Paprec-Virbac 2 battles high winds on way to Med

Temenos II in the North Atlantic ©Temenos II - Barcelona World Race

It's been a very challenging day for the race leader as they battle 40 knot winds to get into the Mediterranean. Approaching the Strait of Gibraltar (at 14:00 the scoring gate was 27 miles away), the team of Jean-Pierre Dick and Damian Foxall was contending with gale force headwinds, immense seas and heavy commercial traffic during their last hours in the Atlantic Ocean.

'It's a difficult situation right now so I can't really talk,' said a tense Jean-Pierre. 'We have 38 to 42 knots of wind, a cargo ship 300 metres away and big waves. The boat is really slamming. It's quite dangerous.'

The strong conditions have seen the team tacking up the coast of Morocco for much of the day as they seek shelter from the traffic and the seas. And the strong headwinds have dropped their velocity made good towards the mark to a miserable 2 knots at times, although they were making better progress as the afternoon developed. Their current ETA for Barcelona is Monday afternoon, although that could slide back if the difficult conditions persist.

Hugo Boss remains just under 350 miles behind, their period of realising amazing gains on the leader over for the moment as they look forward to the same conditions experienced by Paprec-Virbac 2 in the coming hours.

'As we get closer to Gibraltar it will get windy,' said Alex Thomson. 'It's going to be upwind all the way to Gibraltar really and with increasing breeze as we get there. It could be pretty nasty as the wind funnels through the Strait there.'

Behind the leaders, the conditions couldn't be more different for the pair of boats fighting for a podium finish. Dominique Wavre, on Temenos II, described the perfect sailing weather he was enjoying this afternoon:

'We have very nice conditions, north winds between 15 and 20 knots although the sea is a bit choppy. But we have very nice blue skies and it should be like this for another two or three days.'

Temenos II has eked out a bit further ahead of Mutua Madrileña over the past 24 hours, adding 30 miles to its margin over the Spanish boat.

'We were waiting for the wind shift, the northerly shift that we were planning to tack on, and Temenos II was tacking on that shift,' Javier Sansó explained from the Spanish boat. 'We didn't get it, and he did. He was luckier there and used the shift to make up some ground on us.'

At the back of the fleet, Educación sin Fronteras is also enjoying 'champagne sailing' as Servane described it. Her boat has gained over 100 miles on the leaders over the course of the past day: 'For a few days now it has been champagne sailing - good heading, good speed. Educación sin Fronteras is making a comeback, continuing on our route; all the children on our sails are happy with such calm sailing! The nights are superb and the days sunny. I have the feeling we are on our way back to civilisation.We will soon reach Gate 7 at Fernando de Noronha. The boat will cross a point that it came from, and has therefore done its round the world trip, so if I am not speaking nonsense we might not yet have finished the Barcelona World Race, but we have sailed around the world! Yeeee haaaaa!!!'

Day 90 - February 8 14:00 GMT - Position report with distance to leader

1. PAPREC-VIRBAC 2 - Jean Pierre DICK / Damian FOXALL - 542 to finish
2. HUGO BOSS - Alex THOMSON / Andrew CAPE - 342
3. TEMENOS 2 - Dominique Wavre / Michele PARET- 1469
4. MUTUA MADRILENA - Javier SANSO / Pachi RIVERO - 1604
5. EDUCACION SIN FRONTERAS - Servane ESCOFFIER / Albert BARGUES - 2761

Abandoned - VEOLIA ENVIRONNEMENT - Roland JOURDAIN / Jean Luc NELIAS
Abandoned - ESTRELLA DAMM - Guillermo ALTADILL / JONATHAN MCKEE
Abandoned - DELTA DORE - Jérémie BEYOU / Sidney GAVIGNET
Abandoned - PRB - Vincent Riou / Sebastien JOSSE

Quotes - Javier Sansó, Mutua Madrileña, speaking about 'local knowledge': 'We know the Canary Islands well - I've sailed all the islands and it is territory we know; for sailors it's always a relief to go to places where you've been...You know the shape of the coast and it makes a big difference and it means we're home, and we are close to Gibraltar after all the miles we've done already...It is nice to go to Canaries on the way home with a southerly.'

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