Barcelona World Race leader Virbac-Paprec 3 were dealt the tough hand from the deck of cards whilst Mapfre got one to work with, and the 3 Musketeers had a special preview of Doldrums type conditions some 700 miles early.
Speaking today after Virbac-Paprec 3 had spent most of the morning back sailing at double figures speeds, the release of tension was evident in the voice of the French skipper, who maintains that between the combined experiences of co-skipper Loïck Peyron and himself, they could not recall a more painful Doldrums passage.
Of course the grass is always greener, but his observation that the Mapfre pair, Iker Martinez and Xabi Fernandez have rarely slowed below 9 knots has a certain ring of truth to it and the Spanish duo now have a margin that certainly gives them hope for the final 3100 miles to Barcelona.
'In fact looking at the models we thought Mapfre would stop in the Doldrums but they seem to have carried on through at nine knots. The models show different things.'
Dick declared today. ' I don’t want to talk about strategy just now because we know that our rivals listen in, but we will be fighting with the knives in our teeth, giving it everything.'
'We had some bad luck with the Doldrums going back up with us, effectively giving us it three times. Once we had a zone where it was not supposed to be, around where we saw the whale. In fact we picked up the Doldrums at about 3 deg S and it came with us.'
The numbers remain slightly skewed by the fact that Virbac-Paprec 3 have been sailing a course west of north effectively away from the direct, rhumb line course to the finish, while Mapfre have been slower but on a more direct route. But as of this evening the two courses are much more aligned and a clearer idea of the exact differential will emerge progressively. In strict distance to finish terms Mapfre are only 120 miles behind, but straight line distance, as the seagull flies, is more line 250 miles.
Mapfre were due to pass the Equator this afternoon, and should be clear of the last effects of their Doldrums-lite by 01N.
As they emerged from the Doldrums this morning Virbac-Paprec 3 were about 516 miles behind the position of Paprec-Virbac 2 in the first edition of the Barcelona World Race on the equivalent Day 77 of racing.
This course is longer but despite the two days stop in Wellington and 18 hours in Recife, it seems that Virbac-Paprec 3 might still be close to finishing their course in something close to the same elapsed time as the first edition, which was some 92 days and 9 hours and 49 minutes, which would be around 2nd April.
Behind them it seems like a Doldrums preview for the threesome Renault Z.E Sailing Team, 135 miles ahead of Neutrogena who have regained fourth again this afternoon from Estrella Damm. The breezes have been light, shifty and very variable for the top two of this group, especially latterly for Estrella Damm which has slumped in just hours from being the fleet’s fastest to the fleet’s slowest, averaging just 4,2kts this afternoon.
While this trio struggle with a narrow frontal transition, their escape on the other side is only into light headwinds, but there does then seem to be a small recompense on the horizon in that the Doldrums are becoming progressively more organised and significantly narrower.
And approaching Cape Horn this evening Gérard Marin, 29, is set to be the fleet’s youngest first time Cape Horner due to pass around 0100hrs UTC Sunday morning. Standings of Saturday 19th March at 1400hrs:
1 Virbac-Paprec 3 at 2986,7 miles to the finish
2 Mapfre at 120,9 miles to the leader
3 Renault Z.E at 813,4 miles
4 Neutrogena at 948,3 miles
5 Estrella Damm Sailing Team at 959 miles
6 Gaes Centros Auditivos at 2137 miles
7 Hugo Boss at 3480,8 miles
8 Forum Maritim Catala at 4054,6 miles
9 We Are Water at 5916,4 miles
10 Central Lechera Asturiana at 8563,6 miles
RTD Groupe Bel
RTD Mirabaud Barcelona World Race website