Heavy weather due for back of the fleet

Sunrise aboard Temenos II ©Temenos II - Barcelona World Race

Those at the back of the Barcelona World Race fleet are preparing for heavy weather as a classic Southern Ocean depression is poised to sweep over them in the coming days. Educación sin Fronteras will be the first to get hit, with the winds forecast to rise above 40 knots over the next 24 hours.

Skippers Albert Bargués and Servanne Escoffier say they've been aware of the storm for a few days now, and they feel well prepared to deal with what's coming. Even today, in stronger winds, Educación sin Fronteras has often been the fastest boat in the fleet on the position polls. In fact, they've gained 50 miles on the leaders over the past 24 hours.

'I am a little nervous of course, because you know these are mechanical boats, so we need to check the keel, the mast, the sails and the pilot. It's really important to prepare,' Servanne said via video conference this afternoon. 'For sure we will be tired. I am nervous of course but I am sure it will all be ok and we will be careful and sail with a smile, which I think is quite important. We will prepare a lot of food, and after the storm it won't be long until Christmas Eve and we will give ourselves a present like some chocolate! First the storm and then chocolate for Christmas!'

There was also some disturbing news from Dominique Wavre on Temenos II this morning. Dominique reported on problems with the keel, which will force the team to make a stop in New Zealand when they reach the Cook Strait scoring gate. The trouble is from a rust spot they've noticed on the keel that is apparently growing by the day:

'We waited to see how this spot of rust evolved before making the decision but it's getting worse and worse each day and hasn't left us any other choice,' he said. 'The area that is being undermined is situated below the waterline and therefore rules out any repairs at sea. The engineer who designed the keel of the boat has advised us to be very careful, as the increasing size of the rust spot (is likely) weakening the structure of the keel.'

Temenos II is days away from land. Australia would be an option, but would take them so far off the route of the race, that it is unlikely they could rejoin in a competitive position, hence the decision to keep racing until New Zealand, some 4 000 miles away.

At the head of the fleet, there has been a 20-mile gain for Hugo Boss on the race leaders, Paprec-Virbac 2, over the past 24 hours as both boats climb to the north towards the Australian safety gate. Following that, the next mark of the course is the scoring gate at Cook Strait, still some 3 000 miles away. The preliminary ETA at New Zealand for the leaders is sometime on Boxing Day.

Day 37 - December 17, 16:00 GMT - Position report with distance to leader

1. PAPREC-VIRBAC 2 - Jean Pierre DICK / Damian FOXALL - 0
2. HUGO BOSS - Alex THOMSON / Andrew CAPE - 131
4. TEMENOS 2 - Dominique Wavre / Michele PARET- 1220
5. MUTUA MADRILENA - Javier SANSO / Pachi RIVERO - 1954

Abandoned - DELTA DORE - Jérémie BEYOU / Sidney GAVIGNET
Abandoned - PRB - Vincent Riou / Sebastien JOSSE

In Quotes - Dominique Wavre, Temenos II: 'We are a bit sad and a bit under pressure with the bad weather coming so we hope we can reach Wellington alright with this keel so we can check it all and make repairs. We are sailing normally but not too fast. In fact we are just doing our job; it's not stressful for the moment because we don't yet have a reason to stress.'