This morning Neutrogena, one of the two leading boats of the Barcelona World Race, put on their cloak of invisibility and disappeared from the view of the competition and the public from 0900hrs UTC. Whilst racing neck and neck alongside rivals Cheminées Poujoulat, only a matter of five miles away after 16 days of racing, Guillermo Altadill and José Muñoz, became the first duo on this edition of the race to go into ‘Ghost’ or ‘Stealth’ Mode.
This card can be played by crews once, for 24 hours at a time, in each of the five key stages. They are not allowed to use it in the Mediterranean, outwards or return, and they must request the facility 12 hours in advance of being removed from the tracker and the published rankings.
Neutrogena’s choice comes at an interesting time, just as the pair of IMOCA 60s start to deal with the western fringe of the South Atlantic High. The balancing act now is a challenging one. Sailing closer to the centre of the high – to their east – means lighter winds but sailing less miles, on the inside of the leftwards curve down towards the Southern Ocean. A course slightly more to the west means more miles sailed but in stronger breezes.
Neutrogena had progressively set up to the east of their rival. Around 0400hrs early this Friday morning Altadill and Muñoz crossed the bows of Bernard Stamm and Jean Le Cam’s Cheminées Poujoulat, just 4.4 miles ahead, and were 4.8 miles SE of the competition when they ‘disappeared’.
What exactly is the intention of the Neutrogena duo? There is no immediately obvious reason to split away, an option to sail much further east and try and wriggle through the high in breeze – such as third place d Renault Captur look set to try.
Indeed Altadill and Muñoz may simply have gotten sick of being within range of AIS – the maritime identifying and tracking system – which allows them to track each other as long as they are within about 10 miles of each other, depending on atmospheric conditions, and to break free of the tyranny of the tracker. So it may simply be mind games rather than masking a move, big or small. It does also beg the question how Neutrogena would break away from being monitored on AIS by Cheminées Poujoulat, since the race rules require it be always switched on.
Renault Captur reported a problem with their mainsail track which required them to sail with the mansail dropped for some of the time today. From 15.9 kts this morning Jorg Riechers and Sébastien Audigane were making just 6.7kts. Their routing seemed to be targeting a small corridor of breeze between the evolving ce ntres of the high. As such that might be considered a high risk strategy, but Riechers has said at least once this race there is no point in simply following the faster, more experienced leaders.
The full Doldrums experience, torrential rain showers, hee-haw wind, and extremely slow motion, has been reserved for Spirit of Hungary, which had less than 80 miles to break out of the Northern Hemisphere this afternoon, with speeds up to four knots. The payback for the suffering of Nandor Fa and Conrad Colman is the SE’ly trade winds are well north of the equator and they should be right reaching soon.
Meantime Hugo Boss, which was dismasted Wednesday night, is making steady progress to Salvador de Bahia where two members of their technical team arrived on the ground today.
Conrad Colman, (NZL)Spirit of Hungary:“Our situation at the moment is very simple, we are not very fast. We have very light winds which is normal for the Doldrums. Last night we had stable winds until quite far south then all of a sudden the wind stopped completely. We had very strong rain which was absolutely fantastic since the boat has been dusty from the Sahara. And so we were able to wash the boat and ourselves. Since then it has been slow progress.
It is difficult to have a strategy when we are so far behind the other boats and we are just focusing on ourselves really. We still had a lot of learning because we did not sail much before the start. So Nandor and I have been progressing well. We have been learning about each other and about the boat. Two weeks in we are very comfortable in the manoeuvres we need to do and the sails we need to put up. And so when we get the wind again we will be in a great position to try and come back on the other boats ahead.
There is always a chance. We will be sailing as if we have a chance all the way to the finish line in Barcelona. We look forwards to seeing One Planet One Ocean and We Are Water again and in the Southern Ocean anything can happen. We will try to come back day by day.
It is tricky ahead. We have been focusing on just putting one foot in front of the other, just looking at the zone we are in now, the Doldrums. We really have not had the opportunity to look ahead and develop a broader strategy for the South Atlantic. It looks like very quickly into reaching conditions rather than upwind and so we look forwards to sailing fast again soon.
It is just awful, it reminds you that the big teams, just like the small ones, so much of your heart goes into the preparation and so much effort, so for them to have had a perfect race up until then and to be taken down by a technical failure is just heartbreaking. We send them our best wishes.
Anna Corbella (ESP) Gaes Centros Auditivos……Second? It is a position we wanted at the start of the race.
Asked about Neutrogena in Ghost Mode….
We don’t know. I did not know. That is from this morning and I just woke up. I don’t know what he will do. Maybe they just want to put some pressure on the others, because the wind is decreasing where they are. I imagine they are close with the other boat and so just disappear for 24 hours, something like that. There is not a lot to do, not a lot of strategy to do. We are not thinking to go in ghost mode at the moment
Standings at 1400hrs UTC Friday 16th January 2016
Ghost Mode: Neutrogena (G. Altadill – J. Muñoz)
ABD: Hugo Boss (A. Thomson – P. Ribes)