Crowds turned out of Las Ramblas and into Placa Portal de la Pau this evening to welcome Pepe Ribes and Ryan Breymaier, Hugo Boss, home as winners of the inaugural IMOCA Ocean Masters New York to Barcelona Race.
The Spanish-American duo won the race in a time of 14 days 2 hours 44 minutes and 30 seconds. However looking at how tired they were and the relentless events that unfolded for them over the last fortnight, one might have got the impression they had been at sea racing non-stop for a month or more.
“It has been hard work, because we have been fixing a lot of things, rather than just racing,” admitted Ribes. “The less time you have to race, the more stressful it is.”
Breymaier agreed: “When you push a machine, the machine doesn’t always like it. We didn’t have any major problems, there wasn’t a lot that stopped us - some computer system problems and we destroyed the scoop for the water ballast system, which affected our speed.”
And the drama occurred from start until the finish. One of the most heart stopping moments came on Hugo Boss’ final day at sea, as she was approaching Barcelona, when they got struck down, literally, by a monster gust of wind.
As Ribes described it: “Today was the first time that I have seen the mast under water on an IMOCA 60! There came a puff which we thought was just rain. But it wasn’t, it was 50 knots and the boat was full ballast and full keel canted and it just crash tacked. The mast was underwater for three minutes. At that moment we were charging the batteries. The engine started to burn… We might have been dead still with no engine and no battery, nothing, so we were very lucky.”
And that was just one of their bad days.
Equally hard were the severe conditions they experienced blasting their way through the Strait of Gibraltar. “The Strait is always difficult, because you have to make a huge effort for 10 miles and you know that on the other side there’s only 10 knots,” Ribes continued. “This boat in 45 knots is difficult to tack, it is difficult to manage and you come from 13 days when you’ve already had the pressure on and you are very tired. Then you have another day when you cannot sleep for a whole day.”
Hugo Boss picked up the winner’s baton after Safran was forced to retire when her skipper Marc Guillemot was injured on the approach to the Strait.
“They sailed brilliantly across the Atlantic,” Ribes admitted of his wily French opponent. “I don’t know what weather information they were getting, but they went into places that for me would have been impossible to go into. It is a shame Marc hurt himself because they were doing so well. But we were ready for the fight as well.”
Breymaier agreed pointing out that Guillemot has spent the last eight years sailing Safran while he and Ribes had only spent two weeks sailing on board and never before on their own prior to the start of the race in New York. And this was after all the work they had put into getting their boat to the start line after her dismasted en route to the USA. Given all this, Breymaier said, they would have been very pleased with their result even if they had finished second.
Additionally for the last 10 days Hugo Boss has had Guillermo Altadill and José Muñoz aboard Team Neutrogena breathing down their neck. However Ribes said that they had ignored them. “I didn’t look behind to see what he was doing. I said to Ryan ‘we can win it, but if Guillermo goes to the right we cannot go to the right, we need to stick to our plan as we did until here. So we weren’t covering him.”
For Breymaier the IMOCA Ocean Masters New York to Barcelona Race has been another stepping stone towards his own American IMOCA campaign with the goal of competing in the Ocean Masters World Championship and the 2016 Vendee Globe.
“The Ocean Masters is great. This has been a very well run event. This event is definitely a step in the right direction. The more times that the IMOCA class goes to places like New York City, the more interest there’ll be, the bigger it will get and it will attract better sponsors who will come to all the events and will make a real circuit out of it.”
As Breymaier was enjoying being reunited with his wife Nicola and their family, while the same was true of Ribes. “What do I want to do tomorrow? I want to take my son Pepe Junior to school in the morning.” To which he received another round of applause.