Photo: Jorge Andreu / Barcelona World Race

Slow road to the Canaries

Barcelona World Race fleet lines up for the Canaries

Monday January 5th 2015, Author: James Boyd, Location: Spain

For the Barcelona World Race leaders the descent south towards the Canary Islands and the lifeblood Trade Winds has continued to be relatively slow over the last 24 hours. The fight for the lead has been between 5 West stable-mates Hugo Boss and Neutrogena. This afternoon the British-Spanish duo Alex Thomson and Pepe Ribes appear to have edged slightly further ahead of Guillermo Altadill and Jose Munoz, gaining two miles between 0900 UTC and 1400.

Thomson commented: "Neutrogena and GAES closer and closer and nothing we can do about it. Pepe says ‘Patience’……. something I don’t have a lot of!"

After a moonlit night into this morning, the two IMOCA 60s were ghosting across calm seas in search of any extra pressure. Altadill reported that he could hear the occasional screech of Hugo Boss’ sheets as the winches worked, could see their lights clearly and sometimes made out his friends and rivals working on deck. At sunrise this morning Hugo Boss was only 200 metres to leeward of them.

“As you can see there is never time to be bored on these IMOCA 60s in this race, even when the wind is less than 2 knots. When you are in light conditions when you might normally relax but when there is a boat at 500 metres away then your level of concentration stays high. Hugo Boss was under a nice, full moon. We were sailing with the code sail, just gybing occasionally to find the little patches of breeze you see on the water in the clear moonlight. I see his lights, sometimes the noise of the sheets. The night passes quickly on board Neutrogena.”

The lead trio had about 130 miles to the northern tip of Lanzarote, and their courses indicate that they will probably pass to the east of Lanzarote and Fuerteventura. After this they should start to accelerate in the northeasterly Trades, which will send them on their way at high speeds. Just to the south of the Canaries, the breeze is forecast to be around 20 knots, perhaps more.

Anna Corbella and Gerard Marin on GAES Centros Auditivos have already proven the value of their two years of training together, moving into the top three 8.4 miles behind Hugo Boss and 6 miles from Neutrogena, having now consolidated their position, falling in behind the leaders. The Spanish duo – the only mixed crew in the race – were still slightly quicker than Hugo Boss and Neutrogena this afternoon. Marin reported they had used their time in the light airs to maximum effect, getting through their job list. Top priority was getting their computer system working properly, which they appeared to have done.

“Here we are, trying to survive this calm, we have between 2 and 6 knots but we can’t complain because the boat is performing. Full moon night, it looks like daylight, and we are thankful because we could see the puffs on the water. Today was a day for repairs, we are only four days into the regatta and we already had a list of things to repair, and so far we have managed to fix everything, and the boat is now as if we had just left Barcelona again. In the Straits we hit some floating objects that triggered the rudders, and the consequences of that were all the things we have repaired now. For the rest, everything is okay, we are sleeping and eating well, and the temperature starts to be nice during the day."

A hitch 20 miles or so to the west has cost Cheminées Poujoulat almost exactly that in terms of the DTF, so while they are now 26 miles behind Hugo Boss that is almost entirely in lateral separation. But their westerly option does open the question how they will negotiate the Canary Islands.

It is no coincidence that the leading boats are the best prepared, either in terms of time with their boats or in the amount of IMOCA 60 racing their crew has done. The Renault Captur crew is slowly getting into the frame, but one initial error cost them hours,. As German co-skipper Jorg Riechers observed - as a partnership they are new to their IMOCA 60 and are only just learning how best to work together and how to make their boat go best: "We have not really had too much of a strategy as such because we really did not the boat too much and what we can do with it, so we went into the race without too many expectations really. We had our fair share of problems after the start and so we tried to attack a little bit but we are really still finding the way we work as skippers. We are working out how we can have a clear idea of how to trim the sails, what sails to set and so on so we are really still learning how we can perform best.”

On almost all of the boats between fourth and eighth, the doublehanded crews are sailing their first IMOCA 60 races together. For Aleix Gelabert and Didac Costa on One Planet One Ocean Pharmaton, their race has been ahead of all expectations so far. The round the world rookies, who have both previously raced the Mini Transat in the past, pledged to simply try to get around the course safely. They are 80 miles from the leaders, although their progress has ground to a halt this afternoon, their speed plummeting to just 1-2 knots.

The race of Gelabert and Costa received praise and respect today from the Garcia brothers who, though very experienced and accomplished amateurs, are very much learing IMOCA 60 round the world racing. The We Are Water pair have also been tentative in the early days of the race, as Willy Garcia noted today: “

Willy Garcia (ESP) We are Water: “The boat is responding very well. We had just enough preparation time before we left and so the quiet winds and weather have been quite good for us to get in phase with the boat as we like. We have been doing things together as brothers for many years and so we are in tune with one another. And so that works for the IMOCA but we are just learning as we go. It is going well and we are happy with the boat.

"We are trying to get close to the front, to the leaders, but we have only light winds so far. And One Planet One Ocean are sailing a great race, that is the truth. They have the oldest boat in the fleet but really they are going so well and are not too far from the front of fleet. We try to get a few miles back at the fleet but it is up to the wind gods really. We feel like we are in the race and doing it at our pace as we said we would, but of course our main goal is to finish.

"We have some fresh food, we have some fruit on board (apples and oranges). But we have not much freeze dried food. We do not like it, we have prepared some ourselves but have our own food, it is probably heavier but it is our choice we would rather have that and I suppose we are winners in that respect, we are eating well."

Meantime Nandor Fa and Conrad Colman on Spirit of Hungary have finally made it out of the Mediterranean passing Gibraltar at 1539 UTC.

Positions at 14:00 UTC
1 Hugo Boss (A Thomson – P Ribes) 22,506 miles to finish
2 Neutrogena (G Altadill – J Muñoz) +4.8miles to leader
3 GAES Centros Auditivos (A Corbella - G Marin) +7.7 miles to leader
4 Cheminées Poujoulat (B Stamm - J Le Cam) +26.8 miles to leader
5 Renault Captur (J Riechers - S Audigane) +64 miles to leader
6 One Planet One Ocean & Pharmaton (A Gelabert – D Costa) + 103 miles to leader
7 We Are Water (B Garcia – W Garcia) + 211 miles to leader
8 Spirit of Hungary (N Fa - C Colman) + 428 miles to leader

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