Gilles Martin-Raget / Barcelona World Race

Trial by Canaries

Hugo Boss 25 miles ahead in the Barcelona World Race

Tuesday January 6th 2015, Author: Andi Robertson, Location: none selected

24 hours ago when he and his Spanish co-skipper Pepe Ribes were slowed by light breezes, Alex Thomson joked that patience is one virtue he lacks. The Hugo Boss crew, leaders of the Barcelona World Race by 25 miles this afternoon, have made a useful short term gain by passing east, of the Canary Islands. But will their thirst for such an immediate benefit cost them later down the track when they need to get west to cross the Doldrums?

Hugo Boss has been quicker than the second and third placed GAES Centros Auditivos and Neutrogena which have both been negotiating the passage between Gran Canaria to their west and Lanzarote and Fuerteventura to their east. At the 1400 UTC sched today Hugo Boss was already 50 miles south of the most southerly tip of Fuerteventura and making a steady 15 knots. In contrast Anna Corbella and Gérard Marin on GAES Centros Auditivos had slowed to 8-11 knots off the southwest of Fuerteventura, almost certainly stalled slightly as they clear the immediate lee of the island.

In turn Neutrogena in third and Bernard Stamm and Jean Le Cam on Cheminées Poujoulat in fourth were over 40 miles behind Hugo Boss and also two or three knots slower.

“They have made their decision and no doubt we will all have some nervous times waiting for the outcome, but they seemed quite confident.” said Alex Thomson Racing Director Stewart Hosford after speaking to skipper Thomson this morning. “Everything is good with the boat, they are on good form.”

Cheminées Poujoulat skipper Stamm was objective about the losses they sustained after erring too far west and being slightly burned by the Azores high pressure’s light winds. With two decades of round the world racing under his belt, Stamm is hardly phased by a deficit of 20 or 30 miles, but he too is not known for his patience, and perhaps it is an early insight that he and his co-skipper le Cam know that – with a boat which is a generation older than the VPLP-Verdier design that Hugo Boss is, they cannot simply hope to outgun Thomson and Ribes in moderate breeze conditions.

Stamm said: “It’s better now. We’ve caught up a bit. We’re just off Fuerteventura in the Canaries. There’s plenty of wind and we’re under spinnaker. It’s nice to be able to see some of the coast, but we won’t be stopping.

The move to the West... the high pressure meant it didn’t work out ? Yes, that’s it. We thought we’d make it through, but the high came down much more quickly than expected. So we didn’t pull it off. We were hoping for a better angle. There’s some wind now and I think the boats in the front will take advantage of that until the Doldrums. Our losses weren’t dramatic, but there were a few moments when we were a bit worried about it.

"Similar speeds for the boats... That’s what was being said before the start. Apart from the two extremes, Ellen’s old boat and Hugo Boss, which is more recent, the rest are from the same generation, so that was to be expected. It’s been more like racing in the Solitaire du Figaro, but out on the ocean, as we know we’re sailing around the world. We have to be alert all the time. One moment of inattention and could have come to a standstill in those conditions. You have to keep pushing all the time.

"We are into the freeze-dried stuff, but we do have some fresh food left. We were given some cheese at the start and still have some left. We need to eat that up today."

The trade winds look set to build to 25 knots at times which seems to guarantee a fast passage towards the Equator for the leading group, and in these conditions Hugo Boss might expect to gain steadily as the more powerful boat.

The gap from first to fifth placed Jorg Riechers and Sébastien Audigane on Renault Captur has increased very slightly again today, but the German-French pair can expect that margin to stabilise largely as the trade winds build and move slightly north.

But the biggest cause for celebration is left to Nandor Fa and Conrad Colman who were finally on a southwesterly course in the Atlantic, double digit velocity waking up their speedo this afternoon as they broke into a decent northerly breeze. Straitjacketed for days by very light winds in the Alboran Sea and off Gibraltar they now have a good forecast to crank up Spirit of Hungary steadily to see what the brand new IMOCA 60 that Fa designed himself, is capable of.

Colman laughed today that they had agreed to open one of their three celebratory bottles of Spanish Cava as they passed into the Atlantic. Supposed to be one each for the three Great capes of the course, Good Hope, Leeuwin and Horn, as a Kiwi Colman quipped he would forego the one allocated for the Aussie cape.

"It is nice to have escaped, finally, just fantastic. We are now going to make this race about passing the three great Capes and Gibraltar. We consider that passing Gibraltar was a significant milestone in our race, and as a consequence we wont celebrate going past Australia, because as a Kiwi, well......So we had three small bottles of Spanish Cava for the Capes and we opened one of them when we were finished with the Gibraltar Straits because we felt we needed a little celebration and boost our morale to tackle the Atlantic.

"The forecast now is great, once it fills in. It has been nice in some ways that the fleet have waited a bit, but I think that is good of them. But they started the party again last night with plenty of wind but we still have 350 miles to catch up with We Are Water, so we won't even talk about the others at the moment. We still have a lot of work ahead of us.

"The boat is in great shape now, better than when we left the dock. We have been able to finish up a few little jobs, so we are in great shape and ready to go....we just need some wind...We have two bags of oranges. We are in race mode now, on race food but no wind to race!"

Nandor Fa added: "It is a nice morning, a new day, with new hopes. If the forecast comes in it will be nice. It has not been easy psychologically, but, hey we do what we can, we do our best and we just cant do more than that. We are quite optimistic for our future, the next days we will have some wind, but at the moment we escaped from one trap to another, but in the afternoon we should escape. At the moment it is not a race, just trying to escape from these traps."

Positions at 14:00 UTC

1 Hugo Boss (A Thomson – P Ribes) 22,230 miles to finish
3 GAES Centros Auditivos (A Corbella - G Marin) +25.3miles to leader
2 Neutrogena (G Altadill – J Muñoz) +41.2 miles to leader
4 Cheminées Poujoulat (B Stamm - J Le Cam) +48.1 miles to leader
5 Renault Captur (J Riechers - S Audigane) +106.3 miles to leader
6 One Planet One Ocean & Pharmaton (A Gelabert – D Costa) + 172 miles to leader
7 We Are Water (B Garcia – W Garcia) + 251 miles to leader
8 Spirit of Hungary (N Fa - C Colman) + 625 miles to leader


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