Saturday, 19 March 2011

BWR: Mapfre Squeezes the Trades

Mapfre. Image copyright Maria Muina/Barcelona World Race.

by Helena Paz

Iker and Xabi may not take long to be affected by the lulls at the Equator and make the most of the trade winds to move another 100 miles closer to the leader

As many miles as possible, whilst possible. The “MAPFRE” skippers in the Barcelona World Race are totally clear on their priorities right now and are doing exactly that.

The borders of the Doldrums currently lie between the Equator and 4º S and there the wind is light, shifty and variable, according to official regatta meteorologist Marcel Van Triest.

The most recent coordinates for "MAPFRE" in the 09:00 GMT position report is 4º 08’ S and 30º 06’ W, which means that the leading Spanish entry must make the most of the trades while she can. In the past 24 hours, "MAPFRE" has been advancing continually faster than the leader, at an 8.8 knots average, almost double the speed of the French t the front. That has meant that Iker Martínez and Xabi Fernández have been able to cut down the gap by another 97 miles with the leader in the fleet, now 183.1 miles ahead of the double Olympic champions.

The doubt right now is how long “Virbac Paprec 3” will take to emerge from the lulls and for how long ESP-45 will find themselves in the zone where the Southern and Northern Hemispheres converge and conflict.

Tropical heat

With the Equator 230 miles to the bow of “MAPFRE”, the intense tropical heat is beginning to make itself felt and the waterproof gear sported a few days ago have been discarded in favour of shorts, sunglasses and caps to protect their heads from the sun. The heat is so intense that during the day the Basque skippers look for any opportunity to grab some shade at the helm of “MAPFRE” without roasting, Iker explained.

The good weather has also revealed that a few kilos have also been 'discarded' by the skippers.... "At first it's quite funny, but now that we haven't got as much to eat... well it's not so much fun," said Iker.

“We've past the Chilean, Argentinean, Uruguayan and Brazilian coasts, quite far away from the coast. Some high pressure close to Buenos Aires stopped us from sailing a shorter route and so we've seen the regatta lengthen out...", continued the skipper from Hondarribia.

3,300 miles from the finish

With the finishing line 3,300 miles away and with 21,700 miles behind them, it's inevitable that the Olympic champions are thinking more and more of the finish of their first double-handed round the world regatta, although they are very aware that these final miles are crucial and my throw up their own unexpected turns.

“Each day that passes we get closer to Barcelona and although on the one hand we are thinking about hunting the leader, but on the other, we still have that fear in the back of our minds of breaking something serious and not being able to finish at all. But anyway, that's normal... when you really care about something, it is normal to worry about losing it, right?" reflected Iker.

The Spanish duo will soon begin to close haul to Cape Verde. After that it will be the Canaries that will see Iker and Xabi almost home: "If all goes well we will be between Cape Verde and the Canaries in a week or so, almost able to smell the Canary Island potatoes and 'gofio' (a local delicacy)! We are really looking forward to getting over there! We trained a lot this winter in these waters and we will feel almost home, so.... let's go! Let's go!," said Iker as he signed off.

Day 77 - 09:00 GMT

1. VIRBAC PAPREC 3 (Jean Pierre Dick - Loïck Peyron) FRA, 3,117 miles from finish
2. MAPFRE (Iker Martínez - Xabi Fernández) ESP, +183.1 miles from leader
3. RENAULT Z. E. (Pachi Rivero - Antonio Piris) ESP, + 922.7 miles
4. NEUTROGENA FÓRMULA NORUEGA (Boris Herrmann - Ryan Breymaier) NOR, +1,093.9 miles
5. ESTRELLA DAMM SAILING TEAM (Alex Pella - Pepe Ribes) ESP, + 1,108.4 miles
6. GAES CENTROS AUDITIVOS (Dee Caffari - Anna Corbella) GBR/ESP, + 2,192.4 miles
7. HUGO BOSS (Wouter Verbraak - Andy Meiklejohn) GBR, +3,350.5 miles
8. FÒRUM MARÍTIM CATALÀ (Gerard Marín - Ludovic Aglaor) ESP, +4,210.4 miles
9. WE ARE WATER (Jaume Mumbrú - Cali Sanmartí) ESP, +6,160.4 miles
10. CENTRAL LECHERA ASTURIANA (Juan Merediz - Fran Palacio) ESP, +8,433.3 millas **TECHNICAL STOPOVER IN WELLINGTON **
* MIRABAUD (Dominique Wavre - Michéle Paret) SUI, RACE ABANDONED 17th March
* GROUPE BEL (Kito de Pavant - Sebastien Audigane) FRA, RACE ABANDONED 11th March.
* 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