Saturday, 26 February 2011

BWR: Mapfre is not giving in and Continues to Apply Pressue to the Leader

Battle of gybes between the French and Spanish in the middle of the South Pacific

Mapfre. Image copyright Maria Muina/Barcelona World Race.

by Helena Paz

A veritable gybing duel is taking place between the “MAPFRE” skippers, Iker Martínez and Xabi Fernández and “Virbac Paprec 3”, and a mere glance at their progress proves that. There's an anxious wait for each position report, with attention firmly focussed on the mileage gap between the French and Spanish crews, just over 14 miles (26.2 km) having cut that down to 8 miles (14,8 km) with Dick and Peyron during the European night.

It's a rubber band situation between the Barcelona World Race leader and main rivaly hot in pursuit: “MAPFRE” with Iker and Xabi. From the 15.9 miles between the two entries during the 19:00 GMT position report yesterday the gap was reduced to 8 during the early hours of the morning, creeping back up to 14 in the 09:00 GMT position report.

One hundred per cent the whole time

Knowing Martínez and Fernández, it's not hard to imagine that sleep time on board “MAPFRE” has been reduced to the point of almost disappearing, with resting hours sacrificed for the many manoeuvres carried out. Gybing with just two crew slows things down, taking about an hour if things go smoothly. There's also the need to push the boat to the maximum constantly that also requires a hand always at the helm.

“We're going at one hundred per cent the whole time," Xabi Fernández explained in an email. “On the days we were beam reaching we used the autopilot, as it did the job well and gave us a chance to rest but as soon as things got rockier, a couple of days ago, it's been tough. We've got between 25 and 30 knots of breeze, so it's gybe after gybe non-stop. We are getting there!”

“We are 180 miles from the Mid Pacific Gate and more or less exactly on a layline towards it”, pointed out Xabi Fernández. "Those on ‘Virbac Paprec 3’ gybed just before us. In any case, a change of direction of breeze is expected and we are waiting a bit to see if they have to gybe again or not to get past the gate...”.

Iker and Xabi's great progress since passing Cook Strait has allowed the pair to notch up a personal best for a 24 hour run, of 493 miles, between 04:00 GMT on the 23rd February and Thursday 24th February.

Cape Horn in a week

If there's no change to Iker and Xabi's forecasts, the pair should reach Cape Horn in a week approximately. The plan on board “MAPFRE” is to be in the South Pacific as short a time as possible: “The safest thing in the Pacific is to be in it for as little time as possible, so we are pushing to the maximum because on the one hand we have ‘Virbac Paprec 3’ and on the other hand we want to get out of here as quickly as possible as strong storms are moving in. If you can get out quicker by going faster, perfect!".

The difference with the other entries in the fleet is still increasing. “Renault Z. E” and “Neutrogena Fórmula Noruega”, now past the New Zealand gate are heading to the West Pacific and are 1,187.8 and 1,258.7 miles respectively from “MAPFRE” have seen the first and second placed entries get away although the distance between them is less than 70 miles between one another.

Day 56 - 9:00 GMT

1. VIRBAC-PAPREC 3 (Jean Pierre Dick - Loïck Peyron) FRA, 9,360.9 miles from finish
2. MAPFRE (Iker Martínez - Xabi Fernández) ESP, 14.2 miles
3. RENAULT Z. E. (Pachi Rivero - Antonio Piris) ESP, 1,202 miles
4. NEUTROGENA FÓRMULA NORUEGA (Boris Herrmann - Ryan Breymaier) NOR, 1,272.9 miles
5. MIRABAUD (Dominique Wavre - Michéle Paret) SUI, 1,403.8 miles
6. GROUPE BEL (Kito de Pavant - Sebastien Audigane) FRA, 1,661.9 miles
7. ESTRELLA DAMM SAILING TEAM (Alex Pella - Pepe Ribes) ESP, 1,691.1 miles
8. HUGO BOSS (Wouter Verbraak - Andy Meiklejohn) GBR, 1,799.6 miles
9. GAES CENTROS AUDITIVOS (Dee Caffari - Anna Corbella) GBR/ESP, 1,838.2 miles
10. FÒRUM MARÍTIM CATALÀ (Gerard Marín - Ludovic Aglaor) ESP, 3,224.3 miles
11. CENTRAL LECHERA ASTURIANA (Juan Merediz - Fran Palacio) ESP, 3,566.1 miles
12. WE ARE WATER (Jaume Mumbrú - Cali Sanmartí) ESP, 4,326.7 miles
** FONCIA (Michel Desjoyeaux - François Gabart) FRA, RACE ABANDONED 26th January
** PRÉSIDENT (Jean le Cam - Bruno García) FRA/ESP, RACE ABANDONED 12th January.

Barcelona World Race