East pays big time
|Images courtesy of Expedition Navigation Systems|
This morning finds the IMOCA Open 60 leaders in the Transat Jacques Vabre taking on the Cape Verde islands. Due to the lighter winds to the west, the boats remain close to the Senegalese coast and after a day and a night of gybing, this morning at around 0500 those further east gybed southwest for what could be the final team on a track that will take them to the south of the Cape Verde islands, with the exception of Safran which gybed early and is at present negotiating a course through the middle of this exotic African island group.
Mike Golding and Bruno Dubois on Ecover III are still commanding the lead in the Open 60 fleet having been consistently the most westerly of the front runners, allowing them to effectively cut the corner compared to the others. As the boats gybed this left Ecover the inside boat and she is now directly ahead of Loick Peyron's Gitana Eighty and Bernard Stamm on Cheminees Poujoulat with Kito de Pavant's Groupe Bel and Michel Desjoyeaux's Foncia still further east.
Aside from Safran's passage through the Cape Verde, the wild card remains Jean le Cam and Gildas Morvan on VM Materiaux which have been gybing down a course that is presently taking them past the Cape Verdes to the northwest. While le Cam's electric pink 60 will sail less miles on this tactic she has been consistently sailing 2-3 knots slower over the last 24 hours. Is this working out for the devious le Cam? At present not - between 2000 last night and 1100 this morning he has lost 18 miles on the leader and has dropped from fifth place to seventh. The question is will this work out in the longer term? Today the wind is forecast to finally fill in and is set to do so from the southeast but is expected to build rapidly across the race course. The wind direction is forecast to be northeasterly on the east side of the race track and slightly backed on le Cam's side,however he may benefit from having got his westing in early, enabling him to find a faster passage through the Doldrums.
Meanwhile the 60s astern are also attempting not to stray too far west and getting into the light winds of the high pressure system to their northwest.
Mike Golding reported from on board Ecover III yesterday afternoon
"We are having a good afternoon. I think we have been in the right place most of the time, and we worked quite hard at that. I also think we have got more pressure (wind) than the other guys. And for, instance, with Bel - they were with us yesterday, and now they are 36 miles behind because she did not gybe. They went on in on an unfavoured gybe and now they are that far behind. We did a short gybe out and I think she was with us then. We gybed back and she went on and we gybed again and she is now that far back. She was on the horizon so we could see what she was doing.
"I can only imagine the guys inshore like Foncia were in a dodgy (slightly random) place."
"Jean (le Cam on VM), contrary to some of the files, seems to have had less pressure, and he still has to tackle the islands.
"I think we are better placed for while we are on port gybe as we go past the islands and the longer we can do that the better, but our problem could be that if we have to gybe on to starboard for too long then we are pointing at the islands and we go into their lee (wind-shadow). But I think we are okay at the moment.
"If we can get past the island on port then we are in good shape.
"Otherwise it is all good.. We are resting, doing our engine thing, eating, enjoying each of the polls.
"We have set up and know where we want to cross the Doldrums. It does look like they might be a little bit better when we get there. That's the thinking."
From on board Groupe Bel Kito de Pavant reports:
“We are sailing in dream conditions! If sailing and particularly racing were always like that, that would be brilliant! We have had two magnificent nights, very calm, the temperature is perfect, with a magnificently starry sky, and it's superb. One often asks oneself whether in other far off galaxies other sailors are sailing like us on boats going from one point to another.
“There have been many crossings, particularly at Ushant where some competitors have been stuck and others have passed easily. In one second, at the Canary Islands, we recovered. This allowed us to get close to the boats ahead of us and even to pass them. Seb [Col] and I are getting on famously. We are happy with the boat and our race. To be among the first 5 boats since the start, I feel means that we are getting on well for our first race on board our beautiful red boat.
Cape Verde then the Doldrums: “Logic would have it that we will move faster in the south, by now moving a little to the east. All the data seems to confirm this. The next difficulty will be passing Cape Verde; with high islands and lots of wind disruption, then, the Doldrums; a complicated area where once you're inside, you don't control much any more. Large clouds form really quickly since the water is warm. We will be doing our best to go through at the narrowest point of this phenomenon, knowing that this passage can close at any moment. It would seem, however, this is really in the conditional, there is a passage a little more to the East than usual, but in two days, this can change, our decision will be made at the last moment.”
While the majority of Class 40s are now past the Canary Islands, the overwhelming tactic in the fleet has been to head east, towards the African coast, mimicing the Open 60s that passed through these waters last week.
Unfortunately the last sched doesn't registered Giovanni Soldini and Pietro d'Ali's Telecom Italia which was leading this morning, but the lead today may well change. At 0400 the Italians were just 12 miles ahead and seemed to be doing well, having averaged 8.5 knots over the previous four hours compared to 7.9 for Dominique Vittet's ATAO Audio System. However the two boats are separated across the race course by 145 miles with the Italian to the west in what the forecast is showing to be less breeze than Vittet's boat that at the time was within 60 miles of the Western Sahara coastline and on a gybe taking her inshore. If the forecast comes to pass then Vittet could be experiencing around 10-15 knots of breeze compared to 5-10 knot where Telecom Italia is and this will be more than enough for him to usurp the lead.
