Legend has it that over 31 days during 1788 the HMS Bounty of Captain Bligh made just 85 miles while attempting fruitlessly to round Cape Horn. If they round Cape Horn as expected on Tuesday 24th February, Barcelona World Race leaders Bernard Stamm and Jean Le Cam will have taken 31 days to race from the longitude of Cape of Good Hope to the most feared of all Capes. They passed Good Hope on 24th January at 20:20hrs UTC. and those who like the fearful symmetries of IMOCA Round the World Racing might not be too far wrong to stab at a 24th March finish into Barcelona!
Such speeds from Cheminées Pojoulat, indicate that harmony prevails and that there has not even been a mutinous whisper between the two vastly experienced co-skippers, Stamm and Le Cam. The duo, who have six racing circumnavigations between them, were just over 800 miles from the Cape this afternoon and conditions, though robust, look set for a favourable, well earned release from the clutches of the Pacific. Compared with the Indian, the Pacific has been tough but fair to the Swiss-French pair
Of course both will share their relief on Tuesday. Perhaps more so though for Le Cam. He has been back on the last Vendèe Globe, exorcising the ghosts of 2009 when he was trapped for 16 hours inside his upturned VM Materiaux 200 miles west of Cape Horn and had to be rescued.
With a big lead, 1172 miles this afternoon, perhaps the duo will take advantage of a day time rounding to get closer in and enjoy their passage.
Race Director Jacques Caraes confirms the top duo can expect reasonable conditions but which will not disappoint: “Cheminées Poujoulat are in a NWly wind which is close to 35kts and it will move W and the SW, dropping a little as they approach Cape Horn on Tuesday. The sun will be up at 0400hrs and so they will have a passage by day, 25-28kts. At 100 after Cape Horn they will have ideal conditions the SW veering W so they can make the Le Maire Straits on their Great Circle route making it the shortest route between the east coast of Tierra del Fuego and Staten Island where they have restored the 'lighthouse at the end of the world'.”
The Chilean Navy and MRCC have responsibilty for the area and work closely with Race Direction: “The Chilean MRCC area begins at 131 deg W. And so Bernard Stamm and Jean Le Cam have been in it for a couple of days now and received a welcome message from the MRCC. And we are in contact all the time with the M RCCs, alerting them when boats arrive and leave from their area,” Caraes concludes
The horns of a dilemma
Seventh placed Nandor Fa admitted that he and co-skipper Conrad Colman may be on the horns of dilemma tomorrow. To pit stop or not? After both co-skippers have been up the mast to try and release a jammed, broken halyard lock slide, veteran Fa confirmed it will be Monday morning when they know if they will have to pitstop into New Zealand to get a replacement part. Ironically the race's only Kiwi, Colman, will have one last attempt to free the damaged slide in the morning or he may end up with a very much unwanted pitstop in his home country. Nevertheless, having reached the midpoint of their southern oceans, and now nearly racing in the Pacific, Fa was on good form this morning when he spoke with Race Control in Barcelona.
“We have had five very full days because we are fighting with the problems we have, especially on the mast, the halyard lock was broken again. It is not enought to be broken again. In fact it is stuck on the track. I was up the mast and I tried to fix it. Conrad went up and could not either. Tomorrow morning we will try again. If it is impossible to fix we will make a decision what to do. But, not now.”
Fa continued: “It is the only problem. It is safe. I could double that (the halyard) but it is strong and the mainsail is OK. All the sails are OK. We slowed down a little bit with the work the whole days, when we were working. When the wind comes again we will speed up again. That is the situation at the moment and we are very very happy. On one side we are happy to be in the Pacific Ocean, on the other side we have passed the half way point our calculation says we are over half way in the south. We are happy. But the unneccessary and unreasonable fight takes a lot out of evergy from both of us.”
But part of the dilemma will be to lose out on the possibility of passing Renault Captur which pit stopped into Wellington last night at 2304hrs UTC last night Saturday. Jorg Reichers and Sébastien Audigane were expecting to be out and going again in Monday. Correspondingly One Planet, One Ocean & Pharmaton are up to fifth, Renault Captue sixth.
Fa, 61 years old, replied: “On the one side that is exciting and challenging, on the other we have to solve our problem somehow. And if we can solve it on the sea then good, but if we have to go to New Zealand then we are also losing. At the moment we don't know the answer.”
What about the pit-stop when do you decide?
“Tomorrow morning we make a decision. We make another try with the slide, if if can be moved and we can take it off then that is good. We can keep going. If it is stuck and we cant use the slide then we have to go to shore and somehow solve the problem there. Conrad wanted to try again last evening and couldn't and just now it is dark, it is impossible it wet and dark and cold. Tomorrow morning we try again we will make the decision.”
What about the boat, are you happy with it?
“I am absolutely happy with the boat. Herself she performs very well, fast, reliable which is important the tracking stability and high speed, at modern than 20kts and close to 20kt averages we were secure and I enjoyed it very much. So far we have only one Chinese gybe, that was in light winds and was accidental. In strong winds the boat behaves like I expected. I am really happy with it. It is hard to judge against the other boats but it is very similar to the others. I am happy but unfortunately we cannot push the way would like to, because of the technical problems and issues, too much time lost because of the consequence of these issues. We lost some meteo because of that. But basically the boat herself is vry close to what I wanted to have and so I am happy with it.”
Compared with his past Vendée Globes 19 and 23 years ago how is this race and the IMOCA 60 scene now?
“Life has changed very much. In my time before it was much more adventure, very different to this professional sailing right now. There is no mercy, if you make a small mistake immediately the others are penalising. In my time before the differences were much bigger between boat and boat, the differences were bigger between the skippers, there was a completely different way, different mentality, it was more friendly and now it is much more professional, less friendly but I can tell you that I am enjoying very much this time. It is also quite far, close to the limit and very tough, but very enjoyable.”
The duel between GAES Centros Auditivos and second placed Neutrogena sees Gullermo Altadill and José Munoz sees them separated by just 10 miles.
Standings at 1400hrs Sunday 22/02/2015
1 Cheminées Poujoulat (B Stamm – J Le Cam) at 7745 miles to finish
2 Neutrogena (G Altadill – J Muñoz) + 1172 miles to leader
3 GAES Centros Auditivos (A Corbella – G Marin) + 1183 miles to leader
4 We Are Water (B Garcia – W Garcia) + 3034 miles to leader
5 One Planet One Ocean & Pharmaton (A Gelabert – D Costa) + 3329 miles to leader
6 Renault Captur (J Riechers – S Audigane) + 3639miles to leader
7 Spirit of Hungary (N Fa – C Colman) + 4235 miles to leader
ABD : Hugo Boss (A. Thomson – P. Ribes)