Victory is less than 12 hours away for Paprec-Virbac 2, with the Barcelona World Race leader expected to finish early this evening.
Home is in sight for the leading crew of the Barcelona World Race as on Sunday, Jean-Pierre DICK (FRA) and co-skipper Damian FOXALL (IRL) onboard Paprec-Virbac 2 prepared themselves for what could be their last night at sea. The finishing line is less than 300 miles away, weather conditions are moderating, and their closest opposition is still in the Atlantic Ocean, 304 miles behind. Victory is nearly close enough to taste!
"I can't wait to drink something sparkling in Barcelona,"
said skipper DICK on Sunday. "We're about to tack, and depending on how the wind shifts, this could be the last one!"
It's been a difficult few days for the race leader. DICK and co-skipper FOXALL have seen their lead diminish dramatically earlier in the week. More worrisome has been the weather - the approach to Gibraltar was in true boat-breaking conditions with 40 knots headwinds, and steep choppy seas. And of course there is heavy commercial shipping traffic in the area. To add the final insult, the pair is running out of food, making do with the dregs of their three-month supply. It hasn't been a pleasant week.
"We have 38 to 42 knots of wind, a cargo ship 300 metres away and big waves. The boat is really slamming. It's quite dangerous,"
was the brief description of conditions on Friday from a noticeably tense DICK.
Behind the leading boat, Hugo Boss is now facing the same horrible conditions on the approach to Gibraltar. Winds are in excess of 35 knots and the wave conditions are truly heinous. Not too surprisingly, it hasn't been easy to make contact with them over the past few days. But on Friday, skipper Alex THOMSON (GBR) had an idea of what lay ahead:
"It's going to be upwind all the way to Gibraltar really and with increasing breeze as we get there. It could be pretty nasty as the wind funnels through the Strait."
Hugo Boss should cross into the Mediterranean near midnight tonight. The team has gained nearly 250 miles again this week, but it appears as if it will be a case of too little, too late, in terms of catching up to Paprec-Virbac 2.
Trying To Secure A Podium Finish
Further south in the Atlantic Ocean, it has been a fantastic week for Temenos II, who used a few hours of instability in the trade winds to leverage a nice gain on Mutua Madrileña. It was the Spanish crew who thought they might have an opportunity in the unusual conditions and opted to sail further to the west. But the decision backfired, and Temenos II has stretched to nearly 250 miles clear of their Spanish pursuers, but caution is still the buzzword on the third placed boat.
"The battle with Mutua Madrileña is still on, even if it is a little bit less intense because they won't be able to try another option before Gibraltar,"
explained Michèle PARET (FRA) from Temenos II this morning. "So now we are in a much better and more comfortable situation. However, we are still being careful, it is never over before the finish line, you never know what could happen in the Mediterranean Sea, this is why we are still trying to gain miles."
This weekend has marked a big milestone for Educación sin Fronteras as well. The fifth place boat crossed into the equator, returning to the Northern hemisphere just after midnight, in the wee hours of this morning. The finishing line is now less than 3,000 miles away, and skipper Albert BARGUÉS (ESP) is projecting a rough ETA of 26 February.
"After more than two months in the Southern hemisphere, we feel like we're really closer to home now,"
he said, referring to the equator crossing. "We're still in the doldrums, but we should pick up the trade winds again in about 24 hours."
Barcelona World Race - www.barcelonaworldrace.org