Barcelona World Race - By late afternoon this Saturday, the fifth the skippers of the Barcelona World Race fleet have spent at sea, five teams will have passed the Cape of Good Hope milestone.
Moving fast today, averaging over 20 knots, Pepe Ribes and Alex Pella on Estrella Damm crossed the line at 1155hrs UTC, only three hours and 10 minutes behind their Spanish rivals on Mapfre, Iker Martinex and Xabi Fernandez.
Groupe Bel passed at 1500hrs this afternoon, with skipper Kito De Pavant in the Indian Ocean for the first time, pursued by the rapid Renault ZE Sailing Team duo Pachi Rivero and Toño Piris who had sixty miles to go this afternoon.
Although the race leader Virbac Paprec 3 has consolidated their lead by a margin of more than 100 miles since yesterday at the same time, now 707 miles ahead of Mapfre, co-skippers Jean-Pierre Dick and Loïck Peyron re-affirmed on today’s Visio-conference live with Barcelona, that they would be taking nothing for granted. In the next 36 hours they look set to face one of their most difficult tests of the race yet, a small, very active depression with high winds and big seas.
Peyron attributed much of their recent gains down to the favourable conditions that they have been granted to make best use of. But he considers the low can be dangerous for them.
'It is now looking like it will not be as bad as we thought, but the forecasts are not very precise at the moment and we really need to be vigilant. We need to worry only about ourselves now, it is a different race for us, concentrating on maintaining the rate we have. The atmosphere between us is good. We know we will lose some miles in the coming days.'
Virbac-Paprec 3’s fortunes contrast sharply with the recent mileage losses of MAPFRE who became stuck in light winds yesterday on the threshold of the Indian Ocean. Iker Martinez and Xabi Fernandez not only lost 108 miles since yesterday to the French leaders, but also suffered a rearguard attack as well - in weather terms caught out between the systems - losing 110 miles to their rival compatriots Estrella Damm.
Third placed Pepe Ribes and Alex Pella were on top form this morning, fastest boat in the fleet and profiting from their move to the south 48 hours ago. They were in 33-35 knots of wind today, surfing consistently fast in the wet going, producing come of the most insightful and engaging live video link up images so far.
The fleet may be spread now over three different weather areas. Virbac-Paprec 3 will sail the early part of next week in some of the more extreme conditions, first light winds and then the stormy low pressure system, generated by the presence of the two side-by-dide high pressure systems, one in the SEAtlantic and the other in the S Indian Ocean.
When one draws up cold air from the icy wastes in the south and the other pulls down warm, moist tropical air from the north, squeezing out malicious, compact and active cyclonic systems which will really test the teams when they encounter them, but thankfully over relatively short periods.
In the chilly Indian Ocean it is certainly the battle for second to fifth which is where the heat is, now just 150 miles between MAPFRE and Renault ZE Sailing Team. And, as Pepe Ribes warned today, as this ‘peloton’ pile headlong into the light winds of the high pressure area ahead of them, the pack will squeeze up even more, and may even re-shuffle.
Arriving into Cape Town this afternoon, still visibly disappointed but looking ahead to their respective futures, Michel Desjoyeaux and Francois Gabart, may have a broken rig but not a broken spirit. Gabart, the second to youngest skipper in the fleet, admitted he had learned a huge amount for his future Vendée Globe solo project, while Desjoyeaux revealed that his career in the IMOCA Open 60 fleet may yet have a happier conclusion as his young companion has invited Mich’ as his ‘first choice’ to join him on his new IMOCA Open 60 to compete in the next Transat Jacques Vabre transatlantic race. Rankings at Saturday 29th January at 1400hrs UTC :
1 VIRBAC-PAPREC 3 at 17 507 miles to the finish
2 MAPFRE at 707,7 miles to leader
3 ESTRELLA DAMM Sailing Team at 753 miles
4 GROUPE BEL at 801,6 miles
5 RENAULT Z.E at 858,6 miles
6 MIRABAUD at 1128,7 miles
7 NEUTROGENA at 1188,6 miles
8 GAES CENTROS AUDITIVOS at 1412,8 miles
9 CENTRAL LECHERA ASTURIANA at 1718,7 miles
10 HUGO BOSS at 1744,8 miles
11 WE ARE WATER at 1816,6 miles
12 FORUM MARITIM CATALA at 1922,5 miles