Barcelona World Race and as Virbrac Paprec 3 crossed the longitude of Cape Leeuwin this morning at around 1010hrs UTC, the leading French pair were moving at more modest speeds seeing their record lead ebbing again as the chasing trio catch up steady miles.
We Are Water - Barcelona World Race
For Jean-Pierre Dick and Loïck Peyron they are simply at the mercy of the more benign conditions as they transit the second Australian safety barrier, but the leading team have shed one hundred miles to the pursuing trinity,MAPFRE, Estrella Damm and Groupe Bel since yesterday.
But 100 miles may be an unavoidable daily expenditure in these parts, when the pursuing trio are still in the strong low pressure system winds while the leaders are pressed north by the safety gate, forced to flirt with the vagaries of the high pressure system above them which will station itself in the Australian Bight.
Whether these losses will increase or decrease in the Tasman and across to New Zealand seems to be the big question of the moment. The weather situation changes almost daily as the different winds meet, the overheated air masses toasted by Australia’s deserts, and the cold polar air which rushes up from the south at any small opportunity.
One current weather model certainly paints a difficult scenario for Virbac-Paprec 3, one where they are forced to stay south as long as possible as they move east with a high pressure, while there might be the opportunity for the chasing trio to sail a much more direct route and save many miles.
But the forecasts are a moveable feast at the moment, and certainly contrasted with what leading skippers Dickand Peyron suggested they are looking forward to. They sounded convinced they would have a brisk blow in the near future and a fairly straightforward passage up to the iconic straits which bisect New Zealand and which – of the leading four boats only Dick has raced through with the Barcelona World Race before.
'The Cook Straits are always a piece of magic at the end of a month and a half at sea. You are dirty and missing lots of things and you pass through the strait in New Zealand where life is cool. There are high speed motor boats which pass and the fact that you are just passing through is always a bit of a wrench.
To see people, human life beside you is rather magical. With the mountains it is magnificent, majestic, really impressive. But then you have to plunge into the Pacific. It is a very unique moment though, but also it can be quite violent. But it should be moderate, passing through in the middle of summer and so it should be a bit less risky.' Dick profiled today
With the group of three it is Estrella Damm, Alex Pella and Pepe Ribes who are pushing second placedMAPFRE relentlessly, now within 23 miles of the Spanish Olympic medalists, who are the quickest on this afternoon’s rankings.
At close to forty days at sea there is a certain core race fitness and sharpness which starts to be called on, a stamina which is maintained now by careful management.
Visibly it is almost built in for the likes of veteran Dominique Wavre and Michèle Paret, or Dee Caffari who sailed solo the wrong way around the world in one hundred seventy-eight days, but has had to be progressively learned by the young IMOCA Open sixty rookies Ryan Breymaier and Boris Herrmann.
Breymaier admitted today that they have modulated their ideas about simply trying to put up the biggest sails for as long as they could hang on to them, and now – rested and revived after a few intense days of fast sailing and repairs – the duo are sticking hard to the wake of Wavre and Paret’s Mirabaud.
'Forty days is like ten days is like twenty days, is like sixty days. None of it feels any different. We are all good and feel good too.'Said Caffari today.
For the trio at the rear of the fleet the next few days will be their most challenging of the race yet, one offering big opportunities in a fast moving low pressure system which start by giving them some very difficult conditions, for many of them their first big south Indian Ocean blow:
We Are Water’s Jaume Mumbru explained: 'We have a monster behind which will reach us tonight. We expect 60 knots winds and eight metres waves. The wind will be polar, very cold, and the water like ice. We are preparing all out safety gear, harnesses, we hope to be ready to ride out the storm. We hope this powerful westerly wind will give us the chance to make some inroads and make some good runs. We have to be on high alert and monitor the changes all the time..'
Rankings at 1400hrs UTC Tuesday 8th Feburary
1 VIRBAC-PAPREC 3 at 13992,4 miles to finish
2 MAPFRE at 670 miles to leader
3 ESTRELLA DAMM Sailing Team at 693,9 miles
4 GROUPE BEL at 810,7 miles
5 RENAULT Z.E at 1133,4 miles
6 MIRABAUD at 1565,8 miles
7 NEUTROGENA at 1605,4 miles
8 GAES CENTROS AUDITIVOS at 2305,4 miles
9 HUGO BOSS at 2354,4 miles
10 FORUM MARITIM CATALA at 3293,9 miles
11 WE ARE WATER at 3467,5 miles
12 CENTRAL LECHERA ASTURIANA at 3633,4 miles
Barcelona World Race website