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When Thoughts Turn South

© Andrés Soriano
© Andrés Soriano

Among the four pairs of skippers who form the vanguard of the Barcelona World Race, on their IMOCA 60s, thoughts will be turning to the Southern Ocean. Two weeks to the day since the race started, they still have a few days of grace, time to step up the routine maintenance programme – boats, kit and humans – as the prospect of one month in the inhospitable southern latitudes beckons.

Passing Brazil’s Salvador de Bahia and then, in a couple of days time Itajai, finally robs them of any pretence that they are on a more routine two-week Transatlantic Race, or even a stopping, crewed round the world race. And with a little more time on their hands, thanks to the steady wind pressure and only small, very subtle course changes required, there is time to talk of the future weeks.

Significantly all of the skippers on the top four boats have done at least one racing circumnavigation. There is a pattern, one could argue. For fourth placed GAES Centros Auditivos, Anna Corbella and Gérard Marin have one round the world race apiece, whilst for fifth placed Renault Captur, it will be Jorg Riechers’ first time in the ‘big south’.

Under Control

Race pacemakers Alex Thomson and Pepe Ribes on Hugo Boss have their nearest rivals under control. They seem to have brought their bow down to take some speed last night and convert some of their leverage to a dividend of miles in front of Neutrogena. And Guillermo Altadill and José Muñoz have also been under increasing pressure from behind as Cheminées Poujoulat advanced to be six miles from their stern. The Swiss-French partnership, Le Stamm & Le Cam Inc, have been consistently quicker and have now separated slightly east, by about 16 miles from Neutrogena.  

The SE’ly trade winds, around 15-18kts today, will become more easterly, initially, as these leaders’ progress is increasingly influenced by the rotation around the Saint Helena high to their SE. In three days they will be into faster downwind conditions which will accelerate them down to the lower latitudes. The centre of the High still has an axis running from 25 deg S to 40 deg S, so down 400 miles south of the latitude of the Cape of Good Hope. It is still a long, and relatively circuitous route to get down there.

We Are Across

We Are Water, Bruno and Willy Garcia, raised a toast today to their passage into the Southern Hemisphere. They crossed the Equator at 0715hrs UTC, 13 days 19hours and 15 minutes after leaving the Barcelona World Race start line off their home city. This afternoon it was Aleix Gelabert and Didac Costa on One Planet One Ocean Pharmaton, passing at 1205hrs, so 14 days and 5 minutes after starting.  We Are Water cross 21hours and 35 mins after fifth placed Renault Captur and 2days 5 hours and 25 minutes after leaders Hugo Boss.

Spirit of Hungary are the only boat still in the Northern Hemisphere. Nandor Fa and Conrad Colman remain staunchly objective about their deficit. They still have 440 miles to the Equator and were seeing their NE’ly trade winds slackening slightly today. Conrad Colman, the youngest sailor in the fleet, gave an insight into the tricky dynamic on board, which they appear to be making work. On the one hand skipper, designer, builder, financer, owner, Fa is resolutely conservative in order to protect his boat and his race, while Colman is having to curb his competitive, primal instinct to set the maximum sail area and try and close the gap to the next boat down the course.

Colman explained by satellite phone today: “We have been pretty conservative in our sail plan so far, we have been sailing all the time with the small reaching sail, in fact for the last few days. And now only when the wind is 20kts or less, then Nandor is keen on putting up the bigger sail. 

We have pretty different ideas about how hard to push. Our comfort level in the sense that I am keen on holding the bigger sails for longer and hand steering, but that is not really Nandor's style. Sometimes we do that for a few hours and then go back to the reacher. But that is how things are. He is the skipper, I am the guest on board. And so we need to sail in the way that keeps him happy and satisfied with the safety of the boat. 

It is fine. It is a pleasure to be at sea. The boat is a great boat and we are making good progress. It is not my boat, it is not my project, and it is not my place to be saying things should be otherwise. I am really enjoying this opportunity to be at sea, and I am really enjoying being with Nandor.”


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