have spent the last days diverting south towards. This depression they are using to slingshot them east across the Atlantic.

In the early hours of this morning, this ‘slingshoting’ process entered its second phase as the boats passed just north of the centre of the depression, bring with it a dramatic 180° windshift into the southeast. The boats all tacked on this shift and with the wind still in the southeast, they are now back to hanging on with the breeze back up to gale force.

Having taken the lead yesterday Marc Guillemot and Morgan Lagravière on Safran were first to make the all-important tack at midnight UTC last night.

Race veteran Guillemot explained: "As soon as I saw the barometer stabilise, that meant we were on the other side of the depression centre so, I woke up Morgan and we started to stack inside the boat and then made the tack. I am pretty happy with the way we made it, the position and the timing.”

IMOCA 60s carry several 100kg of spare sails, spares, food [aka ‘the stack’] and during manoeuvres this must be moved from one side to the other, across the boat.

With the almost live tracking the crews were keeping a close eye on when the boats ahead of them made their manoeuvre. Hugo Boss tacked at 02:43 GMT just northeast of where Safran had almost three hours earlier. American Co-skipper Ryan Breymaier described how they made the call on when to go: “We knew what the weather was going to be. The wind angle changed very quickly from 90 to 120° and that was where we wanted to be. As soon as we saw that we tacked.

“The biggest problem with all of that was the stacking,” Breymaier continued. “We stacked everything properly, but it was a bit anticlimactic because the breeze had dropped a fair amount.”

Aside from Safran, the biggest winner to come out of these manoeuvres has been Team Neutrogena. While both GAES Centros Auditivos and Hugo Boss have lost miles to the race leader in the last 24 hours, only Guillermo Altadill and Chilean José Muñoz’s IMOCA 60 has made gains, now back up to 75 miles behind. More significantly is that they have overtaken GAES to move up to third place.

Now the boats are back into the ‘big reaching’ conditions, similar to those they were experiencing yesterday, only this time on the opposite tack.

New York Times correspondent, Chris Museler, who is acting as media crewman aboard Hugo Boss described life on board: “For the last couple of hours we’ve been down to a trinquette [staysail] with three reefs in the main. It is windy beam reaching but not as bouncy as it was as yesterday afternoon.”

“It is wet, very very wet,” agreed Breymaier. “We are beam reaching in 20-25 knots and it is an underwater boat basically. The waves hit and they just go everywhere. They are not very confused or massive waves, they are just in the way!”

At 11:30 UTC as the boats were blast reaching their way out of the depression, Safran held a 41 mile lead over second-placed Hugo Boss. The French boat had gained eight miles on her rival since making their tack, thanks to their being first to get back into the big breeze.

More significantly they were making an impressive 20.5 knots of speed, compared to Hugo Boss’ 18.5. Breymaier was not impressed with this difference. “Our game plan is to push very, very hard to catch Safran. But we have to figure out a couple more knots of boat speed...”

Next up for the boats is passing the ice box, southern extremity of which is at 40degN, and to the south of which they are obliged to remain. At 11:30 UTC, Safran had 440 miles to reach the southern extremity of the box.

As the boats sail further away from the centre of the depression, so the winds will abate over the course of today and tomorrow the crews are expecting a whole different set of conditions again on what is turning into a cameleon of a transat race.

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