BWR: Rush hour in the North Atlantic

Published on April 4th, 2015

(April 4, 2015; Day 95) – Off the North African coast, in fourth position in the Barcelona World Race, Aleix Gelabert and Didac Costa must wish they quite literally had eyes in the back of their heads. Sailing just 90 miles off the busy port of Casablanca they have challenging coastal breezes to contend with, with the north-easterlies that have carried them towards Africa fading and shifting to the north, and their boat speed correspondingly dipping to just over 5 knots at the 1400hrs update.

Behind them, their long-time pursuers We Are Water have closed to 66 miles, shaving nearly 30 per cent off their advantage in just 24 hours. The Garcia brothers, still in the more established north-easterlies, were this afternoon making over 11 knots.

And ahead, Gelabert and Costa face a challenging crossing into the Straits of Gibraltar, with strong easterly Levante winds. The combination of headwinds and the tight navigational restrictions required to race through the Straits alongside the hundreds of commercial ships which use the passage between Africa and Europe every day ­will be quite challenging enough – let alone with another team in close pursuit for the coveted fourth place position.

The fourth and fifth placed boats are expected to arrive in Barcelona on the evening of Wednesday, April 8. The deciding moment is likely to be found in the Mediterranean – current forecasts suggest One Planet, One Ocean & Pharmaton will be crossing the Straits early tomorrow afternoon, and We Are Water early on Monday.

Wildest dreams
Speaking in video conference earlier today, Aleix Gelabert confessed he would never have expected to be competing for defending a position at this point in regatta: “We had never raised the possibility of having a boat less than one hundred miles approaching the Strait of Gibraltar. We thought of many possibilities, but that is not one that occurred to us. The truth is that it is amazing to have a boat so close after so man y miles.”

He explained the conditions they expect to face over the next 24 hours: “Our last miles to Gibraltar are going to be a little bit tricky, it is still a little bit difficult with the weather system that we have. We have light winds and very variable winds, so these last 24 hours will be very difficult. And then we will pass the Straits of Gibraltar probably with easterly winds, and probably with stronger winds, so it will be difficult, and it will be also difficult sailing into the Mediterranean in the beginning with the stronger winds of the east. But we are really close to Barcelona, to home and we are very excited to arrive.

“In the Mediterranean we will probably have to do a lot of manoeuvres, change sails, or gybe – a lot of things because we will have strong weather. But another thing is we are trying to rest as much as possible, although always we have to be careful about We Are Water and try to do our best to keep up the speed of the boat, but we will try to rest, to sleep as much as possible and then be in a better physical position to sail in the Mediterranean.”

Sixes and sevens
Meanwhile, Jörg Riechers and Sébastien Audigane in sixth place on Renault Captur, who have spent several hours in some unstable winds due to an anticyclone, will now see their situation improve with the passage of a cold front that has re-established the trade winds to their normal pattern. They are expected to tack for a direct course to Gibraltar sooner than their predecessors. They are currently in 15-knot north-easterlies which are expected to veer to the left, with boat speed picking back up to double figures.

Spirit of Hungary has finally escaped from their prolonged and complex Doldrums crossing, and are beginning to pick up the North Atlantic trade winds, which will increase in strength as make progress towards the north. Nandor Fa and Conrad Colman ha ve now broken the psychological 3,000-mile mark until the finish in Barcelona.

As food for thought, this time four years ago was when the winners of the 2010-111 Barcelona World Race, Virbac-Paprec 3 and the all-French duo of Jean-Pierre Dick and Loïc Peyron crossed the finish line to finish first after 93 days, 22 hours, 20 minutes and 36 seconds of racing. This year’s title holders, Bernard Stamm and Jean Le Cam on Cheminées Poujoulat have of course lowered that time by over nine days.

Ranking at 18:00 UTC:
1. Cheminées Poujoulat (Bernard Stamm – Jean Le Cam) finished Mar 25 (84:05:50:25)
2. Neutrogena (Guillermo Altadill – Jose Muñoz) finished Mar 31 (89:11:47:00)
3. GAES Centros Auditivos (Anna Corbella – Gerard Marin) finished Apr 1 (91:05:09:28)
4. One Planet One Ocean / Pharmaton (Aleix Gelabert – Didac Costa) 708.8 nm Distance to Finish
5. We Are Water (Bruno Garcia – Willy Garcia) 763.9 nm DTF
6. Renault Captur (Jörg Riechers – Sebastien Audigane) 2128.5 nm DTF
7. Spirit of Hungary (Nandor Fa – Conrad Colman) 2873.4 nm DTF
Hugo Boss (Alex Thomson – Pepe Ribes) Abandon

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.

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