The 33-year-old, Italian-Slovak skipper, Marco Nannini, and his 26-year-old Spanish co-skipper, Hugo Ramon, have taken second place in GOR Leg 3 with Class40 Financial Crisis, crossing the finish line in Punta del Este, Uruguay at 08:54:20 local (10:54:20 GMT) on Sunday, completing the 6,300-mile leg through the Pacific and South Atlantic in 35 days 08 hours 54 minutes and 20 seconds.
Passing the island of Isla de Lobos three miles off the Uruguayan coast at sunrise, Financial Crisis beat into the channel between the Puerto de Punta del Este and Isla Gorriti, crossing the finish line as the city began to wake-up to a flawless, cloudless Sunday. Escorted into the marina by two RIBs from the Yacht Club Punta del Este (YCPE), Nannini and Ramon were welcomed by a crowd of well-wishers including the YCPE’s Secretary, Pablo Elola.
With their second visit to the GOR podium following third place in Leg 1, Financial Crisis is up to second place overall on points following Leg 3: “Who would have thought?” laughed Marco Nannini as he stepped onto the concrete quay. “Financial Crisis second overall! It must be a joke?” he added. “We’re really very, very pleased.” Both skippers were on brilliant form as the champagne was sprayed over their Akilaria Class40. “Personally, I had moments when I thought that I don’t want to ever come back here,” recalls Nannini of the 5,000 miles the team spent in the Southern Ocean. “I know it only takes a few drinks afterwards and it’s all forgotten, but there were very tough moments,” he confirms. For Hugo Ramon, the closing stages of Leg 3 were torture: “Maybe the last 50 miles were the hardest for me,” he admits. “Looking back, being in the South was OK, but if you’re so close to land, you want to be on it and just looking at it is very painful!”
Nannini and Ramon took second place early in Leg 3 and having passed through the mid-Pacific, bluQube Scoring Gate, the Italian-Spanish duo dropped south chasing Conrad Colman and Adrian Kuttel on the GOR Leg 3 leader, Cessna Citation. As the leading duo became trapped and static in a high pressure ridge at 54S, Financial Crisis closed in, winning 260 miles from Colman and Kuttel in 48 hours and briefly taking the lead on 14th February after 16 days of racing.
Racing shoulder to shoulder through the Furious Fifties, Nannini and Ramon knew they must find different weather from Cessna Citation to have any chance of re-taking the lead. Consequently, the Italian-Spanish duo dropped deeper south to 59 degrees 50 before bouncing off the Screaming Sixties and regaining poll position on 18th February. “It was pretty much like sailing on the Grand Banks in the OSTAR,” reports Nannini of their trip to 60S. “It’s just very, very miserable down there, but we had very light winds when we were down there, which is surprising for where we were.” For Ramon, the hail, snow and Antarctic conditions were a valuable lesson: “It’s something that you can’t really imagine on shore,” he explains. “I’m not saying it’s good or bad, or that it’s always uncomfortable, but it’s so different to life on land that sometimes you have to be there to feel the difference and appreciate what you have on shore,” says the Spanish skipper.
However, handicapped by the loss of their A2 spinnaker and unable to match the horsepower of Colman and Kuttel, Nannini and Ramon relinquished their lead as southerly breeze arrived from Antarctica and a reaching contest to Cape Horn began. With the southerly breeze forecast to develop into a gale and threatening to intercept Nannini and Ramon in the shallow waters of Drake Passage south of Cape Horn, the duo wisely opted to hove-to for 24 hours, 380 miles west of the cape, riding out gusts of over 50 knots. Running his campaign on a very tight budget, this decision was a key moment for the team: “When we came to Cape Horn we had to slow down and preserve the boat and I’m glad we did as we’ve arrived here in Punta with very little damage,” explains Nannini. “I am absolutely determined to complete the circumnavigation and finish the race in Les Sables d’Olonne, so every decision is always based on limiting damage to the boat.”
Financial Crisis crossed the Felipe Cubillos Cape Horn Gate at 23:25 GMT on Thursday 23 February, cutting the virtual line and rounding the cape 50 miles south of Horn Island after 25 days and 5,000 miles of racing. Light, following winds and a favourable current made the option of slipping through the 16-mile wide Le Maire Strait between Tierra del Fuego and the island of Isla de los Estados feasible, however, strong headwinds and steep waves kicked-up on the continental shelf delivering a punishing re-introduction to the South Atlantic for Nannini and Ramon. “Once we passed the Le Maire Strait we had 35-45 knots upwind which wasn’t forecast in the GRIB files,” says the Italian skipper. “Nasty and slow, just going nowhere doing four knots,” he adds. “I think the last 1,200 miles from Cape Horn to Punta were some of the hardest of the leg with light and, usually, unfavourable winds.”
For Hugo Ramon, the arrival in Punta marks the end of his GOR partnership with Marco Nannini: “I’m going to miss Marco,” admits Ramon. “He’s a lovely guy and for two very macho men to survive in such a small space is a truly great achievement!” Putting humour and sailing machismo aside, Ramon is deeply grateful to his Italian skipper: “I don’t have the pressure that Marco has of running the campaign, so there is a lot more for me to enjoy and every moment is easy and fantastic while he has to worry about money and keeping the boat in one piece,” he states. “So it’s really impressive the job he’s done.”
Nannini admits that his GOR programme has been an immense struggle, but future round-the-world races are on the cards: “The stress of running this campaign has been enormous and demanding and I would only come back with a properly funded campaign,” he confirms. “I’d be interested in running a team entry for the next GOR with proper funding and some new talent from Italy with an all-Italian entry,” Nannini adds. His co-skipper will also be returning for further circumnavigations: “If someone gives me the opportunity, I’ll be back in the southern Ocean as soon as possible,” explains Ramon. “Until then, I’ll be back at home in Mallorca working on my next round-the-world project.”
To the south of Punta del Este by 500 miles, the final Class40 still racing in GOR Leg 3, Phesheya-Racing of Nick Leggatt and Phillippa Hutton-Squire, was 200 miles off Patagonia’s Valdes Peninsular on Sunaday afternoon with the possibility of the continuous headwinds finally ceasing on Monday.
Meanwhile, Dutch skipper, Nico Budel, is approaching from the north as he solo-sails Sec. Hayai through the South Atlantic to re-join the GOR fleet for Leg 4 and Leg 5 following his dismasting on Sec. Hayai with his son Frans on the first night at sea in Leg 2 from Cape Town. Nico Budel and Sec. Hayai left South Africa on the 15 February and the Dutch Class40 is currently 1,750 miles north-east of Punta del Este, sailing downwind 1,000 miles off the coast of Brazil. When Sec. Hayai reaches Uruguay, Budel will be met by his family and his co-skipper for Leg 4 to Charleston, USA, Erik van Vuuren.