Weathering the storm

Cheminees Poujoulat and Neutrogena slow up to let a giant depression pass in the Barcelona World Race

Tuesday February 3rd 2015, Author: Helen Fretter, Location: none selected

“The waves have increased in height, wind in intensity and the noise in decibels -the Indian Ocean reminds us who's really in charge here,” reports Guillermo Altadill from Neutrogena.

Together with Bernard Stamm and Jean Le Cam on Cheminées Poujoulat, Altadill and Jose Munoz were today battling the most testing conditions the Barcelona World Race fleet has yet faced, with 40-45 knot winds and a severe sea state with 6-8m waves generated by a south-moving intense low pressure system made up of two merged tropical cyclones.


The crew on Cheminées Poujoulat, around 150 miles further east, has switched into defensive mode, last night sailing with three reefs in the main and dropping their headsail in order to slow their IMOCA 60 down in the face of the storm, hoping the depression will pass rapidly to the south of them. This allowed second-placed Neutrogena to gain nearly 60 miles on the leaders.

Stamm explained: “Everything will depend on how the depression moves. That being said, the key for us is to have managed to avoid putting ourselves in a survival situation. The timing was extremely bad for us, and to a lesser extent, for Neutrogena. It's the first time I have had to stop the boat racing, but it was the only solution to avoid getting into a survival situation.

“Yesterday we were under staysail with three reefs in the mainsail. For a few hours, we were sailing with no foresail. So we do not have a lot of speed and we are a little exposed to the waves but it’s fine. We can take this opportunity to do a little maintenance, preparing the boat, and eating and sleeping because when we set off again, we will still be in the depression and it may even have strengthened for a while.”

The Barcelona World Race management team is also keeping a close eye on the conditions, monitoring the boats half-hourly overnight, and staying in contact with the teams’ shore crews.

“In order to be proactive, we also contact the MRCC of the region concerned by the storm,” explains assistant race director Hubert Lemonier. “So we already have a contact with those guys and we make sure that in case of a crisis, we can activate and organise a response i n the region if one of the boats needs help or needs any search and rescue operations.”

Image below (click to enlarge) courtesy of Expedition and Predictwind

The race for third

The other duel in the fleet, between GAES Centros Auditivos and Renault Captur for third place, has taken another turn, as Anna Corbella and Gerard Marin pull away from their pursuers as they exit the high pressure system. GAES Centros Auditivos has closed by 80 miles on the leaders, and increased her lead over Renault Captur to over 270 miles, from just 160 yesterday afternoon. The race's sole mixed crew was also the fastest over the past 24 hour period, their yacht clocking over 16 knots at this afternoon’s 1400 position update.

However Jörg Riechers on Renault Captur was in a positive frame of mind, reporting all was very well on board – he and Sebastien Audigane were enjoying sunshine, warm temperatures, and a slight surfeit of food — and feeling confident in their ability to make miles in the stronger conditions.

“It’s sunny, it’s warm, it’s like in th e South Atlantic more than in the Southern Ocean so it’s spinnaker up, it’s 18 knots of windspeed, it’s pretty hot outside so it’s t-shirt and shorts weather.

“We don’t miss the cold, I think we have enough cold weather coming up so this is nice. I think in the next five days, we will have enough bad weather, with the cold and rain and it being grey, so this is no problem for us.

“At the moment we are losing a little bit of distance on [GAES]. But that was predictable because they have moved out of the high pressure system before us, so they had more wind there last night. I think now we have the same wind, so probably the distance to them will stay stable and we hope that with these stronger conditions which are coming up, we can make up some ground. So I think now we are 260 miles behind, not the 400 we once were, so I think there will be a real fight for third place now.

“From my point of view the boat is really nice reaching when there’s some wind. Less fast dead downwind in medium, like last night, I think there we were suffering a little bit. But in the conditions which are coming up, strong winds, downwind, I think the boat is quite, really good. When we had the strong conditions off southern Africa we were gaining quite effectively on the other boats, so I think they are the better conditions which this boat likes.

“Life on board is really comfortable. Because we get along really well. We have tons of food to eat, in the end we have taken too much food with us, we think – sometimes we have 3 to 4 meals per day. So I think Sebastien and me, there’s a good chance we’ll have to subscribe to Weight Watchers when we arrive in Barcelona! I think we might be the first team in the Barcelona World Race, which actually gains weight! But it’s good, because you have to eat to perform.

“It’s not quite like a holiday trip because it’s tough and it’s a race – but at the moment it’s quite comfort able. I think it will get uncomfortable in the next couple of days, but for the moment life is easy on board Renault Captur.”

All in the Indian

Fifth-placed We Are Water has reduced its deficit to the leaders to under 2,000 miles this afternoon, while One Planet One Ocean Pharmaton has been slowed by a ridge of high pressure, limiting their 24-hour distance covered to just 157 miles.

Meanwhile Spirit of Hungary has joined their fellow competitors in the Indian Ocean, crossing 20°E at 0500am (UTC).

Positions at 1400 UTC

1. Cheminées Poujoulat (B. Stamm - J. Le Cam) at 14,642.4 miles to the finish
2. Neutrogena (G. Altadill - J. Muñoz) + 160.6 miles to the leader
3. GAES Centros Auditivos (A. Corbella - G. Marín) + 1,024.4 miles to the leader
4. Renault Captur (J. Riechers - S. Audigane) + 1,301.2 miles to the leader
5. We Are Water (B. Garcia - W. Garcia) + 1,977.6 miles to the leader
6. One Planet, One Ocean & Pharmaton (A. Gelabert - D. Costa) + 2,500.9 miles to the leader
7. Spirit of Hungary (N. Fa - C. Colman) + 2,892.4 miles to the leader
ABD Hugo Boss (A. Thomson - P. Ribes)

Skippers quotes:

Bernard Stamm, Cheminées Poujoulat

Jörg Riechers, Renault CapturGuillermo Altadill, Neutrogena

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