Consistently covering over 500 miles in 24-hours, Jean-Pierre Dick and Loick Peyron (FRA) are setting the pace in the Barcelona World Race.
The Virbac Paprec 3 duo’s total mileage peaked earlier today at 516.37 nautical miles, achieved between 0900hrs (UTC) yesterday morning and 0900 today. Sailng at an average of 21.51 knots this potentially sets a new 24-hour record for 60ft monohulls, depending on ratification by the World Sailing Speed Record Council (WSSRC).
This would replace the previous record set by Hugo Boss in the first edition of the Barcelona World Race in 2007, which stands at 501.3 miles with an average speed of 20.88 knots over 24 hours by Alex Thomson (GBR) and Andrew Cape (AUS).
The ‘Schtroumpfettes’, as Michel Desjoyeaux (FRA) has nicknamed the duo, are surely the fastest Smurfs in the west. Currently in second place, Virbac Paprec 3 continues to maintain 20-plus knot average speeds since this morning’s position update, whilst race leader Desjoyeaux and Francois Gabart (FRA) on Foncia have dropped a knot slower. The blue Verdier-VPLP boat is also gaining on the front-runner, and now less than 20 miles behind.
Foncia and Virbac Paprec 3 have been experiencing record-breaking conditions sailing ahead of a clearly developed front which has produced consistent north-westerly winds in the high 20s, with occasional gusts topping 30 knots. Together with moderate waves of around 2-3 metres from the same direction this is allowing for high average boat speeds for the front two boats as they sail high to the waypoint of Gough Island. Foncia and Virbac Paprec 3 may be able to keep pace with the front throughout for another 12 hours or so, but as they approach Gough Island can expect to see substantial wind shifts to lighter southerly breezes. The first boat is anticipated at the Atlantic waypoint of Gough Island tomorrow afternoon.
By contrast, MAPFRE in third place are under the influence of the same low pressure system, but at the northern edge of it have been sailing 2-3 knots slower for the past 24 hours and this afternoon have dropped to less than half the leaders’ pace. While Virbac Paprec 3 gains, Iker Martinez and Xabi Fernandez (ESP) are now 350 miles behind Foncia – a loss of around 70 miles since they gained the third podium place in the small hours of this morning.
Different weather conditions for the main fleet of boats to the north-east suggest they set to be halted by another wall of light winds as two high pressure systems merge across the Atlantic. Estrella Damm remains in fourth, separated from Groupe Bel in fifth by just five miles in the ‘distance to leader’ rankings and around 60 miles of ocean.
In this afternoon’s 1500hrs update Mirabaud in sixth are over 460 miles behind Foncia, showing the leading pair’s phenomenal pace as they double their advantage from yesterday. At the time the ranking statistics were taken Mirabaud had also slowed to sub-6 knots, in keeping with the patchy conditionsDominique Wavre explained they were experiencing: “The highs are playing hide and seek with us and now it’s us who’s losing!”
Renault Z.E. and Neutrogena remain closely matched, with just 0.1 of a knot splitting the pair over the past 24 hours, with the Spanish team of Pachi Rivero and Antonio Piris on Renault holding the advantage in seventh. Behind them GAES Centros Auditivos reported that they too had experienced the frustration of getting caught under windless clouds, but Dee Caffari (GBR) acknowledged that for them worse was yet to come:
“We seem to get stuck in clouds that nobody else has and these clouds do all sorts with the wind and basically stop our progress, but thankfully we seem to have got rid of them for a while and managed to keep up the pace of everybody else again. So we’ve lost a few miles and it was a bit frustrating, but that’s nothing to what lies ahead I’m afraid.”
Hugo Boss has regained 10th place from Central Lechera Asturiana, but as the fleet becomes increasingly spread out once again their distance to the leader is currently over 660 miles, with 13th placed Forum Martim Catala now 879 miles back, double the span of the fleet just two days ago.
Standings at Saturday 22 January at 1400hrs UTC
1 FONCIA at 19584 miles from the finish
2 VIRBAC-PAPREC 3 at 19 miles from the leader
3 MAPFRE at 357 miles
4 ESTRELLA DAMM at 392 miles
5 GROUPE BEL at 397 miles
6 MIRABAUD at 461 miles
7 RENAULT Z.E. at 474 miles
8 NEUTROGENA at 483 miles
9 GAES CENTROS AUDITIVOS at 548 miles
10 HUGO BOSS at 667 miles
11 CENTRAL LECHERA ASTURIANA at 672 miles
12 WE ARE WATER at 748 miles
13 FORUM MARITIM CATALA at 879 miles