Following a 48-hour tune-up in the pit lane in Wellington, Hugo Boss rejoined the Barcelona World Race overnight on Friday and has since taken up the task of chasing down race leader Paprec-Virbac 2 with vigour.
By the end of the day Saturday, Paprec-Virbac 2
had extended its lead to 923 miles as Hugo Boss
struggled to break free of the New Zealand coastline and out into the offshore conditions where she revels. But since then, skippers Alex THOMSON (GBR) and Andrew CAPE (AUS) have driven Hugo Boss
like a freight train. At 14:00 UTC on Sunday, the lead was down to less than 800 miles and Boss was still sailing 5.5 knots faster.
"We're in really good shape at the moment. We have an autopilot that works really well. We're not stressed out by the noise of the rudders or worried that they're about to kick up at any stage. We've got a full sail wardrobe that we're confident in, and we're not being poisoned by carbon monoxide or sliding over the boat with diesel everywhere, so we're in really good shape and loving these conditions,"
enthused THOMSON on Sunday morning. "We'd got to the point where we were fighting the boat all the time and really worried and scared that something nasty would happen .We had no choice, we had to go in. But now we're making miles and the weather situation ahead is very complicated. So our routes are going to be very different and that means opportunity."
The main reason for the 48-hour pit stop was some trouble with the rudders on Hugo Boss
. There was movement in the rudder cassettes and the 'pop-up' rudders, designed to swing up out of the water following an impact, were developing a tendency to swing up at inopportune moments. The result could be a crash a gybe which could then result in something as extreme as a dismasting. So the pit-stop was arranged and in the event, the Hugo Boss
crew was able to take care of other issues on board as well. They re-joined the race at 100% capability and forwards to the battle against Paprec-Virbac 2
, who has now had rudder issues of its own.
"We had an impact with something in the water and [before the Cook Strait] we saw some damage. But we thought we can repair this at sea,"
explained Paprec-Virbac 2
skipper Jean-Pierre DICK (FRA). And shortly after leaving New Zealand in their wake, that's what they did.
"The boat is strong and we knew we would need reliability, so right from the start that's what we've thought of,"
said DICK. "After half a world tour, I think it is reliable, but we have halfway to go still, so I don't want to say too much yet!! We are trying to find a balance between sailing too hard and not breaking anything."
But the standout performance of the week must go to Educación sin Fronteras
. Skippers Albert BARGUÉS (FRA) and Servanne ESCOFFIER (FRA) have battled hard all week in difficult Southern Ocean conditions. They finish the week with the best 24 hour run, and over the past seven days, Educación sin Fronteras
made up over 200 miles on the race leader - by far and away their best week at sea yet.
"We are sailing with good speed and directly at the next mark, which is good,"
explained ESCOFFIER on Saturday. "We are trying to make as much as we can for the next two or three days as those in front are in high pressure, so we're trying to 'eat' some miles while we can."
Meanwhile, third-placed Temenos II
is closing in on New Zealand, where they will be forced to make a pit-stop to deal with their damaged keel. Skipper Dominique WAVRE (SUI) says until the boat is hauled out and the experts look at the keel, it is impossible to say how long they will be forced to stop. But over the course of this week, they have gained over 50 miles on the race leader. They are expecting to be in Wellington on New Year's Day.
"We need to see whether we can repair or not and how much time it will take,"
WAVRE said. "According to the designers and engineers it will probably be more like five days. It's a long process, I don't think we can do it in 48 hours, it will probably be a bit more."
Unlike the other two ahead and behind them, it's been a frustrating week on the water for Mutua Madrileña
, who has lost miles this week to the leader. But with Temenos II
scheduled to stop in Wellington, by this time next week, it is likely Mutua Madrileña
will be in third place, holding down a podium position. It hasn't been an easy stretch for the Spanish lads.
"I think we are the boat who stayed for the longest time below 50 degrees latitude,"
said Javier SANSÓ (ESP) on Sunday. "It's been very difficult, but I think we've done the hardest part, from a physical point of view, after the cold and extreme humidity."
Finally, on Saturday night, Veolia Environnement
picked up a tow and is due to arrive in Fremantle in time for New Year's Eve celebrations. It's been 13 days since Roland JOURDAIN (FRA) and Jean-Luc NÉLIAS (FRA) dismasted. They've made way under their own jury rig towards Australia until now, but both are relieved their ordeal is almost over.
It wasn't all business this week at the Barcelona World Race. Christmas was celebrated on by each crew as they eagerly hunted down Christmas presents that had been stashed aboard by loved ones before the boats started the race on 11 November. But this weekend, as the Barcelona World Race heads into the New Year, each of the teams is focussed on the same resolution: getting back to the finish line in Barcelona - fast!
Barcelona World Race - www.barcelonaworldrace.org