While one low pressure leaves the track, another makes its presence felt. After an intense two days in the face of a south-moving depression formed from two tropical cyclones, the leading boats in the Barcelona World Race were today regrouping and resetting themselves back into race mode.
For Bernard Stamm and Jean Le Cam on Cheminées Poujoulat, the conservative tactic of significantly reducing sail and speed – the duo sailed with three reefs in the main and no headsail for around 24 hours – saw them avoid the worst of the storm, sailing in around 45 knot winds with confused seas of 6-8 metre waves. Jean Le Cam commented, “It was the right decision. When we saw the GRIB files showing winds of 61 knots, we said we’re not going there.”
For both Stamm and Le Cam – who have at least nine round the world races between them – it was the first time they had had to employ such conservative tactics, Stamm saying today: “We’ve had very bad conditions in the past, but it’s the first time that the timing was so bad that we had to break our speed.”
The pair was, however, back up to full racing pace today, sailing at over 17 knots this morning and the fastest boat over the past 24 hours once again. Stamm explained that the sea state was improving, with cross-seas shifting to a more stable wave pattern from astern, and although they were expecting 35-40 knots, conditions were becoming more consistent and they hoped to carry the south-westerlies for the next couple of days. Cheminées Poujoulat is forecast to arrive at Cape Leeuwin on Friday morning, with Neutrogena around 12 hours behind.
In the face of the storm
For Neutrogena in second-place, the tropical storm was a threat but also an opportunity. Guillermo Altadill explaining today: “We knew that Cheminées were 180 miles in front us and would get the worse conditions. And we were just behind waiting, and pushing a little bit harder to close the gap.”
Neutrogena did close the distance by around 70 miles while Cheminées hit the brakes, although Stamm and Le Cam had managed to recover around 20 miles of that advantage today.
This final Indian Ocean leg – now a straightforward 48-hour sprint to Australia – is unlikely to have any more passing opportunities, so Altadill and Munoz will be focussing on staying in touch with the leaders.
“We tried to catch some miles in the last 24 hours when he had to slow down because of the low, and we did it, we caught some miles,” said Altadill. “I think he [Cheminées] is going to come back in race mode so I don’t think we can catch up more miles at the moment, because we get the same conditions for the next two or three days, and our speeds are very similar, so I don’t think we can get more miles at the moment, I think we have to wait for a moment later on.”
Elsewhere in the fleet, conditions were rarely so straightforward. Anna Corbella on GAES Centros Auditivos in third was rejoicing in the “crunches, bangs, wheels creaking... we are happy because that means we are going fast”. However, in 25-35 knots of westerli es, both GAES Centros Auditivos and fourth placed Renault Captur, around 300 miles behind, are in the midst of an intensive period of gybing along the Antarctic Exclusion Zone.
We Are Water in fifth place has moderate reaching conditions. However, One Planet One Ocean Pharmaton and Spirit of Hungary are now feeling the effects of a southerly low which has generated headwinds and confused seas. Sailing in 25-30 knot south-easterlies with up to 4m swells, the duo look set to endure around 48 hours of wet and uncomfortable conditions.
Didac Costa on One Planet One Ocean reported today: “The boat smashes against every wave coming towards us and water sweeps the deck. It is not very comfortable, although we don’t need to do a lot of trimming. Now we can’t surf the waves as before, instead the waves are surging towards us, then passing over us.
“We have these conditions because of a low, which is moving f rom Africa to the South, and there’s a new anticyclone that we will have to go around from the north side. The limit of the exclusion area doesn’t allow us to go where the favourable winds are. But it’s better to stay here than to be dodging icebergs.”
See all information on the race leaderboards and tracker on www.barcelonaworldrace.org.