Friday, 21 January 2011

BWR: Pit Lane to Slip Lane...

Foncia (back in the lead as of 2000 20th January 2011, after the text below was written). Image copyright Maria Muina/Barcelona World Race.

by Barcelona World Race media

From the pit lane to the slip lane... and into the fast lane. Having long left their pit stops behind, Foncia and Virbac Paprec 3 are not only accelerating out of the west Atlantic, but rapidly overtaking their way through the Barcelona World RACE.

Still in pole position, Estrella Damm lead the fleet south, having escaped from the light winds in the small hours of this morning. Alex Pella and Pepe Ribes (ESP) are no doubt getting accustomed to looking in the rear-view mirror. After a sustained period of compression in the windless zone, which saw the leaders parked solid as the chasing pack reduced their lead, to within 30 miles for second-placed Groupe Bel this morning, the Spaniards must now watch for Michel Desjoyeaux and Francois Gabart’s rise up the rankings.

Foncia this afternoon is second, placed fewer than 20 miles from the leader. In real terms the boats may be more than 500 miles apart, but Foncia and Virbac Paprec 3’s diversion to South America has seen them re-enter the race track with a clear lane, heading south-east at speed.

Video from Renault ZE:

The ‘laughing cow’ team on Groupe Bel remain on Estrella Damm’s tail, and have in fact continued to gained ground in the newly re-established breeze, now in third place. Virbac Paprec 3 now lie in fourth place, one ahead of Mirabaud.

MAPFRE, who have taken a directly southerly line between the westerly duo and the main group, are currently in sixth place but at 18 knots is matching Virbac Paprec’s speed and just a shade under Foncia’s 18.7 knots during the past hour, sailing in similar north-easterlies.

The forecast low pressure system looks set to bring continued north-easterly pressure for the westerly boats, likely to build to a strong northerly which will see them sailing a little high en route to Gough Island. For the easterly boats more moderate easterly breezes are predicted, but the real trial will come as a large high pressure expands across the southern Atlantic, creating another parking lot and preventing access to the motorway of the deep south.

Adding to the headache for the skippers is the fact that the weather routing files are not yet conclusive – the only thing they seem to entirely agree on is that a South American pit stop turned out to be rather fortuitous .

On board Estrella Damm. Image copyright Barcelona World Race.

Alex Pella (ESP) on Estrella Damm explained: “This weather looks like it will continue for some time so we will have to study it very closely to decide our strategy, and if we should go further south or, conversely, to go east. This decision is getting a little more complicated. Grib models we are showing different options and so we have to make a decision as soon as possible of what is right.”

In order to avoid the hold up, the chasing boats are also experimenting with various routes to keep making gains to the south. GAES Centros Auditivos manoeuvred themselves further east in search of better breeze, and although they have overtaken Neutrogena into eighth, Renault Z.E. remain one place ahead in seventh. Hugo Boss, by contrast, has gone slightly to the west of the main group in their bid to continue to gain on the leaders.

Wouter Verbraak (NED) on Hugo Boss commented today: “The next five days are looking pretty tricky, the St Helena high is pretty erratic in its movement so the weather models are not very much in line in what they think about the future. Short-term we are finally going into the transition that the other guys have been fighting for the last couple of days, and this afternoon we should be back in good winds so we’re looking forward to that.”

Standings at Thursday 20 January at 1400hrs UTC

1 ESTRELLA DAMM Sailing Team at 20456 miles from the finish
2 FONCIA at 29 miles from the leader
3 GROUPE BEL at 23 miles
4 VIRBAC-PAPREC 3 at 75 miles
5 MIRABAUD at 105 miles
6 MAPFRE at 123 miles
7 RENAULT Z.E at 135 miles
9 NEUTROGENA at 151 miles
10 HUGO BOSS at 296 miles
12 WE ARE WATER at 316 miles
13 FORUM MARITIM CATALA at 436 miles

SKIPPER QUOTES from Thursday 20 Jan

Alex Pella (ESP), Estrella Damm

“We started to pick up speed yesterday afternoon and it looks like we’ve left the calm. Right now we have winds of 90 degrees up to 18 knots speed, and we’re carrying full main and the solent. There are a few little waves – here, inside the boat the temperature has reached 26°C, and there is a bit of spray, so we're wearing our jackets again outside.

