After a tricky weekend, the IMOCA Ocean Masters New York to Barcelona Race boats are now enjoying some more pleasant downwind conditions. Saturday’s fickle winds and the banging and crashing of the first few days were behind them, as at 11:30 UTC the boats were typically making 15-18 knots, as they sped east to the north of the Azores.
With some 30 years of racing in these waters behind him, Marc Guillemot was showing his experience on board Safran, now firmly leading. The French skipper admitted that in his winning move on Saturday, he had simply ignored the weather forecast when it had failed to line-up with reality and had continued to push south.
In contrast turning north early en route to the Azores proved very costly for Spanish crew Anna Corbella and Gerard Marin on board GAES, who had dropped back to 142 miles behind the race leader at 10:30 UTC today.
“We thought the fleet would go north,” admitted Corbella this morning, as GAES was back up to speed, sailing in 20-25 knot following winds, in small waves and under a very cloudy sky. “We knew the risks, but we must have missed something. Both weather models advised us to go north and we thought the others would have less wind in the south. It’s just bad luck. Unfortunately now we don’t have many options left to us, but we’re trying to recovering some miles.”
For the three boats that stayed south, the last 24 hours has been about finding the right moment to edge north into the stronger winds being generated by a depression currently centred southwest of Ireland.
With a comfortable lead, Safran headed furthest north yesterday evening before gybing east. This has has also set them up ready to be on a faster point of sail when the wind backs into the south – as it is forecast to do. Marc Guillemot commented: “We’re quite happy this morning, even if is a bit tough on the boat, because we are going fast. We have 25 knots of wind and a grey sky.”
Conversely overnight Hugo Boss and Team Neutrogena chose to sail closer to the Azores islands. At present this fight between the two 5° WEST stable mates is the closest in the race with Hugo Boss having prised second place back from Team Neutrogena yesterday afternoon after they were allowed to gain some northerly separation from their rivals.
“We are pleased for sure,” said Hugo Boss’ American co-skipper Ryan Breymaier this morning. “We have been working super, super hard all night.”
For the IMOCA Ocean Masters New York to Barcelona Race, the race tracker updates every 15 minutes, relentlessly, through the day and night, every day. According to Breymaier this has demanded punishing vigilance. “Unfortunately we have to look at it ALL of the time. It makes for a very unrestful kind of race.” As an example, with 15 miles separating the two boats this morning, a small match race was taking place between the two stable mates, with Hugo Boss’ crew ruthlessly ‘covering’ their opponent’s every move, only possibly by following it on the tracker.
So is it all over for the boats chasing Safran? Far from it, says Breymaier.“They are not likely to park, because they are smart, but if they do - even for a little while - and we’re 80 miles behind, after three or four hours we can work our way back into them.”
As to the race leader, Marc Guillemot says that they will continue to sail downwind as they approach Europe and that there will be a transition zone they have to cross off the Portugese coast. Their routing currently shows them arriving at Gibraltar on the morning of 12th June.
“We are not looking yet at what is going on in the Mediterranean. Our aim is to hold on to our position until Gibraltar. The Med can be full of traps, but can also bring good surprises, so we will see. It is a bit too early now to think about that.”
Anna Corbella hopes that the ridge they have to cross off Portugal on Wednesday-Thursday will provide an opportunity to play catch up. “After that our last hope is Gibraltar and the Mediterranean. We do not have many options otherwise, because we do not have the speed of Safran and Hugo Boss.”