Big breeze for the 40s
|Images courtesy of Expedition Navigation Systems and ProGRIB|
|Positions at 2000GMT|
|With the fist ORMA 60 trimarans now safely tied up in Pointe a Pitre, so focus in the Route du Rhum is falling on the next group of boats to arrive - the IMOCA Open 60s.
Over the course of today so the next two boats of the top six, Dominique Wavre's new Temenos and Brian Thompson's Artemis have advanced up the sliproad to the motorway of northeasterly winds blowing the front runners towards the finish line at a rate of knots. Temenos got through the front at around 1100GMT this morning, followed by Artemis at around 1700GMT this afternoon.
For Dominique Wavre who has now pulled up to fourth place the next few days will be an interesting test for his new Owen Clarke design, the only new generation Open 60 left in the Route du Rhum. His beamy powerful boat is already showing her potential averaging 17 knots over the last four hours compared to Sill et Veolia's 14.7.
"I’ve finally made it into the front in the past couple of hours or so," said Wavre this afternoon. "I’m under staysail with one reef in the mainsail. I had a few hefty squalls which required a lot of manœuvres, then there was a little ray of sunshine and the wind clocked round to the north. For the time being I’ve still got medium winds so I’ll have to dive a little further West to hit the stronger wind."
The rotation of the wind from the South to the North is making the seas particularly difficult, forcing the skipper to show some restraint: "There are chaotic cross seas, with the waves hitting us from every angle. The boat is slamming and bouncing but it’s a fantastic sight. The wind is building and the boat is accelerating well, but I can't put the pedal to the metal due to the sea state."
Tactically crossing the front has been one of the biggest tactical deals of this race and Wavre is not entirely happy about his choices. "I rather think that the extreme courses were the way to go. It seems to me that along with Sill-Véolia we had a more favourable passage. We didn’t slow as much as VM-Matériaux and Virbac-Paprec. Meantime Brit-Air was able to make up some ground by getting into the front very early on."
The computer black-out which was causing problems aboard Temenos overnight has fortunately been partially resolved thanks to the help of his shore crew. The emergency computer is working to a degree, enabling Wavre to monitor the navigation and receive weather files. "I’ve had a lot of problems with the two onboard computers. These are ongoing, but the emergency pilot works fairly normally now and I’m receiving my weather charts again."
Meanwhile astern of Wavre currently in sixth place Brian Thompson early today described the conditions passing through the front. “We had some light winds in the second half of the night last night, with a few squalls and rain clouds which managed to kill the winds. Now we have 10 knots of wind, blue skies and it looks very nice out here at the moment. We are expecting a change later today though, some time between 1500 and 1800 this afternoon we will finally, hopefully, go through the cold front and the wind will change really rapidly. I am expecting it to increase up to 25 to 30 knots. I am now making sure that the boat is all ready for that, and once we get to the cold front we will have fast downwind conditions, for at least two or three days towards Guadeloupe. So here we are all is good and the sailing is very nice.
“It is a shame that Brit'Air has overtaken us, but I think she has done an awesome job, sailing a good course in difficult conditions but we just have to see what we can do between here and Guadeloupe. The main thing to focus on today is that the cold front is approaching. I was really sad to hear that Orange has capsized but it is great to hear that Steve Ravussin is fine and I hope that he gets picked up soon. Be great if they can salvage her quickly, and get her back into sailing mode again. I tried to get as much sleep as possible in the first part of last night when we had lighter conditions, I probably got three to four hours sleep, in preparation for a busy time this afternoon as the wind will keep increasing and the weather will change quite rapidly which means getting ready for loads of sail changes!! I have made sure I am eating and sleeping and I should be sailing fast this time tomorrow, so I am looking forward to that!"
At present among the front runners, Sill et Veolia has taken up a southerly position on the left hand side of the race track as the boats hurtle south in 25 knots north. However a giant area of high pressure is developing to the northwest of the boats and as this moves eastward to the north of them it will cause the wind to veer east. This shift will be felt by Jean-Pierre Dick on Virbac Paprec and Jean le Cam on VM Materiaux first, probably come Thursday morning at which point it is likely they will gybe south.
In the Class 40s Phil Sharp continues to make hay, his lead now a very useful 120 miles over second placed Gildas Morvan on Oyster Funds. However the speeds of the boats has evened out with many of the top boats having averaging speed in the 8-9 knots range, compared to Sharp 9.9 knots. For the leading Class 40s the weather sitatuion is no longer proving as simple as it has been for the Open 60s. While Gildas Morvan is skirting the bottom of the secondary depression formed on the bottom of the warm front, Phil Sharp is currently hightailing it down a corridor of northwesterlies, between the secondary depression and another depression that has recently formed to his west.
Looking at the forecast charts immediately to the north of Sharp the Escoffiers - Loic on board the trimaran Deleage & Diazo and Servane on board the Finot/Conq Open 50 Vedettes de Brehat Cap Marine - will be having a lively evening in winds of more than 40 knots, although thankfully from the northeast. Just behind the Escoffiers, Ian Munslow on Bolands Mill and Nick Bubb on Kenmore Homes are likely to experience similar conditions once they have skirted the northern side of the depression. Meanwhile the Class 40s to the east of the depression such as Olivier Rabine's IXSEA and Damien Grimont's Chocolats Monbana look set to be in for a caning with 35-40 knot southerlies followed by a shift to the northwest leading to a horror show seastate once the system passed over them.
For Sharp tomorrow will be a lively day of 30 knot northerlies, conditions the lad from Jersey will relish, while this evening Gildas Morvan will get his first taste of the northwesterlies that will enable him to turn his bow towards Guadeloupe at roughly the same latitude as Sharp but 180 miles to the east.
Meanwhile more than 500 miles southwest of Sharp, another set of tactics is going on for the other front runners in the Class 40. Down here Dominique Vittet on ATAO Audio Systems continues to hold third place, albeit 217 miles off the lead at the last sched. In stark contrast to their competitors to the north, down here the boats are experiencing 15-20 knot southerlies and won't get to enjoy the favourable shift to the northwest until tomorrow night.