One of the outstanding pre-race favourites, matching the round the world racing experience of Altadill with the drive and commitment of Chilean José Munoz, and a well proven Farr design (the boat which Alex Thomson sailed to third in the last Vendée Globe), Neutrogena has fulfilled hopes of a podium finish. Their race was marred by a 24-hour technical pit stop into Bluff, South Island, New Zealand, which was required because they were unable to start their engine to charge their batteries. A crash gybe on March 5th further reduced their ability to communicate with race organisers or receive detailed weather information.
Duelling for the lead with Cheminées Poujoulat and Hugo Boss, Neutrogena topped the rankings four times in the Atlantic and Indian Ocean. However, after their pit stop Neutrogena had lost over 1,000 miles to the leaders and were are times threatened by third placed GAES Centros Auditivos, but in the end finish about 260 miles ahead of Anna Corbella and Gerard Marín.
This is the summary of Neutrogena's Barcelona World Race:
Records into the Med
After a quick, straightforward passage of the Mediterranean, chasing the leaders Hugo Boss who set a new record from Barcelona to Tarifa, Neutrogena broke into the Atlantic in second place, about 15 miles behind Alex Thomson and Pepe Ribes. CheminéesPoujoulat were six miles behind them, with GAES Centros Auditivos 13 miles further astern. The remainder of the fleet became trapped in the Alboran Sea as this leading four established a breakaway group that was never challenged.
Racing south in the Atlantic, a profitable ridging of the Azores high pressure allowed the leading peloton to scribe a nice southerly course. As they crossed 35 degrees North, Altadill and Munoz took the lead in the tight tussle with Hugo Boss and Cheminées Poujoulat. The top three showed very similar speeds and were separated by just six miles.
At the Canaries, Hugo Boss passed east of the island group, while GAES Centros Auditivos led briefly on January 9th, before being overtaken by Neutrogena. GAES Centros Auditivos, Neutrogena and Cheminées Poujoulat all passed through the islands between Fuerteventura and Grand Canaria. There was some stability in the rankings after the Canaries, with the top four separated by just 30 miles as they lined up for the Doldrums around 27 deg W. Neutrogena continued a close battle with Hugo Boss, Cheminées Poujoulat and GAES Centros Auditivos.
Head to head in the South Atlantic
Out of the Doldrums the top group remained close, the pressure on leaders Hugo Boss which was really only establishing a cushion of a few miles’ advatage, sailing a little faster than their rivals, when their mast came down on January 14th 2015. Alex Thomson and Pepe Ribes had to head to Salvador de Bahía, leaving Cheminées Poujoulat to take the lead, closely followed by Neutrogena.
Bernard Stamm and Jean Le Cam, and Guillermo Altadill and José Munoz gradually pulled away from GAES Centros Auditivos. Neutrogena went into stealth mode (although it suffered a technical failure), seeking to disguise their moves for 24 hours in the transition zone north of the Saint Helena high pressure. When they came out of ghost mode Neutrogena led, but acceded the advantage to Cheminées Poujoulat as they skirted round the South Atlantic high into the Indian Ocean. Neutrogena took the initiative to head south in a big low, going down 6 degrees of latitude in 24 hours reaching 40 deg S on January 20th, while Cheminées Poujoulat continued on a more easterly routing between 34 and 35 deg S.
The pair converged back to the same latitude for Good Hope, where Stamm and Le Cam proved to be about 160 miles, or 10 hours, ahead.
Energy problems deep in the South
For the first half of the Indian Ocean, Neutrogena remained much further south than the Cheminées Poujoulat. Guillermo Altadill and José Muñoz sailed along the limit of the Antarctic Exclusion Zone (AEZ), holding the same margin from the leaders who were always further north, varying between 200 and 260 miles. Later, during the approach to Cape Leeuwin and the subsequent passage through southern Australia, both boats raced at the same latitude and skirted along the AEZ, Cheminées Poujoulat holding a lead of 200 miles on average.
The situation changed radically on February 10th when Guillermo Altadill announced that due to a problem charging the batteries they needed to make a pit stop. They chose the port of Bluff, in the very south of New Zealand. That meant a detour NE of about 620 miles for Neutrogena. After repairing the damage within the mandatory 24 hours stop – according to the race rule – Altadill and Munoz rejoined the race south-bound, having lost about 90 hours (three and a half days). The leaders, Stamm and Le Cam were already over 1,150 miles ahead and Neutrogena’s second place was seriously threatened by GAES Centros Auditivos. There was a slight setback for Bernard Stamm and Jean Le Cam, who slowed for a low pressure system to pass them. However, Guillermo Altadill and José Muñoz sailed across the Pacific in second, successfully holding off Anna Corbella and Gerard Marín despite the GAES Centros Auditivos duo closing to within 10 miles.
Emotional Cape Horn:
Neutrogena rounded Cape Horn on February 28th at night, after 58 days and 14 hours of racing. At that time the Cheminées Poujoulat was 980 miles ahead and GAES Centros Auditivos was 120 miles astern. It was an emotional step for both: Guillermo on his seventh time, Jose his second. It was a particularly special moment for the Chilean skipper, sailing close to his home waters and as a memorial to his late co-skipper, close friend and mentor Felipe Cubillos, with who he had completed his first circumnavigation. It was a very hard stage as Neutrogena faced winds of over 40 knots and waves of 4-5 metres.
Second place guaranteed in the Atlantic: Throughout the climb up the South Atlantic Neutrogena sailed fast in second place and, although at times GAES Centros Auditivos came within 100 miles astern, they crossed the Equator with an advantage of 200 miles ahead of Anna Corbella and Gerard Marin.
GAES Centros Auditivos benefited from NE trade winds in the North Atlantic, closing the gap to just over 100 miles. But as soon as the conditions became more true upwind sailing, Neutrogena consolidated her advantage. Guillermo Altadill and Jose Muñoz crossed the Gibraltar Straits with a margin of 350 miles ahead of GAES Centros Auditivos.
Quick and slow, the Med
On Saturday, March 27th, Neutrogena crossed Tarifa and entered the Mediterranean with good speed. Guillermo Altadill returned to the sea where he trained as a young sailor to complete his first Barcelona World Race, the seventh round the world passage on a very accomplished and diverse CV, and his first double-handed. For José Muñoz, this was his second circumnavigation.