Tuesday, 1 February 2011

BWR: At One Month - Stress Busting?

HUGO BOSS. Image copyright Mark Lloyd/Lloyd Images/Alex Thomson Racing.

by Barcelona World Race media

Can Virbac-Paprec get through the Crozet gate before the subtropical depression hits?
After one month at sea the duos are well into what makes their partnerships work
Weather cards dealt are very different for the vanguard and rearguard, very different stresses

Who, of those towards the back of the Barclelona World Race fleet would swap their unfortunate reality and certainty for the high stress and uncertainty which leaders Jean-Pierre Dick and Loïck Peyron appeared to be facing over the next few days as they look set to deal with a difficult, active subtropical low pressure system?
Duos like Andy Meiklejohn and Wouter Verbraak on Hugo Boss and Dee Caffari and Anna Corbella on GAES Centros Auditivos, who were all joined through this morning’s Barcelona World Race Visio-Conference, are trying to come to terms with the weather cards they have been dealt, initially: a hand offering at least two or three days of upwind sailing and surely more.

In contrast, with a lead of 589 miles this afternoon over second placed MAPFRE, Dick sounded slightly anxious this morning as he admitted they were still not clear on the timing of, or how they will deal with the muscular low pressure which is threatening them.

He and co-skipper Peyron have been making optimal use of their time in slacker breezes, making just 12 knots this afternoon in light upwind conditions, by reviewing the weather files as they get them, preparing the boat, rig and equipment for the big blow and sleeping and eating as much as they can.

For those who are getting used to the idea that their domain will be slamming upwind at an angle for days to come rather than surfing downwind, there is more to deal with mentally than simply considering how their endurance and patience will be tested.

For sure there will be also now be some bigger gaps in the fleet developing and overall duration of their race is likely to be greater than anticipated.

Ryan Breymaier and Boris Herrmann expressed a certain satisfaction in having got back to within 44 or so miles of sixth placed Mirabaud yesterday but they are snared this afternoon in calms which have seen them making less than a two knots average, losing 28 miles this afternoon alone. And Caffari confirmed that their aggregate losses could accumulate to five or six hundred miles.

Under such circumstances the duos solidarity as a unit will be tested, as will their discipline and humour. Hugo Boss’ Wouter ‘The Router’ Verbraak joked this morning that they simply discard the forecasts they don’t like the look of and resort to another cup of tea, before getting on with the job to the best of their ability, while Caffari stated starkly and simply:
“It sucks”

Joined by video link with We Are Water’s Barcelona skipper Cali Sanmarti who celebrated his 42nd birthday today, Anna Corbella warned her friend Cali, both former Mini class skippers, not to start ‘robbing the food bags’ a mistake which, when all the treats are used up too early, can make the final stage of the circumnavigation especially tedious.

Hugo Boss: Andy Meiklejohn (NZL) and Wouter Verbraak (NED):

From second placed MAPFRE Iker Martinez compared previous life in these latitudes on the fully crewed Volvo Ocean Race with the different kind of stress and tiredness, racing as a duo for the first time on an IMOCA Open 60, which they seem to have adapted to well.

“ These boats anyway are designed for downwind, so they are rather uncomfortable, in fact to speak now I am wedged on the floor, it is uncomfortable and even dangerous. The Volvo is intense but over shorter periods. But the IMOCA can be slower and more difficult over short periods - during manoeuvres. We have no heating on board, a choice which seemed nice but we decided not to because of the fuel we would have needed. The way we sail is very different to the Volvo. The Volvo is a bit like being in the army with 10 guys. This is totally different with just the two of us, we sleep little but in the Volvo we sleep for longer periods. Here is it is 30 minutes, an hour maybe two.”Explained Martinez today.

Meantime Président’s Jean Le Cam continues to follow the Barcelona World Race closely, speaking out in complete support of the ice-gates:
“ Combined with the complicated weather patterns in this part of the world which are going to complicate things for the competitors adding a touch of spice to the race, that is why I would like to say well done to the race director....”Le Cam commented.

GAES Centros Auditivos. Image copyright GAES/BWR.

