Barcelona World Race and at 1020hrs this Thursday morning Jean-Pierre Dick and Loïck Peyron on Virbac-Paprec 3 lead the BWR fleet past Cape Horn only four hours and 20 minutes ahead of Spain’s double Olympic medalists Iker Martinez and Xabi Fernandez. With just under 7000 miles to sail to the finish in Barcelona, the lead of Virbac-Paprec 3 was only 72 miles.
Since their enforced 48 hours pit-stop in Wellington to replace essential mainsail batten-cars, Virbac-Paprec 3 crossed the remainder of the Pacific to Cape Horn in 15 days one hour and 35 minutes, their aggregate time since leaving the start line on thirty-first of December of 61 days 22 hours 20 minutes.
Mapfre’s passage time of 12 days eight hours and 20 minutes not only ensures that the Spanish pair have set the bar very high as the time to beat for the fourth of the race’s ocean trophies, but the hard driving pair have surpassed the record from the inaugural edition of the race of 14d 00h 31m for the 4270 miles passage which was set by Pachi Rivero and Javier ‘Bubi’ Sanso on Mutua Madrileña.
With the iconic rock diminishing in size in their wake Dick and Peyron were joined live on today’s Visio-Conference. Their passage of the Cape in strong Westerly winds required them to pass ‘very, very close’ as they sought some respite from the very challenging conditions thrown up by the low pressure system which was formerly cyclone Atu.
For the French duo, their pleasure and satisfaction was doubled as both had individually failed to reach Cape Horn on their 2008-2009 Vendée Globe solo passages. Dick described it as a certain ‘revenge’. But both pairs have fought a stunning dog-fight at a furious pace across the Pacific which is likely to continue on the climb up the Atlantic.
Dick said: 'It is a great day, one of the magical days in your life, all happiness today to be with Loïck passing Cape Horn. The weather has been rough last night with more than 35 knots of wind, and the waves were very impressive we were pitching right into them so it was difficult with the wind. We did not know how much we how much sail to set, so we tried to do our best to keep up the speed but not risk the boat too much, so we seem to have succeeded with Cape Horn this morning.'
Mapfre’s Xabi Fernandez was perhaps slightly more subdued: focused, determined but very clearly content to be passing in second place, particularly in contrast to his previous passages of Cape Horn on their last two Volvo Ocean Races. On Movistar, five years ago today to the day, they were fighting a technical problem with the keel which saw them stopping into Ushuaia, while in the last edition of the race on Telefonica they had a rig problem which meant they were in last place:
' It is good to start pointing north. I don’t think there is going to be big changes in the weather, there are some squalls around so we have to be alert and ready to put reefs up and down, but we have to go fast. Now Virbac is going to do a lot of miles now. They are going to be very, very fast.
I think this so far is the best time. We had quite a lot of problems on the boats before. Movistar and Telefonica Blue we had broken pieces, we were last which was not very nice. But this time we are good and good in the race, so we are very happy. It is good to be here and to be pointing north into better weather. Rounding together with Iker is special especially arriving here in second place. So it is a very good moment.' Said Fernandez.
The Pacific is behind them, but the battle of the Atlantic is just starting. As yet unknown is how the two will compare in upwind conditions which often prevail on this ascent, but the first obstacle previewed is a high pressure system developing off the Argentine and Uruguayan coast. Health concerns for Michèle Paret on Mirabaud.
Dominque Wavre, co-skipper of Mirabaud revealed today that Michèle Paret has been in her bunk since taking a fall in the cockpit yesterday. The duo are hoping that the rest which Paret is getting while Wavre battles on, effectively in solo ‘Vendée Globe’ mode will be enough to allow her to recover:
'Last night, in the middle of a maneuver, Michele took a heavy fall in the cockpit and passed out while I was on the foredeck. When she came to, she managed to get back inside the boat and with considerable courage even made it back out shortly afterwards to help me get through the gybe.'
So far, it seems that the medication we took on board in New Zealand hasn’t helped restore her to full health; for the last few days she’s been suffering a great deal and we have had to reduce sail to make the conditions easier. The performance of the boat is obviously affected, but Michèle is in no state to be out on deck at the moment. For the moment she is on the sidelines and I’m back in ‘Vendée Globe’ mode, power-napping for 20 minutes when I can.
At the moment it’s still stormy, with the wind between 20 and 30 knots. We are expecting a short period of calm in a few hours time before the wind picks up again all the way to Cape Horn. Getting round the Horn will be a huge relief for us to be honest.' Said Wavre.
On cue this morning Forum Maritím Catala left Wellington at the conclusion of their 48 hours pit stop at 0905hrs and were facing favorable conditions for a fast descent back into the Pacific. Meantime Central Lechera Asturiana were closing on Wellington with their fractured rig, making just less than 6kts. Rankings at 1400hrs Thursday Third of March 2011
1 Virbac-Paprec 3 at 6997 miles to finish
2 Mapfre 77 miles from the leader
3 Renault Z.E at 1455 miles
4 Neutrogena at 11468 miles
5 Mirabaud at 1736 miles
6 Groupe Bel at 1947miles
7 Estrella Damm Sailing Team at 2023 miles
8 Hugo Boss at 2389 miles
9 Gaes Centros Auditivos at 2600 miles
10 Forum Maritim Catala at 4552 miles
11 Central Lecehra Asturiana at 4616miles
12 We Are Water at 5067 miles
RTD President Barcelona World Race