Monday, 17 January 2011

BWR: Spain on top and a Brazilian Stop

Mapfre - currently in second place. Image copyright Maria Munia/Barcelona World Race.

by Barcelona World Race media

Somewhat predictably there was a sharp contrast in moods today between the two Spanish duos which now lead the Barcelona World Race and the two French crews who are making a pit-stop in Recife, Brazil to make technical repairs.

While they are doing everything possible to maximise their advantage over their French rivals, so today also offered an opportunity for the crews of Barcelona based leaders Estrella Damm, and of MAPFRE, rivals from Sanxenxo in the north of Spain, and former Volvo race crew-mates - to share enjoy the moment.

Making easy, regular progress in the modest E’ly trade winds, perfect warm sunshine and fairly flat seas, Pepe Ribes and Alex Pella on Estrella Damm and Xabi Fernandez on MAPFRE – some 100 miles behind (only 30 miles in terms of latitude) - could all scarcely conceal their pleasure at leading the race at this early stage.

Smiles were broad, moods relaxed and, when they were linked by today’s visio-conference, the banter was boisterous.

Xabi Fernandez joked: “Wait a bit, I’m going to catch you!”

Pepe Ribes: “Where should we go? Left or right?”

Xabi. “I was heading to Recife but I don’t know where to go now!”

Pepe: “We are having a fantastic day, luxury sailing, nice wind, sun...”

If the Spanish teams were in fiesta mood, in Recife there was time for the Foncia and Virbac-Paprec 3 pairs to grab a shower and a very little sleep while their technical teams worked on their respective IMOCA Open 60’s some 100 metres or so apart.

Having been built in opposite hemispheres, since they left Martinique on the same ship for their delivery to Barcelona the two teams and the two boats have been all but joined at the hip. And in Recife the skippers found themselves resting and showering in the same apartment.

Foncia was first to arrive in the port at 2330hrs (UTC) last night and were expecting to leave early tomorrow morning, reported to be around 0100hrs to 0300hrs (UTC) after completing their crash box repair. A slow arrival through the night shut down in the coastal breeze, saw Dick and Peyron arrived at 0840hrs (UTC) this morning, and they were reported to be hoping to leave around 2100hrs (UTC) this Saturday evening after replacing their main sheet track.

If they could take the advantage of an evening breeze before the local thermal winds fold then that would be a net gain to Foncia.

Through their stoppage time Estrella Damm has been making around 13 knots, MAPFRE slightly less from their westerly position at around 9-11 knots, which suggests the net gain to the Spanish boats will be at least 300 miles, almost certainly more. The French duo will almost certainly need to sail a high, relatively slow angle to clear themselves of the vagaries of the coastal breezes, before hooking back into the E’ly trade winds. But the advantage to Estrella Damm and MAPFRE could increase as they see the breeze move more NE to allow them a faster, higher course relative to the chasing pack.

Kito de Pavant and Seb Audigane moved up to third place on the rankings this afternoon, on Groupe Bel which one week ago tonight was seventh with a 220 miles deficit on the leader.

Foncia, arriving in Recife, Brazil - showing the damage to the bow crash box. Image copyright Team Foncia/Barcelona World Race.


Alex Pella (ESP), Estrella Damm: "It's very cool to be ahead in a race like this, but this has only just begun. It is better to be ahead, especially for morale, but now we have complicated days ahead, we seem to have the way barred to the Santa Helena anticyclone.

"In these races when you're leading you mark out the course and set the pace.
It is difficult to be ahead but we will try. It may be only for a short time, because I think the fleet will close up again.

"But today is a day no one can take away from us and we'll celebrate on board.
We got messages from the shore crew and everyone is excited, as we are. However, do not get too excited, since the positions are relative. I would really like this to be the case in Gibraltar, in the last corner.

"Now we have to see what course to follow. It will be harder for us than for those who come after, which seems to them a clear path.

“It is pretty exciting and a lovely day. We have been fortunate to climb positions. But this is just going to be a nice memory. because we have only done two weeks of a race that can last a hundred, ie, fifteen per cent of the race. But we keep our heads cool.

“Our goal is to finish the race making the minimum possible errors. These races are very long and keeping the boat and equipment together gives you more opportunities to improve positions.

“Those behind are also real good and people as experienced as Dominique Wavre and Kito de Pavant will challenge for sure. It adds to the pressure to be the leader but it is always good to look at the fleet in the mirror.

“With the prospect of the St. Helena high we certainly have to do many more miles than the ones who are behind who might catch us again.

“It is curious that the two ‘old’ boats of Jean Pierre (Dick) and Michel (Desjoyeaux) are now the new leaders as they are in the port, unfortunately for them and luckily for us. So far it seems that the "retro" boats are beating the modern ones. But let's see what happens later.

“I have not used my Ipod so far, but Pepe does use his from time to time. Yesterday was a good day to relax, easy to sail the boat. It was a very nice, like a mini-vacation. It was perfect to recover and face the days ahead.

“Without doubt going ahead is very good news and very nice. We always will be able to say that on the fifteenth day of racing we were leaders. But you have to see how it evolves and we are concerned how to go on without being passed too.
We will see how we can maintain this distance.”

Xabi Fernandez (ESP): MAPFRE: “The Mediterranean got complicated in one night. We were doing well sailing quickly and we found ourselves in a situation where we didn’t want to be, close to shore with Président and we got stuck there and we couldn’t get out. Then going down to the Atlantic went really well and now... we can’t ask for more! Yesterday was a bit strange, Alex and Pepe were further East and had a better wind angle so they managed to take us a few miles. But the position we have now is to be very happy with and we are trying to sail as many miles as we can to go down as quickly as possible.

