Barcelona World Race express train

Cheminees Poujoulat now half way across the Pacific in the Barcelona World Race

Tuesday February 17th 2015, Author: Andi Robertson, Location: none selected

The eastbound Barcelona World Race expess is a long, long one - from Cheminées Poujoulat which is approaching the mid-point of her Pacific crossing, due to pass into Chilean waters tomorrow, to Spirit of Hungary, 4,000 miles back and anticipating her passage past Australia's Cape Leeuwin. But the train is still continuuing to move rapidly eastwards in a favourable rate.

For all the world the three way battle for second step on the podium looked set to intensify, with all three of the long time competitors Neutrogena, third placed GAES Centros Auditivos and Renault Captur, all up for a sustained battle to the finish line.

But the attack of fourth placed Renault Captur looks set to be compromised because of an on-going problem with their starboard rudder which means Jorg Riechers and Sébastien Audigane are having to reduce speeds to keep their boat under control. Three big successive Chinese gybes last night and early this morning were more than enough of a warning to the German-French duo of the need to back off, to reduce sail if they are to stay within the sensible realms of control. That has meant sailing with two reefs and the J2 and keeping speeds close to 15 knots.

The problem appears to stem from yesterday's starboard rudder repair. A replacement carbon fibre sleeve was fitted over the damaged rudder but it seems like the temporary repair is moving or not rigid enough to take the loads when the Finot-designed IMOCA 60 is moving at high speeds in the big seas and spins out.

Renault Captur has had trouble with their rudders since the Atlantic. Initially the rudders were reported to have kicked up by themselves. That problem was solved in the Doldrums and again in the St Helena high. Their technical team reports that the rudders were locked off to avoid them kicking up in the Southern Ocean.

After the rudder blade was damaged it was repaired yesterday with a carbon 'sock' that was slipped over the rudder and then stuck in place. The technical team is looking at possible solutions but Riechers seemed to think they will be hobbled for some time. His co-skipper Audigane said today: "Last night when we were sailing higher at 125° TWA, there is no problem, we can control the boat, even with the pilot it goes well. The problem is that when you have the bow down and the sea is a little cross; under these conditions is not right. Above 19 knots of wind, we lose control of the boat, the helm really loads up very heavy. It is like losing control of a car at 150kms/h. All we can do it keep in the reefs and stay slowed.

"We were happier because we had worked hard and got to within 190 miles of GAES Centros Auditivos. We can go a little slower, a little under sail when we are on port tack. So really our goal is to pass Cape Horn and to finish this round the world race. In the Atlantic it will be easier to race with a damaged rudder."

Renault may struggle to stay in the match for third, but for sure the tussle is only just hotting up. GAES Centros Auditivos has been keeping up the pressure on Neutrogena. Their deficit this afternoon is reduced to just 57 miles, but Guillermo Altadill and Jose Munoz are one knot quicker now and so that delta should stabilise at worst. The Spanish-Chilean partnership have been further south and appear to have just a little more speed.

Big Lead Big Wind

Cheminées Poujoulat is not short of wind. Since this afternoon they have been into 30-35 knots ahead of a front, leading by over 1100 miles from Neutrogena.

We Are Water has slowed, in a ridge between two lows, but Bruno and Willy Garcia should get out imminently and have a fast passage across into the Pacific.

Splendid Isolation

One Planet One Ocean is well past Cape Leeuwin, but the second 'great cape' for crew Didac Costa and Aleix Gelabert marked an emotional moment for the amateur duo. Costa admitted he still marvels at the speeds and ease of handling of their IMOCA 60, formerly Ellen MacArthur's 2000 generation Kingfisher: "Perhaps because I have not been in the IMOCA so long but it still impresses me how these boats sail in the big south. The seas form and the boat accelerates and the noise is incredible. You think everything will explode. But it doesn't and it all happens again. It is addictive."

But for all that they are in regular contact with Race HQ, the loneliness and isolation is palpable, and enduring. Costa says: "The truth is that yes there are times when you think how lonely you are here Before Good Hope the last human life we saw was a merchant ship. Since then there has not been a boat of any kind. The only life we see is birds."

And the worst of life in the the information desert?  "We know nothing about Barça, the football club. Which is unthinkable when you are in the city." he joked.

Positions at 1400 UTC:

1 Cheminées Poujoulat (B Stamm – J Le Cam) 9576.2 miles DTF
2 Neutrogena (G Altadill – J Muñoz) + 1120 miles
3 GAES Centros Auditivos (A Corbella – G Marin) + 1177.6
4 Renault Captur (J Riechers – S Audigane) + 1435.6
5 We Are Water (B Garcia – W Garcia) + 2607.4
6 One Planet One Ocean & Pharmaton (A Gelabert – D Costa) + 3299.7
7 Spirit of Hungary (N Fa – C Colman) + 3963.9

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