Thursday, 10 February 2011

BWR: Sunday Supplements

Loick Peyron on board Virbac Paprec 3. Image copyright Jean-Pierre Dick.

by Barcelona World Race media

* Finally conditions revert to what would be considered more normal for the Southern Ocean
* All of the fleet are now in the Indian Ocean
* Train of depressions now giving options to duos in the second half of the fleet
* Neutrogena forced to rescue Code Zero from the ocean

It was a significant moment for Loïck Peyron and Jean-Pierre Dick when they passed through the Amsterdam gate and set a fast course yesterday for the Australian barrier, signifying the end of a bone-shaking ride in confused seas and the chance to open the gap again on the pack which are pursuing the long time Barcelona World Race leaders.

Indeed the weekend programme for the race leaders, could be a diet of ‘champagne sailing’ other than first edition winner Dick revealing today that three bottles of Coke comprise the celebratory tipple of choice aboard the Virbac-Paprec 3. But life is certainly sugar sweet for Dick and Peyron today as they see their speeds elevated back towards 16-18 knots averages, consistently re-gaining today some of what they lost to the 2004 Olympic 49er champions who are 515 miles behind this afternoon.

If Dick and Peyron have champagne conditions, MAPFRE in second have been trying to deal with a very potent but confusing cocktail, a party punch which is packing very variable breezes and mixed seas which sees Iker Martinez and Xabi Fernandez forced to maintain a high, but nor necessarily profitable work rate. But the Spanish duo should find it simplified when they too get through the final ice gate of the Indian Ocean this evening, though their wind pressure is set to ease as the frontal trough they have been shadow boxing dissipates. Their motivation remains high but will spike higher when they feel like they are on the same ‘leg’ of the course as the leaders.

Again Jean-Pierre Dick reminded listeners to today’s VisioConference that anything can happen in this mechanical sport, that they are essentially little more than a fast day’s sailing ahead of the second boat, and he reaffirmed how a seemingly small problem can escalate to become a big one.

Estrella Damm. Image copyright Maria Munia/Barcelona World Race.

Ryan Breymaier and Boris Herrmann dealt with their own problem efficiently but did, in the end have ‘outside assistance’ to recover their Code Zero headsail which had slid off the boat when it broached due to a ballast tube malfunction. The Neutrogena duo had to gather their wits quickly when the key sail slipped over the guard rails and into the sea when they momentarily lost control. But a text book return to the locus where the sail had disappeared was rewarded when the floating sail was pinpointed by a few albatross who were standing on the waterlogged sail, enjoying respite from their own Southern Ocean endeavors aboard their own Neutrogena ‘island’. That the pair were able to get the sail back on board was something of a ‘miracle’ Hermmann reported today.

Having yesterday morning been sailing alongside and in sight of sixth placed Mirabaud, Neutrogena’s problems coast them miles. But the German-American pair passed the Crozet ice gate this morning at between 1130 and midday, some four hours after Dominique Wavre and Michèle Paret on the Owen Clarke designed Mirabaud. Neutrogena were just 26 miles behind Mirabaud this evening.

Looking at the long game is always an essential virtue racing around the world, one which Dee Caffari learned especially on her 2008-9 Vendée Globe solo race. Having been forced to route north and upwind, surviving a very stressful 36-48 hours in big, confused seas, the record breaking British skipper and Anna Corbella were back to their radiant best today, looking forward to easy miles directly down the track, knowing that they have a good chance to reducing some of the deficit they lost out to Mirabaud and Neutrogena.

Standings at 14hrs Saturday 5th February

1 VIRBAC-PAPREC 3 at 15 143,3 miles from the finish
2 MAPFRE at515,3 miles to leader
3 ESTRELLA DAMM Sailing Team at 604,4 miles
4 GROUPE BEL at658,3 miles
5 RENAULT Z.E at938,1 miles
6 MIRABAUD at1454,1 miles
7 NEUTROGENA at1482,1 miles
9 HUGO BOSS at2359,6 miles
10 FORUM MARITIM CATALA at2851,4 miles
11 WE ARE WATER at2976,8 miles

Wouter Verbraak on board HUGO BOSS. Image copyright Alex Thomson Racing.

