Cheminées Poujoulat & Neutrogena: Strategic plan
Neutrogena: Landmark moments
GAES Centros Auditivos: Easterly flight
The two lead boats in the Barcelona World Race are preparing for a 3,500-mile game of chase across the Southern Ocean, until the next natural gateway of the course, Cape Leeuwin in south-west Australia. Neutrogena has become the second boat in the Barcelona World Race fleet to enter the Indian Ocean, crossing the 20°E meridian line at 21.35 yesterday evening.
Guillermo Altadill and Jose Munoz’s gamble of diving to the south in the final stages of the Atlantic saw them cross the southernmost tip of Africa around 12 hours behind first-placed Cheminées Poujoulat, but crucially they go into this evening within the same weather system as Bernard Stamm and Jean Le Cam.
Since entering the Indian Ocean, Cheminées Poujoulat and Neutrogena have each taken a turn in the more advantageous conditions – Neutrogena taking 30 miles out of the leaders’ margin overnight in stronger 30-35 WNW’ly winds before dropping 40 miles back by this afternoon’s position report.
The front-runners should see another 24 hours of reaching, with Neutrogena potentially recovering some ground in more westerly winds. The pair will pass Prince Edward Islands (the next course waypoint) tomorrow morning. However, conditions become less certain after the Crozet Islands with a high pressure system to the north-east of the archipelago.
Both highly experienced teams say they will be sailing conservatively over the next stage, but with just 150 miles between the boats the level of competition looks unlikely to wane. Bernard Stamm commented today: “We are always conservative in how we sail. Since the beginning we have been conservative.”
"There are times when it is necessary to attack, to not fall out of a weather system. With this course, that is the case. The wind is largely consistent, but if the anticyclone [ahead of us] decides to move further south, it would close the door on us. We’d prefer to advance at that time.”
Guillermo Altadill also explained: “Well, the more important thing is to be in the same systems as [Cheminées Poujoulat]. So we are now in the same system and the same conditions. I don’t want to push the boat just to cut miles to him and have a risk of breaking things, so we will hang there and we will find out later if we have the opportunity to push the boat and get closer, but it’s not my obsession now. My obsession now is to get the boat fast with no problems. Later on we will worry about Cheminées.”
For Guillermo Altadill the rounding of the Cape of Good Hope in this race held a special significance. For the Barcelona-based skipper, one of Spain’s most experienced offshore racers, the Barcelona World Race is particularly important. However, in his previous entry, in 2007, he was forced to retire when Estrella Damm (the very same IMOCA 60 which is now Neutrogena) suffered rudder damage – pulling into port in Cape Town before rounding Cape Agulhas.
“In the last Barcelona World Race we had to pull out there with rudder problems, so that’s why I tried to sail as far as possible from Cape of Good Hope, trying not to remember the worst moments of the last Barcelona World Race when we had to pull out! So it reminded me a little bit, and it was actually in the same boat with seven years of separation, and the boat is really well prepared now, compared with seven years ago.”
Even Stamm and Le Cam, who between them have at least nine round the world attempts, considered it a major landmark, despite being around 400 miles offshore.
Third-placed GAES Centros Auditivos is expected to reach the Cape of Good Hope late this evening, with fourth-placed Renault Captur likely to cross into the Indian Ocean on Wednesday morning. Renault Captur entered the ‘Roaring Forties’ this morning, and have been steadily gaining miles with 16-knot plus average speeds. This is Jörg Riechers’s first tour of the Deep South, his co-skipper Sebastien Audigane reporting today: “Jörg seems happy to be in the Forties and has set the highest distance record during the course of this night during his watch.”
In fifth and sixth places respectively, We Are Water and One Planet One Ocean Pharmaton have also now hooked into westerly winds which will speed them towards the south-east.
Spirit of Hungary have too nudged back up to 10-knot averages as they make their way out of the high pressure zone which ensnared them yesterday, Nandor Fa blogging the previous day: “The weather was beautiful and we’d been progressing just as a racing boat is supposed to, with the speed between 14-19 knots until dawn.”
Guillermo Altadill, Neutrogena
“We were sailing quite low, close to the ice gates, and we were getting some quite good conditions and stronger wind. Then we found there was a big low coming, which is the low we are in now, and we tried to come up to be in a better position with the low – we don’t want to go too south because then we were restricted on the angles because we cannot gybe. And as well conditions going quite south were worse, more wind and more waves, so we came up.”
“When we came up we felt we were back in a light area, and then we had to gybe back on starboard to go more south, and then the wind came back and forth and we got hooked again in a light winds spot, so that’s why – the explanation of these two gybes we did a few days ago.”
“It was not really good, I was not really comfortable sailing down there with this low pressure coming from behind, so we did a little bit of zig-zag… and to be honest I never found the groove of the boat, sailing fast and at a good angle, that’s why these days we were sailing a bit random.”
“I like to go fast, but I want to have control of the boat at all times so we try to sail as quick as possible, but always controlling the boat. Sometimes with these conditions the boat starts surfing and nose-diving a bit in the big waves, and you start to feel as if you don’t have control of the boat, I don’t like that. So we try to go in a conservative mode and put the boat in these conditions where we have a steady speed, not too much acceleration, otherwise then you are looking for trouble, or some damage to the gear.”
“In the last Barcelona World Race we had to pull out [at the Cape] with rudder problems, so that’s why I tried to sail as far as possible from Cape of Good Hope, trying not to remember the worst moments of the last Barcelona World Race when we had to pull out! So it reminded me a little bit, and it was actually in the same boat with seven years of separation, and the boat is really well prepared now, compared with seven years ago.”
“The more important thing is to be in the same systems as [Cheminées]. So we are now in the same system and the same conditions. I don’t want to push the boat just to cut miles to him and get a risk of breaking things, so we will hang there and we will find out later if we have the opportunity to push the boat and get closer, but it’s not my obsession now. My obsession now is to get the boat fast with no problems. Later on we will worry about Cheminées.”
Bernard Stamm, Cheminées Poujoulat
“The conditions we have – we are going against the centre of a high pressure, and we are on the front of a low pressure which gives not too much wind, but enough wind to go fast. And afterwards we will have to gybe to pass to the south of the east part of the high pressure and maintain enough wind. For us it’s good conditions.”
“We are always conservative. Since the beginning we have been conservative.
“[The Cape] was a little bit far for us, because we don’t see the shore and we don’t see the land, but it’s still a big moment and now we are starting to cross the Indian Ocean it’s a really – how can I say… a high pressure moment.”