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Day 96 Venomous Doorstep Challenge is the toughest yet for Estrella Damm
Gibraltar is the final challenge for Estrella Damm
than 65 kts and big seas
Renault Z.E on course for third, ETA 04000hrs-0600hrs local
In training, training races and
deliveries to and from races on Estrella Damm,
Alex Pella and Pepe Ribes sailed
more than 30,000 miles and must have passed through the Straits of
Gibraltar a dozen times.
Even across those accumulated
preparatory miles, plus all of the 28,500 or so racing miles that
they will have sailed on this Barcelona World Race course itself
over the last three months, it has been some of the final miles,
passing through the notorious Straits of Gibraltar in into the
Alboran Sea, 520 miles from the finish that have been their biggest
To cross their threshold back
into the Mediterranean - their home waters where they first stepped
into a boat and later sailed their first offshore miles - have been
some of the toughest and most stressful for their tired boat and the
Barcelona based duo.
Talk about a welcome
Ribes, who has
completed three Volvo Ocean Races, reported:
“ These has been the worst
days for the boat so far and for us. The first time that you have
to tack and we can’t do anything, we escaped but for a while we
thought we were going back. It was the worst day for the boat and
for us, after going around the world, it is the Strait of
He explained that the
cooperation of Tarifa Trafico had proven essential to alert several
ships to Estrella Damm’s inability to move
off their upwind course, especially at one point when they had their
mainsail lowered and were virtually unable tomanoeuvre.
When they connected with
Barcelona World Race HQ for their Visio-Conference The duo were
still in more than 40 knots of E’ly wind and big seas, saying they
were only waiting for the relief they were expecting at Cabo Gata
later this afternoon where the breeze is expected to abate.
Toño Piris reported that their passage of the Alboran had
been marginally better, other than a rather too close encounter with
a merchant ship, but the Santander co-skipper looked confident and
relaxed as they close their final miles to Barcelona, to what should
be third, completing the race podium for this second edition.
“ We feel quite confident,
we know we have a good boat and a reasonable lead.”
Piris confirmed today.
Renault Z.E Sailing
Team’s Pacho Rivero will be the second skipper who
completed the first race to finish on the podium after double winner
Jean-Pierre Dick. They are expected to break the
finish off the W-Hotel during the early hours of Friday morning
local time, between 0400hrs and 0600hrs (0200hrs-0400hrs UTC).
With less than 230 miles to sail
to the finish, this afternoon Renault Z.E Sailing Team
were 142 miles ahead of Estrella Damm
having banked an extra ten miles on their Barcelona rivals. Their
biggest uncertainty will be which side to pass of Ibiza, but knowing
that from north of the Balearics they face a light winds zone to the
And perhaps for Alex
and Pepe there might be the chance to
route west to salute Ribes’ family and friends who
border their upwind routing, in the coastal town of Calpe, where
Pepe grew up and Pella also has
Dee Caffari and
Anna Corbella were making their choices today on
GAES Centros Auditivos whether to pass
north or south of Madeira, but they may be gifted a fast passage
into the Straits, perhaps shaping up to be the first boat to race
downwind past Gibraltar in the Poniente NW’ly wind.
Toño Piris (ESP) Renault
Z.E:“It has been quite a tough end to a tough race
because of the rough winds we have had and the big seas since the
Straits and we did not think we would have this. We got to the
Strait very comfortably with good winds and sea but in the strait
the wind came from ahead at 25kts, but it was still not too bad.
After the strait we had a few calm areas close to the shore, but
really we did not lose too much. When we went out to sea we got more
wind and seas when we got close to Cabo Gata. And by Algeciras we
changes to the storm jib to play very safe since Estrella Damm is
close. We haven’t used the sail at all in the race, it was the first
time. This is a very complicated area. In fact conditions are the
opposite to the way out when we had no wind, the only thing the same
is there is still snow on the Sierra Nevada.
We are looking forward to getting to Barcelona and are keeping an
eye on Estrella Damm. We have a bit of a cushion but it is not that
big. We are crashing into the waves all the time just now, but it’s
a bit better than last night which was horrible around Gata.
We think we will cross between Ibiza and the peninsula but there are
two routings which send us in different ways.”
Pepe Ribes (ESP)
Estrella Damm: "Crossing the Strait was tough, we had
40 knots and even at Espartel we had seen two big tugs just waiting
in case there were any problems. We had huge waves and the wind bang
on the nose. It was by far the worst day of our round the world
race. We had 65 knots and some big gusts as we got closer to the
coast. We could not tack with those 60 knots and so we learned how
to gybe in 60 knots with the storm jib and four reefs in the
We are on the Spanish coast now and will pass Cabo Gata in a few
hours. We still have lots of big waves. The boat has taken a real
punishment and we try to make short tacks close to the shore because
here we have 35-40kt of wind here and there is 45-50kts further
offshore. It is amazing the difference that seven or so miles
offshore makes. We had five metre waves and they were vertical at
the back so we were dropping off them.
Tarifa traffic were great. They communicated with a big merchant
ship to move off our route because we could not tack. We had the
main down and all of a sudden we could not tack. So Tarifa traffic
managed to get the boat to change their course. We are sticking to
the shore a bit just now. Here we can make 10 kts of boat speed and
offshore it is only 8-9kts.
These conditions are the worst that we could get here for the boat.
The boat really is suffering a lot, so we really are keeping a close
eye on it. It has been worse than Atu. Then we could bear away to
make the boat feel better but here we could not.
We are not thinking about home and family yet, we are only thinking
about Cabo Gata and to see if after that we can feel a bit more
“We have had better days!
Yesterday the conditions in the Strait were storm force winds,
Easterly winds with a forecast 47 knots for eight hours, which was a
shame because it was true for the whole day. We went upwind with
four reefs and storm jib and especially off Espartel we had one hour
of 55kts and then a squall came again in the middle of the Strait
where we had 60-65 kts, all the time it was 45 solid. When you are
sailing and the wind drops to 40 and you feel comfortable that is a
The first time that you have to tack and you can’t do anything, we
escaped but for a while we thought we were going back. It was the
worst day for the boat and for us, after going around the world, it
is the Strait of Gibraltar.”
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