The Regata Rubicon race fleet is heading for the Mediterranean light airs
Today should see a ‘restart’ along the 30-mile stretch of the Gibraltar Straits for the six Open 60 yachts racing in the Regata Rubicon on Leg 2 from Lanzarote to Sta. Margherita.
After a tough three-day upwind tacking contest in unpredictable and varying conditions, grinding on the moral and physique of each crew and skipper, the hard fought advantages gained by the leaders and miles lost by the back markers could be wiped clean off the slate as the eagerly awaited westerlies haven’t filled in as expected. One relief is that the teams can loosen the sheets and open up the sails. The entrance to the Med lies around 40 miles away in the sights of leader Roland Jourdain and his band of merry men on Sill Plein Fruit.
Bilou is guarding jealously the 25-mile advantage over second-placed Kingfisher (Moloney) as he points the bow of his Lombard-designed Open 60 on the direct route to the entrance to the Mediterranean. “We’re just relieved to be back on course, and to be able to take the strain off the sheets for once! On the other hand, it’s going to get calmer out here, and I can see a set of traffic lights ahead. There is definitely going to be a re-groupment of the fleet at the Straits. So another restart, the crew are prepared for this eventuality, and we’re holding on to every inch of sea water we can put between us and the others.”
Second-placed skipper in the fleet is still Nick Moloney on Kingfisher, who shared the same sentiment with the leading skipper: “I have just started to look at weather in the Med. It looks difficult right from the beginning and we could see a total re-start from Gibraltar. I hope not as we have worked hard for our position so far and are still in a position to attack first. I don’t want to see the boats astern again as the fleet is so competitive. Dominique is very experienced in the Med so I think we will need every mile of the buffer we have right now on Temenos.” Indeed, Dominique Wavre is steadily making up for his 92-mile deficit and clocking the fastest speeds of the fleet is now 68 miles behind and closing fast.
Italian skipper Simone Bianchetti on Tiscali Global Challenge is another skipper taking things step by step, as he defends his podium position from Bernard Stamm on Bobst Group – Armor Lux, who is stuck like glue to his transom. “Everything in its own time. We’re going to sail into fluky winds as well as dead calm in the next few days. We’re just looking at our tactics after passing Gibraltar.”
Clearly the cogs are turning in the minds of each of the skippers and their crew, even if to some degree it will be a bit of a lottery too. No-one is sure what is to come once they have crossed the threshold of the Mediterranean today, but ultimately they will all be looking to knock Sill off the top spot. The other ‘enemy at the gate’ is of course the heavy maritime shipping, just as if life wasn’t exciting enough. This is not the place to lack manoeuvrability in light airs going through this eight-mile wide passage, and thankfully they are at least passing through in daylight.
In the 0900GMT positions just out, Sill has indeed slowed to just two knots boat speed, Kingfisher and Tiscali are down to four knots, the back markers are still keeping up 8-9 knos – the predictions are coming worryingly true, and this is where it really starts to hurt.
The high pressure ridge is looking less active in the South of Spain. The dominant northerly breeze could die away just after the entrance to the Mediterranean.The passage through the Gibraltar Straits will be temporarily accompanied by a 25-30 knot westerly wind. However, this is not long-lived, and apart from the coastal breezes, it is hard to see if the wind will stay above 5 knots off Southern Spain. The forecast for Saturday is showing that it’s likely to be a dead calm in the Mediterranean with perhaps a soft west to north-westerly breeze between Spain and Corsica.
1st Sill Plein Fruit
4 Bobst Group Armor Lux