Barcelona World Race - As Spain’s Estrella Damm consolidate their lead at the head of the Barcelona World Race fleet this afteroon, after Pepe Ribes and Alex Pella telegraphed their steady but obvious move to the east on a more direct route towards the Atlantic Gate which lies some 2000 miles to the south east
Their compatriots on MAPFRE - who held second place yesterday - chose to hide their strategy from their rivals, and the watching world, when they became the first duo to go into ‘Ghost’ or ‘Furtive’ mode since this morning.
The excitement of Saturday, when they both took over first and second places, is behind the Spanish duos.
Ribes and Pella keep their options open as they lead into the complex south Atlantic, entering negotiation with Saint Helena to try and pass through or round a split personality anticyclone which dominates the passage down to the Roaring Forties and the fast lane into the South Atlantic Ocean.
The options for the leading group are, in fact, many. On Mirabaud, in fourth, Dominique Wavre, the fleet’s veteran with 30 passages up and down this stretch of water – crewed, solo and as a duo- said today that he had assimilated at least ten routing choices.
One of the difficult aspects is that the weather models may be accurate for the next few days, but for seven to nine days hence, when the real ‘end game’ for this stage plays out for the fleet, passing to Starboard of Gough Island and the Atlantic Gate, then it becomes much less clear.
Before they went undercover today, MAPFRE’s double Olympic medal winning helm Iker Martinez wrote that in some ways they had breathed a sigh of relief that the two French IMOCA Open 60’s Foncia and Virbac-Paprec 3, elected to make a technical repair stop in Récife as he felt that the level they had been sailing at was too high for the MAPFRE pair to live with long term.
In fact the duo from Spain’s rugged Atlantic north coast had shown a propensity to at least match Foncia and Virbac-Paprec 3 in the fast, trade winds going.
The Recife pit stop was over first for the double Vendée Globe winner Michel Desjoyeaux and co-skipper François Gabart, back on the race course since yesterday evening.
Then first edition winner Jean-Pierre Dick with Loïck Peyron were back on the track at 2300hrs UTC. Since then they have been the among the quickest three boats in the fleet. But their westerly routing, closer to the Brasilian coast means they still spend miles against the leader.
When the MAPFRE duo blink back on to the tracker screens Monday evening, on the 1900hrs UTC ranking – stealth mode sends them under the radar for six consecutive position reports – where are they most likely to reappear?
Given their fleet racing experience and sensibilities, one might expect them to try to cover the French duo on the inshore western lane, looking to reconnect with the two duos which have set the pace and strategy so far, those with the most successes IMOCA racing around the world.
Estrella Damm - Barcelona World Race
Furtive or Ghost mode can be used four times, once in each ‘ocean’, and is a new innovation for this edition of the race. The standings consider the ghost mode boat fixed to her last position, hence MAPFRE remains third until the other pursuing boats pass.
With all of the fleet now in the Southern Hemisphere, since We Are Water crossed at 0230hrs, the fleet compression has continued in small part due to the leaders’ pit stop, but considering that four days ago the deficit from first to last was nearly 700 miles, and now it is just over 500 miles.
Moving into the better established SE’ly and E’ly trade winds resets the routines after the doldrums for the middle order racers, giving a chance to catch up with domestic and technical chores to ensure the respective IMOCA Open 60’s are in perfect shape.
But the easy routine also offers a little down-time for the co-skippers.
On today’s live Audio and VisioConferences (streamed live at 1000hrs to 1100hrs UTC daily on www.barcelonaworldrace.com. Ryan Breymaier from Neutrogena remarked how pleased he was to have had time to catch up with digital media loaded on to a USB which connected him with friends and family from his native USA.
And on Renault ZE Sailing Team, Toño Piris today explained how he and co-skipper Pachi Rivero had nurtured back to health a tiny waterlogged bird which had landed on their eighth placed IMOCA Open 60 to hitch a ride.
Their little visitor left, fully re-charged, and ready for its long passage home, just like Piris and Rivero.
1400hrs UTC Standings, Sunday 16th January
1 ESTRELLA DAMM Sailing Team at 21 119 miles to finish
2 GROUPE BEL at 137 miles
3 MAPFRE mode from 16/01 at 0930hrs
4 MIRABAUD at 189 miles
5 FONCIA at 223 miles du leader
6 VIRBAC-PAPREC 3 at 269 miles
7 NEUTROGENA at 291 miles
8 RENAULT Z.E Sailing Team at 333 miles
9 GAES CENTROS AUDITIVOS at 350 miles
10 HUGO BOSS at 429 miles
11 CENTRAL LECHERA ASTURIANA at 465 miles
12 WE ARE WATER at 517 miles
13 FMC at 526 miles