Wednesday, 9 March 2011

BWR: Mapfre Reaps the Rewards of the Effect of the St Helena High

Mapfre. Image copyright Maria Muina/Barcelona World Race.

by Helena Paz

Iker and Xabi are making the most of the accordion effect generated by the high pressure and is not giving up on the attack on the leader, closing in a further 40 miles during the European nighttime.

The Saint Helena high is causing some bunching up at the top of the Barcelona World Race fleet, between “MAPFRE” and “Virbac Paprec 3”, second and first place respectively. As such, the Spaniards have been able to reduce the gap separating them from the French crew's stern to 171 miles in the past 24 hours, producing the awaited 'accordion' effect. There's no letting one's guard down, because in any given moment there could be a turnaround and it may be “Virbac Paprec 3” drawing a big breath of air into the windbag.

A narrow and delicate passage

Both yachts are sailing very close to the epicentre of the high pressure, attacking it from the East in search of a way through that has been very limited. It's the leader for the moment suffering the lighter wind forces, but forecasts indicate that towards the end of the week they may enjoy some improved conditions. Let us not forget that the first to enter an area of lulls will be the first to stop, but they may also be the first to get out and pick up a good pace, so Iker Martínez and Xabi Fernández must make the most of this situation to try to reduce the separation as far as possible.

During the past 24 hours “MAPFRE” have been able to advance with increasing speed, faster than Dick and Peyron, with the speed gap between the two standing at 7 knots in the 14:00 position report. During Europe's nighttime Iker and Xabi have also managed to move 40 miles closer to the leaders, between 19:00 GMT yesterday (Monday) and 04:00 GMT today (Tuesday).

In their first non-stop, two crew round the world race, Iker and Xabi have made it clear that whilst they have areas that need work, such as the reading of forecasts, as they declared at the race start they are experts in squeezing the most from a yacht to get the top speeds; something they have already demonstrated in the fastest Olympic class, the 49er Class, in which the pair have two Olympic medals, one gold and one silver.

So it is meteorology setting the strategy agenda at the start of the climb up the Atlantic. “MAPFRE” has slightly varied her route to yesterday, further East, to point almost true Northeast as they begin to feel the breeze dropping.

As Iker Martínez informed in the brief telephone call this morning, the Basque skippers will be making the most of these conditions to carry out thorough checks on to the mast on board “MAPFRE”. He himself was preparing to climb up the mast, whilst Xabi would help him from deck, to check the state of the halyards that forced the crew to anchor near a small island close to Cape Horn when it blocked on the third of March. This is a check which is necessary as there are still lover three weeks left of this competition.

Three yachts officially in the Atlantic

The third entry in the fleet, skippered by Spain's Pachi Rivero and Toño Piris, is sailing some 1,175.7 miles behind “MAPFRE” having rounded Cape Horn yesterday (Monday) at 20:00 GMT; 4 days, 5 hours and 20 minutes after the second placed and leading Spanish entry with Iker Martínez and Xabi Fernández. This means there are now three boats sailing in South Atlantic waters.

Day 67 - 14:00 GMT

1. VIRBAC PAPREC 3 (Jean Pierre Dick - Loïck Peyron) FRA, 5,317 miles from finish
2. MAPFRE (Iker Martínez - Xabi Fernández) ESP, +170.4 miles
3. RENAULT Z. E. (Pachi Rivero - Antonio Piris) ESP, +1,325.5 miles
4. NEUTROGENA FÓRMULA NORUEGA (Boris Herrmann - Ryan Breymaier) NOR, +1,548.5 miles
5. GROUPE BEL (Kito de Pavant - Sebastien Audigane) FRA, +1,620.4 miles
6. MIRABAUD (Dominique Wavre - Michéle Paret) SUI, +1,718.7 miles
7. ESTRELLA DAMM SAILING TEAM (Alex Pella - Pepe Ribes) ESP, +1,731.3 miles
8. HUGO BOSS (Wouter Verbraak - Andy Meiklejohn) GBR, +2,448.8 miles
9. GAES CENTROS AUDITIVOS (Dee Caffari - Anna Corbella) GBR/ESP, +2,613.4 miles
10. FÒRUM MARÍTIM CATALÀ (Gerard Marín - Ludovic Aglaor) ESP, +4,482.4 miles
11. CENTRAL LECHERA ASTURIANA (Juan Merediz - Fran Palacio) ESP, +6,233.7 miles ** TECHNICAL STOPOVER IN WELLINGTON **
12. WE ARE WATER (Jaume Mumbrú - Cali Sanmartí) ESP, +6,233.7 miles ** TECHNICAL STOPOVER IN WELLINGTON **
** 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