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To stop or not to stop?

To stop or not to stop? That is definitely the question for the 20 sailors in the Barcelona World Race yet to announce whether they will make a pit-stop in Wellington (NZL). 
 The next 24 hours could prove key as some long-held positions go up for grabs, and with more teams potentially considering a Kiwi stopover the rankings could see further reshuffles in future.
Virbac Paprec 3, sailing towards Wellington, credits: Cris Cameron/DPPI
One of the Barcelona World Race's unique elements - the fact that teams may make technical 'pit-stops' to repair damage in order to be able to complete the course - looks set to create a fascinating tactical challenge for the 10 teams who have yet to decide whether to pull into Wellington.On the one hand is the benefit of being able to make essential repairs to potentially race-ending problems with sails, electronics, or other elements of the yacht, allowing the teams to safely resume racing at 100 per cent pace. Countering that is the fact that every boat which stops after 140 degrees East must observe a compulsory time penalty of 48 hours on land, potentially jeopardising hard-earned miles of advantage over their rivals. And of course, while 48 hours may not prove a winning margin at this stage at the race, no skipper can predict what will happen over the remaining 11,500 miles of the course after Wellington.
In order to prevent teams from planning stopovers as a race strategy, there are strict rules on what work may and may not be carried out during the pit-stops - for example, the boats may not replace their sails, or intentionally start the race with limited provisions to reduce weight. Groupe Bel was the first to announce their intention to stop in New Zealand, having suffered damage to two headsails which they will be repairing on land.
Hugo Boss credits: Gostav Morin
The Hugo Boss team announced that the IMOCA 60 suffered damage to its main track which has left Andy Meiklejohn (NZL) and Wouter Verbraak (NED) unable to hoist the sail to its full height for three weeks. Around half a metre of main track was ripped away on January 28. Whilst the boat will sail reefed to deliberately reduce the mainsail size in strong winds, in lighter airs the loss of sail area at the top of the mast will be a serious handicap to Hugo Boss.
Today's announcement from the team states that the co-skippers are hopeful of being able to make a repair without stopping, but they have dispatched a shore team, including original race skipper Alex Thomson (GBR), to Wellington, just in case.

Rankings at 1400hrs UTC Thursday 17th February
1. Virbac-Paprec, 11533 nm to finish
2. Mapfre, 311 nm to leader
3. Groupe Bel, 511
4. Estrella Damm Sailing Team, 531
5. Renault Z.E, 850
6. Neutrogena, 1151
7. Mirabaud, 1167
8. Hugo Boss, 1384
9. Gaes Centros Auditivos, 1680
10. Forum Maritim Catala, 3387
11. Central Lechera Asturiana, 3800
12. We Are Water, 4202

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