The Azores high pressure system has proven to be a road block for Bernard Stamm and Jean Le Cam. Their passage northwards at the head of the Barcelona World Race fleet, saw them running out of breeze and so their tack eastwards, towards the Straits of Gibraltar, was made early this morning. And as the Swiss-French duo progress east towards the Moroccan coast, passing south of Madeira, they will reconnect with the better NE'ly trade winds.
Cheminées Poujoulat has 1100 miles to sail until the welcome of the pillars of Hercules the iconic gates to the Mediterranean formed by the Rock of Gibraltar on the European coast and Jebel Musa (852m high) in Morocco's Rif mountains.
Legend has it that, as one of his 12 labours, Hercules was required to fetch the cattle of Geryon and to deliver them to Eurystheus. But his way was blocked by the mountain which had been created by Perseus. Hercules smashed the mountain in half, the northern pillar becoming the Rock of Gibraltar and the southern one Jebel Musa.
The Swiss-French duo are due to pass back through the gates the evening of Sunday 22nd March. It will remain upwind all the way to the Moroccan coast but they should be progressively lifted as the trade wind backs a little more N'ly as they get closer to the coast. Today they were about 500 miles WNW of the Canary Islands. After tacking this morning their angle looked pretty horrible, pointing almost directly towards the islands, certainly south of east, but that has improved with speed today, making between nine and ten knots. Their lead remains static at just over 900 miles - or three to four days - ahead of Neutrogena.
The battle for second and third retains a frustrating status quo for Anna Corbella and Gérard Marin. They lost one mile to the leaders since the same time yesterday and three miles to Neutrogena. Each day in the NE'ly trade winds, 105 miles behind Neutrogena,GAES Centros Auditivos are still devoid of options. They can on ly follow the best course of the boat in front, still fighting for each metre, but it does not stop Corbella from thinking of her first run on the Catalan beaches with her golden retriever and Marín will be eagerly anticipating being reunited with his daughter who was only four months old when he left on this three month race around the world. Pre-start the duo said they would be happy with a podium finish, but having been so close to Neutrogena - they will finish frustrated not to get close enough to have a go at passing in the Mediterranean.
The three boats now in the North Atlantic were granted a brisk, business-like passage through the Doldrums, but that does not look to be the case for We Are Water and One Planet, One Ocean & Pharmaton. The band of calms and unsettled winds - 600 miles ahead - is widening all the time and it looks increasingly like it will slow this match race which this afternoon is just 30 miles apart.
High light of the day for the Renault Captur duo has been a shower and a shave, a tonic for their physical and mental fortitude given that they are close to the Uruguay and Brazilian coast trying to piece together a jigsaw of downwind and reaching lanes to get north while the route to the east is barred by the Saint Helena high. And Spirit of Hungary are making good speeds but start to have a high pressure ridge in front of them.
Aleix Gelabert (ESP) One Planet, One Ocean & Pharmaton:"At the moment we are in the tradewinds of the South Atlantic 15-17kts, we are happy with this. I think We Are Water should be faster in all conditions, but if we have any opportunity with more wind, with 25kts reaching is the only way that we have an opportunity to pass them. But if we have the same conditions again then maybe we will have an opportunity to pass them.
I think our brains have changed a little bit, they told us that would happen. Sometimes when you do the test then you think you have a clear brain and you will do it very well and you don't do so good. So sometimes it shows our brains are tireder than we think. Let's see how are our brains are when we reach Barcelona and they test us again.
The conditions in the Doldrums will be a little bit difficult for us. I think that the three boats which have already passed had really good conditions. But for us and for We Are Water it looks really difficult, really tricky, really wide. And maybe we will spend three of four days getting out of there."
Rankings Wednesday 18th March at 1400hrs UTC
1 Cheminées Poujoulat (B Stamm – J Le Cam) at 1605 miles to finish
2 Neutrogena (G Altadill – J Muñoz) + 906 miles to leader
3 GAES Centros Auditivos (A Corbella – G Marin) + 1011 miles to leader
4 We Are Water (B Garcia – W Garcia) + 2137 miles to leader
5 One Planet One Ocean & Pharmaton (A Gelabert – D Costa) + 2154 miles to leader
6 Renault Captur (J Riechers – S Audigane) + 3340 miles to leader
7 Spirit of Hungary (N Fa – C Colman) + 4654 miles to leader
ABD : Hugo Boss (A. Thomson - P. Ribes)