Leaders back to speed in Barcelona World Race as storm passes

While one low pressure leaves the track, another makes its presence felt. After an intense two days in the face of a south-moving depression formed from two tropical cyclones, the leading boats in the Barcelona World Race were today regrouping and resetting themselves back into race mode.

For Bernard Stamm and Jean Le Cam on Cheminées Poujoulat, the conservative tactic of significantly reducing sail and speed – the duo sailed with three reefs in the main and no headsail for around 24 hours – saw them avoid the worst of the storm, sailing in around 45 knot winds with confused seas of 6-8 metre waves. Jean Le Cam commented, “It was the right decision. When we saw the GRIB files showing winds of 61 knots, we said we’re not going there.”

For both Stamm and Le Cam – who have at least nine round the world races between them – it was the first time they had had to employ such conservative tactics, Stamm saying today: “We’ve had very bad conditions in the past, but it’s the first time that the timing was so bad that we had to break our speed.”

The pair was, however, back up to full racing pace today, sailing at over 17 knots this morning and the fastest boat over the past 24 hours once again. Stamm expla ined that the sea state was improving, with cross-seas shifting to a more stable wave pattern from astern, and although they were expecting 35-40 knots, conditions were becoming more consistent and they hoped to carry the south-westerlies for the next couple of days. Cheminées Poujoulat is forecast to arrive at Cape Leeuwin on Friday morning, with Neutrogena around 12 hours behind.

In the face of the storm

For Neutrogena in second-place, the tropical storm was a threat but also an opportunity. Guillermo Altadill explaining today: “We knew that Cheminées were 180 miles in front us and would get the worse conditions. And we were just behind waiting, and pushing a little bit harder to close the gap.”

Neutrogena did close the distance by around 70 miles while Cheminées hit the brakes, although Stamm and Le Cam had managed to recover around 20 miles of that advantage today.

This final Indian Ocean leg – no w a straightforward 48-hour sprint to Australia – is unlikely to have any more passing opportunities, so Altadill and Munoz will be focussing on staying in touch with the leaders.

“We tried to catch some miles in the last 24 hours when he had to slow down because of the low, and we did it, we caught some miles,” said Altadill. “I think he [Cheminées] is going to come back in race mode so I don’t think we can catch up more miles at the moment, because we get the same conditions for the next two or three days, and our speeds are very similar, so I don’t think we can get more miles at the moment, I think we have to wait for a moment later on.”

Nothing simple

Elsewhere in the fleet, conditions were rarely so straightforward. Anna Corbella on GAES Centros Auditivos in third was rejoicing in the “crunches, bangs, wheels creaking… we are happy because that means we are going fast”. However, in 25-35 knots of westerli es, both GAES Centros Auditivos and fourth placed Renault Captur, around 300 miles behind, are in the midst of an intensive period of gybing along the Antarctic Exclusion Zone.

We Are Water in fifth place has moderate reaching conditions. However, One Planet One Ocean Pharmaton and Spirit of Hungary are now feeling the effects of a southerly low which has generated headwinds and confused seas. Sailing in 25-30 knot south-easterlies with up to 4m swells, the duo look set to endure around 48 hours of wet and uncomfortable conditions.

Didac Costa on One Planet One Ocean reported today: “The boat smashes against every wave coming towards us and water sweeps the deck. It is not very comfortable, although we don’t need to do a lot of trimming. Now we can’t surf the waves as before, instead the waves are surging towards us, then passing over us.

“We have these conditions because of a low, which is moving f rom Africa to the South, and there’s a new anticyclone that we will have to go around from the north side. The limit of the exclusion area doesn’t allow us to go where the favourable winds are. But it’s better to stay here than to be dodging icebergs.”

