Diving south-east to the finish line
Juni 19, 2009
(by Oliver Dewar) With the exception of solo sailor Michel Kleinjans on Roaring Forty, the Portimão Global Ocean Race fleet have picked up the pace since Thursday afternoon. While Kleinjans is dealing with 13 knot headwinds and making just under six knots as he prepares to sail through the Azores Archipelago 50 miles off the bow of his open 40, the double-handed Class 40s continue their descent towards the final turning point of this 30,000 mile, eight month circumnavigation.
In the 0620 UTC position poll on Friday morning (19/06), the fleet leaders, Felipe Cubillos and José Muñoz are 249 miles from the finish line and 180 miles off the Portuguese coast due west of Lisbon having increased their lead by 26 miles since yesterday afternoon. The Chilean duo are making the best speed in the fleet at just over 12 knots while Boris Herrmann and Felix Oehme on Beluga Racer in second place are delivering slightly under nine knots 116 miles to leeward off the race leader’s starboard quarter. Trailing the German duo by 75 miles, Jeremy Salvesen and David Thomson on Team Mowgli are currently averaging 7.7 knots with 541 miles of Leg 5 remaining.
Since Desafio Cabo de Hornos hit a personal light patch two days ago, Cubillos and Muñoz have gradually stretched away from the chasing boats. “Surely, for our German rivals, Wednesday night must have been magical as they clawed back half the distance we had built up ahead of them,” commented Felipe Cubillos yesterday. “It does not matter too much as we’re beginning to match their speed and from the look of the latest weather files, we’re out of the danger zone and lined up for a direct route to Portimão,” he says of the weather analysis.
Current weather models suggest that Desafio Cabo de Hornos is in approximately 18 knots of north-easterly breeze and this should hold until Cubillos and Muñoz approach Cabo São Vincente on the south-western extremity of Portugal when the wind may turn northerly and drop slightly this evening. Beluga Racer and Team Mowgli are in the same band of north-easterly breeze with similar wind speeds and may hold the breeze fractionally longer in their descent towards the finish. Meanwhile, with 1,000 miles to the finish line, Michel Kleinjans and Roaring Forty have the tough prospect of continuous 10-15 knot headwinds with the Azores Archipelago directly in their path.
For Boris Herrmann and Felix Oehme on Beluga Racer, the finish line and the prospect of winning the Portimão Global Ocean Race overall is just 366 miles away. “The focus now is completely upon Portimão,” explained Felix Oehme late yesterday. “Will we arrive in daylight or in the dark? Who will be there to welcome us? What does one say them?” With the German duo winning three of the circumnavigation’s legs, Herrmann and Oehme have become accustomed to the media spotlight and are skilled at fielding questions from sports journalists. “Today we have for example seen an unbelievably large number of whales,” he reports. “First you see their water spout as the whale breaches. Then they always come towards us, but always just out of range for a photograph. Later on, I noticed irregularities in the wave pattern and a large number of birds,” continues Oehme. “It turned out that a pod of dolphins were hunting near the boat and the birds use this opportunity to grab any fish forced to the surface by the dolphin hunt.”
However, does this experience surpass all others? “Was this the ‘completely special moment of the leg’?” asks Oehme, pre-empting the stock question usually asked by journalists on the arrival pontoons. “There are 1,000 such special moments and to single one out is impossible,” he believes. “I wouldn’t want to have missed a single moment and could talk at length about all of them. Our feelings at the moment lie somewhere between impatience, excitement and looking forward to seeing friends, but also mourning a little as the race is finally coming to an end.”