Last hours on land for the Barcelona World Race Skippers. Race record to fall?
A perfect sunny Tuesday afternoon allowed the sixteen skippers who will start the 22,500 miles two handed Barcelona World Race to fully enjoy their final hours on dry land before taking Wednesday’s 1300hrs (CET midday UTC) start.
For the organised duos – those who have had upwards of a year to prepare and know their boats intuitively – there was family time, long lunches, siestas and time to peruse the latest weather files with their consultant of choice (there is no outside routing allowed once the race has started). For the twosomes who have been battling against the clock in the final months, the realisation that their round the world challenge is now less than 24 hours away was truly biting them.
Relaxed and affable on the surface, Alex Thomson (GBR) and Pepe Ribes (ESP) spent an hour at the busy Hugo Boss show-trailer meeting their public, signing autographs and giving away postcards and posters. Jean Le Cam (FRA) and Bernard Stamm (SUI) were in equally good humour as they participated in the main meteo briefing with Marcel van Trieste, along with the other French speaking skippers.
The start will be given by Barcelona’s Mayor Xavier Tries with the line set in front of the iconic 90m tall Hotel Vela (W-Hotel). The mayor will signal the start with a traditional sound as well as the emblematic lowering of the ‘flags’ on a new sculpture on the Placa del Mar on the Barcelona sea-front.
The onshore activity will begin at 10 am when the IMOCA 60s bid their farewells and dock-out from the pontoons at the base of the Columbus statue. From 12.30 pm on the beachfront a starting ceremony will begin with a live performance by the Fura del Baus musicians at the Dona del Mil·leni sculpture. The Mayor of Barcelona, Xavier Trias, will drive the mechanism that moves the arms, waving a flag signal, which will start the circumnavigation of the globe. Musicians from a Catalan theatre group will also perform on the sculpture.
The IMOCA 60s will dock out in order, Renault Captur (Jorge Riechers, Seb Audigane) first off, followed by Spirit of Hungary (Nandor Fa, Conrad Colman), One Planet One Ocean Pharmaton (Aleix Gelabert, Didac Costa). Then it is the turn of Bruno and Willy Garcia on We Are Water, Neutrogena (Guillermo Altadill and Jose Munoz), Hugo Boss (Alex Thomson and Pepe Ribes), GAES Centros Auditivos (Anna Corbella and Gerard Marin) and Cheminées Poujoulat (Bernard Stamm and Jean Le Cam).
There are two options for a circuit along the beach before heading south. The most likely is a two miles reach to a turning mark where the fleet will pass before heading for the Strait of Gibraltar, 535 miles down the track. Winds are forecast to be light around start time although the weather models are dynamic, changing all the time. The weather situation has the N’ly Tramontana still blowing to the east of Barcelona and the NW’ly over to the west on the Rio Ebro delta region, accelerated by day.
The meteo situation suggests there will be a variety of options after that final turning mark, and hence the fleet could possibly spread. The balance is always whether to take a big risk early or to try and remain moderate and race the fleet. Initially there might be the choice to go east to hook into the existing stronger breeze or wait until it is filled across to the Spanish coast. Essentially Barcelona lies in no-go zone, between the winds. The brisk NE’ly will carry the leaders down to the Balearics by between 2200hrs and midnight (about 90 miles) where the routing suggests passing just to the east of Ibiza. The winds through this first night will peak at just over 20kts but after the Balearics through the early hours the winds will ease, receding from the shore.
The ‘Elephant in the Room’ is a period of very light winds in the Alboran Sea, which will become progressively worse. There is a remote possibility that the leaders might just be able to beat this shut down to the east of Gibraltar and ease out into the very well organised, brisk trade winds. Indications suggest that at best three and a half days to get out of the Mediterranean, but maybe as slow as five for the leaders!
Neutrogena’s Guillermo Altadill (ESP) explained: “The weather in the Med has been changing quite a lot over the last three days, it was looking good and now in the last 24 hours it’s looking like less wind. It’s going to be quite tricky, because it’s going to be very variable conditions, especially on the first night, with a lot of tactical options.
“I don’t think it’s going to be the key point in the race, because it’s so long. But it’s going to determine who is going to be the first up out of Gibraltar and who is going to take first into the trade winds, it’s always something you have to keep in mind. I don’t think it’s going to make the winner of the race, but it can make the next three weeks like a game once we are all out of the Med.”
Nonetheless with the ‘new’ course for the race now eliminating Cook Strait – no longer do the skippers pass in between New Zealand – a new Barcelona World Race record is likely. The course is about 2200 miles shorter, and hence Jean Pierre-Dick and Damian Foxall’s mark of 92 days 09 hours 49 mins 49 seconds, must be vulnerable.Skippers’ quotes:
Guillermo Altadill (ESP), Neutrogena:
“When you start a race this long, if you put 100 days food on you look negative, you have to be more optimistic. I think it’s not going to be more than 90. If it’s more than 82 then we will eat less for the last week, but it’s not a big problem. As well, one day of food once you count everything, the power bars and everything, that takes quite a lot of weight. So if you say we put 10 days more on then sometimes that is maybe 50 kilos more, which starts to be a little bit too much extra. So that’s we’ve gone with 82, not because I think it’s going to be 82, it could be 75 or 95, but I think it’s a good number.
“The good thing now is that we don’t have to pass through Cook Strait so I think we can save four or five days there and if the gates are not moving too far north then maybe we think we can save one or two days more there too. So that means we can do it in 84 or 85 days.
“I think in the first week there’s not going to be a lot of difference [between the boats], but in the next three weeks the boats that are slightly faster will pull out – Hugo Boss, Cheminées, us and probably GAES as well. They will naturally be gaining miles every day. And I think by the time we arrive by the South Atlantic the fleet is going to be quite spun out.
“The main goal is just to finish the race, the second is not stopping. If we make these first and second goals then I think it’s going to be easy to be in the top two boats finishing here.”
Anna Corbella (ESP), GAES Centros Auditivos:
“It feels very different this time around, but it’s not because of the change of skipper. The last time was my first round the world race, and I was very new to all that. This time it’s a different approach to the same thing. I remember last time I finished the race I said to myself ‘If I have to do it again I need to be more physically prepared!’ And now I have done a lot of training, I’ve prepared a lot.
“It’s so important to have a good average the whole time. So to have a good speed, but a high average and to be constant, not to burn all at the beginning. We know that it is a long race, that a lot of things can happen, and that a lot of boat, normally 30 or 40 per cent never get to the end, and we want to finish. So we are we going to be constantly fast.
“The boat, we know it very well. The boat has done two round the world races, we crossed the Atlantic two times, so we are confident with our boat and with our team.”