Cape Horn is the round the world racer’s ultimate milestone. It is the time that the bow is finally directed in a northerly direction, what feels like home-wards. In theory the wind ravaged Cape puts behind them the wild challenges of the southern oceans and starts the final long 10000 miles ascent of the Atlantic.
For the leading Barcelona World Race pair, Virbac-Paprec 3 and Mapfre, there is likely to be little change in the intensity of their individual attack. The wind conditions may progressively ease, but both teams know that every mile gained and lost is a valuable one.
The challenges of the southern Atlantic are often every bit as difficult as they were for the fleet on the descent more than six weeks ago. For example the 2004-2005 and the 2000-2001 solo round the world Vendée Globe races both saw huge miles caught up in the lower reaches of the Atlantic as the Saint Helena high proved especially slow for the leaders.
Both leading duos will be well aware of this as their next set of strategic challenges on their horizon, but tomorrow, Thursday, will be about the excitement of passing the iconic landmark and making sure they remain in the best possible shape for the big push up the Atlantic.
For the leading duo, Jean-Pierre Dick and Loïck Peyron, it will be their respective third racing passages of Cape Horn, J-P passing in his first Vendée Globe in 2005 and subsequently en route to winning the first Barcelona World Race, whilst Peyron passed whilst en route to second in the first ever edition of the Vendée Globe. For the Mapfre duo it will be Iker Martinez’s second but Xabi Fernandez’s third – having rounded twice in successive Volvo Ocean races.
After repositioning themselves slightly to the north early last night, the Spanish pair have so far been able to deliver some of the compression that Martinez spoke of yesterday, making nearly one knot quicker than Virbac-Paprec 3 over the course of the middle part of today. Both have been spearing east towards the Horn at between 18 and 21 knots with the full expectation of a passage of the promontory in breezes which will vary between just plain windy and very windy. They are still expecting the race’s final encounter with ex cyclone Atu, with Mapfre expecting worse conditions, due to arrive at the Cape some five hours later. This afternoon there was 80 miles between them with Virbac-Paprec 3 due to pass between 0930hrs and 1030hrs UTC.
Jaume Mumbrú onboard We are Water sounded still slightly dazed but very resolute today nearly 24hours after being knocked down. When he spoke clearly and lucidly of their incident, which he described as ‘for sure the hottest thing that has happened to us so for this race’ he revealed that their mopping up operation is still continuing progressively, they still have a lot of work to get through but ‘are back in the match’.
They were knocked flat by a powerful one-two combination of waves, taking ‘tonnes of water’ down the companionway. Mumbrú recalled:
'We were sailing in the bad part of the storm downwind, at an angle 135 degrees. We had only the main with three reefs with no sail at the front at all in 45 touching 50 knots, and the sea was very, very big, high waves with not a lot of distance between the waves. And on one of the accelerations of the boat we just crashed against the wave in front and the wave behind just lifted the boat and capsized us. We were completely over to one side, the water came into the boat and we had tonnes of water inside. We had a few seconds capsized, the boat came upright and from there on, it was just a case of getting the boat ready to get on with it and sail again.
It was the first really, really hot situation that we have been in like that.
Basically we had the boat stopped completely we had all this water inside, electronics were on and it was situation where we had to start making decisions how to put things back together. The wind was blowing at an incredible speed, outside we could not even move. Sometimes it was dangerous, it was the toughest situation since we left.'
He and co-skipper Cali Sanmarti are fighting to have their IMOCA Open 60 back in shape so that they can avoid making a technical pit-stop in Wellington. Forum Maritim Catala restart tomorrow after their forty-eight hours stop to fix their watermakers and hydrogenerators:
Gerard Marín said today: 'From the psychological point of view, being on the water for so long is getting difficult, more so than I thought it would be.'
And heading for Wellington, with just over 100 miles to sail, is the jury rigged Central Lechera Asturiana which lost the top section of their mast yesterday evening. Rankings at 1400hrs Wednesday 2nd March 2011
1. Virbac-Paprec 3 (Jean-Pierre Dick - Loïck Peyron), at 7.274 miles to finish
2. Mapfre (Iker Martínez - Xabi Fernández), at 80,6 miles from the leader
3. Renault Z. E. (Pachi Rivero - Antonio Piris), at 1.374 miles
4. Neutrogena (Boris Herrmann - Ryan Breymaier), at 1.415 miles
5. Mirabaud (Dominique Wavre - Michèle Paret), at 1.609 miles
6. Groupe Bel (Kito de Pavant - Sébastien Audigane), at 1.901 miles
7. Estrella Damm (Alex Pella - Pepe Ribes), at 1.967 miles
8. Hugo Boss (Wouter Verbraak - Andy Meiklejohn), at 2.340 miles
9. Gaes Centros Auditivos (Dee Caffari - Anna Corbella), at 2.543 miles
10. Forum Maritim Catala (Gerard Marín - Ludovic Aglaor), at 4.276 miles
11. Central Lechera Asturiana (Juan Merediz - Fran Palacio), at 4.408 miles
12. We Are Water (Jaume Mumbrú - Cali Sanmartí), at 4.965 miles
RTD President www.barcelonaworldrace.org