Genova is getting closer but there are still some challenging race miles ahead

Fleets making steady, if slower than desired, progress towards Genova

If there wasn’t already enough urgency to get to Genova quickly, Ambrogio Beccaria is more desperate than ever. Not only is the Italian crewman on Team Holcim-PRB keen to reach his home country as soon as possible, vital provisions on the IMOCA are running very low. “Dude, there is no more Nutella,” he complains to colleague Yoann Richomme. “The others have eaten it all.”

With just five souls on board, the Nutella thief shouldn’t be too difficult to unmask. But then there is the small matter of maintaining focus to stay ahead of their rivals, which is proving anything but straightforward in a trickier than usual Mediterranean Sea.

Late on Friday night, skipper Benjamin Schwartz took Holcim-PRB on a trip over to the Algerian coastline in search of some night-time trickle of breeze from the top of the African continent. Meanwhile Biotherm and Team Malizia decided to stay in European waters as they worked their way up the Spanish coast. “Well we weren’t expecting our two colleagues to choose a different route than us. They are doing a coastal route along the Spanish coast whereas we have decided to go to Algeria. I don’t know what they saw that we haven’t seen that would make us go towards land, so now we don’t have a choice anyway.”

As it turned out, any concerns about allowing a big split to develop didn’t prove too dangerous. Holcim-PRB bounced off the Algerian coast and tacked back over towards Spain and reconverged ahead of their rivals. Holcim-PRB crew Annemieke Bes commented: “We were happy with the strategy in the end. We were stressed as there was a huge lateral gap. Anyway, it was good to try to catch the thermal winds a bit earlier.”

While not as extreme as WindWhisper Racing Team’s breakaway at the front of the VO65 fleet, there are similarities in the way the leaders of the respective fleets have ploughed their own route out to the east.

But as Windwhisper’s navigator Aksel Magdahl explained, it didn’t feel like they had another option at the time. “We sailed east towards the coast of Algeria, and there was a big split. We sailed east of Mallorca, the other boats sailed west. We thought if we had stayed west we’d stop in no wind and they would catch us up. It felt there was no other option than to go east, even if it’s uncomfortable to do it.”

The pack that stayed close to the Spanish coast got so close to Alicante earlier this weekend that you might have started to wonder if the sailors were thinking the race was due to finish in the same place that it started six months earlier. But no, the slow boat race continued past The Ocean Race HQ further up the Iberian coast, going past Barcelona and towards the south of France.

None of it is easy sailing, not even for an old veteran like Roberto ‘Chuny’ Bermúdez de Castro, the skipper on VO65 Mirpuri/ Trifork Racing Team. “Sailing through this Mediterranean short wave period, the boat is jumping too much, but we’re pushing really hard with the Mexicans and Austrians and the IMOCA fleet, tacking upwind. It’s interesting to see Windwhisper taking the option to go more east, go outside the Balearic Islands. It will be interesting to see what happens. There’s still a lot of difficult weather before arriving to Genova. The Mediterranean is always tricky, but this time even more than usual.”

With the forecast for light and variable winds between where the fleets are and Genova, the ETAs still have a high degree of uncertainty. But WindWhisper is expected on Monday, with the remaining race boats finishing on Tuesday.

The latest positions are on the Race Tracker

The latest news is at www.theoceanrace.com

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