“This weather looks like it will continue for some time so we will have to study it very closely to decide our strategy, and if we should go further south or, conversely, to go east. This decision is getting a little more complicated. Grib models we are showing different options and so we have to make a decision as soon as possible of what is right.

“So far we’ve sailed well, this was our goal, and we prepared for it. We continuing to keep up this pace and to be out in front is a pleasure, especially considering the level of talent that is in the race.

“Yesterday we were visited by some birds but we could not work out what they were – they didn’t seem to be very like seabirds. Perhaps they came by cargo ship or a cloud. But they took flight again once the boat began to pick up speed.”

Michel Desjoyeaux (FRA), Foncia:

“There is 20-25 knots currently and it’s beginning to shake on board. You know we’re used to houses so life as a flat share is a new activity for this 2011 Foncia, but for the moment we are very happy. Francois is doing the washing up and I’m doing the cooking, and we take turns every day.

“I don’t have any news of the ‘Smurfs’, just what I can see from the rankings this morning. But it seems we are faster than them, they are behind us and the gap between us is growing a little bit.

“The pit stop was still a stop, so we’re not happy about having to do it, but it’s in the rules of the race that we can. Our team were super-dymanic. It was strange because we arrived at 0200hrs at the 20th floor of a building in Recife and we put our wet weather jackets in the swimming pool to was the salt off – it looked more like a wild party than a race! Some say that sailing is not much of an adventure, but when my life turns out like this I know it is, and we experience plenty of things we couldn’t have imagined at the start.

“There is a real interaction between Francois and I. I can share my knowledge as I know the boat well, and I know the IMOCA 60 fleet better than him. Francois will have this boat after me, and he will be doing to do it all by himself in a few months, so it’s good that he has already practiced being at the helm and everything on board.”

François Gabart (FRA), Foncia:

“For the next 24 hours we’ll know which side our bread is buttered on – we are in front of the small low pressure and we’re hoping to get some high boat speeds, actually we are currently between 15-19 knots.

“Michel is the boss of the boat, it’s his boat but we are two on board and we are both responsible for the boat. What is interesting is that we have different way of thinking as we don’t have the same background so we can come together and take the best elements of each other.

“I’ll keep the Michel Desjoyeaux methods to myself for a few years, and if I talk about anything he does I won’t share anything important! Two days ago Michel showed me how to drop the gennaker in one go, so I did that myself yesterday.”

Mirabaud. Image copyright Barcelona World Race.

Loïck Peyron (FRA), Virbac-Paprec 3 :

“It’s a little bit shaky, and there is a lot of wind. We are reaching and it’s a white-water ride. We’re currently between 16-18 knots.

“When we are working on the chart table one is lucky because he gets to sit down, and the other has to stand up and take care not to fall like a tightrope walker!”

Jean-Pierre Dick (FRA), Virbac-Paprec 3:

“Speaking about the match against Foncia, it sounds good and it’s been a long time that we are very close together, although it’s true that Michel has a few lengths advantage on us, because he reached the area with a little more wind before us. Now it will be a long contest. We have to make as few errors as we can. The race will be won or lost on mistakes we do or don’t make.

“Loick is 100 % committed, we can’t ease off like we did at the start.”

Dominique Wavre (SUI), Mirabaud:

“Since yesterday, we’ve found a couple of knots more wind, but we got stuck for two days before that.

“The exit from the Mediterranean was exhausting, ditto for the passage of Gibraltar and then, like the Doldrums, people were stopped dead for two and a half days thanks to the St Helena anticyclone of the island of. It's like the little twin brother of the Azores. For two days, we waited until it let us go. When there are scattered puffs of wind, we try to scrounge a few metres gain so it's physically demanding.

“Foncia and Virbac-Paprec had a big lead at the start. Their pit stop allowed them to take a very intelligent path to bypass the high pressure so they wasted no time.

“Michèle is in great shape, all tanned! She is about to grind up the mainsail! But this year is much more tiring than the previous edition, because it is more difficult to manage fatigue. We realize that it will become even harder in the cold days ahead.

“At 2,000 miles the first gate is looking pretty exciting, because the weather changes its mind every day. But I think Foncia and Virbac-Paprec will arrive before the low pressure.”

