Saturday, 15 January 2011

BWR: Rising Stars

Estrella Damm. Image copyright Barcelona World Race.

by Barcelona World Race media

As their French rivals prepare to pause, stage right, making technical pit-stops in Récife, Brazil this weekend, Alex Pella and Pepe Ribes took over today as the new leaders of the Barcelona World Race on the Barcelona based and backed Estrella Damm.

Their ascent to the top of the leaderboard, at around 1445hrs UTC today after 14 days of the 25,000 miles two handed race around the world, marked an important milestone for Spanish ocean racing when the duo became the first Spanish pair to lead in a Barcelona World Race or indeed a major IMOCA round the world race.

“This is not the way would have liked to get to this position, but having got here today we are going to do our best to defend it,” commented Pella.

As French duo Foncia and Virbac-Paprec 3 sail their final 100 miles in to Recife, it looks increasingly likely that the by tomorrow it will be Spanish IMOCA Open 60’s in the top two places, as MAPFRE are also promoted from fourth to second. Ironically both of these Spanish IMOCA Open 60’s are respectively the former Paprec-Virbac and the ex- Foncia.

For Ribes and Pella, who have effectively aggregated more than the 25,000 miles course distance over the 18 months that they have been preparing for this race on the well proven Farr design which won the first edition of the Barcelona World Race, the lead comes as an early reward, but the duo now need to deal with the important decisions of how to route down and increasingly complex South Atlantic.

Such are the choices available to them, investing in the west, going down the Brazilian coast or alternatively maybe trying to protect the most direct route to the east, that either route will be mentally vexing to try and protect while at the head of the fleet.

Whatever their choice now they will need cool heads and strong commitment, not least in protecting against their Spanish rivals, Olympic medallists Iker Martinez and Xabi Fernandez, who have earned a more westerly position.

But to date both of the top Spanish crews have sailed astute, composed races dealing well with the changes in pace across the range of conditions down the Mediterranean and the Atlantic.

Pella confirmed that they were making good, easy miles in the SE’ly trade winds which will be much the same for MAPFRE to their west, both making steady gains against the French pair of IMOCA Open 60’s as they prepare for their pit stop. But for both the Foncia and Virbac-Paprec 3 teams, they will know that as soon as they stop the meter really starts to run against them, with the new leaders realistically expecting to gain 15 miles or so each hour that their rivals are stopped.

The problem the newfound leaders will face is making a decision which is based on a target which will only really reveal itself in about one week. The option of the Brazilian coast, down to the latitude of Sao Paolo, allows them the best chance to cover any return from the French duo, or to take a more traditional routing closer to Ascension Island, but as the Saint Helena high pressure is still developing, this choice might well result in sailing upwind while rivals to the west are hooked into fast moving low pressure system which would slingshot them at speed straight down to the Roaring Forties.

Choosing the westerly option requires near perfect timing because arriving late for the low pressure ride means being left behind in light winds.

There remains a possible comeback in miles for the boats which will arrive later, Hugo Boss, Central Lechera Asturiana, FMC and We Are Water. As the high pressure evolves then an option for these later order racers to cut the corner off completely, gaining up to 500 miles, may open up.

Note from SailRaceWin: Hugo Boss had the best speed, the best average speed, and the best VMG today. Good to see! They are now up in tenth place overall.

Alex Pella (ESP), Estrella Damm:
“We are well positioned a bit more to windward of MAPFRE and the boats ahead are going to stop, so in terms of the standings that is good for us, but we still have to negotiate the start of the South Atlantic and that looks very tricky. I was not expecting to be in such as a good position at this stage. It will be more difficult to race when you in front than when you are behind.
This is not the way would have liked to get to this position, but having got there today we are going to do our best to defend it.
“Now we are in 17 knots of SE’ly trade winds and we have 12 knots of boat speed. We have a course of 195 and we are doing good, the waves are comfortable. We don’t need to do much in the way of sail changes and so it is a comfortable position to rest in and actually sleep well.”

Ryan Breymaier (USA) Neutrogena:
“We are into the SE’ly trades of around 10-11 knots. The last two days have been terrible for sure. We were only 50-80 miles to the east of the boats we were with and they all benefited from that extra pressure over that short distance away from us. We spent a fair amount of time in these light wind conditions especially yesterday.
"It was a very strange Doldrums: not much clouds and not much of a dead zone either. I think we just caught the edge of the convergence while the boats ahead generally got through in an easterly the whole time, just maybe a bit lighter at times.
"It was just bad for us to be that little bit further to the east. I don’t think there was any clue for us.
"But we took advantage when we were slow to fix a few things, we had the main down for 20 minutes and that probably exaggerated things, but we are moving well now.”

Dominique Wavre (SUI), Mirabaud:
“We are frustrated and irritated this morning because all night we had one cloud which brought us no wind. This morning we have the impression that we were punished and we don’t know why. This happened after the Doldrums on a very small, local area and we could see that our rivals seem to keep going. We find ourselves upwind on port tack and the breeze is still relatively weak, but we are going. It was as if at sunrise you could say that the cloud released us after imprisoning us all night. Yesterday afternoon and evening there was hardly any wind in the gennaker for the best part of seven hours. We were completely done in and looking forward to spending the night in regular breeze, when boom, that was it. And we had a sleepless night because, in fact we were rooted to the spot. We only made 1.6 miles from 0400hrs to 0600hrs. The leaders will certainly repair very quickly and get going quickly again.! "

At 1400hrs (Estrella Damm take lead at 1445hrs)

1 VIRBAC-PAPREC 3 21570 miles to finish
2 ESTRELLA DAMM Sailing Team at 3,9 miles to leader
3 FONCIA at 4,3 miles to leader
4 MAPFRE at 90 miles
5 GROUPE BEL at 106 miles
6 MIRABAUD at 114 miles
7 NEUTROGENA at 173 miles
8 RENAULT Z.E at 229 miles
10 HUGO BOSS at 397 miles
12 FORUM MARITIM CATALA at 441 miles
13 WE ARE WATER at 557 miles

Barcelona World Race