Rankings at 1400hrs UTC Wednesday 4th February 2015

  1. Cheminées Poujoulat (B. Stamm – J. Le Cam) at 14,286.8 miles to the finish
  2. Neutrogena (G. Altadill – J. Muñoz) + 185.8 miles to the leader
  3. GAES Centros Auditivos (A. Corbella – G. Marín) + 1,057.6 miles to the leader
  4. Renault Captur (J. Riechers – S. Audigane) + 1,372.3 miles to the leader
  5. We Are Water (B. Garcia – W. Garcia) + 1,999.4 miles to the leader
  6. One Planet, One Ocean & Pharmaton (A. Gelabert – D. Costa) + 2,591.0 miles to the leader
  7. Spirit of Hungary (N. Fa – C. Colman) + 3,005.5 miles to the leader
    ABD Hugo Boss (A. Thomson – P. Ribes)

Skippers quotes:

Bernard Stamm, Cheminées Poujoulat

“The sea is getting better. The sea this morning was from the side and very difficult, but now it’s slowly coming from behind and is getting better. And we have cloudy sky with some blue parts, so it’s OK, and we are happy to find better conditions now.

“We didn’t see much of the tropical low because we broke our speed a lot, to let the centre of the low pass in front. Then we have maybe 45 knots of wind, big seas, very big swells, but now the low has passed and we are sailing south it’s not a danger any more.

“We’ve had very bad conditions in the past, but it’s the first time that the timing was so bad that we had to break our speed.”

Guillermo Altadill, Neutrogena

“After the last 10 hours the sea state has improved, the wind is not as gusty as before, it is more steady. We are sailing now in the normal conditions of 30 knots of wind, sea state is qu ite is quite organised, it’s much better than 10 hours ago!

“We could see for two or three days before, it had been building off Western Australia, so what we do is we look at all the information we have, all the GRIB files and all the weather, and with all this information we know it’s going to criss-cross our track. So we were aware of what the conditions would be, and to slow down because the boat was in the path of the low, with big waves and very windy.

“But we didn’t get a lot of wind, I think the maximum windspeed we saw was about 35 and the waves were not really big.

“Always we were aware because you don’t know where the track is going to be, it can change track. But we were quite conservative in terms of, we knew that Cheminees were 180 miles in front us and would get the worse conditions. And we were just behind waiting, and pushing a little bit harder to close the gap.

“We tried to catch some miles in the last 24 hours when he had t o slow down because of the low, and we did it, we caught some miles. I think he is going to come back in race mode so I don’t think we can catch up more miles at the moment, because we get the same conditions for the next two or three days, and our speeds are very similar, so I don’t think we can get more miles at the moment, I think we have to wait for a moment later on.

“Yes when you have these conditions obviously you get more stressed and more anxious, you know, because you know you have to take care of the boat, to take care of yourself. It’s a lot of things going on, you have to prepare the boat, you have to find the right place to put the boat in terms of not too close to the low, the sea state. So you always have to have a little bit of concern as to what is the best place to sail and how much you push the boat in these conditions, if you have to slow down or not, you have a lot of that. But it’s not nervous, it’s like more anxious or concerned about the si tuation, it’s not being nervous.”

Anna Corbella, GAES Centros Auditivos

“Finally! We can't believe it but GAES Centros Auditivos sounds again: crunches, bangs, wheels creaking… and we are happy because that means we are going fast. It was time that damm high pressure let us go!

“But maybe it's best not to complain too much because Cheminées Poujoulat and Neutrogena are also playing the wind lottery. At the same moments they must be suffering winds and waves of serious dimensions, and from what we have seen, perhaps we prefer the ticket of calms in the Roaring Forties than the cyclone in the Roaring Forties.

“At least our boat feels like it just came out of the shipyard after some days of intensive care, and we feel the same, well rested and fed… and even clean! Yes, yes, in one of the calms with the sun beating down we managed to have a shower with 15° sea water, you can't ask for more down here. Enough to feel like coming out of a spa.

“For the coming days we have quite a good forecast, 25 knots downwind, some moments 35, and flying until Leeuwin, which is already less than 2,000 miles away.”

Didac Costa, One Planet One Ocean

“The boat smashes against every wave coming towards us and water sweeps the deck. It is not very comfortable, although we don’t need to do a lot of trimming. Now we can’t surf the waves as before, instead the waves are surging towards us, then passing over us.

“We have these conditions because of a low, which is moving from Africa to the South, and there’s a new anticyclone that we will have to go around from the north side. The limit of the exclusion area doesn’t allow us to go where the favourable winds are. But it’s better to stay here than to be dodging icebergs.”

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