Barcelona World Race skippers Iker Martínez and Xabi Fernández on board Mapfre are 368-miles behind Virbac-Paprec 3 (Jean-Pierre Dick and Loick Peyron).
The determined Spanish pair refuse to concede victory to the French leaders. 'In terms of the leaders, at least they haven't got away,' commented Xabi Fernández (ESP) today.
'More than worry about catching up with them, the first step is not to let them get too far away, so we are constantly on their case. Four hundred miles are recoverable with the North Atlantic still to go and above all the Gibraltar Strait, as we all know what it is like to get there, and then there's the Mediterranean. It means we are still very much in the race and it keeps us going.'
There are mixed feelings for the pair, who will need every mile of the course if they are to overtake Virbac-Paprec 3, but equally will be missing their loved ones sharply after 73 days at sea. 'Today it is my daughter Noa's birthday, and she is one year old! The year has flown past! We are really looking forward to seeing our families, but we are nearly there - just 20 days or so more and we are there…' added Fernández.
This evening Virbac-Paprec 3 are averaging around 3 knots faster than the Spanish team. The boat making the best averages is Renault Z.E., at nearly 16 knots over the course of this afternoon, as Pachi Rivero and Antoñio Piris (ESP) clear the low pressure system. Estrella Damm, around 350 miles behind and still in stronger pressure, is the fastest in fleet tonight, at 15.8 knots.
Meanwhile GAES Centros Audititos continues to make good progress now in seventh, this evening crossing Mirabaud’s line some 50 miles away from the dismasted yacht as they make for shore, whilst work continues on their long-time rival Hugo Boss, at anchor in the Falklands for a second night tonight. ** Jean-Pierre Dick (FRA) Virbac-Paprec 3:
'We're not quite in Salvador de Bahia, but it's almost carnival in Brazil.
It was a very long night because we had a lot of squalls extremely hard work but the sun has cleared the way now and we have a pretty decent trade wind now.
We try to sleep well and take some time for yourself when you can. I have seen lot of movies but I have not had time to read because the battle with Mapfre is intense enough so that when we are awake we are pushing and we are careful and we do not have much time for us between food, the weather. But, then the idea is to finish first into Barcelona. Double-handed we sleeop more, but when we are awake we are probably more proactive, there is more to do with the boat. And that is not always the case when you are solo. Once we are awake we are hard at it, and that is not always the case when you are solo, you do what you can humanly do.
The last two days have not exactly been monotonous. Last night there were plenty of things happening and we were not often on deck together. I am very proud of having all our sails intact and will hopefully still have the full inventory when we reach Barcelona. We still have a few days up to the Doldrums and should pick up speed to 17 knots rather than 10-11 we have been doing. Five minutes ago I was looking at the meteo for the Doldrums and the bad news is that they are quite active, which is not good, but we will do our best to manage it and but of course there is always a luck factor which is unfortunately inevitable, and even if we are very careful, you can’t control everything.
And after the Doldrums we look ahead to the weather patterns that will influence the date of our finish in Barcelona. And so I hope that the Mediterranean will be good to us.
I think that the battle will be to the finish line. There is pressure and we need to be able to deal with it, which is all good training for the next race. Alex Pella (ESP) Estrella Damm:
'The sea is very big and coming at us from all directions, as it has been pretty much since Mirabaud lost its mast. With the NW’ly wind we have faces of up to six metres and the boat slams violently which is like crashing into a wall constantly. We have some very violent slamming, and that threatens the boat a bit. Last night we were sailing with three reefs and the staysail in 30-35 knots of wind when the staysail hook broke and the sail went in the water. We picked it out again and it is good that it is not torn, and to repair the hook is quite simple but it does require a mast climb and that is too complicated and dangerous at the moment.
As we knew there was 40 knots coming and we did not really know how the boat would be with three reefs, we were worried without a forestay, so we put in the fourth reef to stop the mast inverting and have taken our foot off the gas a bit
We are sailing more steadily and slowly, about eight knots and without endangering ourselves or the boat. And at the moment we cant put up any headsail because the storm jib uses the same hook and to use the Solent requires the breeze to come down to 30 knots or below, so we need to be a bit patient yet,
Every day my rib gets a little better. I am not taking any painkillers. Every time I make an effort I notice it, whereas before anything I did with my left arm was sore. Pepe is taking painkillers too and he is a little better, especially on his knee. We are fine physically. We rested last night, and it has been good. What happens is that we have again lost mile which we had caught up, so we need to do it again. Ludovic Aglaor (FRA) Forum Maritim Catala:
'It is true we get some information and we would little more, but primarily we need to be dealing with the sailing, so one is less up to date with current affairs, and there is certainly a delay in receiving information and we are not really on the same schedule as those on land. And so we learn things a little late, but I feel that this winter there has been a lot of thing going on in North Africa, the earthquake in new Zealand and now in Japan. It is always weird to be so cut off and remote from all these things.' Xabi Fernandez (ESP) MAPFRE:
'Here we go, heading North. We are happy because the weather is better right now. We have had some squalls, especially during the night, that have made difficult to sail cause suddenly you are stopped and… that’s it!
Of course, we still have an eye on the leader and at the same time we feel better since the boats behind us are not so close as before anymore.
We have Northeasterly winds, 12-15 knots. After the St. Helena High you all know that we have some days quite windy that allowed us to sail fast again with a terrible sun above us.
As for Virbac-Paprec 3 they are not really far away at least. As much as trying to catch the French pair, what we have to avoid that the gap between them and us getting wider, so we are always stalking them. 400 nm is a distance that we still can make up, above all thinking that we still have all the North Atlantic, the Gibraltar Strait and the Mediterranean to sail… All we know how the Med is, so we are alive and pushing hard!!
Today is my daughter’s birthday. She is one! Time goes fast… I can’t see them but I have been able to speak with my wife Larraitz and my son Adur on the phone.
We are looking forward to see and be with them… 20 days more or so and we will be there.'
** Andy Meiklejohn (NZL) and Wouter Verbraak (NED) made a stop for repairs, to the ongoing mainsail track issue as well as sails. The black IMOCA 60 reached Barrow Harbour, East Falkland Island and halted sailing around 1930hrs (UTC) this evening. As they plan to anchor and complete the work without outside assistance they will not be subject to a mandatory 48-hours stopover. www.barcelonaworldrace.org