Saturday night should see two IMOCA 60 crews of the Barcelona World Race reach Cape Horn ready enjoy the release from the Pacific and start the climb up the Atlantic.
Both of the Barcelona based duos of We Are Water and One Planet, One Ocean & Pharmaton entered the Roaring 40s around January 27th as southern oceans rookies.
All four, Bruno and Willy Garcia from We Are Water and Aleix Gelabert and Didac Costa on One Planet, One Ocean & Pharmaton knew the Atlantic, having all taken part in Mini class races to Brazil, but for each of them, this is their first round the world race. Passing the lonely cape, the most feared of all, will undoubtedly be the high point of their race so far, marking a huge accomplishment.
On that January date, five weeks ago, We Are Water were over 420 miles ahead of the older, theoretically slower One Planet, One Ocean & Pharmaton. Tomorrow, some would say appropriately – given that all four are good friends and have been in touch by email along the course – they will round within hours of each other. Today they were just 114 miles apart with We Are Water still leading. For sure this duel will carry on into the Atlantic.
Conditions should be good for their Cape Horn passage, the 25kts SSW’ly should veer to the W as they round, giving them both a good opportunity to reach quickly up to the Le Maire Straits and into more sheltered waters. As We Are Water pass the winds are forecast to drop back to about 18kts. Their biggest problem will be the sea state which will be very big and unruly, left over from a big low pressure which has just gone through.
The Garcia brothers will be the first ‘amateurs’ – both are taking time away from very demanding, high stress careers – to round in this edition of the race.
At the front of the fleet Cheminées Poujoulat are making steady progress towards the equator which Bernard Stamm and Jean Le Cam should reach in about five days time. Stamm warned that though they have a good lead over second placed Neutrogena, the only way to avoid complacency was to remain completely focused on racing.
They may have time to make sure they are both very well rested. That is not the case for Neutrogena and GAES Centros Auditivos in second and third. They are just 78 miles apart in terms of distance to finish and there seems to be every chance this head-to-head can go on into the Northern Hemisphere at least!
Renault Captur still have the toughest, most demanding conditions. In sixth place they are in a robust, active low pressure system, having diverted well to the north to avoid the worst of the strong winds. That said they will still be seeing gusts well over 40kts. Jorg Riechers and Sébastien Audigane are just at 1100 miles to Cape Horn. By way of contrast, 1800 miles behind, Spirit of Hungary still have very, very light winds and have been making only four to five kts today.
Hugo Boss co-skipper, Pepe Ribes speaking in his native Barcelona today, gave his clear view on the ice exclusion zone which has been employed on this race, in place of ice gates:
I liked the decision before the race to change to the ‘wall’ and I think we have wait for the opinions of the skippers, but from outside for me I think the race is shorter and better, and we have seen there is more chance to find your way tactically. You don’t have to come north to pass a gate. Obviously in a fleet which is so spread someone will be on the right side of a low and some will be in a high pressure. At some stage in such a spread out fleet someone will have light winds. So for me the idea is very good and I hope they keep it for other races. From the outside it makes it easier for the sailors. For me it is not reduce the strategic options, it is gates which reduce the strategic options because you have a point to sail to every thousand miles, or every 1500 miles. Now there is just a barrier and that is more open for me.’
Bernard Stamm (SUI) Cheminées Poujoulat:
‘Program on board? Housework, DIY, tanning?
‘(Laughs …) Tanning, we try to avoid it! You end up suntanned anyway. Yesterday there was housekeeping to do, actually. We were able to shower, shave, so it was pretty good. It’s a bit cleaner inside the boat. But otherwise, there is a lot of non-stop work to make the boat go well. There is not much wind; and if we do not push then it doesn’t happen. And we rest….but we do not go in the sun to tan, that’s for sure!’
And the race?
‘Inevitably, it lacks a little spice … But it is a race and it’s not over, we have to push on and stay vigilant. We look behind to see their conditions and in front there are still blocking areas. We need to make sure we are still pushing, pressing on. The danger is thinking we just need to get home and finish. That would be it, it would be a big mistake.