Paprec-Virbac 2, the leader of the Barcelona World Race has crossed back into the Northern hemisphere and today managed to escape the clutches of a stubborn doldrums. Skippers Jean-Pierre Dick and Damian Foxall are now on the home stretch, with just a little more than 10 percent of the race distance, 2838 miles left until the finishing line off Barcelona.
“It was quite difficult to get through the doldrums, tacking through the light winds,” Jean-Pierre said on Sunday afternoon, sounding very, very tired. “It was very gusty, lots of wind shifts and rain so we had to stay awake to take care of the situation. It was a stressful, tiring night, but in the morning, we had better winds, and we are heading the way we want to now.
“Everything is under control and Hugo Boss is more than 500 miles behind us,” he said. “They don’t have very strong trade winds, so for the moment, it is a good situation for us.”
Hugo Boss has indeed dropped just over 100 miles over the course of the week and now trails by over 600 miles or nearly three days of sailing at current speeds. Although the English/Aussie duo of Alex Thomson and Andrew Cape continues to fight hard to keep their chances alive, they are slowly running out of time to make the necessary gains. This week, the pair has been struggling to repair its rudder which had been damaged after an impact with something in the water.
“The rudder is looking like a Frankenstein creation with lots of bolts in it but it is doing okay,” said Andrew Cape on Saturday. “The way it is it should last pretty well, we still have 3000 miles to go but we are hopeful, it should be okay. We check it every day and obviously the stresses on it right now are not too bad, so we should be able to get through the next week without any problems. The biggest dilemma will be if we hit another object, we are out of rudder parts and bits so we don’t want that to happen.”
The heat is on. The two race leaders, along with the two boats battling for third place, Temenos II and Mutua Madrileńa, are now in tropical conditions as they approach the equator. The heat and humidity are up, the cold of the Southern Ocean seems to be just a bad memory, and the hot, wet conditions are posing their own challenges. Jean-Pierre, for example, spoke of the humidity with disdain, complaining that the sores on their hands wouldn’t heal in the moist atmosphere. But for the Spanish sailors on Mutua Madrileńa, the heat is preferable:
“I like it hot and humid, for me it’s a lot better,” said Javier Sansó. “I don’t like the cold at all. I can deal with it, but I don’t like it. For me, the heat and humidity is not a problem.”
The Spanish are trying to keep the heat on to Temenos II in the battle for third place. Mutua Madrileńa has stubbornly hung within 95 miles of Temenos II and is hoping a slightly different strategy over the coming days will pay off.
“Temenos II has taken an option that’s a bit longer, to go around a small low pressure system,” Javier explained on Sunday. “We are coming from the South with a good Southeasterly that is pushing us nicely at 12 to 15 knots. We might have some light patches coming up, it’s a bit of a lottery, but I think we are in a good place. We’ll know more in 48 hours.”
For the crew aboard Educación sin Fronteras, the big news of the week was their rounding of Cape Horn. While skipper Albert Bargués has previously been around, for Servane Escoffier, this was the first time, and she was thrilled:
“It was a great, great moment, very emotional. The black silhouette of the cape appeared beneath the heavy sky, the wind was blowing at 25 to 30 knots, the sun came out and started to make the top of the waves shine… It was simply magical (…) I wanted to thank everyone supporting and sharing our adventure, you’re helping me get through this journey.”