Bernard Stamm and Jean Le Cam passed under 5,000 miles to the Barcelona World Race finish line and today also crossed over their own outbound track. The leading duo are starting to feel like the worst of the course is very much behind them. Both skippers have, individually, suffered more than their fair share of ill luck over their careers. Now, if it is not good luck that is running with them it is certainly at least good timing.
Having been pressed east around the big high pressure system in the South Atlantic they have continued to have downwind and broad reaching conditions, making 16,3kts today. But as daytime temperatures rise to become much more acceptable Stamm and Le Cam seem set to gain steadily on their nearest rivals, Neutrogena and GAES Centros Auditivos.
Were it not that it proved to be stuck then there might have been some ceremony yesterday when the leaders tried to slide forwards the protective canopy which protects much of their cockpit space from the sluicing southern ocean waters and driving winds. After a little persuasion they can now enjoy the full 'al fresco' experience, rather than huddling under its shelter. And as the canopy rolls back, so too it seems like the weather door may close on their rivals. It is probable that as a new high pressure builds off the South American coast that Neutrogena and GAES Centros Auditivos will lose more time against the Swiss-French duo.
Neutrogena’s Guillermo Altadill and José Munoz have actually been making distance on the leaders, reducing their deficit by a further 30 miles in the last 24 hours. They may now be 970 miles behind the leading duo, but their route north now appears blocked by a zone of high pressure and winds of just 5-8kts. In contrast Cheminées Poujoulat will be into slightly stronger, more settled E'lies allowing them a due north course to the Equator.
Predictably, the race statistics so far show in favour of Cheminées Poujoulat. Until today they have sailed 21,080 Nms on the water, averaging 14.6kts. They hold the highest 24hrs run at 482.8 Nms on 11th Feburary, the highest 4 hours speed gun average at 21.1kts on that same date. They have lead continuiously since 16th January. Their lead was biggest at 1249 Nms on 26th Feburary. And they are on course for the biggest win in the history of the race.
Stamm said today: " It feels good to change things a bit. We pushed back the protective cover for the first time yesterday. It was a bit stuck and we had a bit of a job pushing it back, but it’s nice now to be able to manoeuvre standing up rather than crouched down under it. When we trim the headsails, we can see them now. That changes things. The speeds are different and the situation has changed." " What’s happening is that with the lead we have, we can’t control anything. We’re sailing our own route with the weather we get. The high we have just passed was something we had been keeping an eye on since before Cape Horn. We were afraid that it would stop us getting through and that by having to move off to the east, the door would be wide open behind us. But that isn’t the case, and it seems to have favoured us." " The high was moving. The fear was that it would remain there, but it’s moving again. It’s possible that the door will slam shut again."
For the 'three Pacific musketeers' approaching Cape Horn - We Are Water, One Planet, One Ocean & Pharmatonand Renault Captur, conditions remain favourable. But Jörg Riechers and Seb Audigane in sixth are in front of a big low, getting 30-35kts of NW'ly winds right now, and there is a big low forming off the coast of Chile which will leave behind very big seas as they arrive at Cape Horn at the weekend. We Are Water have just over 1000 miles to make to the Horn.
Renault Captur are having to moderate their speeds so they do not pressurize their starboard rudder too much, but they have still been making steady miles under double reefed main and J3 headsail. Riechers reported today: " For the moment it is OK. We have the J3 and two reefs and that is easy enough. It is OK. We had the J2 and the J1 yesterday and we had some scary moments. So we decided to take it a little easier because where we are here you really do not want to have any problems." " For the moment the problem with the rudder, which was delaminated and damaged south of New Zealand, is that when it was repaired it was done so without a mould and so with the shape it has it might be a few millimetres out of the range of the original rudder and that creates a lot of pressure on the blade. We think that is the source of the problem."
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