Rankings on Monday 31 January at 1400hrs UTC

1 VIRBAC-PAPREC 3 at 16 868,8 miles to finish
2 MAPFRE at 589 miles to the leader
3 ESTRELLA DAMM Sailing Team at 706,3 miles
4 GROUPE BEL at 727 miles
5 RENAULT Z.E at 874,5 miles
6 MIRABAUD at 1232,8 miles
7 NEUTROGENA at 1321,9 miles
8 GAES CENTROS AUDITIVOS at 1555,5 miles
9 HUGO BOSS at 1931,8 miles
11 WE ARE WATER at 2026,7 miles
12 FORUM MARITIM CATALA at 2141,3 miles


Alex Pella (ESP) Estrella Damm:“ We are now sailing on starboard with little wind, about 8 knots from SW, heading 80 and doing 9-10 knots of boat speed. We spent the night with the genoa and with almost no wind. We believe that everyone in the group will be affected by this calm, but MAPFRE seems to have more wind up North so let’s see if it does not escape too far. Wind is heading and it seems we’ll sail upwind for a good while.

"It is sunny; we have about 13 degrees and lots of birds around. We have just seen a whale.

"The review of the first month is very positive. We are in the fight. We had very good moments. The Mediterranean went very well, we just had some bad luck after leaving it. The descent of the Azores high was very successful and the doldrums went perfect. When the two boats ahead stopped in Recife we became first.

"Then in the descent of the Atlantic we were not good, we made mistakes and we were stopped with a bit of bad luck and the fleet came on us. We took the brunt of the fleet in this option.

"Now after passing Agulhas we are fine but the places have been compressed. The boats are very engaged. We hope MAPFRE does not escape.

“ In one month we have tried to minimize wear of the boat and ours: we are trying to stick with the watches and eat properly, we look after each other, the boat does not have any serious problems, only broke a wind wand and replaced it and the hydros are not charging much as we would like but they are all little things so for now everything is fine.

"I think we understood very well the race: It seems there is much ahead, maybe more than two months, and we are sailing calmer trying to ensure the material. We believe it is likely that there are more abandons and we will try to be among the boats to arrive to Barcelona.

“ The worst moment was the passage of Santa Helena High, when we missed the front and the fleet came upon us. It was a difficult time for the moral, but it is past now.

"And the best moments were undoubtedly passing through the Doldrums and getting first. On a personal level is now one of the best times to be in the Deep South for the first time. We're feeling very comfortable and I am loving it to sail here. It will be much longer than I thought because the ice gates have been moved far to the north and we’ll pass through many transitions, which will make the race much slower.”

Dee Caffari (GBR) GAES Centros Auditivos:“Let’s put a reality check on this! We are in the Southern Ocean going upwind, it is just ridiculous. But we can’t stay miserable and we have to try remain positive because we have got like three days of this, and it would actually be easier to stop in South Africa and have a party and then go again when the weather is nice, so we really are looking for positives from this.

"But it sucks, I went the other way around the world and went upwind, now I am going this way and am upwind. Everyone promised it should be downwind. Something is seriously wrong. This not what we signed up for in the brochure for the Barcelona World Race.”

HUGO BOSS. Image copyright Alex Thomson Racing.

Andy Meiklejohn (NZL) and Wouter Verbraak (NED), Hugo Boss: “ The weather model this morning I have thrown in the rubbish bin. Our philosophy in this race is that the glass is always half full, so when we get a bad weather model like this we just say that it never happened. We go have a cup of tea and hope it goes away.

"We need that kind of inspiration, those are great stories when you are a young fellow and that is what heroes are made out of, that what shows a lot of character.
Mike showed a lot of character starting a week behind everybody having broken his mast, and came through and set a fast time. That is the kind of spirit we are trying to keep going. We have had some set backs, but we are just keeping on looking forward to the race continuing, us doing our jobs as best we can, and we will try and pull some places back.

We promised Dee that we were coming to catch her two weeks ago, now we are going to make sure we keep that promise.”

Jean-Pierre Dick (FRA), Virbac-Paprec 3:“Just now we will have calms then some wind today but on February 1st we will see quite a lot of wind. The conditions this morning are a little better than yesterday evening but it is a bit alarming because there is a lot of wind coming from the north. We have two objectives, to try and pass the Crozet gate and to then try and get down to the next gate without too much wind and seas which are not too extreme.

