Barcelona World Race.
While Barcelona and the rest of Spain was last night and today celebrating the Festival of the Three Magic Kings, the Barcelona World Race skippers, for the first time in recent days, shared the same present; the gift of good breezes. From the front to the back of the fleet wind speed were at least 15 knots, and boat speeds almost all reached double digits at times.
In fact the leading duo, the ‘wise kings’ aboard Virbac-Paprec 3 and Foncia 3 had the extra bonus of getting to the weather front which allowed them to tack from bouncing upwind in 20-25 knots of SW’ly breeze to faster reaching in the new NW’ly which should propel them south towards the Canary Islands at good speeds. The leading duo tacked at around 1230hrs today, with 35 miles separating Jean-Pierre Dick and Loïck Peyron on Virbac-Paprec 3 and their speeds had already jumped two knots.
The last boat to emerge from being stuck fast in the Straits of Gibraltar was Hugo Boss early this morning and this afternoon Andy Meikeljohn (NZL) and Wouter Verbraak (NED) had the powerful IMOCA Open 60 fully powered up as the joint fastest of the fleet, making nearly 14 knots. And they had made some 40 miles on the leaders over the course of today. But they look set to encounter light winds again as the high pressure in front of expands slightly east.
As Barcelona took to the streets in their tens of thousands, enjoying the huge fiesta, so too for the Spanish skippers of the fleet, the mood was at least upbeat if not completely party mode. Dee Caffari (GBR) and Anna Corbella (ESP) showed off their booty of presents on today’s live videoconference, including matching named hats from their shore crew, but the British-Spanish duo were even more content to be absolutely in the heat of the ‘race within the race’. While the girls had hats and a toy puppy, for Renault ZE Sailing Team’s duo it was sweets and sunhats.
Only five miles separate this little group, and three different boats have lead this pack over today Spain’s Iker Martinez and Xabi Fernandez – the Olympic stars on Mapfre, the IMOCA debutants Boris Herrmann and Ryan Breymaier on the 2004 build Neutrogena and most recently the hugely experience Jean Le Cam (FRA) with Bruno Garcia (ESP) on Président.
For them with closer to 30 knots of SW’ly breeze at times, and the awkward pre-frontal seas – swell from the west crossed by wind driven waves from the SW, the bumpy conditions were not east, but for all of them fresh memories of the windless days of the Straits made such conditions a blessed relief.
While the leaders are tracking south to pass downwind close to the west side of Madeira, it will be not be as straightforward for this group who are giving chase. They will likely get to the frontal shift later this evening. Then they need to start thinking of they want to try to squeeze to leeward of the islands and risk the wind shadow from the islands, or whether to try to get out to the west of the islands, in which case they stand more chance of running into the light winds of the expanding high pressure earlier. A dilemma for the gang of five which may well split them up?