Barcelona World Race - From their remote locations in the Pacific Ocean, on the Tasman and in the Indian Ocean, and those not so remote, in the Cook Strait and stopped over in Wellington itself, skippers of the Barcelona World Race joined in solidarity with the people of Christchurch and New Zealand. News of the fatal earthquake on New Zealand’s south island came as a shock to most of the fleet this morning, and messages from the skippers reflected their concern and affection for the Kiwi nation.
Co-skipper of Central Lechera Asturiana Juan Merediz remarked from the Pacific: 'The news about the earthquake is a big shock for us, we have just heard. It touches us a lot when we are here living out our dreams here, and others in the world are having theirs taken away from them.'
In Wellington, Pepe Ribes, co-skipper of Estrella Damm, who was making ready to leave this Tuesday evening (UTC), early Wednesday morning New Zealand time, remarked: 'Everybody here has been affected by this tragedy which has happened here in New Zealand a country which has always offered such a warm welcome, and where everyone is so friendly. All the problems we have in the race pale into a different perspective. We hope that Christchurch can be recovered and our thoughts are with the people there.'
Ribes and Alex Pella will leave Wellington in tandem with their French rivals on Groupe Bel with a new fight on their hands, ready for a very different kind of contest from that which they have fought so far in their Barcelona World Race, from pace-makers to playing catch up: 'When you are at the front, fighting with the leaders you are excited, now we need to go out, push hard and give 100% as we always do and try to catch up. For us I think it is a new race, we were racing hard for the podium and now we will race hard with Neutrogena, Mirabaud from fifth to seventh,say, but still it is a race. We need to push hard and go fast. Your mind-set changes a little bit. When you are doing your first Imoca Round the World Race and you are at the front, you are excited, now I am a bit more calm.'
Estrella Damm and Groupe Bel will leave Wellington with a deficit of around 1150 miles on the leading boat Virbac-Paprec 3, and around 400-450 miles on Renault Z.E Sailing Team. Pachi Rivero and Toño Piris have consolidated their third place nearly 200 miles ahead of fourth placed Neutrogena. And the two teams which will leave Wellington imminently face a difficult weather scenario with S and SE’ly headwinds presenting a slow battle to get south to the train of Pacific low pressure systems.
The battle at the front of the fleet remains closer than ever with Spain’s double Olympic medallists and three times 49er world champions on Mapfre still hunting down long time race leaders Virbac-Paprec 3.
Mapfre’s Iker Martinez remarked today that even they were surprised they have got so close to the French duo Jean-Pierre Dick and Loïck Peyron. Only 58 miles separated the best Spanish boat and the French leaders this evening.
A direct hand to hand speed test to the middle of the Pacific is on the cards. Rankings at 1400hrs Tuesday 22nd February 2011:
1 Virbac-Paprec 3 at 10450 miles to finish
2 Mapfre 58 miles from the leader
3 Renault Z.E at 722 miles
4 Neutrogena at 918 miles
5 Mirabaud at 1014 miles
6 Groupe Bel at 1082.5 miles
7 Estrella Damm Sailing Team at 1082.6miles
8 Hugo Boss at 1229 miles
9 Gaes Centros Auditivos at 1348 miles
10 Forum Maritim Catala at 2893 miles
11 Central Lechera Asturiana at 3187 miles
12 We Are Water at 3700 miles
RTD President Barcelona World Race website