Tuesday, 1 March 2011

BWR: A good meal, a little rest, and they're off!

Sébastien Audigane gives the thumbs up. Image copyright Groupe Bel.

by Julia Huvé

What a relief... They got through it alright! Their voices are steady, they sound cheerful, the tension of the past few days is over, and they are back up to full racing speed. The 50 knots of wind and the 10 metre waves produced by cyclone ATU are now well and truly behind them. On Groupe Bel, Kito de Pavant and Sébastien Audigane are flying along, reaching at over 17 knots, and have just passed the 3rd Pacific gate. In their sights: Cape Horn! After what was an incredibly tense weekend, Kito and Seb were today lent the unconditional support of employees in the Bel factories of Lons Le Saunier, Sablé sur Sarthe and Dôle, as well as the councillors of Grau du Roi-Port Camargue, during a special phone call. It certainly put a smile on the team's faces, who at 1500 today (Monday) were holding a lead of 58 miles over Estrella Damm. The speed race is just beginning for these two inseparable "red boats"! There are less than 10,000 miles to go to Barcelona.

A good meal “New Zealand eggs and bacon for breakfast”, a little rest and the Groupe Bel duo are back on fighting form to tackle the long route to that most legendary of capes : the Horn at the southernmost point of Chile. Currently sailing along in drizzle, Kito admitted that he is not a fan of sailing in zero visibility, but today he was sent a ray of Languedoc sunshine in the form of a conversation with Etienne Mourrut, Deputy Mayor of Grau du Roi, plus the town councillors, and young Théo, a school boy in Grau du Roi: “we are all following you closely, and we are fascinated by your race and proud of what you are doing.” There were questions from everyone for almost an hour, but the fairly poor satellite connection at midday today served as a reminder that our two men are racing thousands of miles away in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

Kito de Pavant at 1200 today (Monday)
“We are very pleased that ATU is behind us. For 48 hours, the wind never dropped below 40 knots. We felt very small and a long way from everything. We could do nothing but put our trust in our boat, which is our only protection on this ocean. It was rather like being a ping-pong ball in a washing machine! This sort of situation is harder psychologically than physically. You are totally at the mercy of Mother Nature and it is really stressful. Other than the eggs which we had just brought on board in Wellington, a number of which inadvertently ended up as omelette, neither boat nor crew have suffered much damage.

We are focussing on what lies ahead! It is fast sailing tonight in a 25 knot northerly breeze, and Groupe Bel is flying along between 18 and 20 knots under mainsail and staysail. There is a lot of water coming over the deck. At this pace, we should be at Cape Horn, which is 3000 miles away, in 8-9 days. It is a legendary cape, but I realise that it is the route to get there which is especially difficult! After that, there will be 7000 miles to Barcelona. We will have to make the most of any opportunities – there may be some options to go for in the Atlantic.”

DJ Kito and DJ O’dhiggan’s playlist of the week: “Don't Let Me Misunderstood” by Robben Ford, “Good in Blues” by Tony Joe White, “Don't Forget Whay You Said” by Poppe Chuby, “Fire In The Belly” by Van Morrison, “Mexicali Run” by Jim Slutter & Monkey Beat and “A long way from everything” by The Nimmo Brothers.

Groupe Bel
Barcelona World Race