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Barcelona World Race - Foncia back down to business

by Agence Blanco Negro on 17 Jan 2011
Barcelona World Race - Team Foncia © MMuina/FNOB
Foncia onboard mindset can be summed up by, 'We’re still in the race and in a position which is far from dramatic. We’re in good spirits and happy to be sailing again'. Offshore of Brazil, in a tropical heat, François Gabart and Michel Desjoyeaux have taken up where they left off in the Barcelona World Race. They’re on the attack, in a new role as the hunter, 200 miles astern of the leaders.

Michel and François lost just 18 hours in their pit stop in Recife thanks to the efficiency of Marc Liardet, Jean-Philippe Guillemot, Laurent Dorval, Sébastien Gladu and Frédéric Robin, the team who was rushed to Brazil to perform the ‘surgical’ operation to repair the crash bow. Foncia is now sporting a new black carbon nose, which though not terribly aesthetic, is sufficiently robust to cut through the waves again. On Saturday, Michel and François were joined in the Brazilian port by their adversaries, Jean-Pierre Dick and Loïck Peyron, with whom they even shared an apartment (note that as chance would have it the two teams even had the same contact in Recife), for just enough time to take a shower… a rather surreal scene in the middle of a circumnavigation of the globe! Indeed, whilst the technicians spruced up their 60 footers, the sailors even managed to make the most of their time on terra firma to sleep, get the salt off them and rinse their foulies. However, their eyes were still firmly fixed on the race and the weather!

For Foncia’s crew, this 18 hour forced stopover resulted in a 200 mile deficit in relation to the Spaniards Alex Pella and Pepe Ribes (Estrella Damm), the new leaders of the Barcelona World Race. 200 miles corresponds with a short day’s sailing as the monohulls prepare to attack a strategic phase in the South Atlantic: the rounding of the Saint Helena High. And in this undertaking, not everyone has opted for the same route, far from it in fact. Those favouring the East, like Groupe Bel, are trying to cut the corner and take as short a route as possible, prepared to take on the lightest of winds. Those to the West meanwhile are opting to go right around the outside in the hope that they’ll hook onto stronger downwind conditions. This is currently the case for Foncia, and further back Virbac-Paprec 3, which set out from Brazil at midnight GMT last night. Between the two extremes there is a lateral separation of some 300 miles! As such the next few days in the South Atlantic will be reminiscent of a giant game of chess. With this in mind we can understand why the Olympic champions, Iker Martinez and Xavi Fernandez (Mapfre) opted to make the switch to stealth mode this morning. They won’t appear on the rankings again until Monday morning. For the men aboard Foncia who are currently sailing in fast but unstable conditions (squalls, numerous sail changes), these major strategic manœuvres are also opportunities to try to move up the ranking. Indeed it is worth remembering that 200 miles is the equivalent of just 0.01% of the remaining distance to travel in this double-handed round the world…

Ranking at 1400 GMT:
1. Alex Pella - Pepe Ribes - Estrella Damm Sailing Team 21119.7 miles to the finish
2. Kito de Pavant - Sebastien Audigane - Groupe Bel 136.6 miles behind the leader
3. Iker Martinez - Xabi Fernandez - Mapfre (in stealth mode)
4. Dominique Wavre - Michele Paret - Mirabaud 188.8 miles astern
5. Michel Desjoyeaux - Francois Gabart - Foncia 223.3 miles astern
6. Jean Pierre Dick - Loick Peyron - Virbac-Paprec 3 269.1 miles astern
7. Boris Herrmann - Ryan Breymaier - Neutrogena Formula Noruega 291.5 miles astern
8. Pachi Rivero - Antonio Piris - Renault Z.E 333.3 miles astern
9. Dee Caffari - Anna Corbella - Gaes Centros Auditivos 350.7 miles astern
10. Wouter Verbraak - Andy Meiklejohn - Hugo Boss 428.9 miles astern
11. Juan Merediz - Fran Palacio - Central Lechera Astutiana 465.9 miles astern
12. Jaume Mumbru - Cali Sanmarti - We Are Water 517 miles astern
13. Gerard Marin - Ludovic Aglaor - Forum Maritim Catala 526.6 miles astern

Quotes from the boat:
François Gabart, at this Sunday’s video-conference: ' It’s suprising that you can make pit stops and still be in the match. The commando operation in Brazil was incredibly quick with a superb and well-prepared organisation on shore. When we arrived in port, the boat had been lifted and the bow raised above the quay within an hour. Michel and I stayed for a short while on site and then whilst the guys worked on the boat non-stop, we went to get some rest in Ludo’s apartment, our contact on site who has helped out just about everyone (as he’d done the same for Jérémie Beyou in the last Vendée Globe). We had a proper shower, slept in a real bed and rinsed our foulies. When we awoke at 0800 hours on Saturday morning, someone was ringing the doorbell. It was Jean-Pierre Dick and Loïck Peyron: we ended up in the same apartment on the twentieth floor of a building in Recife. It was quite surreal! '

Michel Desjoyeaux, contacted by telephone this afternoon: ' In Recife, the team was fantastic and they didn’t hang about despite the conditions being a little complicated. I know they struggled a bit to get the foam slab dry. As such we’re heading out again with a nice black nose… it’s a shame it wasn’t painted red! Ultimately we haven’t come off too bad in relation to the competition. Virbac-Paprec 3 headed off after us and the others aren’t as far away as all that and there are a few opportunities to get back with them. There’s still a long way to go so there’s no point getting worked up now. Other than that it’s very hot. It’s pretty full-on too. We’re split between wanting to protect ourselves from the spray by staying under the hood, prepared to sweat it out, or getting some air and getting wet, which means you end up covered in salt. Down below there’s no ventilation at all so it’s still tricky to enjoy a bit of coolness.'



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