Disappointing winds and a strong westerly current have wrecked havoc on the entrants of this year’s Barcelona World Race, as the 14 boats struggled to get out of the Straits of Gibraltar and into the North Atlantic. Jean-Pierre Dick and Loick Peyron managed to win the 540-mile first leg with a time of 3 days, 7 hours and 55 minutes on the evening of January 3rd, while other contenders fell as much as 48 hours behind Dick’s Virbac Paprec 3.
But the breakaway doesn’t signal a blowout for Virbac Paprec 3, as a large, slow-moving pressure system is expected to unleash squalls and a northerly shift on the fleet as early as tomorrow morning.
Even without heavy air sailing, the race itself has been fraught with drama. Two days before the race was set to start, Alex Thomson, substitute skipper on Hugo Boss, was diagnosed with appendicitis and unable to participate. Hugo Boss is currently in 14th place, struggling to escape the Strait with a VMG of 4.1kts.
On January 3rd, third place Mirabaud was 48 miles east of the entrance to the Straits when they were boarded without notice by Moroccan customs officials. Skippers Dominique Wavre and Michele Paret reported that they were detained for over an hour while their boat was searched, their supplies ripped apart and their cabin left in ruins. Wavre wrote on her website that “the icing on the cake was when they found the bag of epoxy resin and silica powder (white powder for mixing with the resin for composite repairs). It was impossible to explain things to them. I could just picture myself pacing round and round a Moroccan jail cell rather than sailing round the world.”
Mirabaud was later unceremoniously released when the customs officials received a phone call from an unknown source alerting them to the boat's reason for being 30 miles off the coast of Morocco. BAW Race organizers reported the incident to the Council for Sports and the Maritime Rescue Authority in Madrid, asking that the Moroccan authorities avoid a repetition of the event.
The only American racing this year, Ryan Breymaier, sailing with skipper Boris Herrman onboard Neutrogena, is currently in 5th place 174 miles behind Virbac Paprec 3, and averaging 5.5kts VMG.
For more on the Barcelona Around the World Race, visit here.