Weaving through the Canary Islands

Published on January 6th, 2015

(January 6, 2015; Day 7) – Twenty four hours ago when he and his Spanish co-skipper Pepe Ribes were slowed by light breezes, Alex Thomson joked that patience is one virtue he lacks. The Hugo Boss duo, leaders of the Barcelona World Race by 25 miles this Tuesday afternoon, have made a useful short term gain by passing east, on the windward side of the Canary Islands and so missing any blanketing effect of the high land of the islands. But will their thirst for such an immediate benefit cost them later down the track when they need to get west to cross the Doldrums?

For sure Hugo Boss has been quicker than the second and third placed GAES CentrosAuditivos and Neutrogena which have both been negotiating the passage between Grand Canaria to their west and Lanzarote and Fuerteventura to their east. On the 1400hrs UTC ranking today Hugo Boss were already 50 miles south of the most southerly tip of Fuerteventura and making a steady 15kts. In contrast Anna Corbella and Gérard Marin on GAES Centros Auditivos were slowed to between 8 and 11 knots off the SW of Fuerteventura, almost certainly stalled slightly as they clear the immediate lee of the island.

In turn Neutrogena in third and Cheminées Poujoulat, Bernard Stamm and Jean Le Cam, in fourth were over 40 miles behind Hugo Boss and also two or three knots slower.

“They have made their decision and no doubt we will all have some nervous times waiting for the outcome, but they seemed quite confident.” Said Alex Thomson Racing director Stewart Hosford after speaking to skipper Thomson this morning. “Everything is good with the boat, they are on good form.”

Cheminées Poujoulat skipper Stamm was objective about their losses they sustained after erring too west and being slightly burned by the Azores high pressure’s light winds. With two decades of round the world racing under his belt, Stamm is hardly phased by a deficit of 20 or 30 miles, but he too is not known for his patience, and perhaps it is an early insight that he and co-skipper know that – with a boat which is an older generation than the VPLP-Verdier design that Hu go Boss is – they cannot simply hope to outgun Thomson and Ribes in moderate breeze conditions.

“We thought we’d make it through, but the high came down much more quickly than expected. So we didn’t pull it off. We were hoping for a better angle. There’s some wind now and I think the boats in the front will take advantage of that until the Doldrums. Our losses weren’t dramatic, but there were a few moments when we were a bit worried about it.” Said Swiss skipper Stamm, who for several weeks in the Southern Ocean was Thomson’s nearest rival during the last Vendée Globe solo non stop race around the world.

The trade winds look set to build to 25 knots at times which seems to guarantee a fast passage towards the Equator for the leading group, and in these conditions Hugo Boss might expect to gain steadily as the more powerful boat.

The gap from first to fifth placed Renault Captur – Jorg Riechers and Sébastien Audigane – has increased very slightly again today but the German-French pair can expect that margin to largely stabilise as the trade winds build and move slightly north to them.

But the biggest cause for celebration is left to Nandor Fa and Conrad Colman who were finally on a SW’ly course in the Atlantic, double digit velocity waking up their speedo this afternoon as they broke into a decent northerly breeze. Straitjacketed for days by very light winds in the Alboran Sea and off Gibraltar they now have a good forecast to crank up Spirit of Hungary steadily to see what the IMOCA 60 that Fa designed himself, is capable off.

Colman laughed today that they had agreed to open one of their three celebratory bottles of Spanish Cava as they passed into the Atlantic. Supposed to be one each for the three Great capes of the course, Good Hope, Leeuwin and Horn, as a Kiwi Colman quipped he would forego the Aussie cape, like Thomson looking for the reward here and now!

Skippers Quotes

Conrad Colman (NZL/USA): “It is nice to have escaped, finally, just fantastic. We are now going to make this race about passing the three great Capes and Gibraltar. We consider that passing Gibraltar was a significant milestone in our race, and as a consequence we wont celebrate going past Australia, because as a Kiwi, well……So we had three small bottles of Spanish Cava for the Capes and we opened one of them when we were finished with the Gibraltar Straits because we felt we needed a little celebration and boost our morale to tackle the Atlantic.

“The forecast now is great, once it fills in. It has been nice in some ways that the fleet have waited a bit, but I think that is good of them. But they started the party again last night with plenty of wind but we still have 350 miles to catch up with We Are Water, so we won’t even talk about the others at the moment. We still have a lot of work ahead of us.

“The boat is in great shape now, better than when we left the dock. We have been able to finish up a few little jobs, so we are in great shape and ready to go….we just need some wind…We have two bags of oranges. We are in race mode now, on race food but no wind to race!”

Nandor Fa: “It is a nice morning, a new day, with new hopes. If the forecast comes in it will be nice. It has not been easy psychologically, but, hey we do what we can, we do our best and we just cant do more than that. We are quite optimistic for our future, the next days we will have some wind, but at the moment we escaped from one trap to another, but in the afternoon we should escape. At the moment it is not a race, just trying to escape from these traps.”

Bernard Stamm (SUI) Cheminées Poujoulat: “It’s better now. We’ve caught up a bit. We’re just off Fuerteventura in the Canaries. There’s plenty of wind and we’re under spinnaker. It’s nice to be able to see some of the coast, but we won’t be stopping.

“We thought we’d make it through with our move to the west, but the high came down much more quickly than expected. So we didn’t pull it off. We were hoping for a better angle. There’s some wind now and I think the boats in the front will take advantage of that until the Doldrums. Our losses weren’t dramatic, but there were a few moments when we were a bit worried about it.

“Apart from the two extremes, Ellen’s old boat and Hugo Boss, which is more recent, the rest are from the same generation, and demonstrating similar speeds. It’s been more like racing in the Solitaire du Figaro, but out on the ocean, as we know we’re sailing around the world. We have to be alert all the time. One moment of inattention and could have come to a standstill in those conditions. You have to keep pushing all the time.

“We are into the freeze-dried stuff, but we do have some fresh food left. We were given some cheese at the start and still have some left. We need to eat that up today.”

Ranking at 14:00 UTC:
1. Hugo Boss (Alex Thomson – Pepe Ribes) 22230.5 Distance to Finish
2. GAES Centros Auditivos (Anna Corbella – Gerard Marin) 25.3 nm Distance to Lead
3. Neutrogena (Guillermo Altadill – Jose Muñoz) 41.3 nm DTL
4. Cheminées Poujoulat (Bernard Stamm – Jean Le Cam) 48.2 nm DTL
5. Renault Captur (Jörg Riechers – Sebastien Audigane) 106.0 nm DTL
6. One Planet One Ocean / Pharmaton (Aleix Gelabert – Didac Costa) 172.4 nm DTL
7. We Are Water (Bruno Garcia – Willy Garcia) 251.5 nm DTL
8. Spirit of Hungary (Nandor Fa – Conrad Colman) 625.5 nm DTL

TrackerEvent details

Report by event media.

Background: The third edition of the Barcelona World Race is the only double-handed, non-stop, round the world race. Eight IMOCA 60 teams started December 31, 2014, with the intent to cover 23,450 nautical miles in a circumnavigation from Barcelona to Barcelona, putting the capes of Good Hope (South Africa), Leeuwin (Australia) and Horn (Chile) to port and the Antarctic to starboard. The finishes are forecasted for the end of March 2015.

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