Peter Harding and Anne Liardet have done an excellent job since passing through the channel between Gran Canaria and Tenerife yesterday and have pulled up to third place (although they are ranked second above) from sixth place last night .
The conditions are already benefitting the boats to the east. Tanguy de laMotte and Nick Bubb on Novedia Set Environnement for example have pulled up from 18th place last night to 10th at the latest sched, while Groupe Partouche, which left all the Canaries islands to starboard yesterday is up from 12th to seventh and Jo Royle and Alexia Barrier on Pindar 40 are up from 22nd to 19th.
Like the IMOCA 60s the Class 40s at present are victim to a high pressure system centred some 700 miles due west of the leaders, that has compressed the Trade Winds close to the African coast. This is set to dissipate into a ridge over the next 24 hours allowing the Trade Wind belt to expand westwards again. The effect of this should be more wind across the race track generally, but still with more pressure (around 20 knots) nearer the African coast. It won't be until tomorrow afternoon that the northeasterly pressure looks set to equalise across the race course.
A report from Peter Harding's 40 Degrees :
This morning, 40 Degrees’ tactical option to the east is paying, at least for now: third place in the 0700 position report, 48 miles off leader Telecom Italia. The boats to the west are now having to head towards the east side of the course for better wind. There is a group to the west of the Canary Islands who are completely becalmed. The race is far from finished, however; boats will be gybing downwind for the next few days on their way to the Doldrums. Competitors will be looking for the narrowest place to cross this notorious zone of light winds and squalls.
Anne Liardet reported this morning: "Another long day ahead after a long night… so there we are in a rather uncomfortable but satisfying position. The other day, I mentioned throwing the weather files in the bin and straight-lining it. Well that’s what we did, except that I nearly got caught out wavering like a beginner: stay with the bulk of the fleet… so we did put some westing in until we ran into unstable breeze – the way out of here is south, and so south we went. Conclusion: 40 Degrees is a fine boat because I don’t know whether it is her speed which makes me seem intelligent, but at least she lets me get out of jail from semi-mistakes.
On another subject, we are making the most of the last half hour of cool air, because the sun is about to rise from behind the clouds on the horizon; in fact it looks to me like trade wind skies… to date I have seen only one flying fish and that was three days ago – having studied the shape of the deck, I have concluded that it’s not good for fish-catching, so think we will have to do without fresh fish. However, we have another problem – the water in the tanks is almost undrinkable. The tanks have been treated with an antibacterial agent and there is probably residue. We have been using the water to rehydrate food, and drink ‘special taste’ tea, but it’s almost undrinkable even with squash in it, not to mention probably not so good for you in the long term. At least we will be able to wash with it. So we have 70 litres of drinking water left, which should be enough added to the rain we will get in the Doldrums."
Nick Bubb reports from Novedia Set Environnement :
Lots on with big kite which is doing it’s 100th or so hour over the maximum wind range recommended by the sailmaker. This means we are not allowed any mistakes i.e. sail to close to the wind with it or it will probably explode as it did earlier in the race but thankfully not in a dramtic style.
Anyway……..v g ood news, v much hope to be back in the top ten by the end of the day. Of our easterly gang, Dominic Vittet ATAO Audio Systems is in fine form leading us by 100 miles or so but we’re happy enough with that. We suspect he will soon slide past Giovanni overall and then he will be the target. We know we can be quicker than him especially in the last 1,500 odd miles of the race to the Brazilian coast, so we will let him decide when to make the call to head west and see how he lines up for the Cape Verdes and then the Doldrums and make our decisions accordingly. Close to him, sailing a great race, is Anne Liardet and Peter Harding 40 Degrees… just ahead of us is the other boat of the quartet, Groupe Partouche.
As for the boats in the far west, well they look dead and buried for now but that could all change very quickly as we are well aware. The bunch in the mid west (around 17W) are in the most interesting position. They are holding their advantage by being west and are just on the edge of the band of these stronger winds close to the African coast but how far east do they go to get the better breeze, will it come to them? At the moment we are still gaining on them though not as rapidly as we are on those out at (19W). Hummm…….snakes and ladders……….Have a good day all."
Meanwhile the ORMA 60s continue their charge towards the finish line. While the Open 60s have more than 1900 miles left to run, Groupama II has just 525 miles to go having started a day later! Weather conditions are looking good for a fast run into the finish for Franck Cammas and Steve Ravussin, who in this Transat Jacques Vabre have had to round Ascension Island (as they have in previous races). The reason for this we understand is because in 2005 Franck-Yves Escoffier's 50ft trimaran Crepes Whaou, sailing the direct course beat them home, upstaging them.