Photo: Ricardo Pinto

Europa Warm-Up: Struggling through the high

Virbac Paprec 3 leads the charge once again

Sunday May 27th 2012, Author: James Boyd, Location: none selected

After a pleasant, fast reaching first night the seven IMOCA 60 skippers competing in the singlehanded second leg of the Europa Warm’Up, which left Cascais in Portugal yesterday bound for La Rochelle, are eased nicely into the very different rhythm alone on board as they tackle the first obstacle on their path. This is a high pressure ridge, extending in front of the fleet considerably slowing their progress towards this leg's first turning mark - the island of Santa Maria, in the Azores.

All the seven skippered have profited from their first night at sea to switch into their single-handed routines on board and to point south, in order to get through, as best they can, the high pressure ridge lying between them and Santa Maria. The forecast show that this area, with its light and fickle winds, has been extending on an axis going from the Azores to Cape Finisterre, a band more than 120 miles wide. Some skippers are working to stay above it to avoid being totally becalmed. As a consequence, speeds have decreased dramatically and the skippers have spent long hours on deck, helming, trimming, stacking and restacking to squeeze out as much pace as they can from their powerful yacht while trying to rest to be ready for the long days ahead.

The fleet has opened up, with some noticeable lateral separation: between Vincent Riou's PRB and Armel Le Cléac’h's Banque Populaire, who have positioned themselves in the south while Kito de Pavant on Groupe Bel and Spain's Javier Sanso on ACCIONA 100% EcoPowered have opted to stay north 50 miles away.

Overall leader Jean-Pierre Dick on Virbac-Paprec 3 has opted to stay more in the middle.

In terms of DTF, at 1300 UTC more than 27 miles separated first placed Virbac Paprec 3 from ACCIONA 100% EcoPowered, with average speeds going from the 8.5 knots (on Banque Populaire) to the meagre 3.3 (on Groupe Bel).

The notion that it would be necessary to push right from the start, albeit with some careful tactics, to deal with the high has been confirmed so far, yet the outcome remains very uncertain.

“First night was good, I’m not that tired, I managed to sleep, had breakfast…" said Jean-Pierre Dick. "Sure you have to get in phase, find your solo routines again. The breeze is very unstable, you have to be on deck a lot, tacking, trimming, trying to catch every small shift or puff. At the moment the wind is pretty light but it should be increasing soon. I’m okay with my position in the fleet and with the boat’s speed right now. But my rivals out there are strong, I have to push Virbac-Paprec as hard as I can.”

Javier Sanso on ACCIONA 100% EcoPowered said: “I’ve just made a sail change, went for the Code 0. It’s clear that the fleet has split, choosing two different options. I’m more north, because I don’t want to have too much upwind after the high. The coming hours will be key, we’ll see what will happen. In around 50/60 miles we’re going to change tack and the following sched will tell. It will be interesting to see who will come out in the lead. The first night was very nice sailing, reaching in a good breeze, 15 knots or so, but now the wind is going lighter. Everything is ok on board, touch wood, the repairs we’ve made in Cascais are working.”

Bernard Stamm from Cheminées Poujoulat added:“There is a lot of sail trimming to do, we are reaching with the Code 0 up. I need to spend time to trim, especially to get the best puffs. The breeze is going down as we are approaching the ridge, I had Banque Pop and MACIF close to me, I’ve lost sight of BP now, but I can see Paprec Virbac. I didn’t sleep much. Going back sailing solo is not hard, truth is that at times you look for crewmates, it’s a different way of racing, you have to make things simpler, and stacking is very important. But the boat goes well, I’m very happy. Now I need to negotiate the transition well, choose the right timing. I’m getting ready for the coming hours, studying how best to route for the Azores.”

Positions at 1500

Pos Boat Lat Long Spd Crs DTF DTL
1 Virbac-Paprec 3 36 26.48' N 14 22.56' W 5 275 2077.9 0
2 PRB 36 24.08' N 14 18.60' W 6.6 267 2081.4 3.4
3 Banque Populaire 36 13.64' N 14 19.44' W 8.5 269 2082 4.1
4 Cheminées Poujoulat 36 33.52' N 14 10.52' W 6.3 271 2086.8 8.9
5 MACIF 36 32.84' N 14 08.12' W 6.7 269 2088.8 10.9
6 Groupe Bel 36 52.44' N 13 59.76' W 3.3 284 2093.9 15.9
7 ACCIONA 100%EcoPowered 37 01.60' N 13 41.96' W 4.5 26 2105.4 27.4


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