Barcelona World Race Map

A Double-handed Sailing Race begins on Friday, 31st December

A couple of days ago we did a background article on the extreme sport of shorthanded sailing – a sport which might be new to some but certainly not to others. Today I am bringing it back to your attention because the race of all races is about to set off from Barcelona.

The Barcelona World Race… a double-handed race. It comes into the same catagory as single or shorthanded sailing and is a similar, but not equal, way to sail.

As with Sir Francis Chichester’s first true solo circumnavigation of the world in 1966 in Gypsy Moth IV, this race, too, follows the Clipper route. It starts and finishes in Barcelona. It is a  new race – its inaugural year was 2007-2008 when it was contested by 9 boats and won by Jean-Pierre Dick and Damian Foxall on the boat Paprec-Virbac 2.

This will be its second running. It sets off on 31st December – just as we are all warming up for the year’s best party, and will end some 90-odd days later. There are 15 boats this year.

The race is very much on countdown … as I write their clock says 3 days 02 hours 27 minutes and 04 seconds until the gun goes off.

Le départ de la 1ere Barcelona World Race

Juan Merediz (ESP) and Fran Palacio (ESP) have unwittingly had to cut it fine for their pre-race trials. They sailed for the first time on 26th December when their replacement rig for Central Lechera Asturiana was finally ready for trials. She was only finished and stepped last Thursday.

“Everything worked well” Juan Merediz explained this morning, “But still we have a lot of work to do. Today we will leave again as we have to keep trying all the sails and adjusting the rig. So yesterday it was main and small jib, today we will go with the genoa and spinnakers as we get a chance. There is so little time left but we will be ready and in good shape.”

The following map, provided by the organisers of the Barcelona World Race shows the prescribed route:

The approximate length of the course is 25,000 nautical miles (46,300 km) following a Great Circle route which is the shortest possible route. Last years winners took 92 days, 9 hours, 49 minutes and 49 seconds to complete the course, with means an average speed of 11.13 knots.

The yachts will set off from Barcelona toward the Gibraltar Strait, and,  following an Atlantic descent, they will keep the Capes of Good Hope, Leeuwin and Horn to port and the continent of Antarctica to starboard. The regatta rules stipulate a passage through Cook Strait in New Zealand, one of the race’s safety waypoints.

Safety gates along the route have been established to limit the descent of the yachts into areas deemed dangerous either because of floating ice or because these areas are too far away from maritime rescue services in the southernmost countries. The  zone borders will depend on the evolution of the ice caps (floating polar ice).

Annapolis resident Ryan Breymaier is preparing for his first-ever circumnavigation around the world as a participant in this double-handed event. He, and the others, will be sailing in super-light, highly technical IMOCA Open 60 monohulls that have few design concessions for comfort. In other words, they are built for speed and performance, but not for comfort.

35-year-old Breymaier is passionate about this sport and he and his wife Nicola relocated to France four years ago to pursue his life-long dream of racing in the IMOCA Open 60 Class. At the moment the extreme sport of short-handed sailing is dominated by Europeans, and many of them, such as Loick Peyron, Alex Thompson, Michel Desjoyeaux, Dee Caffari, Jean Le Cam, and Jean-Pierre Dick, are headlining in the Barcelona World Race and are all, in their own right, national sports heroes.

“Over here, I’m now known as the young American pitting himself against the European legends but being encouraged by them at the same time,” said Breymaier, who has proved his worth working for Neutrogena’s previous owner Roland Bilou Jordain. “I love the boats, I love the racing, and I love the challenge.” he said.

This is the only race in the world that follows the Great Circle route (the shortest possible route traced across the map) and passes the three Capes: the Cape of Good Hope, Cape Leeuwin and Cape Horn. Rounding any of the three is a badge of significant merit in the sailing world, but rounding them with only two sets of hands to manage a 60-foot boat and without the choice of pulling into land or holding back to wait out severe weather may be the greatest challenge for entrants in the Barcelona World Race.

“The Barcelona World Race is simply one of the toughest races in existence,” says Breymaier’s co-skipper Boris Herrmann. “It is an extraordinary challenge, as much physically as mentally.”

Going up against a playing field of seasoned veterans and taking on one of the biggest challenges in extreme sports today is no easy task, but Breymaier and Herrmann are ready for the challenge and determined to prove themselves.

Bruno Garcia, the Catalan co-skipper who partners Jean Le Cam on Président is one of the two amateur sailors taking part in this race –  two men who are taking time out from their full time careers to compete in the Barcelona World Race.

Garcia is an interventionist cardiologist, but he is also passionate about sailing. He has loved both since he was a youngster. “I have always had the passion to be a doctor and it is difficult to do medicine as a hobby!” he says, but being a precision surgeon has taught him the art of being calm and serene. “I am sure that my job helps with the stressful times on the boat, it is the same approach you have to keep calm and be good with the team so that they don’t see you are stressed.”

One of the strongest partnerships is that of Pachi Rivero (ESP) and Toño Piris (ESP) who have previously competed together and have trained hard for this this race. “In this edition of the Barcelona World RACE things are much more difficult than in the last one, there are some very good boats and some very good crews. The French teams are good, but in fact there are probably up to ten different teams who could win,” says Rivero. “In this race it is important to finish before you can think about winning.”

Wise words indeed.

Activity has built up around the Race Fleet Dock in Barcelona as the departure day draws closer. Today will see the final loading and stamping of sails. Each duo is allowed only ten sails  which will all be officially stamped. There will be no chance to replace sails en route. Safety and security checking is all but complete. There is little left to do except rest, recuperate and spend the last few hours building up energy stores.

Good luck to all and every one of you.

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