Barcelona World Race - If there is one theme which has surfaced regularly so far in this second edition of the Barcelona World Race it is that there has been so few sustained periods of constant rate and rhythm.
The trade winds from the Canaries to south of the Cape Verdes were more intense than usual, the South Atlantic was light, disorganised and at times chaotic and now the Indian Ocean is proving a challenging taskmaster all the way through the fleet.
The fleet’s most experienced circumnavigator Dominique Wavre, in sixth place on Mirabaud, not only reflected today that he feels more tired than during the first edition of the race at the same point, but that he sees little chance of a settled weather routine for their section of the fleet in coming days.
Mirabaud is under pressure on two counts. The young American-German duo Ryan Breymaier and Boris Herrmann are snapping at their heels on Neutrogena, as relative rookies perhaps unburdened by memories of the Indian Ocean of previous races. And the anticyclone which is chasing both Mirabaud and Neutrogena as they move east is producing especially unsettled conditions which is making trimming and holding a course in big, crossed seas, especially taxing.
Resolute but tired, Wavre considered today that they may still be caught by the light winds of the anticyclone which would be especially tough due to the leftover sea state. With between 10 knots in the lulls and 30 knots in the gusts, it was already testing the Mirabaud duo, but less wind and the same kind of seas would be even more problematic.
There has been one constant recently and even that pattern is on the wane.
Since 21st January the lead of Jean-Pierre Dick and Loïck Peyron on Virbac-Paprec 3 has been unchallenged, peaking at 746 miles. But their margin has progressively dropped, pressed by the hard driving peloton who are spurred by strong South-Southwesterly winds at the moment, making between nineteen and twenty knots this afternoon compared to Virbac-Paprec 3’s 17-18 knots gained in 40-45 knot NW’lies and difficult seas.
But the weather advantage which seemed to favour the French duo across the west of the Indian Ocean may dissipate slightly as high pressure builds up to the SW of Australia. It would not be unexpected to see Virbac Paprec 3’s lead halved from that peak delta over coming days.
After more than a month at sea, without doubt these changeable conditions do weigh heavily on skippers’ morale. Frustration manifests itself in different ways on the radio and video link-ups. Skippers speak of the desires to head south and pick up the fast moving lows that they remember from previous races, but these depressions are currently as far south as fifty deg and beyond and the safety chain of ice gates corral the fleet in the north. In such circumstances, when morale tips towards pessimism it is essential to fight
Dee Caffari and Anna Corbella have been occasionally been making light of the tough conditions they have had, battling upwind for three days into what latterly became potentially boat-breaking, huge, confused waves which GAES Centros Auditivos was dropping off, and crashing through. But the monotony and stress on the boat was taking its toll on the duo and the boat.
Since tacking south east last night they fleet’s only all girl team were making good progress, searching to the south east for what promises to be some fast reaching conditions finally more commensurate with their expectations of the south. Caffari and Corbella sent a spectacular video this afternoon which graphically details their upwind battles in more than thirty knots of wind. (see link). And Hugo Boss, hard on the wind, had got to within twenty five miles of the west end of the ice gate in very tough conditions.
This evening in the ‘red duel’ it is advantage Estrella Damm, as the Barcelona IMOCA Open 60 of Pepe Ribes and Alex Pella has opened up twelve miles over the course of the afternoon on their French rivals on Groupe Bel.
Co-skipper Ludovic Aglaor confirmed today that the choice of going into ghost mode on FMC was as much a bit of fun prompted by responses to his personal blog with which he stays in touch with friends and family at home in Lorient and around France.
And Central Lechera Asturiana are due to start their short Cape Town pit-stop this evening, ETA 2230hrs UTC. Standings at 1400hrs UTC Thursday 3rd February :
1 VIRBAC-PAPREC 3 at 15 944,8 miles to the finish.
2 MAPFRE at 424,8 miles to leader
3 ESTRELLA DAMM Sailing Team at 549,2 miles
4 GROUPE BEL at 561,3 miles
5 RENAULT Z.E at 764,9 miles
6 MIRABAUD at 1314 miles
7 NEUTROGENA at 1344,9 miles
8 GAES CENTROS AUDITIVOS at 1936,7 miles
9 HUGO BOSS at 2182 miles
10 WE ARE WATER at 2249,2 miles
11 CENTRAL LECHERA ASTURIANA at 2561 miles
FUR FORUM MARITIM CATALA in GHOST mode.