Barcelona World Race day 75 and the finish is nearing.
The living might be relatively easy now but the small miles, and fractions of a miles are hard won for the ‘peloton’ trio: Renault Z.E Sailing Team, Neutrogena and Estrella Damm.
With good speeds in the brisk SE’ly winds some 700 miles off the coast of Florianapolis, BRA, blessed now with sunshine, ready miles and even the chance to build some serious hours in the bunk, to try to recharge the weary bones and stressed, aching muscles.
But, with the DTF miles counting down nicely and memories of southern storms, soaring albatross, and the south’s endless pallid, grey chill packed away with the extra thermals, balaclavas, gloves and thick socks, so the F Word inevitably bobs into conversations:
'We also want to finish for our sponsor Estrella Damm, because we know that it is important to them. And I personally, can’t wait to come back to Barcelona, to my city, to our people, to the welcome ... now Pepe and I are very excited to think we will be able to finish the course', said Estrella Damm’s Alex Pella today.
One hundred or so miles to the NE, aboard Estrella Damm’s nearest rival, Ryan Breymaier also uses the F Word, the not the expletive that the Annapolis bred co-skipper might just have let slip a few times over the last 11 weeks at sea:
'For sure you are aware the finish gets closer each day, it’s feeling like that more and more, honestly I am pretty ready to be done! I am really, really pleased with the weather systems we have. It is going to enable us to get up this South Atlantic very quickly and that is great for me. We are definitely savouring the moments as they pass, moments of bliss, of the weather we have got right now, it makes the icing on the cake. I just hope the North Atlantic treats us as well as the South Atlantic is treating us right now.'
Reported Breymaier to today’s live Visio-Conference in Barcelona, where the F-Word is very much at the top of agendas from City Hall to the Barcelona streets and beachside walkways, where everyone it seems wants to know when the boats will be finishing.
But, in fact, Pella answers that question succinctly:
'We have three variable areas ahead: one off Cabo Frio, a quiet transition zone, then the Doldrums and then the Mediterranean, which can be very variable. This makes it very difficult to estimate the date of finishing.'
The two red hulled Imoca Open 60’s have been enjoying red carpet conditions, but both equally aware that every little mile makes a difference during this stage of their ascent up the Atlantic. But for Pachi Rivero and Toño Piris on Renault Z.E the opportunity to build their cushion during the last 24 hours, to bank an extra 20-25 miles on the pursuing duo. They are expected to hit a transition zone of light airs first, perhaps even by tomorrow morning, and any extra margin is additional insulation as Neutrogena and Estrella Damm are forecast to hold the fast downwind conditions for longer. Indeed this afternoon it is the two red devils both making 17.5 to 17.8 kts which are quickest in the fleet.
For Hugo Boss’ Andy Meiklejohn and Wouter Verbraak there is the disappointment of knowing that 48 hours of constant hard work since they stopped, trying to make their repairs independently in the Falklands, has not been enough. They will have to wait now for the arrival of their shore team members who were due to fly to the remote South Atlantic Archipelago today (Wednesday) on the one scheduled flight per week from RAF Brize Norton in England. The duo were staying at sea, off the east coast of East Falkland, before an expected rendezvous with their team off Stanley, the Islands’ capital.
At the front of the fleet Iker Martinez and Xabi Fernandez have just started to feel their first hints of their own Doldrums slowdown, but not before they have clawed back 137 miles on the race leaders Virbac-Paprec 3 who are 323 miles ahead. Rankings at Wednesday 16th March at 1400hrs UTC:
1 Virbac-Paprec 3 at 3322,7 miles to finish
2 Mapfre at 323,5 miles to leader
3 Renault Z.E at 1300,1 miles
4 Neutrogena at 1527,5 miles
5 Estrella Damm Sailing Team at 1619,7 miles
6 Gaes Centros Auditivos at 2237,9 miles
7 Mirabaud at 2660,9 miles
8 Hugo Boss at 3131,1 miles
9 Forum Maritim Catala at 4557,8 miles
10 We Are Water at 6478,1 miles
11 Central Lechera Asturiana at 8227,6 miles
RTD Groupe Bel Barcelona World Race website