Barcelona World Race yachts approach Cape of Good Hope

The first of the Great Capes is fast-approaching, with the leading boats in the Barcelona World Race expected to pass the longitude of the Cape of Good Hope at the tip of South Africa tomorrow. As they pass 20°E, the Atlantic Ocean will deliver its verdict – did Cheminées Poujoulat’s east-bound track or Neutrogena’s southerly gamble pay off?

Cheminées Poujoulat has today extended their advantage over second placed Neutrogena, from just 65 miles last night to 125 miles on today’s 1400hrs position update. Over the course of this morning Bernard Stamm and Jean Le Cam have been over 4 knots faster than their nearest rivals, and are just shy of covering 400 miles in the past 24 hours.

Neutrogena, by contrast, has seen their average speeds drop to 14-15 knots as they last night gybed to climb back up onto a more north-easterly heading in order to clear the Antarctic Exclusion Zone at 45°S. Nevertheless, the two boats are expected to be separated by just a few hours when they pass the Cape tomorrow afternoon.

This duo have also extended their margin over GAES Centros Auditivos, now 580 miles back in third, as Anna Corbella and Gerard Marin hit the fast lane of the south. In a blog today Anna Corbella described their conditions:

“It's already b lowing over 30 knots and the boat is literally flying into the void… We are reaching 28 knots and cannot help thinking that with the next wave the boat will be dismantled, but no, nothing happens. The boat brakes, starts, accelerates, accelerates, accelerate acceleraaaateeeeeees! I can hear the rigging whistling. You see the numbers slide by rising 18, 20, 25, 28… The heart speeds up, everything whistles and crunches until the boat slows down, and then it all starts again – that's our first real sign of the south.”

Respect earned

The duel at the front of the fleet is earning admiration from the chasing pack.

For Bruno Garcia on We Are Water, this is his second Barcelona World Race, having taken part in the 2010-2011 event with Jean Le Cam – the pair retired after dismasting near the Cape Verde islands. Bruno explained that this time around, sailing with his younger brother Willy, is a very different experience:

“With Jean Le Cam I was the apprentice and the responsibility, in the end, is something that belongs to the skipper… Now I share everything with my brother: the effort, the hopes and the responsibilities.

“I’m thrilled that Jean is leading the fleet. I’m so happy for Jean, and for Altadill as well, they are both superb machines! They are having a spectacular race.”

Speaking at today’s video conference, Bruno also reported a minor problem with the autopilot which saw We Are Water sail a complete 360° turn, and prompted the brothers to switch to hand-steering in their current conditions of 15-16 knot south-westerlies with a large swell.

After nearly a month of racing, such gear problems are becoming an increasing factor for the 14 skippers. Now recovered from their mainsail track issues and an extended visit to the eastern Atlantic courtesy of the St Helena High, Renault Captur is finally looking forward to chasing GAES Centros A uditivos, some 540 miles ahead. Jorg Riechers and Sébastien Audigane today reported 28-32 knot winds and confused seas, and will be looking to extend their separation from We Are Water in fifth.

Giving chase

Similarly, the Spirit of Hungary team are focussing their efforts on remaining in touch with One Planet One Ocean Pharmaton. Nandor Fa and Conrad Colman spoke in this morning’s video conference of their relief at finally finding breeze after 24 hours of frustrating, sub-5 knot conditions. Although overall winds will remain light for the next couple of days, the pair hopes to continue to make miles to the south, while One Planet One Ocean Pharmaton may find their progress halted by a high pressure system currently moving eastwards ahead of their track.

Conrad Colman said today: “Really we’re not looking at the rest of the fleet, only at One Planet One Ocean at the moment, and we’re really hoping we can stay within 600 miles of them, which will allow us to try and play a good game with them for the rest of the race.”

“Certainly the task ahead is not easy because we have hundreds of miles to catch up and maybe not the best sails to do it with, but it just means that we’re going to have to work harder with our sail changes to make sure we always have the best one up. So it certainly is going to be a good fight but we’re ready for it now. And we’re getting used to sailing together – our manoeuvres are more fluid, so I certainly hope that we will at least get the most improved prize for this race!”

Provisional rankings at 1400hrs UTC Saturday 24th January 2015

  1. Cheminées Poujoulat (B. Stamm – J. Le Cam) at 17,891.5 miles to the finish
  2. Neutrogena (G. Altadill – J. Muñoz) + 124.9 miles to leader
  3. GAES Centros Auditivos (A. Corbella – G. Marín) + 581.7 miles to leader
  4. Renault Captur (J. Riechers – S. Audigane) + 1114.1 miles to leader
  5. We Are Water (B. Garcia – W. Garcia) + 1532.0 miles to leader
  6. One Planet, One Ocean & Pharmaton (A. Gelabert – D. Costa) + 1883.7 miles to leader
  7. Spirit of Hungary (N. Fa – C. Colman)  + 2360.1 miles to leader
    ABD Hugo Boss (A. Thomson – P. Ribes)

Skippers’ quotes:

Conrad Colman, Spirit of Hungary, 24.01.15

“We’re fantastic! Just recently we have taken new wind and so we have a new hope that we will soon be able to escape this zone of light winds. Nandor is in the cockpit trimming. We just put the Code Zero up so we are reaching in very nice conditions now, whereas all night we were sailing downwind in very light winds – sometimes only 2 or 3 knots of wind – and we were ready to pull our hair out, but now things are going very well.

“[For the next couple of days there will be] not too much wind, although we should make decent gains to the south, and then finally in a few days we should make it through to solid conditions that should make it look more like the southern oceans.

“Unfortunately during the time all of our friends will have had again a few more days in the better conditions than us, but really we’re not looking at the rest of the fleet, o nly at One Ocean One Planet at the moment, and we’re really hoping we can stay within 600 miles of them, which will allow us to try and play a good game with them for the rest of the race.

“It’s tricky because we’re missing a crucial sail for these conditions. We had two big spinnakers, and one has broken because a strop broke, and so we’re missing ideally a small spinnaker that will help us attack the boats ahead. So instead we’re going to be looking for reaching conditions in the days and months ahead, because we have some beautiful reaching sails. But it was difficult to make advantage of these when we were sailing, for example between the Canaries and Cape Verdes, because we were pure running.

“Certainly the task ahead is not easy because we have hundreds of miles to catch up and maybe not the best sails to do it with, but it just means that we’re going to have to work harder with our sail changes to make sure we always have the best one up. So it certainly is going to be a good fight but we’re ready for it now. And we’re getting used to sailing together – our manoeuvres are more fluid, so I certainly hope that we will at least get the most improved prize for this race!”

Bruno Garcia, We Are Water:

“Now the conditions are very good because we have 15-16 knots of wind from the south-south-west, but a big swell. But the next day we will have more tough weather, I think in the next 24-48 hours.”

 “You always miss having someone who can give you guidance, someone who teach you. Anyway, what I have now is a very different way of sailing for me, quite different from the sailing I would have done with Jean Le Cam. With him I was the apprentice and the responsibility, in the end, is something that belongs to the skipper… Now I share everything with my brother: the effort, the hopes and the responsibilities.

“I’m very happy for Jean Le Cam. I’m t hrilled that he is leading the fleet. I would have preferred to see Pepe [Ribes] fighting with them but I’m so happy for Jean, and for Altadill as well, they are both superb machines! They are having a spectacular race.”

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