Peter Van Der Wel on Kazimir Partners - www.vanderwel-racing.com
It’s prefect trade wind sailing for the Portimão Global Ocean Race fleet as they eat up the miles on a quick romp to the equator. But it’s not without mishaps. On board Kazimir Partners their revelry was rudely interrupted by a loud crash as the boat lurched to a sickening stop.
Skipper Lenjohn Van Der Wel sent through a curt message. 'At 13h20 local time at position 21:45N and 18:43W Kazimir Partners hit a whale,' he wrote. 'We were traveling at 8 knots and came to an abrupt stop. We saw the whale surface behind us. We are not sure on damages yet but will drop the spinnaker and investigate later today. The bow seems intact and believe contact was made in front of the keel. Rudders seem ok… Will keep you updated.'
Any sailor who has spent time offshore knows how fine the line is between a lovely sail, and disaster, and slamming into a large whale while sailing at speed can put a very quick end to an around-the-world race. Worse for the whale to be sure, but these highly strung race boats are not indestructible and it’s not that uncommon that boats sink after a collision with a marine mammal. Fortunately for Lenjohn and Peter the damage was only superficial and they are back up to speed and in good humour. 'After yesterday knock with the whale all appears to be okay,' Peter wrote. 'I do think, however, that the whale is going to report the incident to the African animal abuse agency. We will just have to deal with the consequences. Right now we have other things on our mind. We have to catch Mowgli, the Jungle Queen.'
On board Team Mowgli (aka Jungle Queen) co-skippers Jeremy Salvesen and David Thomson are also experiencing an abundance of sea life but their encounters have been more sublime . 'Well, can I tell you, we were treated to an amazing sound and light show last night,' Salvesen wrote. 'David and I were sitting by the chart table when we heard the distinctive whistling and clicking of dolphins chatting to each other. I guess a thin hulled fibreglass boat makes for a fine auditorium and we were chuckling away listening to them just outside - within a couple of feet from where we sat. We then moved out on deck to see if we could see them and WOW! The phosphorescence was just amazing. The whole boat was surrounded by glistening, sparkling little lights, so much so that it looked as if we were floodlit from below. The dolphins, however, were the stars of the show and created their own 'jacket' of light so we could clearly see them swimming under the water and jigging about playing with our bow wave. In fact the only time we couldn't see them was when they came up for air. So hard to describe but a truly amazing sight.'
For now only the race leaders, Boris Herrmann and Felix Oehme on Beluga Racer have chosen to sail through the Cape Verde Islands. Second and third placed boats Desafio Cabo de Hornos and Roaring Forty have passed the island group to the west and it looks as if Team Mowgli in forth position might do the same. Perhaps transiting the islands was a smart tactical plan on behalf of Boris and Felix, or perhaps they had other reasons. 'We have a cell signal,' Boris exclaimed in a call to Race HQ. 'We are right off the island of Santiago and we have a strong signal so we thought we would call.'
Life on board Beluga Racer is just as was to be expected. Boris and Felix, two young hot-shot sailors, are enjoying every minute of their great adventure racing around the world. 'Why is everyone else so slow,' Boris asked in his slow, dry German accent. 'We are just getting warmed up.' A master of the understatement Herrmann and Oehme do not know that their competition have all blown out their large spinnakers and while repairs are underway they will have an advantage.
On board Desafio Cabe de Hornos Felipe Cubillos is plotting his comeback. 'Yes it’s true that we have lost some miles to the German boat,' he wrote. 'But fortunately for us this situation is being reversed smoothly and since yesterday at 14:00hrs we have taken 7 miles out of our competitors. If you look at the reports every 6 hours which will see the distance between us getting less. While from the standpoint of absolute numbers this is not a great thing, but from the point of view of trends we are moving in the right direction.'
Still north of the Cape Verde Islands Nico Budel on Hayai seems attached to the South African boat by a short bungee. Nico’s track for the last few days has been the same as Kazimir Partners and the distance at times closing in and at times losing miles. All we can be sure of is that Nico, the gentleman that he is, will make his move in the clear light of day rather than undercover of darkness.