Dee Caffari (GBR) GAES Centros Auditivos: “ The sun is shining and we are going fast in the right direction, and we are very happy bunnies. It was horrible, we did not like it, the boat did not like it and it was a really horrible, intense 36 hours. And it is probably the worst conditions we have had in the race so far. It was only about trying to keep the boat and the crew in one piece, and we got out of there and the weather has just got better and better.

"She did not feel 100% and was not firing on all cylinders, but she is back in full.
It is looking like this northerly component will stay with us and we can crack on straight to the ice gate and clear that by Monday. It is looking like easy miles for us which is quite a change because we have had to work quite hard recently.
Neutrogena and Mirabaud are always our targets because we obviously lost a lot by having to take that northern upwind route, and it did cost us dearly while they were able to take that more direct route, so to close that gap would be lovely and we have not given up.

"I was really happy with the boat, I had a good look around yesterday when it became a bit drier, and we sponged out a good deal of water. Everything is good with the boat and she is doing a good job and looking after us.”

Jean-Pierre Dick (FRA), Virbac-Paprec 3: “We had very strong winds at an angle which was just not good and big waves and so to get to the gate we did not go so fast. Behind us I think they were averaging 19 knots and I think we were 16 knots. But we are downwind again and thing will open out again. We will have a little less wind over the next bit. The last two days were really full on, the boat was shaking with lots of carbon noises.

"Everything can crumble because we are on a mechanical boat and we saw what happened with Foncia. You can lose the rig in a second. But 500 miles of a lead is nice, but it is not enormous compared with how far there is to go. We try to read a little and listen to some music. Bur of course sometimes we don’t have time to because we just crash to sleep, tired out. Since the start we have not dropped the rhythm between sailing, eating and sleeping.

"Loïck is quite accustomed to our life on board and we had discussions before the race. We take the freeze dried but try to have the best, and we have treats like chocolate. We have energy powders to rehydrate us and we have three bottles of Coke for each great moment. And some semi sparkling water after a big effort which I really like."

Boris Herrmann (GER) Neutrogena: "The basic problem is pretty steep waves and how to make the boat go fast. It is easier to sail the boat in very steep waves with a lot of ballast in the stern. Our problem started yesterday when we lost the stern tube and the boat wiped out and in this whole episode we lost one sail over the side. We were sailing with the small kite and one reef in the main and so it takes quite a while to take sock the kite.

"Once we had done that we looked at each other and said do we really do this because we had at least one and a half miles to go back and it was big waves, and gusts and everything. We did not expect to find it, so we said ‘lets try’ and we turned and on the trace on the navigation programme we could find the point where we wiped out, we went to the position with a couple of tacks, going upwind with very small sails.
From there we went downwind very slowly. And all of a sudden I could see a few albatross and they were sitting on our sails.

"I think we have something going on with the albatross. Today we had a problem, we were Chinese-ing the boat (Chinese gybing) heeling over from one side to the wrong side. When that happened once again an albatross was flying close, as if he was keeping an eye in us. Each time we make a stupid mistake it seems like there is one near the boat.

"First of all it was quite stressful but in fact finding the sail and then managing to get it back on deck in these big waves was a miracle, but even since then it has been steep waves. And so since then we have probably had to reef and unreef the main probably five times since then, sometimes down to two reefs, some time one and sometimes full main. Yesterday between two positions we were very close or ahead of Mirabuad and we did not want to lose too many miles, to gain back the lead over them and it was the perfect time to go fast this morning.

"Ryan worked on the tube today while I took care of the boat and cut a piece of it off to seal it again. We cannot use any ballast then and had to heel the boat over to keep the ballast tube empty. It was a challenge in many ways. But the thing has been glued in place for half an hour and now we are just waiting for it to dry, and the glue can set within a hour because we will pass the gate and then need to gybe south again.

"Yesterday we saw them all morning, we sailed alongside them and could see them pretty clearly, we were close and then gained on them, from quite a way behind, just gaining on them before we gybed.”

