With race leader Cheminées Poujoulat now at less than 2000 miles to the finish line in Barcelona and Spirit of Hungary now safely passing Cape Horn early this morning, the Barcelona World Race fleet is all safely in the Atlantic.
Release came for Nandor Fa and Conrad Colman at 0613hrs UTC this morning when they passed the mythical light. After having a nasty low pressure nipping at their transom for the last week, the Hungarian-Kiwi duo have had light to moderate winds since passing Cape Horn, a chance to enjoy some respite after a very intense week of stress and continuous effort.
For Bernard Stamm and Jean Le Cam, leading brings no less stress than their rivals endure. Cheminées Poujoulat was obliged to work east last night and this morning in a fitful shifty breeze and during yesterday evening and night made five tacks - probably as many as they have they have done since leaving Gibraltar. Nearly eight hundred miles SE by E of the Canary islands, the top duo are now expected to pass Gibraltar on 22nd March. The countdown to their finish has begun, really. This is their last Monday in the Atlantic. But with a lead now at 906 miles (corrected today) they will stil l be pressing on, not least because Neutrogena has gained 600 miles in a week.
Indeed looking at the 585 miles between Gibraltar to Barcelona, in fact the average windspeed over the whole Mediterranean route today is certainly less than 10kts!
It has not been much better for the leaders in the Atlantic who made just 147 miles in 24 hours, second placed Neutrogena 161 miles.
Neutrogena and GAES Centros Auditivos are giving their everything in their own race with each other, battling for the podium places. Anna Corbella and Gerard Marín are blessed today with a more favourable trade winds, more easterly than that of their rivals Guillermo Altadill and José Munoz. As a result GAES Centros Auditivos are able to sail a more direct angle, for the meantime, and so have caught to be about 150 miles behind the second placed duo.
Corbella and Marín had reason to celebrate last night. The Catalan duo crossed the Equator and returned to the north at 19:58 UTC (20:58 in Barcelona). They crossed north 21 hours and 40 minutes after the Neutrogena and 5 days, 23 hours and 08 minutes after the leader, Cheminées Poujoulat.
Rio head to head
The real regatta within the ocean race is between We Are Water and One Planet, One Ocean & Pharmaton. The friends and rivals are racing within one and a half miles of each other. In light SE'ly trade winds they are 950 miles SE of the Olympic city of Rio, in a situation more akin to an afternoon speed testing between the two Barcelona IMOCA 60s. Gelabert might be channeling his past as an Olympic 49er campaigner. But equally the two friendly crews have been conversing on VHF, encouraging and joking with one another.
The situation for Renault Captur is too much in the opposite extreme. Jorg Riechers and Sébastien Audigane find the wind patterns in the South Atlantic disturbed by a low pressure which has them sailing upwind,feeling quite disconnected from their nearest rivals:
Riechers reported this morning: "We are in a difficult spot. We are passing a low pressure system and so it is really unstable. We have between 10 and 25 kts and a lot of gusts, and so at the moment we have a gust of 25kts. And it is really, really unsettled. It is a real contrast to the conditions that We Are Water and One Planet, One Ocean & Pharmaton are in. We are lonely, disconnected from fourth and fifth place. We are still a long way in front of Nandor. So it is difficult to have any focus at the moment. Fourth and fifth places are probably gone."
The passage of Cape Horn proved to be fulfilling and exciting for Nandor Fa and Conrad Colman. Although it was 0313hrs local time as they passed, the duo got close to the land and the light, as Colman noted shortly after: " The wind ignored the forecast and dropped until we were gliding along in just over 10 knots of wind. The drama was reserved for the heavens however, as sunset brought a yellow and pinkish hue that was diffused by the indigo blue and purple storm clouds that threatened us from behind. In the light winds we could play the tourist, sneaking passed the rock just three miles off, giving us time enough to pay tribute to Neptune and all those sailors whose wakes we crossed. I was inspired to take up a life at sea by Sir Peter Blake- Kiwi adventurer, environmentalist and ruthless competitor in the Whitbread (now Volvo Ocean Race). Hearing his voice on a crackly radio telling tall tales of derring do while trading blows with his competitors in between the icebergs of the Southern Ocean ignited my imagination as a young boy and continues to drive me today. His era is over, race directors protect us from our dangerous competitive spirits, but his capacity to do whatev er it took to get the job done has certainly characterised Nandor’s and my race so far."