Winds easing as Barcelona World Race yachts reach the Equator

With Cheminées Poujoulat now closing ever closer to their wake Hugo Boss have regained the lead of the Barcelona World Race as the leaders head for their Doldrums experience, the Equator tomorrow and consider medium term options in the south Atlantic. 

Although the Trade Winds were due to ease this Saturday afternoon, as yet there has only been a small reduction in boat speeds. But the pace should reduce slightly over the course of Saturday night as the NE’ly breeze drops back to 15kts from this evening.
Aboard the top four boats are some of the hardest, most experienced solo and short-handed and fully crewed round the world sailors, the best of them with decades of experience.

But the combination of muscular trade winds and the intensity and closeness of the competition has drained the leaders and so when the pace does relent, and the correspondingly the temperatures rise as the wind chill drops as well, so a period of respite will almost certainly be welcomed.

Sunday may not be billed as a day of rest, but the chance for each skipper to give their opposite number an extra hour of sleep will be possible, contrasting with the hard, intense routine since the Canary Islands.
All of the leaders look to be setting up for more or less the same Doldrums crossing point. The convergence zone between the NE’ly Trade Winds and the SE’ly Trade Winds of the South is widening slightly and moving north to meet the vanguard of the 23,450 miles two handed non stop race, but the narrowest transition is quite well defined, around 100 miles wide.

In ‘real money’ Hugo Boss, Alex Thomson and Pepe Ribes are 35 miles directly ahead of Neutrogena, Guillermo Altadill and Jose Muñoz, while Cheminées Poujoulat are racing at the same latitude as Neutrogena. Joining today’s live conference Cheminées Pouloulat’s Bernard Stamm and Jean Le Cam were on good form, but their fatigue was evi dent:

“We have not had time for much sleep. Since the start we have had to stay at the helm. We take in turns, but that doesn’t leave us much time to rest. It’s nice for all the boats to be close together. We did well getting out of the Mediterranean. We underestimated the speed with which the high was coming down after that and fell into  a trap there, but we’ve made our way back. We’re not in the best position, but it’s going well and we’re battling it out with our friends, which is great. The other three boats are fast, so we can’t ease off and let them get ahead.” Stamm said 

The Cape Verdes was a double milestone for Le Cam, not only did he have to retire there in 2011 during this race when the mast of President broke, but during the 2013 Transat Jacques Vabre two handed race from Le Havre to Brazil, he and Vincent Riou had to pit stop into Mindelo to effect a fast rudder repair. The duo went on to win the IMOCA 60 Class into Itaja i

“ The Cape Verdes hold a sad memory, because that’s where we were dismasted last time and I stopped here just over a year ago with PRB in Mindelo to carry out repairs. But I like these islands really.”

Some compression is still inevitable at the Doldrums which should help GAES Centros Auditivos creep back at the trio which are to their south. Anna Corbella and Gérard Marin are actually more like 75 miles behind Thomson and Ribes.

They don't make 'em IMOCAs like they used to……..
For all that We Are Water are expected to catch the redoubtable, Aleix Gelabert and Didac Costa are doing all they can to make sure it is not in the Northern Hemisphere, but hopefully in the famous yacht’s ‘home’ hemisphere.
The oldest IMOCA 60 in the fleet was designed for Ellen MacArthur and launched in New Zealand on February 18th 2000. Designed by Owen Clarke in collaboration with Rob Humphreys, Giovanni Belgrano and Andy Claughton, the boat has been extensively updated since she has been owned by the FNOB, including a new forged keel, the cockpit has been opened and redesigned and the coachroof replaced. One Ocean One Planet/Pharmaton is on her fourth racing circumnavigation, her third Barcelona World Race.
Lead designer Merf Owen said today:
“Of course the boat is very different to when she was built for Ellen – only really the hull and structure are the same – but when we designed and built her for the Ellen we really were wanting a boat which we were sure would finish (the Vendée Globe) and so it was built extra tough – I never considered what she might be doing in the future. She is very tough compared to the modern boats. I had no worries about the boat when Ellen raced and I have no worries to see the boat going around for a third Barcelona World Race and fourth circumnavigation. It is great to see there is life left in this great boat.”

Speaking to the conference call today Gelabert said from One Planet One Ocean:
We know sooner or later We Are Water will catch us but maybe we will get to the Doldrums before Bruno and Willy but then a lot of thing will change. What we are sure about is they will be faster than us and we’ll not be able to push too hard, we don’t want to obsess about them. It will be bad to go as fast as they are because we could break something.”
Ranking at 14:00 UTC Saturday 10th JANUARY 2015
1 Hugo Boss (A Thomson – P Ribes) 21413.2 miles to finish 
2 Cheminées Poujoulat (B Stamm – J Le Cam) +2.5 miles to finish 
3 Renault Captur (J Riechers – S Audigane) +2.7 miles to leader 
4 Neutrogena (G Altadill – J Muñoz) +27.2 miles to leader 
5 GAES Centros Auditivos (A Corbella – G Marin) + 45.8 miles to leader 
6 One Planet One Ocean & Pharmaton (A Gelabert – D Costa) + 355.2 miles to leader 
7 We Are Water (B Garcia – W Garcia) + 410.6 miles to leader
8 Spirit of Hungary (N Fa – C Colman) + 578 miles to leader

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