As the leaders of the Barcelona World Race race to the Crozet Islands, once again their paths have diverged – Neutrogena around 200 miles to the south-west of first-placed Cheminées Poujoulat on the water, and gaining around 40 miles in the past 24 hours.
For Cheminées Poujoulat the approach looks straightforward – this morning’s 12-15 knot westerlies shifting south and carrying Bernard Stamm and Jean Le Cam towards the Crozet Isles, to the south of a high pressure system. They are likely to arrive at the archipelago on the morning of Thursday January 29.
Meanwhile Neutrogena have a more manoeuvre-heavy but potentially faster approach. Sailing much of today in 5-10 knots more pressure than their nearest rivals, they are this afternoon skirting the Antarctic Exclusion Zone of 44°S, and look set to gybe by this evening. The wind is forecast to lighten in this area just to the north of the AEZ – the challenge for Guillermo Altadill and Jose Munoz will be staying with the pressure through a series of gybes to make the point. They too are expected to arrive at Crozet on Thursday, and it will be intriguing to see if they have reduced the time deficit from the 12 hours difference between their passing of Cape Aghulas two days ago. Neutrogena have gained 36 miles on Cheminées Poujoulat in the past 24 hours, reducing the margin to 126 miles on the leaderboard.
GAES Centros Auditivos this morning became the third boat to enter the Indian Ocean, crossing the 20°E longitudinal line at 01h40 UTC, after 26 days, 14 hours and 40 minutes of racing. Anna Corbella and Gerard Marin have also regained around 60 miles on the leaders Cheminées Poujoulat.
Gerard Marin reported that they had experienced a fairly rough crossing between the two oceans. A continental shelf approximately 150 miles south of the southernmost point of Africa, Cape Aghulas can famously create steep waves and confused sea states, exacerbated by the unstable winds in the region.
“We recently passed the Cape of Good Hope and the sea has stopped being so difficult. Now we are facing m ore stable waves from astern and we are almost moving at the same speed as them, using the mainsail with a reef and are much happier. In these past few hours we crossed from one ocean into another where the sea was quite confused. It was chaotic and that affected our course because the waves were very violent.”
Fourth-placed Renault Captur, and We are Water in fifth, both continue to post 15-16 knot average boat speeds, now both in the Roaring Forties. For the Garcia brothers this will be their first sojourn into the 'Deep South'. Willy, a jeweller by profession, has completed many Mini Transat and Figaro races but never an IMOCA ocean event, while elder brother Bruno’s previous Barcelona World Race entry ended prematurely at the Cape Verde Islands in 2011.
One Planet One Ocean is also on the cusp of the South, and made the greatest mileage gains today, covering 371 miles in 24 hours on the 15-year-old IMOCA 60 (previously Kingfisher).
Spirit of Hungary skipper Nandor Fa, aged 61, undertook a three and a half hour rig climb yesterday, after discovering that main halyard had chafed into the rig tube, splitting the top of the mast and jamming the sail tight.
Co-skipper Conrad Colman explains: "We could not even raise or lower the mainsail and the conditions for the next few days, it would have been like not being able to lift off the throttle when you approach a bend.”
The Hungarian owner-driver climbed to the very top of the 29m-high mast, cutting free the halyard for Conrad to repair, while he fixed the halyard lead using an outer block.
Conrad reported: “I saw that the main was slack, so we rehoisted it and pulled the lock line to secure it in place. The sail slipped again which stressed us out as we've had problems with this mechanism before. So, out with the binoculars to see what the problem was (yes, the mast really is that high!) and we saw that the halyard was off to the side and had cut into the mast!
“Our carbon fibre mast is incredibly strong but our high tech rope halyard proved tougher. Under tension it jumped off the pulley at the top of the mast and sawed 30 cm down into the mast until it jammed completely.
“I hoisted Nandor up the mast and he cut out the halyard after several attempts to dislodge it (I think I learned some new Hungarian words today!) and sent the shredded end down to me to repair. We now have an external main halyard with a pulley lashed in place at the mast head in the place of the damaged original.”
Gerard Marín, GAES Centros Auditivos:
“We recently passed the Cape of Good Hope and the sea has stopped being so difficult. Now we are facing more stable waves from astern and we are almost moving at the same speed as them, using the mainsail with a reef and are much happier. In these past few hours we crossed from one ocean into another where the sea was quite confused. It was chaotic and that affected our course because the waves were very violent.”
“Maybe we haven't noticed the difference of sailing with an exclusion zone instead of the ice gates because we are not sailing quite in the lowest zones. It being an Exclusion Zone and us not being allowed to go closer to that zone is a bit of a limitation, but we’ll see how we can deal with that pressure later on.
“[The forecast ahead] doesn’t look quite so good for us because in three or four days it looks like a kind of anticyclone will reach us — and when we pass that one, there is another one. Nowadays we have a lot of work to do, even more with Renault Capture behind us and being so threatening.”
Nandor Fa, Spirit of Hungary
“Today unfortunately we had a problem at the top of the mast. We took off the mainsail to make some repairs, and then when we hoisted again we couldn’t pull it up all the way to the top.”
“We heard a big crack, and another one, and we checked we could see the outer block on the mast, at the head of the mainsail was broken, and the halyard was cutting the mast tube about 30cms. So I had to go up and cut off the halyard, and we had to rethread it with an outer block. And now we have the outer halyard, so the sail is up again and we are sailing but it’s not perfect. The full mainsail is 30cm lower than it was before, we cannot hoist to the top. But we fixed it and we kept going.”
“Today we are in running conditions, about 12-15 knots of wind from NNW, we are running down under A2 gennaker and full mainsail. For a small period of about three hours during the repairs we dropped down the gennaker, and after the repairs we hoisted again, and we are at full speed again.”
“It’s really light conditions at the moment but tomorrow we will be in more wind, bigger waves, and in the next days we are running into stronger conditions, maybe 10 knots higher speed.”
Conrad Colman, Spirit of Hungary (blog):
“The consequence of this repair is that we can't really use the full surface of the mainsail anymore so in lighter winds we will be compromised for the rest of the race. This is incredibly frustrating because we have been getting better and better these past few weeks at sea and were really looking forward to sailing to our full potential from here on out.”
“However, we can be proud of ourselves in that we worked well together to find a rapid fix and there's no need to head to shore f or a solution or even consider abandoning the race.”
“We are still here and fighting... Follow along for the next chapter. I'm looking forward to the good bits. I just hope they come in the next few pages!