The next big test

All things being equal Spain’s double Olympic medalists Iker Martinez and Xabi Fernandez on MAPFRE should be the second of the Barcelona World Race fleet to pass the longitude of Cape of Good Hope late this evening or tomorrow morning.
 

 

The duo, who have sailed more than a dozen years together in the 49er skiff, will pass the crucial race milestone around 48 hours after the race leaders Jean-Pierre Dick and Loïck Peyron.

As a gateway into the Indian Ocean, the pair, who are both veterans of the crewed Volvo Ocean Race but are on their first IMOCA Open 60 round the world race only nine months after sailing one for the first time, have a very firm insight into what lies ahead for them over the next month in the Southern Ocean but it will without doubt be the biggest, toughest test yet for their partnership in performance terms, physically and mentally.

“At this point in the race one third of it is behind you, you have successfully got down the Atlantic in good shape and almost inevitably there is an emotional high just now.” Bubi Sanso (ESP) explained today at the live Visio-Conference with the skippers on the race course. Sanso raced the first edition with Pachi Rivero on Mutua Madrileña and was in Barcelona to link up by video with his former co-skipper,

“But from here is where it gets really testing, both for the boat and the partnership. Until now the boat has been fully prepared. It has even been sunny for much of the time, but from here it is constant stress and pressure for a month. This is where the sleep goes, you start to get tired and run down. And this time, with the ice gates where they are and the weather pattern they are likely to see, it will be much tougher. The rhythm with change more often and though there will be light spells you are still having to push all the time.”

“With these gates it will become more of a ‘dog race’ (one following the other), which from the sailors point of view is not ideal, there are less options and they are effectively having options removed from them. But with the ice the way it is it is necessary.” Sanso said later.

Iker Martinez said:

“ We had very strong and violent winds a few days ago, very big squalls that make you lose control a bit. But now we are more trained to face the next low. Anyways, we still look at it with respect because it means your race can end at any time. There are already 2 boats that went home and is probable that it happens to someone else, so we are very careful. Our strategy is to try and not to be heroes.”

The Spanish duo were called within a few hours of the mast breakage of Michel Desjoyeaux and François Gabart, the two boats having very similar rig configurations, to warn them of the circumstances of the Foncia breakage.

Virbac-Paprec 3 move into the weekend which will mark one month at sea for the fleet with a comfortable lead which is still expected to be cut by the end of the weekend as the French duo run into a blocking high pressure system. But this evening they were still making hay, quickest in the fleet at 18.3 knots.

Struggling still in the high pressure ridge this evening are Mirabaud and Neutrogena, who despite being around 40 deg south find the ‘Roaring Forties’ a scarcely audible whisper, making respectively 2 and 3 knots on the afternoon schedule.

Into their first big low pressure breeze of the southern ocean together Wouter Verbraak and Andy Meiklejohn on Hugo Boss have been second quickest in the fleet and pulled back miles on the leaders today.

Quotes

Iker Martinez (ESP) MAPFRE: “We’re still here, full on and everything under control, under the circumstances. We re still pushing, which is quite a lot, and trying to take care of us. We’ve had a couple of scary moments but they were all resolved quickly so we are more than happy.

Right now we have nice weather, there’s even a bit of sun which is not normal. The last few hours we had nice breeze but now it’s more calm. This evening-night we are expecting a transition of the new low, that’s why the boats are doing strange movements. We are always in calms until the new winds arrive. We are waiting to face this new wind and to pass the ice gate soon.

The sails are not triangulars like 10 years ago, they been evolving due to the hydrodynamic and the windage. The main is more square and this way it has more surface in a very useful place, the top. The square sails go much better on open angles. On the other hand though you have more problems with the main track and the battens… but for these boats these sails are very effective.

If we had managed to be 50 miles further ahead, we would have been able to go with Virbac-Paprec 3 but we got stuck and that’s what it is. And also, they’ve very long winds, good, easy and reaching.

So now we are being very careful. We had 3 or 4 nights very hard, but first we don’t want to hurt ourselves and then take care of the boat. Because without warning anything can happen.

We had very strong and violent winds a few days ago, very big squalls that make you lose control a bit. But now we are more trained to face the next low. Anyways, we still look at it with respect because it means your race can end at any time. There are already 2 boats that went home and is probable that it happens to someone else, so we are very careful. Our strategy is to try and not to be heroes.

I think in one day we will cross the meridian because is before the gate. It will be a very nice moment, we would have completed a third of the race and we will enter the 2nd third to do all the South We work hard, giving everything but staying prudent.

We hope that Central Lechera Asturiana can repair as soon as possible their keel and they can be back in the race again.”

Dee Caffari (GBR) GAES Centros Auditivos: “We thought that we were going to have a more difficult night than we did, but the wind filled in earlier than it was predicted, so we are more than happy with the latest position report where we have the wind and Neutrogena and Mirabaud have yet to get it so we have big smiles today.

It is incredible I have never seen the Southern Ocean like this, with the gates like we have. We get a ride and then by the middle of the next gate we are in high pressure, and then looking ahead we might even end up sailing upwind, it is a long way ahead. It is not a Southern Ocean we are used to, but it will give us lots of opportunities and I think there is going to be a concertina effect, and so we are just going to keep pushing while we can.

We have had lots of sleeping, eating and eating: Haribo of course, but we knew we had another difficult night to go before we got this wind, and so it had been a case of trying to stay positive and not despondent when we lost out on the breeze earlier. The temperature is still quite warm, which is keeping Anna happy because she was saying she does not want it it get too cold, too early. It is good, but we are looking for a bit a blast before the wind dies down again for another light spell.”

Damian Foxall (IRL), 2007-8 Barcelona World Race winner: “ Jean Pierre and Loïck are doing a great job by the looks of things. It was a real shame to see Michel and Francois drop out. There is a fair block of ice down in the south and so the race looks like it is very different from the last one and the organisers look like they have done what they have to do with the ice gates. The last time there was often some compression, you would work for a week to gain 200 miles and you would see it melt away to 20 miles as the elastic effect happened, but that is offshore sailing. It can be very difficult when you are sailing. But it will make it good to watch!”

Pachi Rivero (ESP) Renault ZE Sailing Team: “ We already have seen albatross. We have had them around us, with one big one. We can see a storm coming, we have already been south and now we are going north to get to a more secure area and be a little more downwind. Mirabaud will catch us. They are pushing quite a lot but we prefer to stay in a more secure area.

In general the boat is perfect and ready for the storm.

Sometimes we have memories of how bad it was for us, but little by little they fade. It is very long and let’s see if we keep on enjoying the race as much.

I have two great partners, Bubi and now Toño. Toño is phenomenal, he is quiet and a great sailor. I am so very lucky to have sailed with them both.”