Mapfre crew come clean

The latest from the Barcelona World Race

Wednesday March 30th 2011, Author: Andi Robertson, Location: none selected

The Finish. As the time ticks down closer to the first finish of this Barcelona World Race, the closing proximity to the final line, be it a few days or two weeks away, means that the release after 89 days of racing is weighing heavily on the minds of many of the skippers now nearing the home strait, be that in actual fact, or more metaphorically.

Two skippers today were showing the effects of their three months of endeavour, tired and drawn, and admitted to wanting as much to get their respective first IMOCA Open 60 circumnavigations safely completed as to deliver their results.

For Jean-Pierre Dick and Loick Peyron, ETA Gibraltar around midnight Thursday, theirs has been a day of precision manoeuvres off the Moroccan coast, getting to within 800 meters of the beach at one point early this morning. But it still seems like it will be at least offshore of Murcia before they may have some relief from their interminable upwind passage since the Equator. The final miles from there look light and unpredictable.

For Iker Martinez on Mapfre it was a chance to explain their slightly problematic passage through the Canary Islands. The Spanish 49er gold medallist confirmed that part of the reason for their routing and why it cost them an extra 45 miles on leaders Jean-Pierre Dick and Loïck Peyron.

"Yesterday was a bit of a complicated day. We took the decision to go between La Palma and La Gomera which seemed like a good option. We thought we could use a bit of the lee to make a fix a problem with sail and the solent stay, but it got a bit out of hand, there were a lot of waves and we had gusts of 30 knots, we ended up having to run downwind to change to the smaller headsail, then we had 40 knots and it all got a bit messy. We managed to get it all in order, but we probably lost about three hours of sailing. It was a day with a lot going on, but in the end we did not break anything else. The stay we fixed works not bad, we were a bit unlucky and we broke a bit of the furler, so we swapped about a bit, changed the cables and it is OK, it works. We can use the Solent which is important.

"We are pretty tired with the food situation, physically this is an ultramarathon. Some days we have it when we are really tired, but it is not one of our biggest worries. I think we are all now thinking about the finish, not too long ago we weren’t but now we are.

"We try to sleep as much as we can to keep energy so that we don’t make mistakes, and if they do like yesterday then we have the energy to deal with them and keep going.

"It is more than 10 years that we have been physically training. Training for the Olympics in China was pretty extreme, so I think that physically we were in good shape for this race, but I think we pushed very hard. We are here in this second place because of our physical preparation and ability to push, not because of our experience. Fourteen months ago we did not even have an IMOCA Open 60 and had never even sailed on of these before.”

Behind them the situation is opening up as the Azores High pressure blockade of the Straits of Gibraltar opens progressively throwing open new options to Renault ZE Sailing Team and Estrella Damm to sprint north and try to breach the high pressure ridge, perhaps for some brief southwesterly breeze, but to enjoy the prospect of a more dependable northerly and northeastery wind which would allow them a more direct layline to Gibraltar.

The predicted temporary compression between third placed Renault ZE, slowed slightly now, and Estrella Damm, is becoming evident – Alex Pella and Pepe Ribes gaining 12 miles this afternoon – but the direct northerly option does not seem to be offered as freely to Neutrogena.

From Neutrogena Ryan Breymaier reported: “They (Estrella Damm and Renault Z.E) are both going quite fast at the moment, but I am not sure how well that is going to work for them because that ridge goes back north and I think that it is going to be quite tricky for them. We have been waiting, hoping for some sort of tactical opportunity just to finish quicker, not even so much thinking we can get by them, just to finish with some food less. So theirs seemed like an option but the ridge seems to move back and forth a lot and so that makes it a much more difficult to take that option.”

From Estrella Damm, Alex Pella reported: "We are still sailing upwind but a little bit more eased, cracked a bit making north. The wind is very stable. In the next 24 to 48 hours there will be a change. First we have a transition zone with some lighter winds, then some southwesterly veering to the N. Let us see how Renault Z.E goes but for now they are better positioned than us. For sure the further north you are at the moment, the better. That is what we decided is best for getting to Gibraltar. We think that Renault Z.E has made the best choice and ourselves too. There was not much to hide, we talked about using ghost mode but in the end it was not left or right, there was only one way to go and we have to go there as fast as possible and let the others do what they can.

"We’ll see what happens between now and the Strait and then in the Mediterranean. There should be the accordion effect in the Strait but really it is impossible to know because we are still about eight days from that. Until then it will be difficult to catch up. But otherwise everything is going well, the boat is all good, it is getting colder again, we have thicker clothes on again and we have food to spare, and Pepe seems to have enough painkillers for his knee until the finish.”

Under the leadership of their chief technician Stan, Jaume Mumbru and Cali Sanmarti have been making excellent progress with their boom repair in Ushuaia for their We Are Water. The boom has been successfully sleeved with initial internal lamination, but final lamination has to be completed. They can leave after 1555 GMT Thursday 31st but it is unclear as yet if the duo will be completely ready for that time, but it is believed they will be close.

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