Saturday, 12 March 2011

BWR: The Passing of the Horn in Company...

Cape Horn. Image copyright Alex Thomson Racing.

by SailRaceWin

At about 0045 UTC on 13th March, HUGO BOSS reached the most southern point of South America, Cape Horn, and turned the corner into the Atlantic! "On the home straight now and heading back to Barcelona!" (The comment on facebook met with the immediate approval of Kirsten Meiklejohn, Andy's wife.)

GAES Centros Auditivos also went around the Horn about the same time, just 1.5 miles from HUGO BOSS. Both boats have seen hailstorms with hail the size of golf balls reported by GAES, and snow storms too, over the last 2-3 days, and very squally conditions. GAES is currently reported as about 5 miles ahead of HUGO BOSS.

It appears that Neutrogena and Sodeb'O started a trend earlier in the week; sailboat racing around Cape Horn is now to be done in company!

Winds are now light both at, and past, the Horn, which makes for slow going for HUGO BOSS as she has a reef in the mainsail. There should be an opportunity to fix the main track and resolve this issue in High pressure and flat seas (the latter are much needed for working up the mast) in the Atlantic, and this will allow HUGO BOSS to get up to full speed again. The top speed that she has reached so far during the 2010-11 Barcelona World Race is an awesome 40.7 knots!

Mostly there will be relief on board both boats, due to the freezing cold, wet, icy, conditions combined with uncomfortable sea state, sailing a lot of upwind, rather than down, and passing through the remains of tropical cyclone Atu, that they encountered in the most un-Pacific passage by racing sailboats boats since Dee Caffari went around the world in the opposite direction some years ago, being now behind them. Heading north means heading towards the equator and warmer weather, plus sunshine, should await them after the cold, grey, rollers of the south.

Interesting Developments Ahead

Apart from the St Helena High and low pressure systems developing, plus a lot of upwelling of cold water off Argentina in currents, which we won't comment on here, the three boats ahead of HUGO BOSS and GAES are having their own tussle.

Estrella Damm, who just passed Mirabaud, has now also overtaken the beleagured Neutrogena (who have keel issues to contend with). The three boats are within 15 miles of each other in 4th-5th-6th; GAES have moved up to 7th, with HUGO BOSS in 8th, on rounding the Horn, as Groupe Bel was forced to pull out of the Barcelona World Race in Ushuaia with keel issues. Groupe Bel is the third French boat to pull out of the race, the other two, President and Foncia, having had to do so due to mast breakages, so the leader, Virbac Paprec 3, is the only French boat remaining in the current edition of the Barcelona World Race.

Virbac Paprec 3 remain in first, Mapfre in second and Renault ZE in third, while at the other end of the fleet, Central Lechera Asturiana are tied up and making mast repairs in Wellington, while Forum Maritim Catala and We Are Water are progressing across the Pacific towards Cape Horn.

The race has taken longer than usual due to icing conditions necessitating the imposition of northerly ice gates to steer competitors away from bergs and growlers, and the La Nina conditions, which affect the patterns of water temperature and ocean currents, and thereby also the weather systems that develop associated with them. The first boat would not be expected back into Barcelona before the end of the month, at the very earliest, and April may well be more likely now.

In reality, most of the fleet still have the St Helena High to negotiate (an area of light winds), followed by the Doldrums (which seemed to be largely absent on the way down, but offer light winds and big squalls to trap the unwary, amidst sweltering humidity), and then the weather systems from the Cape Verde Islands to the Canaries and on to the Mediterranean itself, which proved very tricky to negotiate after the race start.

In short; interesting times, and plenty of opportunities to be created and taken advantage of, whilst boat maintenance is on the cards for everyone after sailing thousands of miles around the world. It could still be any boat's race!

Alex Thomson Racing
Barcelona World Race