Thursday, 3 February 2011
Mapfre's wake. Image copyright Mapfre.
by Helena Paz
Xabi: “We have 35 knots of steady breeze and we're going at speeds of 20 to 25 knots"
“We've got 35 knots of steady breeze and we're going along at speeds between 20 and 25 knots. The forecasts say we are going to keep getting this breeze for at least another day, maybe more. We've had a good night, although things did get tricky at dawn." That's how Xabi Fernández described the situation onboard "MAPFRE" at midday today.
No losing cool
As forecasted, the squall which formed South of Madagascar with northerly winds, has continued its route Southeast, setting off alarm bells in particular for leader "Virbac Paprec 3" and the "MAPFRE" skippers.
In an email sent last night, Iker was cautious, even weighing up the possibility of stopping "should matters get complicated," and giving the squall time to move Southeast "so we can follow some miles behind with more stable seas." The Basque skipper already warned that "we won't lose our cool if we have to drop the sails and drop back closer to our main rivals, as the next few days could make the difference between losing the race."
With the panorama ahead, the Spanish duo made the most of yesterday to fill up on food and to rest as much as possible, as Xabi Fernández said: "We're going to get very little rest over the next couple of days. We've tried to get the yacht in as good shape as possible, with the sails safely tied down, so whatever hits us, hits us, although I will say that up until now, it's been fairly comfortable."
As Xabi explained in today's videoconference at midday today, it was very early this morning when things became a bit more demanding. With this shift in situation, the double Olympic medallists took a decision on what pace to maintain, whether to slow down the pace or not. Upon seeing that the situation wasn't as bad as expected and both themselves and the boat are well, they chose to make the most of the conditions over the next 48 hours and to push forward.
However, on "MAPFRE" they have reduced the sail area for increased safety, as Xabi pointed out: "We are sailing with three reefs and a staysail. Before that we had just two reefs, but it was a bit tough, and with three we can go just as fast, but with more ease."
Aware of the situation
The Olympic champions have chosen to keep pushing, but as Xabi points out, "we're keeping in mind that we want to push forward, but without breaking anything. That would be a victory in itself. Of course we are pushing hard, but we are well aware of the situation around us."
The priority for the "MAPFRE" skippers is to now make the most of the front, that for now is allowing them to make good progress forward, as the numbers reveal.
On Saturday 29th January, according to the 14:00 GMT position report, Iker and Xabi were 707.7 miles from leader "Virbac Paprec 3". Today, some four days later at the same time, the Spaniards have cut that figure down to 464.5 miles from Dick and Peyron and back down below the 500 nautical miles mark, where they haven't been since Tuesday 25th Jan at 19:00 GMT.
Meanwhile, Iker Martínez and Xabi Fernández are still on an easterly course sailing at 26.8 knots of speed. As Iker wrote in yesterday's email: “Anything closer to 90 degrees is good. With so many safety gates it's hard to successfully go below 43º or 44º S." It looks like that will stay the same course until Australia.
Day 33 - 14:00 GMT
1. VIRBAC-PAPREC 3 (Jean Pierre Dick - Loïck Peyron) FRA, 16,345.2 miles from finish
2. MAPFRE (Iker Martínez - Xabi Fernández) ESP, +464.5 miles
3. GROUPE BEL (Kito de Pavant - Sebastien Audigane) FRA, +602.9 miles
4. ESTRELLA DAMM SAILING TEAM (Alex Pella - Pepe Ribes) ESP, +608.7 miles
5. RENAULT Z. E. (Pachi Rivero - Antonio Piris) ESP, +762.4 miles
6. MIRABAUD (Dominique Wavre - Michéle Paret) SUI, +1,278.4 miles
7. NEUTROGENA FÓRMULA NORUEGA (Boris Herrmann - Ryan Breymaier) NOR, +1,312.8 miles
8. GAES CENTROS AUDITIVOS (Dee Caffari - Anna Corbella) GBR/ESP, +1,716.1 miles
9. HUGO BOSS (Wouter Verbraak - Andy Meiklejohn) GBR, +1,952.5 miles
10. WE ARE WATER (Jaume Mumbrú - Cali Sanmartí) ESP, +2,211.6 miles
11. CENTRAL LECHERA ASTURIANA (Juan Merediz - Fran Palacio) ESP, +2,286.4 miles
12. FÒRUM MARÍTIM CATALÀ (Gerard Marín - Ludovic Aglaor) ESP, +2,292.5 miles
** PRÉSIDENT (Jean le Cam - Bruno García) FRA/ESP, RACE ABANDONED 12th January.
** FONCIA (Michel Desjoyeaux - François Gabart) FRA, RACE ABANDONED 26th January.
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