It can be the most frustrating stage of non-stop round the world racing. After completing the difficult, stressful four or five weeks in the big south, there is an almost inbuilt expectation that, by comparison, after rounding Cape Horn and passing the Falklands milestone, racing up the Atlantic life should be a bowl of cherries.
Sometimes it is. Sometimes it is not. Neutrogena and GAES Centros Auditivos have been doing the best they can with the weather cards they have been dealt, but it is complicated, changeable, annoying and just not what the respective duos want or need at this point.
Their gap to Cheminées Poujoulat has grown bigger. For nearly 24 hours Bernard Stamm and Jean Le Cam have been able to sail at twice the speed of Neutrogena. There has been no alternative route for Guillermo Altadill and José Muñoz, no other options than to take their medicine, to try and keep sailing fast to get past this area which is stricken with light and unstable winds.
For long periods of the race Altadill and Muñoz have paced the race leaders, sailing at the same speeds – even when they have been several hundred miles apart – but right now the weather odds are very much stacked against them. And GAES Centros Auditivos.
Patience and perspective are required virtues right now. But 63 days of accumulated fatigue are felt acutely when it is slow and difficult, much more so than when the boat is moving fast and the adrenaline pumps through the veins and keeps you going. Anna Corbella pointed out today:
“Physcially we are at 100% and mentally we are just a little bit tired. It is like we are going home, so we feel like we have enough energy. We want to get there. But it is a mental effort for sure and we have to go step by step, day by day and be patient, and continue like that. We have to keep our morale high.”
Without doubt these are doubly frustrating times for the Neutrogena duo. It's easy to overlook the fact that their race to date has been all but equal to that of Cheminées Poujoulat in every respect. Considering that this is their first ever IMOCA race around the world – indeed it is only Muñoz's second ever big IMOCA race – the performance of Altadill and Muñoz deserves enormous credit. They have proven that they can sail very fast and very smart.
They have matched the Cheminées Poujoulat pair – who between them have six racing cirumnavigations. And Altadill and Muñoz have consistently been in the leading trio for the whole race. Consider that they lost some 900 miles for their 24 hours pit stop into Wellington. Altadill and Muñoz were 232 miles behind the leaders when they had to pull into New Zealand. Add the 900 miles they bled then and today Neutrogena's delta to the leaders is still no bigger, virtually the same as it was when they rejoined the low pressure train in the south. What might have been, had they not had to pitstop!
On the other side of Cape Horn, it’s a very different story. The four crews still racing in the South Pacific are having to deal with the usual weather pattern in the Southern Ocean: Strong winds, biting cold conditions and frequent rain. But with fewer than 1000 miles to go to Cape Horn, the misery of their daily life, shut away in damp, uncomfortable conditions, is gradually being replaced by the excitement of knowing that it won’t be long before they round the southernmost tip of the Andes mountain range, Horn Island, meaning that they have nearly got their tickets to get out of the Big South.
We can imagine that Bruno and Willy Garcia will soon be able to add the title 'Cape Horners' to their own impressive sailing and professional CV's
Aleix Gelabert (ESP) One Planet, One Ocean & Pharmaton: “At this moment we have only light winds so we need to go a little bit more. We are excited to arrive at Cape Horn we have been looking forwards to it, we have been dreaming about it a lot. We are really excited about it.
“The Pacific has given us a little bit of everything, light winds, upwind and fast downwind. We also had some very cold days. It is a very big ocean.
“The best are when you are driving these boats really fast with good weather conditions. The worst moments is when it is very humid inside the boat, the conditions are not good, it is cold outside and it is not comfortable. But you know it is going to be like this, and so you can't say anything about it.”
“It is a long race. We have had a bit everything, sometimes it is boring when you don;t have a lot of wind, and sometimes it has been difficult. Sometimes you are sailing the boat alone and it is really fast. 60 Days we have had different days.”
“We have a lot work with the boat, when we got into the south we did some exercises for the legs, you can lose muscle on the legs. But now we don't do that now we are down here. Physically and mentally we feel strong. We are not finished but we have done three parts of the race, so we have 35 or 40 days to get home, but we are really looking forwards to Cape Horn and to Barcelona.”
Anna Corbella (ESP) GAES Centros Auditivos: “It is difficult. The weather forecast is changing every 12 hours and it is not like we have a clear situation. We still dont know what strategy to do. The weather is very variable and it is changing all the time. It is not easy. It is light and variable and there are some little low pressures but the forecasts have them moving in one way or another, so it is not easy to make a plan.”
Feel like out of the south?
“Definitely. Yesterday the sea temperature changed from eight degrees to 14 in two hours. And that is a lot. The sea state is different and the sky is clear. Now we feel that is warmer. We wear one layer less of clothing. Probably this afternoon we will have a shower.
“Everything is easier and it feels like we have left the South behind.
“The boat is OK. We have sorted all the problems. Since Cape Horn we have had only light winds. So we have had the opportunity to repair everything. Everything is working and the ails are all OK. We are happy to continue like this and not break anything more before the finish line.”
Physically and mentally OK?
“I think we are both OK. Physcially we are at 100% and mentally we are just a little bit tired. It is like we are going home, so we feel like we have enough energy, we want to get there. But it is a mental effort for sure and we have to go step by step, day by day and be patient, and continue like that. We have to keep our morale high.”
Can get back at Neutrogena?
“It is going to be difficult to get back at Neutrogena, they won't slow the boat for sure. And the speeds are very similar and they are 200 miles ahead of us. So it will be difficult to reduce the difference. The forecast we have is not good for us. The next opportunity will be in the Doldrums and maybe we get a chance to reduce the distance a little bit. But is not going to be easy.”
Rankings at 1400hrs UTC Wednesday 04/03/2015
1 Cheminées Poujoulat (B Stamm – J Le Cam) at 4528 miles to finish
2 Neutrogena (G Altadill – J Muñoz) + 1206 miles to leader
3 GAES Centros Auditivos (A Corbella – G Marin) + 1355 miles to leader
4 We Are Water (B Garcia – W Garcia) + 3334 miles to leader
5 One Planet One Ocean & Pharmaton (A Gelabert – D Costa) + 3545 miles to leader
6 Renault Captur (J Riechers – S Audigane) + 4047 miles to leader
7 Spirit of Hungary (N Fa – C Colman) + 5632 miles to leader
ABD : Hugo Boss (A. Thomson – P. Ribes)