The yachts sailing in the Portimão Global Ocean Race crossed the start line of Leg 3 in Wellington, New Zealand on Saturday. Ahead of the seven sailors is now 7,500 miles of sailing in some of the most demanding sea areas on the planet. The sailboats left New Zealand, sailing south-east into the Southern Ocean heading towards Cape Horn before turning northwards towards the finish line of the leg in Ilhabela, Brazil.

Sailing

Sailing

As the Portimão Global Ocean Race fleet prepared to leave Queen’s Wharf, last minute preparations to Team Mowgli were still underway as a courier handed a new masthead wind instrument unit to Jeremy Salvesen and David Thomson just 30 minutes before the start and the vital wand was hastily installed before the British duo left the dock. In bright sunshine and 25-35 knots of NNW breeze, the start was high-speed with the majority of boats carrying three reefs and staysail as they reached across the line at 15 knots.

Boris Herrmann and Felix Oehme were first across on Class 40 Beluga Racer, chased by single-handed entry, Michel Kleinjans, on Open 40 Roaring Forty with the Chilean duo of Felipe Cubillos and José Muñoz in third on Desafio Cabo de Hornos and Salvesen and Thomson on Team Mowgli in fourth place. As the only boat carrying a Solent headsail, Desafio Cabo de Hornos rocketed away from the start on a power reach with Cubillos and Muñoz quickly building a 1.5 mile lead. Beluga Racer held second place followed by Roaring Forty and Team Mowgli in third and fourth as the Portimão Global Ocean Race fleet gybed, set spinnakers and gennakers and shot south through the heads separating Wellington Harbour from Cook Strait, leaving the spectator boats and 11 yachts competing in a double-handed race organised by the Royal Port Nicholson Yacht Club in their wake.

Sailing

Sailing

Shortly after the start, Herrmann and Oehme reported problems with the autopilots and rudder reference units onboard Beluga Racer, but the German duo swiftly resolved the issue. Beluga Racer snatched first place for 19 hours until Desafio Cabo de Hornos regained the lead and held first place despite an unpleasant bump in the night. Felipe Cubillos explains: “José was off-watch, sleeping, although I felt like waking him and sharing the stunning starlight night and stable breeze. Added to which, we had a 2.8 mile lead over the Germans, but with the Brits chasing very fast in the south.” However, Cubillos had a sense of impending drama. “I was listening to some Dire Straits, spinnaker up, 14 knots of breeze, nine knots boats speed and I just felt that when things are this good, it just can’t last.” And so it was, with the bright red Class 40 slamming into an underwater object, coming to an almost complete stop. “I woke José real quick,” continues Cubillos. “My first thought was we’d been caught in fishing gear. Can you imagine the mess? Trying to cut away the net on a moonless night, stuck at sea with the Germans breathing down our necks!”

Cubillos and Muñoz dropped the spinnaker, backed the mainsail and sailed astern freeing Desafio Cabo de Hornos from whatever had entrapped their keel. “As we crept backwards slowly, we saw it. A shark, cut clean in two by our keel fin,” confirms the Chilean skipper. However, the encounter has failed to slow the Latin American team and Desafio Cabo de Hornos maintained a 2.6 mile lead over the Germans on Beluga Racer and a little above three miles over third place Team Mowgli with Michel Kleinjans and Roaring Forty trailing the Chileans by six miles at 1520 GMT on Sunday. “I feel really sorry for the shark and it’s really bad luck,” Cubillos admits. “But after 17,000 miles of sailing our boat, you are able to feel if there’s the slightest problem with her and everything seems fine and we’re back up to 90 percent speed.”

The Portimão Global Ocean Race fleet are riding breeze of around 25-30 knots on top of a low pressure system that is tracking south-east into the Pacific Ocean, although forecasting is unclear. “The meteorological scene for the next few days is completely uncertain,” believes Cubillos. “Right now, we are sailing in breeze that all the weather experts said does not exist, but we will enjoy it while it lasts.” For the Chileans, immediate tactics are simple: “There’s still a long way to race, but our current strategy is simple. Stick close to Beluga Racer and stay ahead of them if possible.”

Portimão Global Ocean Race

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