Across his two combined Barcelona World Races French skipper Jean Pierre Dick has only ever passed the magnificent Pillars of Hercules – the 426 metres Rock of Gibraltar to the north and Morocco’s 851 metre high Jebel Musa to the south, the iconic rock monoliths which guard the narrow gateway between the Atlantic and the Mediterranean in one position. First.
Eighty seven days ago on Monday January 3rd , Dick and Loïck Peyron lead the 14 boat fleet second edition of the Barcelona World Race out into the Atlantic on the blue hulled Virbac-Paprec 3. Tonight the French duo will pass back through the magnificent gates with a comfortable lead. The duo passed out into the Atlantic not knowing what their first circumnavigation together would hold for them, their minds collectively and individually a churning mix of anticipation, focus, uncertainty and anticipation.
Myth has it that the giant Atlas was given the task of supporting the weight of the World at the Pillars of Hercules, it would be fair to say Dick and Peyron will be unburdened by many of their concerns and fears once finally back into the same sea as the finish line.
As they pass back into the Mediterranean tonight, they will have earned many of their answers already, some gained weeks ago, some more recently but Peyron and Dick still have the challenge of a final 550 miles: first and foremost the busy shipping traffic funnelling through the narrow gap and awkward seas in the Strait, then the Alboran Sea and ahead of that, and the as yet undefined but almost certainly fickle breezes between the Balearics and Barcelona.
Virbac-Paprec 3 is expected to pass the longitude 5 deg 37 W at around 0300hrs GMT Friday morning, with up to 35 knots of Levante wind and difficult, short, steep choppy seas kicked up by the constant current produced by the Atlantic refilling the evaporating Mediterranean.
If nothing else, the duo have endured a new upwind marathon since the Equator, Dick confirming today to a Paris Visio-Conference that neither he nor his vastly experience co-skipper have ever spent as long on one upwind stretch. And their final tacks off the Moroccan coast this afternoon are certainly not going to be their last together, with some weather models showing windward sailing all the way to the finish line! Current ETA still has Virbac-Paprec 3 finishing Monday morning.
Dick and Peyron have a lead of 284 miles this afternoon, enough to ensure that they do not need to press the foot unnecessarily hard on the accelerator. MAPFRE’s Iker Martinez said today that they expect to be passing Gibraltar on Saturday with the prospect a reaching and downwind approach
“ It seems like the wind will drop off there. Being honest we would rather gybe and fight a bit to get through than have strong winds against us. After the Strait and until “Cabo de Gata” there are some miles than can be really painful if there is no wind.
For us now it is the feeling of being near the finish which dominates rather than feeling like the race is too long. It doesn’t matter if the race is 20, 50 or 90 days long… The thing is that as much as the finish line is closer, you think more and more about the finish.” Said Martinez this afternoon.
For the Hugo Boss duo Andy Meiklejohn and Wouter Verbraak, now getting their first taste of champagne sailing in the trade winds off the Brazilian coast, the regular conditions were a chance to reflect on the formative influences which have been instrumental in their individual passages into round the world racing. Verbraak paid a warm tribute to his father who is celebrating his 65th birthday, who instilled first principles into the young Wouter which hold equal value today, while Meiklejohn, the first Kiwi to take on the Barcelona World Race spoke of being entranced from an early age by the adventures of Sir Peter Blake:
“ As kids we all looked up to Sir Peter Blake. That’s how it was. We followed his races around the world and his interactions with the public and the media, and pioneered a lot of the interaction with the public, back in the 1980’s and Peter Blake used to take all the boats Ceramco, Lion New Zealand, Steinlager on tour once they were built and sail them round all the ports and so everyone could go and have a look. Then Grant Dalton followed that, so there has always been that scene.”
With their boom and lazy jacks repaired We Are Water’s Jaume Mumbru and Cali Sanmarti are reported to be awaiting gale force winds to abate enough to let them out of Ushuaia, while Central Lechera Asturiana have made nearly 200 miles since leaving Wellington last night after repairing their mast.
Standings of Thursday 31st March at 1400hrs UTC
- VIRBAC-PAPREC 3 620 miles to finish
- MAPFRE + 284 miles to leader
- RENAULT Z.E at + 1106 miles to leader
- ESTRELLA DAMM Sailing Team at + 1287 miles to leader
- NEUTROGENA at + 1317 miles to leader
- GAES CENTROS AUDITIVOS at + 1900 miles to leader
- HUGO BOSS at + 3252 miles to leader
- FORUM MARITIM CATALA at + 3765 miles to leader
- WE ARE WATER at + 6237 miles to leader
- CENTRAL LECHERA ASTURIANA at + 10774 miles to leader
RTD GROUPE BEL
Wouter Verbraak (NED) Hugo Boss: The sun is out, it is warm and it is champagne sailing, except that we forgot to pick up the champagne in the Falklands, but the trade winds are very light, between 10 and 13 knots, whereas we expected more like 20kts, we are along the Brazil coast, but that is how it is, we just try to squeeze every tenth of a knot out of the boat and try to get more speed up towards the Doldrums.
Andy Meiklejohn (NZL) Hugo Boss: We work hard at trying to keep the boat and ourselves at 100%, as you know we made some repairs in the Falklands.
As kids we all looked up to Sir Peter Blake. That’s how it was. We followed his races around the world and his interactions with the public and the media, and pioneered a lot of the interaction with the public, back in the 1980’s and Peter Blake used to take all the boats Ceramco, Lion New Zealand, Steinlager on tour once they were built and sail them round all the ports and so everyone could go and have a look. Then Grant Dalton followed that, so there has always been that scene. For sure there is the culture now and there are a lot of New Zealanders do it, you are bound to know someone who is getting to the top of the tree, so in that way I suppose it is easier, but it is also a lot of people doing it, and a lot of competition for spots, and so what has probably made it a little easier in the rule promoting youngsters on the Volvo Ocean Race, that is good for brining on some of the younger guys, helped on by some of the older, more experienced guys than maybe 10 years ago.
We have been talking a lot during about things we have done, and we have learned a lot since when we started racing. For a start when you are racing you always push harder (than on the miles he did with Alex preparing), and when you are racing when sail combinations get slow you change quicker, but we have mixed up the combinations at the front (headsails) quite a lot. There is culture that’s says that you have to put up as much sail and get as much power as possible, and, with having had to sail for so long with one reef in the main, then we have found that is not always right. We have learned a few tricks which we might not normally have learned.
Iker Martinez (ESP)MAPFRE: “If the weather files are right we could be arriving at Gibraltar on April 2nd. We have 400 miles to get there and so in two days we could be there. There will be a zone with some light winds. We really just want to get there. Ninety days is a long time to have left and still be sailing. When you are this close to the finish all you want is to get to the finish quickly. At this stage it is almost impossible to consider catching those in front and the others are a good bit behind. So it is a situation which you have a lot to lose and have to gain an awful lot. But you have to remember Roland Jourdain in the Vendée Globe where he was so nearly there and still had to stop.”
Jean-Pierre Dick (FRA) Virbac-Paprec 3: “Physically we are well. We have a good amount of sleep. The end of this race is proving to be something of a punishment. It has slammed for three days without stopping. And speaking with Loïck we are sure we have never done as much constant upwind sailing. When we get there we will have done 15 days without sailing with the sheets eased. And that is a bit painful because these boats are not really designed for upwind.”
Photo Credit: © Virbac-Paprec 3
More details: www.barcelonaworldrace.org
– PR –