Cheminées Poujoulat's lead at the head of the Barcelona World Race is being eroded the rate of over 100 miles a day by the ever tenacious duo of Guillermo Altadill and José Munoz on Neutrogena. Spirit of Hungary are less than 1000 miles to Cape Horn.
But with a lead of 1165 miles and 2589 miles to sail to the finish in Barcelona, right now Bernard Stamm and Jean Le Cam are not going to be biting their nails unduly. The advance of Neutrogena is only one stress among others.
The leading duo have constantly spoken out against complacency, letting their guard down. They know that misfortune has visited skippers in the closing stages of many of the recent IMOCA 60 Round the World Races. They know that after more than 21,500 miles of hard racing the boats are at least as tired as their skippers. And the concept of....... 'well, we have made it this far, so chances are we should make to the finish' holds no substance.' Indeed the regular, almost metronomic slamming upwind in the NE'ly trades at best works your dental fillings loose, and worst exposes the small weaknesses to become big problems. As ever, setting the red line, how hard to press, is probably more relevant now for the t op three boats as it is at any time in the race.
The last cut is the deepest?
Jean-Pierre Dick lost the four tonne bulb off his keel of Virbac-Paprec 3 with just over 2000 miles to go during the last Vendée Globe and lost third to Alex Thomson. Spain's Javier Sanso lost his keel 360 miles south of the Azores whilst on course to complete that same race and had to retire. In the previous edition in Feburary 2009 Marc Guillemot dropped his entire keel at 960 miles to the finish in Les Sables d'Olonne. Days earlier Roland Jourdain lost second place in that edition, chasing victor Michel Desjoyeaux, when his keel fell off Véolia 600 miles from the Azores. Estrella Damm, during the last Barcelona World Race had their strongest winds, and boat breaking conditions when Pepe Ribes and Alex Pella were returning back through the Straits of Gibraltar.
It is never, ever over until the finish line is crossed.
Guillermo Altadill, the well travelled Spanish skipper on Neutrogena is clearly continuing to press the Farr IMOCA 60 as hard he and Munoz dare. They have opened distance on third placed GAES Centros Auditivos again today to be 233 miles ahead of Anna Corbella and Gerard Marín this afternoon. Since yesterday Neutrogena have added more than 40 miles to their advance ahead of their pursuers, as well as clawing back 278 miles on the leaders. But, in comparison to Stamm and Le Cam, Altadill and Munoz are reaching, making easier miles in E'ly trades, whilst the leaders are slamming, almost upwind in moderate NE'ly trades. Cheminées Poujoulat will pass the Cape Verdes tomorrow and likely have another two or three tacks to make before Gibraltar which they should reach on 21st March. Stamm and Le Cam have been especially quick in the South Atlantic, sailing between Cape Horn and the Eq uator in just 12 days, 19 hours and 57 minutes.
And within that race for the top five places two duels endure. Neutrogena v GAES Centros Auditivos has ebbed and flowed since Altadill and Munoz restarted from New Zealand on 13th February. Corbella and Marín got as close as five miles astern in the Pacific, but in the Atlantic, Neutrogena have stepped away steadily. But they have a Doldrums 'lite' experience ahead, a relatively straightforwards transition expected.
If the duel for second and third is maybe opening out, the battle for fourth and fifth remains close. This morning there was just seven miles - terms of distance to finish - between We Are Water in fourth and One Planet, One Ocean & Pharmaton in fifth. Aleix Gelabert and Didac Costa continue to defy predictions with the former Kingfisher and this evening there is 23 miles between them and the Garcia brothers on We Are Water which has been faster this afternoon.