ORMA 60 positions and weather at 1444GMT. Image courtesy of Expedition Navigation Systems

ORMA 60 positions and weather at 1444GMT. Image courtesy of Expedition Navigation Systems

Drag race to the finish

Leading Transat Jacques Vabre monohulls into the southern hemisphere

Wednesday November 16th 2005, Author: James Boyd, Location: Transoceanic
Positions at 1444GMT

Pos Boat DTF DTL VMG Lat Long Spd Crs Spd Crs 24 hr
Instant 4 hr aver run
ORMA 60 tris
1 Banque Populaire 1725.9 0.0 11.3 5 05.04' S 17 34.56' W 9.1 82 10.6 117.0 287.9
2 Géant 1789.4 63.5 10.0 4 16.28' S 18 16.16' W 16.4 82 15.3 91.0 266.5
3 Gitana 11 1790.8 64.9 8.9 4 01.08' S 18 02.96' W 15.0 78 11.3 115.0 297.0
4 Gitana X 2317.7 591.8 8.3 5 09.28' N 19 47.40' W 15.3 199 7.7 187.0 249.0
ABD Orange Project                    
ABD TIM Progetto Italia                    
ABD Brossard                    
ABD Sodebo                    
ABD Groupama 2                    
ABD Foncia                    
Open 60s
1 Virbac-Paprec 815.8 0.0 14.3 1 52.84' S 30 27.48' W 15.4 207 15.5 211.0 315.4
2 Sill et Veolia 836.1 20.4 15.6 1 44.68' S 30 28.28' W 15.2 212 15.4 209.0 317.1
3 Bonduelle 892.1 76.3 14.4 0 56.88' S 29 59.20' W 13.3 214 14.3 210.0 297.7
4 Ecover 923.3 107.5 13.5 0 00.12' N 30 38.64' W 13.6 200 13.0 203.0 298.4
5 Skandia 935.7 119.9 12.6 0 16.68' N 30 44.68' W 13.1 193 12.5 200.0 288.2
6 Pro-Form 963.7 147.9 11.1 0 11.64' N 29 34.16' W 11.6 193 11.7 201.0 267.6
7 UUDS 1408.6 592.9 14.8 6 53.04' N 26 19.76' W 15.4 193 12.4 191.0 301.6
8 Mare Verticale 1706.3 890.5 11.5 12 51.96' N 27 40.72' W 11.7 189 12.7 189.0 285.3
9 Maisonneuve-Région Basse Normandie 2061.9 1246.1 4.9 17 39.80' N 23 25.72' W 6.0 158 6.2 169.0 140.1
10 Galileo 2449.1 1633.3 12.3 24 28.40' N 23 07.36' W 12.4 190 11.1 208.0 230.3
ABD Cheminées Poujoulat                    
NL Roxy                    
50ft multis
1 Crêpes Whaou ! 931.4 0.0 18.5 1 11.08' S 28 31.60' W 20.2 208 18.6 211.0 380.3
2 Jean Stalaven 2328.9 1397.5 4.6 21 31.52' N 21 08.48' W 4.8 192 4.6 216.0 129.5
3 Gifi 2369.2 1437.8 6.8 23 35.04' N 24 44.68' W 8.0 170 5.1 177.0 177.0
4 VictorInox 3049.0 2117.6 4.7 33 09.96' N 16 52.56' W 8.3 260 7.6 254.0 94.1
ABD Négocéane-Donneurs de vie-Branec IV                    
ABD Acanthe Ingénierie                    
Open 50s
1 Gryphon Solo 2033.1 0.0 5.5 18 03.52' N 25 49.28' W 4.0 195 6.3 189.0 153.3
2 Vedettes de Bréhat 2209.0 175.9 5.6 20 14.36' N 23 18.28' W 8.1 234 5.0 219.0 132.0
3 Artforms 2271.2 238.1 7.4 22 18.76' N 26 16.76' W 8.0 167 6.6 186.0 200.3
4 Top 50 Guadeloupe 2375.5 342.4 6.0 21 49.88' N 19 55.24' W 7.0 183 6.9 182.0 145.8
5 Polarity Solo 2418.3 385.2 9.0 25 00.80' N 26 55.92' W 7.3 196 7.9 203.0 149.8
ABD Défi Vendéen                    
ABD Adecco - Etoile Horizon                    

The leading three 60ft trimarans over the course of the last 24 hours have continued on the long slog upwind into a choppy sea to round their turning mark of Ascension Island. All three boats are considerably to the west of the great circle route and this has been messing with the results as whoever heads furthest east appears to better shape. For this reason Gitana XI has been able to catch up with Michel Desjoyeaux' Géant who has had to tack in from the west and over the course of this morning's position updates had moved into second place. The latest update shows Géant to be ahead but by just over one mile. Geant seems to be sailing a bit freer upwind, cracked by more than 15 degrees over Gitana XI who is right next to her, but sailing four knots faster as a result.

Meanwhile Pascal Bidegorry and Lionel Lemonchois on Banque Populaire continue to sail a fantastic race and have put on yet more miles, leading by 63.5 miles this afternoon compared to 47 yesterday and are in the most easterly position putting themselves between Géant, Gitana XI and the mark. The bankers are current 263 miles from Ascension Island which they must leave to starboard. At 11 knots VMG they will round the remote British outpost with military airstrip in roughly 24 hours ready for the next 1,450 mile broad reach/run to the finish at Salvador de Bahia. At present all three of the frontrunners are on an easterly tack.

