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The Silver Bullet Gains in the West

© Gilles Martin-Raget
© Gilles Martin-Raget

After making their strategic choices for the passage of the Cape Verde islands the balance is still quite even between the top three boats of the Barcelona World Race fleet. Only GAES Centros Auditivos – yesterday’s leaders who repositioned to the west today – seems to have lost a few miles.

Alex Thomson and Pepe Ribes charge down the west wing on the silver bullet Hugo Boss has netted them some useful leverage, now racing at the same latitudes as leaders Cheminées Poujoulat, albeit abeam 46 miles to the west of Bernard Stamm and Jean Le Cam. 

Hugo Boss was flying very early this morning, hitting 21-22kt averages, and through until the afternoon seemed to be reaping a reward for the extra wind pressure seen to the west. But this afternoon, Stamm and Le Cam are quickest while Neutrogena – this morning’s leaders – have been sailing a lower angle to take some west while they can. 

The leading trio have about 700 miles to the Equator, expected in the Southern Hemisphere on Monday. The Doldrums are preparing a welcome, expanding north to meet the leaders as the brisk trade winds subside. All of the leading eight co-skippers have been across the line before at least once and all will have experienced more difficult crossings. This time it looks, according to present predictions, as if their passage can be relatively pain free. 

The NE’ly trade winds will veer and ease as they top boats work south. Today the breeze has been dropping away from average 20-25 kts to more like 15. The lighter winds will correspondingly reduce the pressure the duos have been feeling. 

Guillermo Altadill reported today that even he had been feeling the pressure on Neutrogena:

“ It feels like the Atlantic is full of IMOCAs, last night we crossed GAES only 200 metres behind us. They were on the opposite gybe and we were making 20kts. I was making a coffee. When I came back on deck I saw under the moon a sail and their green light. That was a surprise. Then early in the morning as the sun rose I saw another boat, it was Poujoulat. Still there is so much racing to go but it is hard physically and very intense.” 

In fact, in straight line terms Neutrogena is about 22 miles behind the latitude splitting Hugo Boss and Cheminées Poujoulat. Not surprisingly, the Swiss French pair have been on the same ‘dodo, bulot, dodo’ routine as their rivals. Steer, sleep, steer, sleep. Stamm recounts being glued to the helm for hours at a time in the fiery trade winds and awkward seas: 

“ We are stuck to the helm, non stop. When manouevres are done we are spent and head for the bunk, you are on the helm or in the bunk for two or three hours. It will get calmer but at the moment but it is still always on the helm until near the Doldrums. But it is all good, good feelings, good sailing, and for the moment good weather, so all in all a good race!” 

Co-skipper Le Cam is keeping mum right now, words from the boat have been scarce and so far none of Le Cam’s humorous videos, but for sure he and his erstwhile co-skipper Bruno Garcia are pleased to get paste the Cape Verdes and Day 10. It was on this day four years ago they had to retire with their snapped mast. Today Bruno Garcia noted that conditions for We Are Water, the Farr design he is racing with his brother Willy, are much the same as in 2011. Fast sailing, big seas, crossed at times with strong trade winds. 

“We are limiting the boat rather than it limiting us.” Remarked Garcia today of We Are Water the former Estrella Damm which was sailed to fourth in 2011 by Pepe Ribes and Alex Pella. 

Their primary desire is finishing and so they have remained quite cautious, although they are steadily pulling back 40-50 miles a day on One Planet One Ocean

Just when things seemed to have been going better for Nandor Fa and Conrad Colman on Spirit of Hungary, they report the loss of their main light to moderate winds A2 gennaker. A strop broke and dropped the kite into the water during the night. According to their reports there was little to recover. Fa and Colman were negotiating the Canary Islands today, making solid speeds.

Read Fa's account here: 

http://www.barcelonaworldrace.org/en/news/emails-from-the-boats/nandor-on-losing-the-kite

Renault Captur, Jorg Riechers and Sébastien Audigane are making steady progress, computed to be up to third today, but the German-French pairing struggled momentarily with a rudder problem which took some time to fix. They also suffered a steering issue in the Strait of Gibraltar which they were dealing with when they strayed into a separation lane. They were today notified of a 20 mins penalty from the International Jury. Their minor misdemeanour, failing to bear off to 90 degrees, receives a small penalty.

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