The finish line is within touching distance for One Planet One Ocean & Pharmaton, and Aleix Gelabert and Didac Costa have spent their final night at sea. They are forecast to arrive in Barcelona in fourth place this evening (April 8th), and have around 80 miles left to sail to Barcelona. Behind them in fifth place, We Are Water is now around 90 miles behind.
Both teams encountered 35-38 knot north-easterly headwinds and a rough swell yesterday morning, which saw them both short tacking close to the southern Spanish shore – We Are Water at one point less than a mile off the coast of Adra, ducking into the shelter of the Gulf of Almería to change to a storm sail. The manoeuvre also required them to untangle some halyards, and the combined time spent just off the beach of San Rafael saw We Are Water drop around 30 miles back from One Planet One Ocean & Pharmaton – potentially erasing any remaining chance of taking fourth.
Over the course of the day the two teams headed east to clear the headland of Carthagena. We Are Water were yesterday continuing on this easterly track in 32 knots of north-easterly pressure, while 80 miles to the north One Planet One Ocean & Pharmaton were on a northerly heading approaching Alicante in around 20-25 knots.
However, despite their widening margin, Aleix Gelabert and Didac Costa were conscious that a fickle coastal breeze in the final miles could yet erode their advantage. “We know we have a little advantage over We Are Water, we have 50 miles of advantage. And we still need to sail as fast as possible because you never know – when you arrive towards Barcelona then you normally arrive at night and then you have a calm, and the wind usually starts again from the land so they will maybe have a chance to catch us, so we need to be careful there," explained Aleix by videoconference yesterday morning.
The forecast was for the winds to build further over the course of last night, throwing one final battering test at the skippers, before potentially fading to zephyr-light conditions this evening for last miles to Barcelona.
Gelabert added that the boat was holding up well to this final punishment after some 27,000 miles of sailing, and that whilst he and Didac were tired, the excitement of arriving home was spurring them on.
“The boat is really in good shape. We have a little leak with closures, but only small things, and things that we can fix and we can solve without difficulties. So we are really happy with the boat, and I think it could do another Barcelona World Race easily this boat!
“Sailing in these conditions it is a little bit tiring for us, but now we are really excited to arrive and our mind is on the arrival, and that is stronger than the feeling of being tired. There’s only 30 hours more of sailing so we will be in Barcelona soon.”
Smelly fish and sticky weed
Renault Captur in sixth are on one of the longest tacks of the Barcelona World Race, with a northerly breeze now lifting Jörg Riechers and Sébastien Audigane up towards Madeira. There is potentially more than 1,100 miles sailing on this course to reach the mouth of the Mediterranean – over the course of yesterday they were over 11 knots of boat speed in 20 knot winds.
Spirit of Hungary is also in good north-easterly trades, with what appears to be a straightforward track to Gibraltar. As the seventh and final boat on the course their ETA to Barcelona is in around two week’s time, from April 21.
However, Conrad Colman and Nandor Fa remain plagued by flying fish, and Sargasso weed. Fa reporting yesterday: “The seaweed-matter is unchanged. We are already at the 12th latitude, and we’ve been having seaweed since 2° South. That's 850 m iles, roughly 1500km, how much seaweed is this? I wouldn’t want to be a fisherman here.
“Our curt little summer is over, we need to wear clothes during the day too, and in the night we have to seriously dress up. Though the water is still 21°C, the air is only warm while the sun is up. My hope, that the seaweed would disappear with the drop in water temperature, is dead. The weed's shape and appearance has changed, they are much bigger and float randomly solo, not forming islands, probably because of the wind and waves. But they are still good at sticking on the boat! A little less, but we still have to stop the boat from time to time to get rid of them.”