With their long time rivals Neutrogena (Guillermo Alatadill and José Munoz), now heading to make a short pit stop in the south of New Zealand to repair their engine starter motor, Barcelona World Race leaders, Cheminées Poujoulat are left on their own in the Pacific.
In fact Stamm and Le Cam sailed their highest 24 hours run of the race yet to 1230hrs UTC this afternoon at 482.5 NM. But the sudden feeling of fighting on alone has hit long time pace makers Bernard Stamm and Jean Le Cam, neither of whom are strangers to such mechanical failures. Indeed they were quick to empathise with their challengers' enforced pit stop.
Neutrogena announced early this morning that they were diverting to Invercargill in the very south of New Zealand, 540 miles to their NE , after they could no longer get their engine to start. Unable to put power in their batteries using their primary charging source, the prudent decision was taken to head for a pit stop to replace the faulty part.
The Neutrogena team plan to take full advantage of the technical stop, a mandatory minimum of 24 hours, to ensure the IMOCA 60, leaves ready to take on the second half of the 23,455 mile course in 100% A1 shape.
Skipper Guillermo Altadill estimated it would take them 40 hours to reach the haven. Accordingly, 5 West, the English based team which manages the Neutrogena programme for this race, has put together a small technical team which will be on the dockside to meet Altadill and Munoz. A technical specialist was reported to be leaving the UK this Wednesday evening armed with the appropriate spares.
5 West's director Stewart Hosford emphasized: "This is precautionary and we feel the safest course of action for Guillermo and Jose."
On a satellite call this morning Altadill explained: "In the beginning I was thinking of stopping in one of the islands, Campbell Island maybe or Auckland, but they are uninhabited islands with nothing there. So the best place to go is South Island, New Zealand. That is where we are going " We dont have the battery system charging at all and so just now we are using the hydro-generators just to maintain the battery system and to make water and to keep the electronics on. The only problem now is that the conditions are getting worse and worse, with a big sea state, and more wind. So we cannot use the hydros. So we have to economise for the next 40 hours. We have to hand steer and not use the electronics. We have made enough water to get to the south of New Zealand. "
Although they have a hydrogenerator system to charge their batteries in the rough, high speed conditions of the Pacific it is regarded very much as a back up source of power.
Assuming the fix is made within the minimum 24 hours, it is estimated the pit stop will cost Neutrogena an additional 40 hours or between 350 and 400 miles of extra distance sailed compared with the direct route if they had carried on. Their target will be to leave ahead of third placed GAES Centros Auditivos, who were 1100 miles behind when Altadill and Munoz diverted around 0300hrs this morning.
The race leaders Stamm and Le Cam commented: "The current conditions are very tough and it is difficult to imagine continuing with serious problems like those that Guillermo and José are experiencing. The Pacific Ocean is huge. There really is a minimum requirement to be able to sail safely. If you don’t have any power, that is not the case. I know that full well and I can tell you that Auckland Island isn’t really the ideal place to carry out a pit stop. It must have been hard for them to come to this decision, but it is clearly the right one. We’re really sorry for them, but there’s still a long way to go and we know how determined the Neutrogena crew is. We can be certain that they will get back in the race raring to go, once they have solved their problem. We wish them all the best for the coming hours as they make their way to New Zealand."
Stamm, in particular, knows to his cost the problems associated with trying to make repairs at Auckland Island, one of the options Altadill mooted. Faced with a battery charging issue during the last Vendée Globe he stopped there and inadvertantly received mooring assistance which disqualified him from the solo non stop race which has strict rules disallowing outside help.
The Cheminées Poujoulat duo passed the theoretical midpoint of the race at 0021hrs this morning, 11,720 miles from the start and the finish. They crossed the longitude of New Zealand's South Island today making 19kts.
The misfortune of the second placed boat in turn ignites hopes for third placed Anna Corbella and Gerard Marin that they might get much closer to Neutrogena. The Spanish pair were making SE parallel to the exclusion zone at around 16kts. A spectacular double rainbow proved a welcome moment of wonder in the deep south for Corbella and Marín.
Sixth placed round the world rookies Aleix Gelabert an d Didac Costa on One Planet One Ocean were preparing for their biggest winds forecast yet for tonight, with 50-55kts gusts expected, while on Spirit of Hungary, Nandor Fa and Conrad Colman in seventh had a scare Tuesday when they hit a unidentified floating object. A composite repair was required to the rudder tie bar, but the Hungarian flagged IMOCA 60 is back up to speed today.