Antonio Piris (ESP), Renault Z.E. Sailing Team:

“The last 24 hours the breeze has been pretty terrible. We’ve been sailing mostly upwind, a little bit cracked like tonight we’ve had a few squalls that left us completely stopped, or with wind coming from quite a few different places – at some stages we thought we had to tack quite a few times, but not because we wanted to. Luckily this morning the wind has picked up and we’re back on track, and we’re more satisfied to see 10 knots on the speedo and the boat moving again. But it’s been mainly bearable and upwind.”

Andy Meiklejohn (NZL), Hugo Boss:

“We’re sailing a little bit upwind in about 10 knots. The boat is holding up well, we’ve got most of the repairs finished, and we’re sailing at full speed so it’s fine, it’s all about what’s happening outside the boat, that’s the big thing – clouds and wind and weather, so it’s about getting our head out of the boat and looking around.

“We should be seeing a little more breeze in about a day, maybe, with a little bit of reaching again. There’s still a bit more transition to go and then we should be reaching in some good breeze.

“Every time the fleet compresses it presents you with an opportunity so we’re just hoping we’re in the right position on the water to take those opportunities. We had some difficult conditions in the last day and a half and slowed down where others didn’t, but you can really only sail your own race.”

Wouter Verbraak (NED), Hugo Boss:

“The next 5 days are looking pretty tricky, the St Helena high is pretty erratic in its movement so the weather models are not very much in line in what they think about the future. Short-term we are finally going into the transition that the other guys have been fighting for the last couple of days, and this afternoon we should be back in good winds so we’re looking forward to that.

“The stealth mode is an interesting card to play. So we haven’t had the opportunity yet to make a good use of it, but obviously for the guys who are making a westerly choice it was interesting. I think that it adds to the fun of the whole game really.
“We’re in a rhythm, I wouldn’t say it’s a watch system but we’re in a good rhythm, and more importantly we’re in a good vibe between the two of us. Yesterday in the light winds we’ve had a few talks about how we’re going to deal with the Southern Ocean, which is another four weeks of this race and very important. So I would say that mentally and physically we’re doing well, and as a team terrific, so we’re looking forward to catching up some miles in the Southern Ocean.

“Physically I’m pretty good. I think this race is more about the mental aspect more anything. Being a professional sailor I’m in good shape anyway so I’ve been ready to do this race for a long time, so it’s all good and since the Cape Verde Islands where we got the definite go-ahead mentally we’re rock-solid as well. So we’re in fit and fighting shape for the Southern Ocean!

“Obviously every time you go into the Southern Ocean you worry all the time about what part of the boat, or the human, are the elements going to find is not 100 per cent prepared for the race. So any weakness in our armour and the race will find it. So we’re worried and have to be on our toes all the time, to be ahead of the curve and find the little line that’s chafing or the generator that’s not running at 100 per cent before it becomes a problem.

“Toothpaste was the one thing that it wasn’t completely clear whose responsibility it was before the start, and we were a bit hectic there! We also have one razor blade each so we’ll see soon how that goes blunt, but otherwise we’re in good shape.
“The food situation is excellent, we’ve got some pretty good recipes here on the boat and we’ve got all different varieties of pre-packed food from different companies, and more importantly we managed to dig up some raw garlic yesterday so that’s added some flavour to the food and was a real treat for our pasta bolognaise yesterday.”

Ludovic Aglaor (FRA), Forum Maritim Catala:

"It's a sunny day with 10 knots of wind. We are dead last after the Doldrums, because we struggled a lot to get out of their clutches, but we will do our best to catch We Are Water and Central Lechera Asturiana. This is the easiest section of the race so it's easier to use the autopilot. It'll also be our last shower before the Roaring Forties!

“We definitely have a 20th century boat in terms of competitiveness, as it is not so powerful as the others, but then again this race is not necessarily all about speed, but consistency.

“It wasn’t obvious that we would be last in the position rankings, but seeing the boats that took hold of the competition in the beginning, I’m not surprised.”

In French:

Paires, impairs et passe

On board Gaes Centros Auditivos. Image copyright Barcelona World Race.

