Saturday, 15 January 2011

BWR: The Story of HUGO BOSS in the Barcelona World Race

Part Two: Here comes the BOSS!

Image copyright Mark Lloyd/Lloyd Images.

by Anne Hinton

Two exhausting and fantastic days of sailing (by Wouter Verbraak):

Green, rough, stunning and rugged, the islands of the Canaries never fail to impress. As we didn’t get a chance to get as far west as the leaders, we found the Canaries right in the middle of our track. Good news!, as these 2000-3000 metre high islands provide for excellent funneling. Having done weather routing for several races going through here, I know all too well that there is a huge risk too; the lee of the islands. Get stuck in the lee of the 3000meter high mountain, and you will lose many, many miles.

Start of the Barcelona World Race. Image copyright Barcelona World Race.

So a day to be alert, and both Andy and myself were up most of the day gybing through the channels between the islands. The trick is to curve the island as much as you dare, as the wind does the same thing, and will give you a real good heading out. Push it too far though, and, like a wall, the winds just stops, and there is no way out.

Wouter Verbraak. Image copyright Barcelona World Race.

As the long term objective still was to get west for a good angle in the Trades to the Cape Verdes, we chose the less common gap between the islands of Tenerife and Santa Cruz de Tenerife. We definitely got it right, and were blasting along in 25knots of funneled breeze instead of the 12 knot gradient wind outside the islands; massive gains!!!

Skiff sailors going around the world...

Andy Meiklejohn. Image copyright Mark Lloyd/Lloyd Images.

In 25 knots of breeze, IMOCA 60s, like VO70s, turn into giant, very wet, skiffs. Perhaps it is no wonder, then, that the latest breed of ocean racer consists of International 49er and skiff sailors. Iker Martinez (49er World Champion, Olympic Silver Medallist in Qingdao and Gold Medallist in Athens) will skipper an entry in the next Volvo Ocean Race (VOR), having been inshore race skipper on Telefonica Blue in the last VOR. Chris Nicholson, a skiff sailor from Australia, will skipper the New Zealand entry in the next VOR, Camper with Emirates Team New Zealand. Xabi Fernandez, Martinez’ partner in the 49er, is his co-skipper on board Mapfre in the present Barcelona World Race, and will do the VOR with him too. Andy Meiklejohn, the Kiwi on Hugo Boss, is a keen 12 foot skiff sailor who has also now turned his attention to ocean racing.

Damage and visitors on other boats

HUGO BOSS. Image copyright Barcelona World Race.

To date the skiff sailors in the BWR have largely escaped on the damage front. The two leaders arrive in Recife, Brazil, today for a replacement bow crash box (Foncia) and re-attaching the mainsheet traveller to the boat (Virbac Paprec 3). Président had to pull out of the race at the Cape Verde islands, after hitting a bad wave train, burying the bow a little and losing the mast. Torn sails and, in the Med., the usual inshore hazards of fishing nets and pots, have also affected the fleet.

Spanish participants in the race enjoyed a “visit” from the Three Kings in early January and were able to open presents that had been brought with them. However, the most unusual thing to occur on an offshore race in decades happened to Mirabaud 30 miles off the Moroccan coast: they were boarded by customs officials while racing! Dominique Wavre (SUI) commented: “They went straight for the white silica powder. I saw myself already behind bars.” They also opened vacuum-sealed food, intended for the latter part of the 90, or so, day race, and generally disturbed things throughout the boat. The customs officials left Mirabaud as suddenly as they had arrived, after receiving a radio call, and without a word of explanation. BWR officials reminded the Moroccan authorities of the race, which is supposed to be two-handed around the world, from Barcelona and back to Barcelona, without visitors en route.

“Look out, here comes the BOSS!”

Hugo Boss got off to a slow start in the race, but the wind arrived in the Atlantic, Meiklejohn and Verbraak became more accustomed to sailing the boat together, made some good strategic calls, and Hugo Boss is currently the fastest in the fleet, rapidly reeling in her competitors. As Meiklejohn wrote in a Tweet, “Look out, here comes the BOSS!”

Andy Meiklejohn. Image copyright Barcelona World Race.

The story of HUGO BOSS in the Barcelona World Race has been full of drama for the lead skipper and his family, but things have now settled down on board, with Meiklejohn and Verbraak doing the entire race together, and the routing can be based on the weather systems, rather than needing to make a stop to exchange skippers, and HUGO BOSS is in her element, currently in tenth position, but with the “bungee” concertina effect on the fleet in the vicinity of the Doldrums, they are also closing rapidly on the front runners.

The Barcelona World Race may only be fourteen days old (at time of writing), but HUGO BOSS already has plenty of stories to tell. Kipling wrote, in “If”, of triumph turning into disaster making men, but the story of HUGO BOSS in the Barcelona World Race has already been one of overcoming hard times, making the team stronger and a significant force to be reckoned with on the race track.

Andy Meiklejohn. Image copyright Barcelona World Race.

We wish Meiklejohn, Verbraak, and all competitors in the 2010 Barcelona World Race, a safe, fast and fair race, and hope that the health of young Oscar Thomson continues to improve, so that he is able to be in Barcelona, with his parents, to greet HUGO BOSS on her triumphant return.

HUGO BOSS. Image copyright Mark Lloyd/Lloyd Images.

Andy Meiklejohn
Wouter Verbraak
Alex Thomson Racing
Barcelona World Race