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Barcelona World Race: Sargassum & Co.

"Not that many manoeuvres, but we are required to concentrate on the boat's settings and steering", this is how Bernard Stamm and Jean Le Cam had defined their agenda for this second half of the week.

"Not that many manoeuvres, but we are required to concentrate on the boat's settings and steering", this is how Bernard Stamm and Jean Le Cam had defined their agenda for this second half of the week. The Cheminées Poujoulat co-skippers were mostly right; however, there was one parameter which they had not anticipated, which has been giving them a hard time since they left the doldrums: the sargassum algae. These brown algae from the Sargassaceae family - whose fronds can reach up to 40 ft. in length - are indeed abundant and are currently surrounding the boat, located 400 nautical miles to the South-West of the Cape Verde Islands. The leaders of the Barcelona World Race must - despite their luck with moderate north-eastern tradewinds - constantly be on the lookout so they can avoid being slowed down too much.

"Winds are set between 12 and 20 knots, which suits us perfectly as stronger winds would make the sea rough which isn't particularly pleasant, and calmer winds would be too weak. The only glitch is that we have been surrounded by algae since we left the doldrums. At times, we sail across more than 160 yards of thick yellow carpet-like seaweed. When that happens, we don't even need to look, we know straight away that the boat has slowed down. It's quite a nuisance. It feels like you're sailing with a ball and chain attached to the boat", ranted Bernard Stamm jokingly this morning on the phone, just as Jean Le Cam was heading into wind to get rid of a lump of seaweed stuck in the keel and rudder blade. "It’s quite simply impossible to avoid them. At first we would try to get rid of them each time some got caught on the boat, but that was a waste of energy as we had to start again a few minutes later, and again after that. So now we only do it when there's a cavitation risk or if we stop moving all together", detailed the skipper, also focused on the upcoming weather forecasts.

Several possible scenarios en route to Gibraltar

For the time being, the least that can be said is that the situation is still very unclear, because of the unstable low-pressure system along the way. "It will all depend on whether the pressure goes up or down. This will help us decide our next step. For now, we don't know how the weather will evolve. Actually, forecasts don't even agree with each other. Worse still, forecasts change from one day to the next. Things are extremely unclear and we'll only be able to get a better idea of what awaits us towards the end of the race in the next two or three days", stated Bernard, who has nonetheless ruled out one scenario: they will not be skimming the African coastlines. "While we wait for a clearer vision of our route, we'll avoid getting too worked up because for the time being we don't have a choice, we just have to get as close as possible, as quickly as possible", concluded Bernard, who expects they will reach the Cape Verde Islands within a day and a half or two days...and hopes that the algae will soon disappear.

 More information about the Barcelona World Race 

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