* Estrella Damm est de plus en ballottage avec le retour de Foncia par le Sud-Ouest
* L’anticyclone de Sainte-Hélène se reforme et reprend sa position normale
* Les Espagnols de MAPFRE n’ont pas dit leur dernier mot

La voie « brésilienne » confirme sa bonne santé : avec un flux de Nord-Est puissant, Foncia et Virbac-Paprec 3 reviennent comme des boulets sur la tête de la course, décalée de près de 500 milles plus à l’Est. Presque toute la flotte bénéficie d’une brise établie et la première marque de parcours n’est plus qu’à trois jours des leaders.

Les couples se reforment sur l’Atlantique Sud ! D’un côté à l’extrême Sud-Ouest et pratiquement à 1 300 milles plus à l’Ouest que la route directe (sic !), Foncia et Virbac-Paprec 3 foncent vers les Quarantièmes Rugissants à plus de 17 nœuds de moyenne, poussés par un puissant flux de Nord-Est. De l’autre, Estrella Damm et Groupe Bel plongent plein Sud dans des alizés de secteur Est à très bonne vitesse (14 nœuds) et ont largué leurs poursuivants qui ne sont vraiment sortis des vents erratiques du tropique du Capricorne qu’à la mi-journée ce jeudi.

Un peu plus loin cette fois, c’est une paire de paires qui naviguent de conserve puisque Mirabaud est suivi à 50 milles par Neutrogena et quelques dizaines de milles plus à l’Est, Gaes Centros Auditivos et Renault ZE se sont sensiblement rapprochés ces dernières heures. Et en queue de flotte, Central Lechera Asturiana n’est pas très éloigné de We are water… Trois « esseulés » donc avec l’équipage de MAPFRE qui doit se mordre les doigts de son choix « furtif » peu convaincant, tout comme le duo de Hugo Boss qui a quitté la trace de ses prédécesseurs pour se décaler dans l’Ouest, suivi encore plus à l’extérieur par FMC à 150 milles derrière...

Mirabaud. Image copyright Barcelona World Race.

Casino royal

Sur le grand échiquier de l’Atlantique Sud, chaque duo a posé ses pions et les coups sont anticipés à cinq jours… Alex Pella et Pepe Ribes n’avaient donc pas trop le choix lorsque les deux voiliers français (alors en tête) se sont détournés vers Recife pour réparer, Foncia sa crash-box, Virbac-Paprec 3 sa barre d’écoute.

Estrella Damm a logiquement choisi la voie « conservatrice » de la plus courte distance vers le but, alors qu’il n’y avait pas d’ouverture sur sa droite. Et ses poursuivants directs tels Groupe Bel ou Mirabaud ne pouvaient qu’emprunter le même chemin pour des raisons tactiques et stratégiques. En revanche, Foncia et Virbac-Paprec 3 repartant avec plus de 100 et 200 milles de décalage en latitude mais surtout en étant près des côtes brésiliennes, pouvaient se permettre d’aller chercher un couloir de vent qui n’apparaissait pas encore lorsque le leader s’engageait au milieu de l’Atlantique.

Les dés étaient jetés, la roulette pouvait virevolter, la loterie était du côté des « Brésiliens » qui tiraient le gros lot en accrochant un boulevard royal de vents portants dès le cap Frio ! Bingo… Alors qu’au centre, les cartes étaient tout à coup brouillées par une redistribution atmosphérique très rapide et imprévue à l’horizon de cinq jours. Mélangés, les atouts revenaient à l’Ouest du plan d’eau où une dépression orageuse propulsait les deux équipages français à vitesse grand « V » sur les Trentièmes tandis que les « centristes » passaient leur tour en attendant le retour des alizés. Mais celui qui a finalement fait le plus gros impair est MAPFRE puisque son hésitation en mode « furtif » à aller chercher plus près des côtes le même flux que Desjoyeaux-Gabart et Dick-Peyron le relègue à la sixième place ce jeudi après-midi !