Alex Pella (ESP) Estrella Damm:“ The waves are long and about eight metres high. There are twenty knots of wind from the south (170), and we are doing 15 knots heading east (94 degrees)

Last night the wind dropped a little but has risen again. We have the front just ahead of us and in the next 20 hours will start to get northerly wind. The day is very cloudy and thus it is very difficult to read the swell and wind, which is very unstable in direction and intensity. The last 24 hours we have not gone so fast but the important thing is that we have been closing towards the gate in the right direction.

The idea is to pass the gate and see what to do with the front, probably go south.
The boat is going well and as long as it is, so also we're all right.

Mind you, the watches are exhausting. You finish completely punctured.

So we try to eat and sleep as much as we can. But we remain very motivated and morale as high as ever. I am very happy to be here in the south, although it is a strange and unusual south as we are not much in the south. It will be different after the gate. And currently we’ve got good weather, between 11 and 14 degrees. When we go further south it will be a lot colder.”

In French:

Carpe Diem

- La flotte commence à rencontrer des conditions dignes des mers australes
- Les tandems en profitent pour récupérer des fatigues accumulées
- Tous les équipages naviguent dans le même océan

Jean-Pierre Dick on board Virbac Paprec 3. Image copyright Virbac Paprec 3.

Depuis le temps qu’ils les attendaient, ils finissent par ne pas y croire. Mais il faut se rendre à l’évidence, c’est bien un régime dépressionnaire classique qui s’installe sur les 40èmes. Avec son cortège de glissades sur la houle, de bascules à négocier entre le nord-ouest et le sud-ouest, de surfs qui affolent le speedomètre. On en oublierait presque que les équipages sont toujours en course, tant ils manifestent leur soulagement d’en avoir fini avec plusieurs jours terribles.
Ça va mieux… Même si les conditions ne sont pas encore idéales pour tous, la flotte bénéficie enfin des régimes de vents portants typiques des mers du sud. Pour certains, c’est la voie royale : ainsi Jean-Pierre Dick et Loïck Peyron, solides leaders à bord de Virbac-Paprec 3 profitent de conditions parfaites pour creuser à nouveau l’écart avec leurs dauphins Iker Martinez et Xabi Fernandez (MAPFRE). Et c’est un Jean-Pierre Dick parfaitement reposé et lucide qui pouvait répondre à la vacation du jour, évoquant la nécessaire vigilance qu’il convient de garder malgré un avantage estimé à une grosse journée de mer... Les deux hommes apprécient visiblement de pouvoir un peu lâcher la bride, après un début de course qui ne leur a guère laissé de répit. Une descente de l’Atlantique à couteaux tirés avec le Foncia de Michel Desjoyeaux et François Gabart, une entrée dans l’océan Indien particulièrement tactique avaient précédé ces derniers jours de course, particulièrement éprouvants tant physiquement que moralement. Etre secoué comme un prunier est une chose. Vivre de surcroit l’angoisse de la casse, de même que supporter les bruits du carbone encaissant les chocs sont autant de facteurs de stress et de fatigue.

Dies irae

Dans ce type de conditions, le moindre pépin peut vite tourner à la catastrophe. L’équipage de Neutrogena en a fait l’amère expérience hier. A la lutte avec Mirabaud, Ryan Breymaier et Boris Hermann s’apprêtaient à changer de spinnaker, quand lors de la manœuvre, un ballast s’est vidé complètement sous le vent. Immédiatement, le bateau a enfourné et s’est couché juste quand un des deux équipiers s’affairait à rentrer le code zéro dans le bateau. La voile partait sous le vent, arrachait un chandelier et passait à l’eau. Le temps d’affaler le petit spinnaker, de faire demi-tour contre le vent, de suivre la trace du GPS grâce à la fonction homme à la mer (qui fonctionne aussi bien pour une voile d’avant) et le tandem perdait plus d’une heure à revenir sur le lieu du crime. Mais comment retrouver un gennaker passé à l’eau dans une mer aussi formée ? C’est une concentration anormale d’oiseaux de mer qui donnait la piste ; Boris et Ryan pouvait localiser leur voile d’avant sur laquelle un albatros avait élu domicile. Dans l’affaire, les deux hommes ont récupéré leur code zéro, mais ont abandonné près de quarante milles à leur plus proche adversaire et laissé beaucoup d’énergie. Autant dire que le congé de fin de semaine sera particulièrement bienvenu.

