If, in the end, the Pacific gave up race leaders Cheminées Poujoulat...
without too much of a fight and since Wednesday morning the Atlantic, in turn, has opened its fastest toll-free lane north east to Bernard Stamm and Jean Le Cam, the Pacific seems rather more keen to hold on to second and third placed Neutrogena and GAES Centros Auditivos. Renault Captur in sixth has been deflected back to the North East by headwinds as they pursue We Are Water and One Planet, One Ocean & Pharmaton. Both of the Barcelona IMOCA 60s have been in light breezes, windstrengths more usual for summer in their native Mediterranean than the south Pacific.
Stamm and Le Cam have added a further 120 mils to their lead since thy rounded Cape Horn, sliding rapidly past the Falklands and this afternoon morning making 19 kts. And today both Alex Thomson (GBR) runner up in the first edition, and double winner Jean Pierre Dick (FRA) voiced their admiration of the race sailed so far by the experienced Swiss-French duo.
"We really did not know how Bernard and Jean would go together, but they seem to form an incredible crew." Dick, who is building a new IMOCA 60 right now, commented, "I wish you good luck and take care not to break anything. I say that, of course, with the voice of experience. There are often surprises in the last part."
Jean Pierre of course, makes reference to his 2012-2013 Vendée Globe when he lost third place on the podium when his keel fell off, blade and bulb, less than 3000 miles from the finish line, already 500 miles NW of the Azores. He had lead the solo, non stop race around the world six times and had to give up third to Thomson.
The Atlantic has been good so far for Stamm and Le Cam. The Pacific is in an awkward, out of sorts mood for Neutrogena - formerly Thomson's Hugo Boss - and GAES Centros Auditivos. They are less than 600 miles from Cape Horn but in moderate breezes, set to pick up, but averaging around 15kts boat speed.With 83 miles between them are due at Cape Horn Saturday monrning and late afternoon
Even if the race of Hugo Boss ended for Alex Thomson and Pepe Ribes (ESP) on the night of January 14th with their dismasting, both skippers still follow the race avidly. Thomson, whose racing stable 5 Degrees West owns and runs the IMOCA 60 which races as Neutrogena, still communicates every few days with his good friend, colleague and past co-skipper Altadill with whom he finished second in the 2011 Transat Jacques Vabre.
Empathising with the 'race bubble world' that the Catalan is locked into for three months, Thomson - in Barcelona yesterday - remarked that he simply emails Altadill with lightweight chat about his life on land, preparing his new IMOCA 60 and extra curricular topics rather than anything to do with the race.
He admitted that Altadill would be his first pick as co-skipper for this year's Transat Jacques Vabre on the new Hugo Boss.
"I tell Guillermo what I am doing every day, some stories. I think when you're on the boat you're always focused on the race, what's going on, immersed in it and to have a moments of distraction from the life of someone else, I think is interesting. "
Will two become three again?
Jorg Riechers and Sebastien Audigane are focused entirely on regaining the fourth place they relinquished because of their technical pit stop in Wellington. While Riechers said today that if they could achieve that goal it would feel like winning, Audigane remarked:
"The aim is to get as close as possible before Cape Horn. And then we are looking at match of three. The goal is to finish before both of them. "
Nandor Fa and Conrad Colman have their jobs list all but completed in Bluff NZ, and the Spirit of Hungary skipper seemed to confirmed they plan to leave Friday evening (local time). Today at 2250hrs this evening UTC will mark 48 hours since they halted for their it stop.
Nandor Fa (HUN) Spirit of Hungary:"We have had a very busy day. We did a lot of jobs, what we wanted to do. We finished the mast, lifted the boat and changed the keel bolts and made a very nice job. We had a good help from the local people and now the boat is back in the water, the boat is perfect, the keel is perfect. It does not leak and not a drop of water comes in. Now we have some jobs on the mainsail, some patches and small details. We finish tomorrow morning, we have an issue with the engine and have to change the Fleet Broadband cable, the cable was broken. So that is tomorrow morning. In the afternoon we buy some fresh things. And in the evening we are going to start some time, not sure exactly what time. We have got all the jobs done, the quality is good. I am really happy with the boat and we go back and sail.
We have a small team, me, Conrad and Conrad's uncle, Gray. Today we had some help from some local people, from the crane driver and a forklift. We working day and night. We are a very, very good shore team.
We made a full check, bow to the stern. There was no problems with the fairings. There was some chafing on the keel from the fishing nets. So it is all very positive."
Aleix Gelabert (ESP) One Planet, One Ocean & Pharmaton: " We are enjoying the race a lot. We don't have a special secret. The only thing is that we are so happy to be doing the race and we are very happy to be sailing in these conditions with an IMOCA in the South. We are very happy to be here.
We cannot do a lot at the moment because we are in the middle of a calm. The low pressure is coming to us and we have to wait really. The low will give us some easterly winds for a few hours, so we will be upwind then the wind will go to the back and we will have to wait for the low pressure. I don't think it is a very strong low pressure.
To catch We Are Water would be really difficult. The last few days we have caught miles on them because we had better conditions than them, but our two boats are different. Their boat should be faster with the same conditions, it would difficult to catch them and then to maintain a distance. We make every effort but it would be really difficult.
We usually do a three hours on and then have three hours and this is usual. We sleep but we eat, donwload the forecasts and do our scientific projects, we do it like that."
Jorge Riechers (GER) Renault Captur:"We hope to have a three boat race in the Atlantic. At the moment we are five or six hundred miles behind but we hope we can close the gap a bit by Cape Horn. So we will see what happens with the low pressure system we are dealing with right now. Probably they will have less winds than we have right now. We have upwind conditions, that is not really super for us, but our whole motivation right now is to regain our fourth place. We are racing ahrd and watching the other boats, like we are racing for victory. Coming fourth would be, for us, like coming first. First place is being taken anyway by my old boat. We are fully motivated and we continue racing hard.
" A good distance at Cape Horn would be ten miles ahead, that would be best for us! But if we were 100 or 150 miles at Cape Horn and then anything is possible. We hope to close the gap before Cape Horn. 100 to 150 miles would leave a lot of opportunities for tactical options. "
Standings at 1400hrs Thursday 26/02/2015
1 Cheminées Poujoulat (B Stamm – J Le Cam) at 6315 miles to finish
2 Neutrogena (G Altadill – J Muñoz) + 1208 miles to leader
3 GAES Centros Auditivos (A Corbella – G Marin) + 1291 miles to leader
4 We Are Water (B Garcia – W Garcia) + 3425 miles to leader
5 One Planet One Ocean & Pharmaton (A Gelabert – D Costa) + 3611 miles to leader
6 Renault Captur (J Riechers – S Audigane) + 4160 miles to leader
7 Spirit of Hungary (N Fa – C Colman) + 5128 miles to leader
ABD : Hugo Boss (A. Thomson - P. Ribes)