“We are very happy but looking forward to stronger winds and sailing downwind. The last few days were pretty quiet so it was good to clean the boat and stack it properly and also to catch up with some sleep because before the Equator and the doldrums (even if they were some nice doldrums) it’s always dangerous and you have to be alert at all times. It’s a bit of a shame though that Foncia and Virbac Paprec 3 had to stop because they are clearly the big boats in this race and due to relatively small problems they’ve had to stop. But we’ll see how long it takes them to get it fixed. I’m sure they will do it quickly and back with us fighting in no time.”

On being in the leading two?
“It’s all an opportunity and we have to take advantage of all of them. I don’t know if we are going to push harder but we know that the we need to take the Indian Ocean carefully because it’s a place where you really feel the big change from the Atlantic to the Indian and the conditions can get trickier. In the Indian ocean we need to make sure we don’t lose the race and of course we’ll push harder, first to catch Estrella and then to extend the margin to those who are behind. And I’m sure Virbac-Paprec and Foncia will be back in the water soon and will start cutting miles quickly.

“Navigating and weather is going better. We are dedicating a lot of time to it, specially Iker, and doing better studies. Every day we learn more and we learn from past situations and trying to see where we can improve.”

On the doldrums:
“They have been way different than the ones we had in the Volvo in 2008. Then we were stopped for I don’t know how many days with clouds, stopped, squalls, and more stops... and here it was almost like nothing. We did a few sail changes and you are always a bit nervous because you know that one cloud can get you stuck somewhere, a bit with what happened with Mirabaud and Groupe Bel. They were sailing with us and in one night they lost 30 or 40 miles. I wish it was always like this but I really doubt it.”

On sailing together:
“ Sailing together is going very well. We knew it was going to go well but it’s actually going perfect. We manage to share all duties pretty well and we dedicate lots of hours hand steering because the boat goes much better like this.”

Jean-Pierre Dick (FRA): “The arrival in Recife was a bit slow and protracted with the thermal breeze gone and big clouds which stopped us. We arrived at 05:40hrs (08:40hrs UTC) with the technical team ahead of us by just about an hour. The boat is moored. We are on site for the repair and expect the repair to last around 12 hours.

"There are always risks. The important thing is to be back in the race quickly.
It is really strangely communal here with Foncia here. The two teams are just 20 metres away. With Michel and François we found ourselves in the same apartment when we went to go for a shower which was a bit funny.

"It is like we have not left Foncia for several months.

"Already we had removed all the elements of the existing track. Afterwards we will put in plates with bolts. That will make it much stronger than before. The new track was curved in France yesterday morning. It will be fitted as soon as the inserts are completed. Once they are all in place the tops and ends will be fitted and we will be good to set out again with Loïck. The new challenge will begins."

Andy Meiklejohn (NZL): Hugo Boss: “ We thought we would have a more interesting night than we did but we are still moving along quite nicely and as the bungee grows shorter with the guys in front. We managed to keep a little more breeze into the Doldrums than we thought and we are not really too sure how our position really is related to them at the moment, whether we have still got them to come or still have most to come, we have mostly been going seven or eight knots for the last 12 hours.

“We have done a few gybes to position ourselves where we feel is the best place to cross, we have changed sails this morning, it is quite light this morning and so I have been up the mast for a rig check, taking that opportunity. So it has been busy but you have to take these opportunities to keep on top of the job list, but also sailing fast and sailing safely.

“Firstly I started off my time in this project with Alex and it was always my intention to do this race with Alex, and that is everything we were training and preparing for. It is really disappointing when that does not work out. Obviously I feel really disappointed for him, he is going through a tough time and has done so for the last couple of weeks, and in terms of us the hardest bit was not having a decision on where your future lies. We had a couple of days where we thought we would be stopping and they were not too easy, knowing there was bit more going on, with Alex’s little guy. But as a team we all talked through it all, and the guys on shore came to a decision and now it is down to us. And we are looking forwards to it.

“We did the first 10 days with intention of stopping and you get into a routine and a rhythm, and we expected that to stop. But in fact we have just picked up where we left off. So in fact it has not been as unsettling as it could have been.

“We had a slow start to the race, but we are focused on looking for opportunities. But you take them as they come to you, you can’t really go hunting for them, then you end up in the wrong place. There is a bit of luck to it. We did not have much luck in the Mediterranean so maybe we will have a bit of luck in the South Atlantic.

“Hopefully we can keep moving through the Doldrums and if we can we will have made a really nice gain on Renault and GAES and if we can get a little more breaks to go our way, then we are back in this race. There is still a lot of race track to go. There is still 20,000 miles to go, we are looking at it one step at a time.”

Foncia arriving in Recife, Brazil - showing the damage to the bow crash box. Image copyright Team Foncia/Barcelona World Race.

Standings at 1400hrs GMT Saturday

1 ESTRELLA DAMM Sailing Team at 21381 miles from finish
2 MAPFRE at 104 miles
3 GROUPE BEL at 119 miles
4 MIRABAUD at 141 miles
5 FONCIA at 158 miles du leader
6 VIRBAC-PAPREC 3 at 158 miles
7 NEUTROGENA at 237 miles
9 RENAULT Z.E at 267 miles
10 HUGO BOSS at 368 miles
11 FORUM MARITIM CATALA at 370 miles
13 WE ARE WATER at 458 miles

Barcelona World Race