We are spending a lot of time and energy trying to understand what will come down to us. It is a big depression coming down from Madagascar which comes with a warm tropical air which is mixed with the cold air. It looks malicious. We are trying to rest as much as possible and prepare the boat and gear for this big wind.

Whatever, it is a sort of stress because we don’t know what will happen and we need to make somemanoeuvresin the big weather that will be stressful. The boats are really pushed in these conditions and at times like that we are’ sailing on eggs’. The Indian is quite wild and these are unstable winds and very active fronts. I hope that it all goes well.

Compared to what we have been through (down here) before it is a bit different. We are more in the north, at 42 degrees, and the depressions we get will be strong with wild conditions. I believe the Indian Ocean is more challenging with very young depressions, with very aggressive with northerly winds or very strong from the south.”

In French:

La mer à boire

Estrella Damm. Image copyright Maria Muina/Barcelona World Race.

Pour certains, c’est l’heure des doutes à l’aube d’aborder une situation pour le moins délicate. Pour d’autres, les jours se suivent et ressemblent de plus en plus à une punition où le lot commun est de vivre les allures de près, avec au moins 20° de gîte, sans pouvoir faire la route directe. Pour tous, cette entrée dans l’océan Indien ne ressemble en rien à ce qu’ils auraient pu en attendre.

A chacun sa croix... Pour Jean-Pierre Dick et Loïck Peyron, solides leaders à bord de Virbac-Paprec 3, les heures à venir vont être tendues. Les deux navigateurs en approche de la porte des glaces au nord de l’archipel de Crozet, aimeraient bien savoir à quelle sauce ils risquent d’être mangés. La dépression subtropicale en provenance du sud de Madagascar va-t-elle les avaler tout cru, ou bien les dédaignera-t-elle pour d’autres cieux… En attendant, les deux navigateurs rongent leur frein : rangement du bateau, inspection attentive du gréement et de tous les points susceptibles de travailler dans le mauvais temps, prise de repos en prévisions d’heures plus difficiles. Attendre est parfois plus difficile que d’être dans l’action.

Pour vivre heureux, vivons penchés

Et pourtant… certains seraient prêts à échanger les angoisses du leader contre le régime auquel ils sont soumis depuis plusieurs jours. L’anticyclone qui s’étale à la pointe de l’Afrique, bloque les régimes d’ouest habituels aux latitudes où évoluent les monocoques de la Barcelona World Race. Les vents dominants de secteur est, obligent près de la moitié de la flotte à naviguer debout sur les portières. De 20 à 30 degrés de gîte en moyenne, le martèlement des vagues que vient cogner l’étrave toutes les quinze secondes, la propension du matériel à s’échapper du côté sous le vent du bateau, sont autant d’épreuves qui rendent la vie à bord pénible. D’autant que les carènes paraissent subitement d’une largeur indécente, quand il s’agit de s’agripper pour rejoindre la partie au vent, à l’intérieur d’une cabine le plus souvent dépouillée de tout aménagement.

Deux fois la route, trois fois la peine dit le dicton : pendant que les premiers filent en route directe vers les prochaines marques, tout un petit paquet de Neutrogena, septième à Forum Maritim Catala voit l’écart qui les sépare de la tête de flotte augmenter sans cesse. Dans ces conditions, l’humour semble encore une des meilleures armes pour lutter contre le découragement. C’est Dee Caffari (GAES Centros Auditivos) qui se plaint des promesses non tenues du catalogue de la Barcelona World Race, voire Wouter Verbraak et Andy Meiklejohn (Hugo Boss) qui soignent leur spleen à coups de tasses de thé… Pour d’autres les événements du jour font parfois oublier le quotidien, tel Cali Sanmarti (We Are Water) dont les proches fêtaient bruyamment l’anniversaire à la vacation.

