Fortune favors the Barcelona World Race leaders and those who have more recently entered the Atlantic, but the trio of IMOCA Open 60 skippers who are encountering a boisterous active low pressure off the River Plate, on the Uruguay-Argentine border, will be pleased to race on into Monday morning in what should be diminishing winds in an improving wind angle.
The steep, at times chaotic seas have already contributed to the demise of Mirabaud’s rig. Dominique Wavre and Michèle Paret reported late yesterday afternoon that their mast had snapped above the third spreader. A battle to secure the broken top section proved unwinnable, and before long it appears the broken section took away two more spreaders and in the end the duo had to cut their rig free.
Speaking this morning live to the Visio-Conference with Barcelona, Wavre outlined that the duo now planned to ride out the remainder of the worst of the stormy low pressure system before attempting to set up a jury rig using Mirabaud’s boom and storm jib.
The Swiss skipper, who had to abandon his 2008-2009 Vendée Globe with keel damage, remarked that Mirabaud was low in diesel and so will need to be self-reliant to sail towards the Argentinian coast which was about 650 miles to the west this morning.
Wavre recalled: 'When it happened we had the seas coming from ahead and we were slamming, the boat making about 10 knots. We heard a crack. We saw the port side spreader at the third level collapse and then everything went very quickly. We could do nothing as the top seven meters of the mast fell. We fought for a good time to secure the remainder of the mast and tried to cut the sails free to set the two parts of the mast free from each other. But the top section of the mast hit the spreaders, smashed them and the whole remaining section became unstable. So we had to cut the shrouds and let it go.
It was two or three am by the time we had the deck reasonably clear. The deck is not damaged, the boat is watertight and that’s important. Now the priority is to ride out the depression. We don’t know how we will get to the Argentine coast, we don’t have much diesel and so we might need to rely on our own resources to get there.'
Mirabaud falls from what was shaping up to be a tight three way battle up the Atlantic, leaving Neutrogena and Estrella Damm to slug it out upwind into the low pressure. They are just nine miles apart this afternoon in terms of distance to the finish, but today Neutrogena’s German co-skipper Boris Herrmann reported that they were well set for the period of gale force winds and big seas, and to date were pleased to have been holding off the advances of the Spanish duo Alex Pella and Pepe Ribes. The past winner of the Portimao Global Ocean Race round the world in Class 40 yachts said they already were seeing the most wind they have raced upwind today:
Herrmann said today:'It is pretty windy now we have between 31 and 36 knots going upwind and the third reef and the small staysail that we call the trinquette. We expect to stay on this tack for a couple of days and have strong winds for the next 20 hours, maybe 24 hours. We are down to the smallest sails and normally it should all remain as it is now, the forecast that we see just now is for not much more than this wind, and so we just push through. We are ready. If it gets more then we have to take the headsail down'.
In contrast for the leader Virbac-Paprec 3, sailing now in improving trade winds off the Brazilian coast, it was a chance for Jean-Pierre Dick and Loïck Peyron to recall fond memories of their 2005 Transat Jacques Vabre transatlantic race victory which cemented their partnership. And of course effectively now the duo only have the equivalent of a reciprocal Transat to the finish of this race, another exciting milestone on the homewards leg. They lead Mapfre by 369 miles this afternoon.
Renault Z.E’s Pachi Rivero and Toño Piris continue to do excellent work in third place, getting a good balance between attack and defense as they work upwind towards this difficult system, but in fact the Spanish duo should be able to miss out nicely on the worst effects of the low and profit when they reach the more westerly side of it.
Suspicions that Hugo Boss has been slow and compromised since the Falklands seem to be confirmed by the report from the Alex Thomson Racing Team that the Juan K designed IMOCA Open 60 will stop in the east of the Falklands as the two skippers Andy Meiklejohn and Wouter Verbraak seek to make a series of repairs, unsupported and unaided using only the material and tools they have on board the boat.
The top of the mainsail mast track is understood to be a priority repair, but sail repairs are also on the job list which should get the duo back closer to maximum potential for their 6650 miles they will have to the finish in Barcelona. The team say they expect to take less than 24 hours for the repairs. As it is intended to be unaided, with no outside assistance, it would not incur the mandatory 48 hours minimum.
Meantime Gaes Centros Auditivos have been making good progress in seventh place after routing to the west of the Falklands in good reaching and downwind conditions, already 89 miles ahead of Hugo Boss, and at 13.6 knots the girls are the fastest of the fleet this Sunday afternoon. Standings at Sunday 13 March 2011 (TU+1) :
1 Virbac-Paprec 3 at 3931 miles to finish
2 Mapfre at 368 miles to leader
3 Renault Z.E 1512 miles to leader
4 Neutrogena at1842 miles
5 Estrella Damm Sailing Team at 1823 miles
6 Mirabaud at 2215 miles
7 Gaes Centros Auditivos at 2512
8 Hugo Boss at 2600 miles
9 Forum Maritim Catala at 4729 miles
11 We Are Water at 4929 miles
12 Central Lechera Asturiana at 7619 miles
RTD Groupe Bel Barcelona World Race