Les jeux ne sont pas (tout à fait) faits

La bonne nouvelle du jour est que les vitesses ont pris un coup de pied aux fesses : dix-huit nœuds pour les trois « périphériques » (Foncia, Virbac-Paprec 3, MAPFRE), plus de douze nœuds pour les « centristes » (Estrella Damm, Groupe Bel, Mirabaud…) même si le cap n’est pas encore direct vers l’île Gough. Les alizés ne sont pas encore aussi favorables pour les quatre retardataires (Hugo Boss, Central Lechera Asturiana, We are water, FMC), mais cela devrait s’améliorer lorsqu’ils auront eux aussi passé le tropique du Capricorne. A mille milles de l’île australe, il est encore trop tôt pour établir la hiérarchie future, mais à ce rythme, Michel Desjoyeaux et François Gabart ont de grandes chances de faire « banco ». Quant à leurs poursuivants, la lutte s’annonce chaude aux abords des Quarantièmes Rugissants !

Reste aussi le paramètre incontournable : le matériel. A trop tirer dessus trop vite par rapport à un tour du monde qui aligne encore plus de 20 000 milles, il peut y avoir casse, avarie ou départ en vrac... « Qui veut voyager loin, ménage sa monture... ». Mais qui passera en tête la première porte des glaces aura au moins l’avantage de l’ascendant psychologique !

Classement du 20 janvier à 15 heures :

1 ESTRELLA DAMM Sailing Team à 20 456 milles de l’arrivée
2 FONCIA à 19milles du leader
3 GROUPE BEL à 23 milles
4 VIRBAC-PAPREC 3 à 75 milles
5 MIRABAUD à 105 milles
6 MAPFRE à 123 milles
7 RENAULT Z.E à 135 milles
9 NEUTROGENA à 151 milles
11 HUGO BOSS à 296 milles
12 WE ARE WATER à 316 milles
13 FORUM MARITIM CATALA à 436 milles

Ils ont dit :

Video - Francois Gabart, Foncia:

Antonio Piris, Renault ZE
: « Nous avons commencé à avancer cette nuit. C’est difficile de connaître les évolutions, car nous attendons les classements. Nous ne savons pas comment vont les autres, mais dernièrement les choses ne vont pas si mal.
Maintenant nous naviguons assez vite – 11-12 nœuds - au près avec un vent de 15-16 nœuds au 82°. Le pont est arrosé régulièrement alors que nous sommes grand-voile haute et solent. Normalement dans ces conditions, nous devrions être avec le génois devant. Nous allons voir si nous n’allons pas changer les voiles.
Le pont est assez humide mais c’est tenable. »

Loïck Peyron, Virbac-Paprec 3 : « Ça bouge pas mal. Il y a pas mal de vent. On est travers au vent. On est au moins cent fois par jour dans cette alternative : il y en a un qui à la chance d’être assis et l’autre qui est en équilibre précaire près de la table à cartes… Concernant le match avec Foncia, ça va être long et il va falloir être tenace. Loïck est à 100% dedans, nous n’allons rien lâcher. Nous avons fait avancer le bateau à fond, mais nous avons eu moins d’air que Michel : c’est pour cela que nous avons grillé la cartouche du furtif. »

Ludovic Aglaor, Forum Maritim Catala : « C’est une journée ensoleillée avec un vent de 10 nœuds. Nous sommes bons derniers depuis le Pot au Noir, car nous avons pas mal galéré pour en sortir, mais nous allons faire de notre mieux pour rattraper We Are Water et Central Lechera Asturiana. C’est la partie la plus facile de la course : c’est plus simple pour mettre des automatismes en place. Ça va être les dernières douches avant les Quarantièmes Rugissants. Il est certain que nous avons un bateau du 20ème siècle : il n’est pas aussi puissant que les autres, et puis ce n’est pas forcément la course à la vitesse, mais à la régularité. Sportivement, être dernier du classement ce n’est pas évident, mais en voyant la liste des bateaux engagés au départ, je m’y attendais. »

Dominique Wavre, Mirabaud : « Depuis hier, nous avons retrouvé du vent : une quinzaine de nœuds, mais nous sommes restés coincés pendant deux jours avant ça… Foncia et Virbac-Paprec avaient déjà beaucoup d’avance au départ. Leurs arrêts techniques leur ont permis de prendre une trajectoire très intelligente pour contourner l’anticyclone et ils n’ont pas perdu de temps… Cette année, c’est beaucoup plus fatigant que la précédente édition, car c’est plus difficile de gérer la fatigue. On se rend compte que ça va être encore plus dur dans le froid les prochains jours. »

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