L’adaptation, clé de la réussite

A l’issue d’un mois de course, les tandems ont visiblement trouvé leur modus vivendi. Les organisations parfois rigoureuses du début de course ont souvent cédé la place à des systèmes plus souples où chacun s’efforce de s’adapter aux besoins de l’autre. La nécessaire disponibilité des deux membres d’équipages, en cas de manœuvres, induit forcément des entorses à des règles trop contraignantes. Il faut savoir aussi se reposer, se ménager parfois, au risque d’adopter un rythme un peu plus végétatif. Anciens de la Volvo Ocean Race, le tour du monde en équipage, Iker Martinez et Xabi Fernandez (MAPFRE) ont pu mesurer la différence entre une navigation en équipage intensive, à la rigueur toute anglo-saxonne, et le fait de pouvoir compter sur l’autre à n’importe quelle heure du jour ou de la nuit.

La marche du bateau commande et si certains accumulent jusqu’à sept heures de sommeil par jour, comme actuellement Jean-Pierre Dick et Loïck Peyron, c’est avant tout en prévision d’heures plus difficiles. L’entrée dans l’océan Indien marque le début d’une période où les impératifs de la course devront être compatibles avec le nécessaire repos dans des latitudes hostiles, la préservation du matériel et les contraintes de sécurité dans des mers vierges de toute présence humaine. La régate ne perd pas ses droits mais certaines priorités peuvent parfois être mises entre parenthèses.

Classement du 31 janvier à 15 heures (TU+1) :

1 VIRBAC-PAPREC 3 à 16 868,8 milles de l’arrivée
2 MAPFRE à 589 milles du leader
3 ESTRELLA DAMM Sailing Team à 706,3 milles
4 GROUPE BEL à 727 milles
5 RENAULT Z.E à 874,5 milles
6 MIRABAUD à 1232,8 milles
7 NEUTROGENA à 1321,9 milles
8 GAES CENTROS AUDITIVOS à 1555,5 milles
9 HUGO BOSS à 1931,8 milles
11 WE ARE WATER à 2026,7 milles
12 FORUM MARITIM CATALA à 2141,3 milles

Central Lechera Asturiana. Image copyright Central Lechera Asturiana.

Ils ont dit :

Jean-Pierre Dick, Virbac-Paprec 3
: « Pour l’instant, nous allons avoir du vent calme pendant une journée et beaucoup de vent la journée du 1er février. Les prévisions de ce matin sont un peu meilleures que hier au soir mais cela reste préoccupant, car il y a beaucoup de vent qui nous arrive dessus. Deux objectifs : passer la porte de Crozet et essayer de se diriger vers la porte suivante avec pas trop de vent et des conditions de mer pas trop extrêmes. Nous dépensons beaucoup d’énergie pour essayer de comprendre ce qui va nous arriver dessus. C’est une grosse dépression venant de Madagascar avec beaucoup d’air chaud tropical qui vient se réalimenter dans l’air froid. Ça a l’air assez violent. Nous essayons de nous reposer et bien préparer toutes les bricoles pour le coup de vent. Quelque part, il y a une sorte de stress car nous ne savons pas à quelle sauce nous allons être mangés et il y a des manœuvres à faire dans le gros temps donc ça peut engendrer une sorte d’angoisse. L’Indien est assez sauvage et ce sont des vents cisaillés et des fronts supers costauds ! Donc j’espère que tout va bien se passer. »

Iker Martinez, MAPFRE : «Nous n’avons pas de chauffage, c’était une option qui nous semblait agréable mais nous ne l’avons pas prise. La vie dans le bateau par rapport à la Volvo Ocean Race c’est différent : là bas c’est un peu comme le service militaire et la vie de tout le monde est réglée. Alors qu’à deux, nous sommes toujours plus ou moins en veille et nous dormons moins. Pendant la Volvo Ocean Race, nous dormions 4h sans nous arrêter alors que là, c’est 30mn, 1h30, voire 2h, mais jamais 4h ! »

Dee Caffari, GAES Centros Auditivos : « Quand je pense qu’on est dans les mers du Sud et qu’on navigue contre le vent, c’est juste ridicule. Mais on ne va pleurer misère parce que l’on va devoir naviguer comme ça pendant trois jours et qu’il serait plus facile de s’arrêter en Afrique du Sud, faire la fête et repartir quand les conditions auraient changé. Quand je pense que j’ai fait le tour dans l’autre sens contre les vents dominants et que maintenant que j’inverse ma route, je suis à nouveau contre le vent. Ce n’est pas pour ça que j’avais signé dans la brochure de la Barcelona World Race.»

Barcelona World Race