Thursday, 10 March 2011

BWR: Groupe Bel - Like kids in front of the Christmas tree!

Having rounded Cape Horn yesterday, Groupe Bel has arrived in Ushuaïa this evening

Kito de Pavant and Seb Audigane on Groupe Bel passing Cape Horn. Image copyright Groupe Bel.

by Julia Huvé

"It's fantastic, the sun is shining! In the space of a few days, I have turned fifty and become a Cape Horner!” Kito enthused. Wild, hostile, cliffs plunging into the Ocean, snow-capped peaks on the horizon, the rugged coast, the lighthouse keeper's voice over the VHF… There's no mistaking it, this is Cape Horn! He may have sailed many thousands of miles over the course of his life, but Tuesday the 8th of March 2011 was Kito's first time around the Horn! And it is no small matter! At 2220 last night, Groupe Bel crossed the longitude of 67°16 W, marking their exit from the Pacific Ocean and entry into the Atlantic Ocean. For Sébastien Audigane who today is celebrating his 43rd birthday, it is his second rounding, but the legendary Cape had a special flavour to it this time...

Having crossed the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific Oceans, Seb and Kito made it round what it widely known as the “Hard Cape” or the “Cape of Storms”. The name has never been more apt for our two sailors on Groupe Bel who have had a tense time of it since they detected damage to the head of the keel on Monday afternoon.

Cape Horn once again offered our sailors an unforgettable vista after days without seeing land. “Unbelievable, this wild, empty coast! It's stunning… Cape Horn itself is a big rock, but the islands behind are beautiful, there is snow everywhere and what's more, the scenery is bathed in sunshine,” the skipper of Groupe Bel recounted.

So, yes, Kito will remember his first rounding of Cape Horn, which he shared with Grand Seb who rounded for the first time in 2005 during the Trophée Jules Verne on Bruno Peyron's Orange II. “The first time, we passed a long way away, and it is incredible to see it close up. It's very wild. I am a little lost for words. We are like two kids in front of the Christmas tree, especially Kito! We have 18 to 25 knots of wind and some chop so we are being careful with the boat. We are making the most of the scenery to think about other things! We have a great job, this course is superb and as we have seen, there are always hazards. I always learn a lot from each race, and competing in the Barcelona World Race double-handed on Groupe Bel will have brought me a great deal for the Vendée Globe!”

“We deserved to get here! I know I keep repeating myself, but it's true that the route to Cape Horn is incredibly long! After such a long way, and after the intense battle in which we regained miles on Estrella Damm and Mirabaud and especially before the race which was about to begin to catch up with Neutrogena and Renault in the Atlantic.” Kito explained a few hours prior to becoming a young Cape Horner at the age of 50!

After the difficult conditions experienced over the past few days, the pair passed the base of the cliffs sailing upwind. And now Kito and Seb will leave their fellow competitors to escape northwards while they head for Ushuaïa via the Beagle Channel to inspect their keel in sheltered waters.

It would appear that the Barcelona World Race has some surprises in store for our two sailors, when early this Wednesday evening they discover another enigmatic land: Ushuaïa, the southernmost town in the world situated at 54°48 S / 68° 18 W!

1 - Virbac-Paprec 3 / Jean-Pierre Dick & Loick Peyron, 5154 miles distance to finish
2 - Mapfre / Iker Martinez & Xabi Fernandez, 132 miles distance to leader
3 - Renault / Pachi Rivero & Antonio Piris, 1243 miles
4 - Neutrogena / Boris Herrmann & Ryan Breymaier, 1513 miles
5 - Mirabaud / Dominique Wavre & Michèle Parret, 1656 miles
6 - Estrella Damm / Alex Pella & Pepe Ribes, 1669 miles
7 - Groupe Bel / Kito de Pavant & Seb Audigane, 1688 miles

Barcelona World Race in short
Two-handed non-stop round-the-world race on board IMOCA 60 foot monohulls.
Start at Barcelona on 31 December at 13:00
Second BWR event organized by the FNOB (Fundació per la Navegació Oceànica Barcelona)
Course: 25,000 miles (46,300 kilometers) passing between the two islands of New-Zealand
15 duos registered: 30 sailors, 8 nationalities, 3 women

Groupe Bel
Barcelona World Race