Lining up to pass between the Cape Verde Islands, sprinting south between Sal Island and Sao Nicolau and then Santiago and Fogo, Anna Corbella and Gérard Marin on GAES Centros Auditivos are expected to lead the Barcelona World Race when the fleet negotiates the archipelago tonight.
Being ranked top of the table today is a fitting present for Marin who took a few moments to accept best wishes for his 33rd birthday. The Spanish duo, the only mixed male-female crew in the fleet, has profited short term from their early move to the west yesterday afternoon. But they have also been sailing fast throughout today in the right direction, whilst some of their nearest rivals are investing in miles to the west, seeking a future gain. This morning’s leader Hugo Boss, Alex Thomson and Pepe Ribes look set to go west of the island group, computed to be fourth for the meantime, whilst Cheminées Poujoulat in third trail Neutrogena who are second.
The GAES Centros Auditivos duo were about 80 miles north of the entrance to the islands in the middle of this afternoon, racing in brisk trade winds which are still reaching 23 or 24 knots, allowing continued high speed running, although Neutrogena’s Spanish co-skipper Guillermo Altadill noted that the sea conditions were bumpy and crossed when he spoke to Race HQ in Barcelona this morning. Corbella, who raced the 2010-11 edition with Dee Caffari, re-affirmed today that their objective is first and foremost to finish this race rather than harbouring high ideas of winning, but through the first week and one day of racing, the duo have not really put a foot wrong. She noted today that their sails are a ‘secret weapon’. “ Our secret? We have some really good sails and we always push the 100%" quipped Corbella. They have made their own decisions so far, clearly not content to simply pace or shadow the leaders. Their two year training programme as part of the FNOB crews prior to the race included two Transatlantics last year as well as protracted period of practice off the NW of Spain. Rather than go east with Hugo Boss at the Canaries, Corbella and Marin stayed conservative, sailing east of Grand Canaria and west of Lanzarote and Fuerteventura. "Going through the Canaries was a good decision, not too risky. We don't want to risk anything. Our goal is not to win as it is for most of the teams. So we don't need to take risky decisions as they will have to. We take the decisions using the brain, we don't want to break anything, neither do we want to be in the wind shadow of an island" Asked if she was surprised to have been holding their own nicely with the lead group since the start Corbella said: “ A little bit. We did not really know at the beginning that we could have the same speed as the boats in front. That is a surprise for us. Once we saw that we have continued like we that, we are not going to slow or give a present to the other boats!” Some of the gains might be short term. The big changes in the mileage deltas on the official ranking are partly due to the theoretical course which links waypoints down the west African coast. This anomaly greatly benefits teams which are converging with that theoretical route and correspondingly the deltas rocket upwards when crews are racing west, away from that line. Now the leaders are already looking down the track at a crossing point for the Doldrums where the convergence zone is at its narrowest. Conventional wisdom has west almost always best. In this present case the winds remain stronger in the west for longer as they approach the Doldrums. But the trade winds are forecast to slacken off to more like 15-20kts – still useful enough – by tomorrow. In fifth the German-French duo on Renault Captur are lacking company, at 145 miles from the second and third placed IMOCA 60s and having One Planet One Ocean/Pharmaton the same distance behind. Indeed the fifth to seventh placed boats are nearly equidistant apart.
Nandor Fa and Conrad Colman on Spirit of Hungary make good progress 120 miles north of the Canary Islands, sailing at 12-14kts in 15-20kt trade winds.
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