Barcelona World Race finish draws closer

Iker Martinez onboard Mapfre - Barcelona World Race
Barcelona World Race Day 89.

The closing proximity to the final line means that the release after 89 days of racing is weighing heavily on the minds of many of the skippers now nearing the home strait.


For Jean-Pierre Dick and Loick Peyron, ETA Gibraltar around midnight Thursday, theirs has been a day of precision maneuvers off the Moroccan coast, getting to within 800 meters of the beach at one point early this morning. But it still seems like it will be at least offshore of Murcia before they may have some relief from their interminable upwind passage since the Equator. The final miles from there look light and unpredictable.

For Iker Martinez on Mapfre it was a chance to explain their slightly problematic passage through between La Gomera and La Palma. The Spanish Olympic champion confirmed that part of the reason for their routing was to take brief advantage of La Palma’s lee to effect what should have been a 20 minutes repair, but the combination of unexpected 30 and then 40 knots gusts and some unpleasant seas meant this short repair interlude turned into three hours of hard labour which cost them an extra 45 miles on leaders Jean-Pierre Dick andLoïck Peyron.

Martinez explained how that their 10 years plus of Olympic strength and conditioning training for the 49er has been a key factor in being able to drive their Mapfre as hard and consistently as they have. And now, low on food rations, it is clear the double Olympic medalists are using some of that nutritional experience to manage their limited body refueling, maximizing sleep to just keep going to the finish line. He said, in fact, given their pre-race experience, second for them would be seen as much as a victory.

Martinez explained: ' We are pretty tired with the food situation, physically this is an ultra-marathon. Some days we have it when we are really tired, but it is not one of our biggest worries. I think we are all now thinking about the finish, not too long ago we weren’t but now we are.

We try to sleep as much as we can to keep energy so that we don’t make mistakes, and if they do like yesterday then we have the energy to deal with them and keep going.

It is more than 10 years that we have been physically training. Training for the Olympics in China was pretty extreme, so I think that physically we were in good shape for this race, but I think we pushed very hard.

We are here in this second place because of our physical preparation and ability to push, not because of our experience. Fourteen months ago we did not even have an IMOCA Open 60 and had never even sailed on of these before.'

Behind them the situation is opening up as the Azores High pressure blockade of the Straits of Gibraltar opens progressively throwing open new options to Renault ZE Sailing Team and Estrella Damm to sprint north and try to breach the high pressure ridge, perhaps for some brief SW’ly breezes but to enjoy the prospect of a more dependable N’ly and NE’ly breezes which would allow them a more direct layline to Gibraltar.

Renault Z.E Sailing Team’s Pachi Rivero and Toño Piris - Barcelona World Race

The predicted temporary compression between third placed Renault ZE, slowed slightly now, and Estrella Damm, is becoming evident – Alex Pella and Pepe Ribes gaining 12 miles this afternoon – but the direct northerly option does not seem to be offered as freely to Neutrogena. Ryan Breymaier said:

'They (Estrella Damm and Renault Z.E) are both going quite fast at the moment, but I am not sure how well that is going to work for them because that ridge goes back north and I think that it is going to be quite tricky for them. We have been waiting, hoping for some sort of tactical opportunity just to finish quicker, not even so much thinking we can get by them, just to finish with some food less. So theirs seemed like an option but the ridge seems to move back and forth a lot and so that makes it a much more difficult to take that option.'

Under the leadership of their chief technician Stan, Jaume Mumbru and Cali Sanmarti have been making excellent progress with their boom repair in Ushuaia for their We Are Water. The boom has been successfully sleeved with initial internal lamination, but final lamination has to be completed. They can leave after 1555hrs UTC on Thursday March 31st but, it is unclear as yet if the duo will be completely ready for that time, but it is believed they will be close.

Alex Pella (ESP) Estrella Damm: 'We are still sailing upwind but a little bit more eased, cracked a bit making north. The wind is very stable. In the next 24 to 48 hours there will be a change. First we have a transition zone with some lighter winds, then some SW’ly veering to the N. Let us see how Renault Z.E goes but for now they are better positioned than us. For sure the further north you are at the moment, the better. That is what we decided is best for getting to Gibraltar.

We think that Renault Z.E has made the best choice and ourselves too. There was not much to hide, we talked about using ghost mode but in the end it was not left or right, there was only one way to go and we have to go there as fast as possible and let the others do what they can.

We’ll see what happens between now and the Strait and then in the Mediterranean. There should be the accordion effect in the Strait but really it is impossible to know because we are still about eight days from that. Until then it will be difficult to catch up. But otherwise everything is going well, the boat is all good, it is getting colder again, we have thicker clothes on again and we have food to spare, and Pepe seems to have enough painkillers for his knee until the finish.'

Iker Martinez (ESP) Mapfre: 'Yesterday was a bit of a complicated day. We took the decision to go between La Palma and La Gomera which seemed like a good option. We thought we could use a bit of the lee to make a fix a problem with sail and the solent stay, but it got a bit out of hand, there were a lot of waves and we had gusts of 30 knots, we ended up having to run downwind to change to the smaller headsail, then we had 40 knots and it all got a bit messy.

We managed to get it all in order, but we probably lost about three hours of sailing. It was a day with a lot going on, but in the end we did not break anything else. The stay we fixed works not bad, we were a bit unlucky and we broke a bit of the furler, so we swapped about a bit, changed the cables and it is OK, it works. We can use the Solent which is important.

We are pretty tired with the food situation, physically this is an ultra-marathon. Some days we have it when we are really tired, but it is not one of our biggest worries. I think we are all now thinking about the finish, not too long ago we weren’t but now we are.

We try to sleep as much as we can to keep energy so that we don’t make mistakes, and if they do like yesterday then we have the energy to deal with them and keep going.

It is more than 10 years that we have been physically training. Training for the Olympics in China was pretty extreme, so I think that physically we were in good shape for this race, but I think we pushed very hard.

We are here in this second place because of our physical preparation and ability to push, not because of our experience. Fourteen months ago we did not even have an IMOCA Open 60 and had never even sailed on of these before.'

Ryan Breymaier (USA) Neutrogena: 'They (Estrella Damm and Renault Z.E) are both going quite fast at the moment, but I am not sure how well that is going to work for them because that ridge goes back north and I think that it is going to be quite tricky for them. We have been waiting, hoping for some sort of tactical opportunity just to finish quicker, not even so much thinking we can get by them, just to finish with some food less. So theirs seemed like an option but the ridge seems to move back and forth a lot and so that makes it a much more difficult to take that option.'

Estrella Dam - Barcelona World Race

Standings of Wednesday 30th March at 1400hrs UTC

1 Virbac-Paprec 3 796 miles to finish
2 Mapfre + 311 miles to leader
3 Renault Z.E at + 1142miles to leader
4 Estrella Damm Sailing Team at + 1289 miles to leader
5 Neutrogena at + 1313 miles to leader
6 Gaes Centros Auditivos at + 1905 miles to leader
7 Hugo Boss at + 3327 miles to leader
8 Forum Maritim Catala at + 3802 miles to leader
9 We Are Water at + 6060 miles to leader
10 Central Lechera Asturiana at + 10753 miles to leader

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