Three become two to make a Pacific Match for second
With fourth placed Renault Captur having made the tough decision this morning to head back towards New Zealand to effect a repair on their damaged starboard rudder blade, the battle for second place in the Barcelona World Race becomes more of a match race in the Pacific, a head to head between incumbents Neutrogena - Guillermo Altadill and José Munoz - and third placed Anna Corbella and Gerard Marìn.
The two IMOCA 60s are separated by just 76 miles this Wednesday afternoon, the chasing Spanish pair Corbella and Marin, sailing slightly faster than Altadill and Munoz in the 25kts SWly breeze. Neutrogena are converging with the Antarctic exclusion zone and will be forced to gybe NE first. As the ice safety zone then stretches NE then the two crews will be required to make several gybes over the next 300 miles.
At the front of the fleet, mid-Pacific 1060 miles ahead of Neutrogena, Bernard Stamm and Jean Le Cam have been forced to reduce speeds because of the big, confused seas and the very shifty, changeable breeze. Winds have gusted between 13 and 35 with 30 degree shifts in direction making it especially difficult to set a suitable sail plan.
"There is a lot of wind and big seas." Cheminees Poujoulat's Bernard Stamm told Barcelona Race HQ today, " It is impossible to go fast here because we are stopped by the waves. We are trying to go forwards but it is not easy. It is a little better now but there are big seas seas and not so much wind as we were near the middle of the depression and so that is why we are slowed."
Cheminées Poujoulat are making a modest 15kts boatspeed this afternoon and winds were expected to increase with gusts to 48kts this afternoon and tonight. The Indian Ocean was good to Cheminées Poujoulat but the Pacific is being a tough taskmaster right now. The duo have 2200 miles to sail to Cape Horn and are expected there late on 24th February.
Such is the cruel nature of ocean racing that one crew's misfortune is an opportunity knocking for another. With Riechers and Audigane diverting back towards to New Zealand, the door to fourth place is opening for the Garcia brothers, Bruno and Willy, racing We Are Water the boat which was fourth as Estrella Damm in the last edition of the race. The Renault Captur team have not specified where they are heading yet, but best case is a two and a half to four day passage, closer to four if they choose Wellington. But We Are Water are about two days racing from the longitude of South Island New Zealand and so their thoughts must be turning to taking over fourth place.
We Are Water's Barcelona brothers are buoyed by leaving the Indian Ocean behind and moving into the Pacific, whilst Cape Leeuwin is the big landmark for Nandor Fa and Conrad Colman on Spirit of Hungary. They crossed the longitude of Cape Leeuwin last night at 2257hrs UTC, taking 48 days 10hrs 57 mins since leaving Barcelona. They are 2 days 2 hours behind One Planet One Ocean Pharmaton and 11 days 07 hours behind Chemineés Poujoulat.
Sébastien Audigane (FRA) Renault Captur: " Unfortunately downwind Renault Captur can not longer be controlled in the waves. The helm is extremely heavy and the boat veers left and right, broaching or luffing up. We have to reduce sail and drop our speeds, the boat not so flat and we are having to work hard at the helm."
" In addition to the rudder problem, we also have a recurring problem with our keel and yesterday, in addition to the lack of stability of the boat, we had to work for 3 hours to set up the keel after the gybe, with the invaluable help of Bruno [Behuret, Renault Captur technical team) on the phone (he did not get much sleep that last night).
After discussion with the technical team, we had to face the facts, for the safety of the boat and us, we have decided to head for New Zealand where will reach in about three days. During this time we are investigating solutions to rebuild the starboard rudder. We do not abandon the race we will try to fix it.
" It is clear that this decision is difficult to make, but it is a question of our safety and that of the boat. With my past experiences in these seas and on different boats, it would be unwise to continue with a boat without reliable steering.
We know that in the Pacific Ocean rescue is very difficult or non-existent; We do not want to find ourselves stuck in trouble at Cape Horn, on port with a faulty rudder in a big seas. We also don't want to risk breaking the other rudder because it undergoes similar loads in these conditions.
We both have family, a team, a sponsor and a racing organization who support us in our adventure but we do not take take unnecessary risks. We are going to protect ourselves and in the meantime think about how to fix this."
Bernard Stamm (SUI) Cheminées Poujoulat:
Different from other round the world races?
" It is a little bit. Mainly because we are two up. We take turns and that is good. And the weather has been even, windy from the start of the Pacific. It is pretty weird. It looks a bit like it usually does but with bigger seas. I think there is a bit of difference because we are oten resricted to the top of the depressions because of the exclusion zones and we are often directly above the centre of the depression."
Isolation there.....more than anywhere else in the middle of the Pacific?
" Do we feel it? I don't know really, but we are aware we are far from everything that is for sure. Now we are just trying to cope with the conditions we have, here in the middle of the Pactific. Speaking with the technical team? We dont have anyone. We dont speak to our loved ones more than we would usually do. We are just focused on getting the boat going well and safely because it really is not easy in these conditions. The wind is very, very unstable - from 15 to 35kts - and very shifty - and it is not easy to trim. It does not give us much time for anything else. We get emails from family and friends and some of the news, and then from time to time a call. But they are much further apart than when we are solo."
Willy Garcia (ESP), We Are Water: "It is good day for us sailing in the Pacific, we have lighter winds which is OK as we had strong winds in the Pacific. And for the last days it is a bit calmer. We are sailing now for 49 days and have not seen land for 45 days so nothing is going to change. For us communications are important, not just with the Race HQ, but also with the family and friends, to share all our experiences aboard. I cannot imagine sailors doing it without it, they are very strong to do it without communications with the outside world. The family always ask about how it is, the experience, the weather, the kids ask about animals - any whales or dolphins or special birds, other friends ask about the race.
There are some friends who always tell us how they are in their comfortable house with fresh meat and heating. I appreciate these messages because they spice up the day a bit."
Standings at 1400hrs Wednesday 18/02
1 Cheminées Poujoulat (B Stamm – J Le Cam) at 9245,2 miles to finish
2 Neutrogena (G Altadill – J Muñoz) + 1060,8 miles to leader
3 GAES Centros Auditivos (A Corbella – G Marin) + 1136,4 miles to leader
4 Renault Captur (J Riechers – S Audigane) +1608,1 miles to leader
5 We Are Water (B Garcia – W Garcia) + 2703,2 miles to leader
6 One Planet One Ocean & Pharmaton (A Gelabert – D Costa) + 3233,5 miles to leader
7 Spirit of Hungary (N Fa – C Colman) + 3984,3 miles to leader
Cap Leeuwin Passage time Elapsed from BCN Agulhas to Leeuwin
Cheminées Poujoulat 6/02 at 15h25 UTC, 37 d 3 h 25 mn 12d 05h 50mn
Neutrogena 7/02 at 05h00 UTC 37d 17h 00mn 12d 07h 50mn
Gaes Centros Auditivos 10/02 00h45 UTC 40d 12h 45mn 13d 23h 05 mn
Renault Captur 10/02 23h15 UTC 41d 11h 15mn 13d 06h 45mn
We are Water 12/02 22h01UTC 43d 10h 01mn 13d 10h 55mn
One Planet One Ocean 15/02 20h29 UTC 46d 08h 29mn 14d 10h 09mn
Spirit of Hungary 17/02 à 22h57 UTC 48d 10h 57min 14d 17h 57mn