Fluctuat nec mergitur

Les dames de GAES Centros Auditivos goûtaient aussi particulièrement cette rotation des vents. En bordure de l’anticyclone, elles bénéficient d’un gradient de pression suffisant pour avancer poussées par un vent d’ouest soutenu, tout en étant gratifiées de rayons de soleil particulièrement réconfortants. Dee Caffari, elle-même, dont on sait à quel point elle est dure au mal, reconnaissait que ces derniers jours avaient été les pires rencontrés depuis le départ de la course, ajoutant même qu’elle avait rarement rencontré des conditions aussi dures. Son équipière Anna Corbella en guise de baptême du feu, s’est trouvée en proie à un mal de mer aussi imprévisible que tenace. Seul équipage à être encore confronté à des conditions particulièrement difficile le tandem de MAPFRE, qui navigue juste en bordure de l’activité frontale générée par le talweg, perd non seulement sur les leaders mais voit son avance grignotée par ses compatriotes d’Estrella Damm … Les deux navigateurs attendent avec impatience de franchir la porte de la Nouvelle Amsterdam pour mettre du sud dans leur cap et bénéficier de conditions plus stables. Vivement dimanche...

Rainbow. Image copyright Barcelona World Race.

Classement du 5 février à 15 heures (TU+1) :

1 VIRBAC-PAPREC 3 à 15 143,3 milles de l’arrivée
2 MAPFRE à 515,3 milles du leader
3 ESTRELLA DAMM Sailing Team à 604,4 milles
4 GROUPE BEL à 658,3 milles
5 RENAULT Z.E à 938,1 milles
6 MIRABAUD à 1454,1 milles
7 NEUTROGENA à 1482,1 milles
8 GAES CENTROS AUDITIVOS à 2177,3 milles
9 HUGO BOSS à 2359,6 milles
10 FORUM MARITIM CATALA à 2851,4 milles
11 WE ARE WATER à 2976,8 milles

Ils ont dit :

Jean-Pierre Dick, Virbac-Paprec 3 :
« Nous sommes au portant et les conditions devraient continuer à s’améliorer. Nous allons avoir des conditions plus calmes qu’il y a vingt-quatre heures. Les deux derniers jours étaient vraiment speed, le bateau était un vrai shaker envahi de ces bruits de carbone. Cinq cents milles d’avance, c’est à la fois beaucoup et ce n’est pas énorme par rapport à la distance qui reste à parcourir. On n’oublie pas que nous sommes dans un sport mécanique.

"Jusque là nous n’avons pas eu trop le temps de lire ou d’écouter de la musique : entre la navigation, les manoeuvres, le besoin de s’alimenter, sans compter que bien souvent, on tombe de fatigue et qu’on s’endort sans demander notre reste. Pour fêter les grands moments, le passage du détroit de Cook, le cap Horn et le franchissement de l’équateur, on a prévu trois canettes de Coca...»

Juan Merediz, Central Lechera Asturiana : «On est arrivé avant-hier au soir à Cape Town. Dès que l’on a pu, on a travaillé non stop sur le bateau... Le temps des formalités de douane, on a réussi à prendre une douche et à dormir un peu dans un vrai lit. L’accueil que l’on a reçu à Cape Town était vraiment fantastique. Maintenant nous naviguons dans 20 nœuds de vent... On espère revenir au contact des autres. Pour partir de Cape Town, on a eu la chance d’apercevoir des phoques, de même qu’une baleine»

Dee Caffari, GAES Centros Auditivos : « Tout va bien : le soleil brille, on va vite et dans la bonne direction. Ces dernières quarante-huit heures, ce sont les conditions les pires que l’on ait rencontrées depuis le début de la course. Anna a même eu le mal de mer, mais maintenant tout va bien. Tout était trempé dans le bateau et c’était difficile à vivre. »

Anna Corbella, GAES Centros Auditivos : « C’était très difficile. Du fait de la tension, je n’ai pas réussi à manger pendant douze heures. On pouvait croire qu’à chaque instant le bateau allait se briser… Maintenant ça va mieux, j’ai réussi à récupérer, je suis de nouveau contente d’être là… »

Barcleona World Race