Overnight Michel Desjoyeaux reported that they were sailing in 22 knots with gust of up to 33 knots. He expected Banque Populaire to have a six or seven hour advantage over them at Ascension Island. "I can say for certain that the tension in this race has never come down since we left Le Havre," said Michel Desjoyeaux earlier. "This course is particularly exacting, and apart from one nice afternoon off Portugal I don’t think in all my life I’ve spent so long at sea being so punished by the big blue ocean like this! It’s more like mountain-climbing than sailing out here...”

In the class two multihull Franck-Yves Escoffier and son Kevin on board their new 50ft mini-ORMA 60 Crêpes Whaou! are looking set to be the first boat of the four classes into Salvador de Bahia. Unlike their big brothers they don't have to round Ascension Island and despite starting a day later are in the process of overtaking the leading Open 60 monohulls. “I have so much faith in this boat, it’s uncomplicated, a real zippy machine, I wouldn’t change a thing," commented pere Escoffier. "I love sailing 50 footers. We’ve got 22 knots of wind, one reef in the mainsail and staysail up, we’re building up to a crescendo finish for this Transat Jacques Vabre!”

The last 24 hours have seen the leading Open 60 pass out of the Doldrums and across the Equator now on a fast port tack reaching which will see them good all the way to the finish line still just over 1,100 miles away.

Virbac-Paprec, the 2003 winner, sailed by Jean-Pierre Dick and Loick Peyron has once again eeked out some miles on Roland Jourdain and Ellen's Sill et Veolia over the last
24 hours. Equally Jean le Cam and Kito de Pavant on Bonduelle after their great day yesterday have lost ground on the two leaders.

While the race from here is predominantly a drag race, the layline takes the boats right into the Brazilian coast where the wind frequently goes light and there is the possibility of teams playing the land and sea breezes to their advantage.

During today's 'radio vacation' Jean le Cam spoke of the steady breeze from here to the finish: “It’s a monotonous monohull race from here on. Unless a miracle happens, we won’t see the order change. The breeze is steady, that much we do know.” Mike Golding had quite opposite views: “It could be a light airs finish, but as for our chances of winning still, well with the usual suspects out here it may be a big ask, but you never know!”

Leading skipper Jean-Pierre Dick on Virbac-Paprec was more open-minded: “It’s amazing how close the performance of these boats is. We’ve never been much more than 20 miles ahead of Sill et Veolia all this time. The boat speeds are very similar, we’re studying the weather very carefully - we’ll do everything we can to cross the line first!”

At present the fourth to sixth positioned boats - Ecover, Skandia and Pro-Form - are still to the west of the leading trio but at present there seems to be little advantage to this and at present their speeds are generally slower than the front runners.

"The sun is shining here and we are thinking of everyone at work!" wrote Brian Thompson earlier. "Big day today as we cross into the Southern hemisphere this afternoon, just 42 miles away from us now. It will be time for some Mumm Champagne, for all three of us - me, Will and King Neptune...

"So far all going well. Last night we finally broke through from the constant squalls we have had for two days and saw the stars come out. There were still a few isolated squalls and these seemed to be slowing boats randomly all over the course. At 3am we were a tantalising 0.2 mile off fourth place, but by the 5am report were back 10 miles behind Ecover again - all due to a passing rain shower that killed the wind in its passage.

"I spent a couple of hours constantly changing trim, just to get moving again. Not much you can do, let's hope the cards are at least dealt fairly and we all get the same luck with the squalls.

"We have been cutting into the leaderboard the last two days as we had a better Doldrum crossing. Now the leaders will extend as the wind slowly favours them by backing. Realisticaly, in these stable conditions, its hard to see us getting to the front, but we have a great three way tussle for fourth place on our hands for the next 1000 miles.. Ecover has a 10 mile lead and ProForm is supposedly 25 miles back, but the reality is that she is abeam of us by 65 miles and has a big advantage in being able to crack off on this close reach across the SE trades. I'd put her at least level with us at present…"

Another battlie is going on for seventh place between UUDS and Anne Liardet and Miranda Merron on Roxy, both boats still in the thick of the Doldrums.

"Today has been a definite improvement on yesterday, though the cost of being becalmed is a close race between us and UUDS for now," reported Miranda Merron. "More interesting though. Luckily it was quite a cloudy day as it is getting rather hot in this part of the world. Chocolate stays melted at night. Since early morning, we have had 17-24 knots of breeze, sailing under big gennaker, getting some good surfs down the waves. It's now the middle of the night, full moon, and much the same. Worth enjoying while it lasts, because in a few hours we will be in the Doldrums. It looks like our classmates in front got through relatively unscathed. There are loads of flying fish, though not many suitable specimens have found their way on deck. Still, there are plenty of miles left for flying fish sashimi!"

In the Open 50 monohull division Joe Harris and Josh Hall's Gryphon Solo is still 175.9m ahead of their nearest rival Vedettes de Bréhat sailed by Vendee Globe veteran Bertrand de Broc and the young Servane Escoffier. The boats are still some way off entering the Doldurms. The interesting battle will be between the new Open 50 Artforms of Kip Stone and Merf Owen that have been making up ground on the west side of the race course.

“One of the advantages Kip has is that he can see what’s happening to us and he can avoid some of the pitfalls," Harris said earlier. "Kip has made a distinct move to the west gybing down the rhumbline and has so far successfully avoided this calm patch. For now we are working hard to plan our strategy for the doldrums where we expect to be later this week."

Kip Stone responded today with an invitation for Joe & Josh to make their race even more nail-biting: “It’s better and better out to the West of the competition. We’ve had some big breeze which has allowed us to close the gap on Gryphon Solo. If you could tell Joe and Josh from me that if they’d like to pull into the Cape Verde’s for a night on the town, we’ll pay for it, I made the offer at the Canaries and they didn’t take up on it, so this time I’m happy to make sure there’s no expense spared, I’ll hand over my credit card number in advance!”

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