Calm after the gale
Class 40 positions at 1100
|Images courtesy of Expedition Navigation Systems|
|Having passed the area of strong winds around Cape Finisterre, so the pace has slowed generally across the Transat Jacques Vabre fleets with the Open 60s averaging around 10-11 knots off the Portugese coast, the ORMA 60 tris a pedestrian 19-21 knots passing the latitude of Gibraltar while the Class 40s are in slightly more breeze still making around 9-12 knots average just past Cape Finistere.
At present the depression out in the Atlantic is still hovering to the south of the Azores, but is forecast to move north slightly over the next 48 hours, leaving an area of little wind due west of Gibraltar.
In the Open 60 fleet in the early hours of this morning both Safran and VM Matereaux took a hitch out to the west for a couple of hours before returning to their southerly course. The latest forecast indicates that they have around 10 knots from the northeast still and are sailing into less breeze. As a result we are likely to see a compression of the fleet.
The forecast for the rest of today is for the wind to veer further around to the south and drop off entirely, which may not benefit the boats currently furthest east - Groupe Bel and Gitana Eighty. Longer term the tactics among the 60s seems to be to head south as quickly as possible in order to key in the beginnings of the Trade Winds at around the latitude of Gibraltar, still some 140 miles away from the leaders.
At present Foncia and Safron are pretty much level pegging in the race south, roughly 34 miles apart on the water ( Safran ahead by being further west) but it is unclear from the forecast whether one boat will see the shift before the other.
Once into the Trades, assuming no one is tempted to go west, we can expect to see the 60s to pass through the Canaries Islands in order to stay in the most favourable northwesterly breeze (further west and they risk getting into the awkward transition zone between the trades and the depression).
Over the last 24 hours the Class 40s have been able to get around Cape Finisterre without having to gybe, the wind veer ENEerly. Giovanni Soldini and Pietro d'Ali on board Telecom Italia continue to hang to their 19 mile lead but the places behind them have changed. Currently up to second and third places are the Akilaria 40s Mistral Loisirs and ATAO Audio Systems, both following a similar track to the Italian leader.
Alex Bennett, in second yesterday heading into Cape Finisterre, has clearly not benefitted from being closest to the coast. The latest position update shows him down to 23rd position.
Speaking to his Team HQ this morning, Alex recounted the night’s exploits: “The conditions were extreme last night. Big, big seas and 35kts of wind. We were surfing at over 25kts at times, burying the pulpit on the big ones”.
As darkness fell last night they were sailing under Code 5 with one reef in the main. As the wind built they looked to reduce sail. “We tried to furl the Code 5 but the wind was too strong. We ended up having to drop in onto the deck and pull it in by hand. Pretty hairy stuff in the dark with such big seas,” commented Bennett.
As to their plummeting down the rankings Bennett is playing the longer term game. “The boats further west may have had a better wind angle than us. However, there’s still a long way to go and we expect the conditions to favour us as we head toward the Canaries.”
Simon Clarke and David Lindsay are in a similar position to the east, a tactic that has seen them drop from third place yesterday to 13th at the latest report.
The easterly option could pay off. Tactically looking ahead the decision is a tough one over whether going west or east (or right or left down the race track) will be of any benefit. The depression centre is too far away to benefit from sailing into it, getting the shift and heading out. However some boats may head west where there is likely to be more wind in the short term from the south or southeast. This also holds the benefit of getting westing in early. However as is the case with the 60s, going east, heading for the Canary Islands, could be a better long term strategy as this option will allow the boats to get into the trade winds faster even if it requires sailing close to the African coast to get maximum benefit. At present aside from the Brits Benoit Parnadeau and JC Caso on Jardin Bio Prevoir and Christophes Coatnoan and Lebas on Groupe Partouche are also attempting this option, while Vecteur Plus-Groupe Moniteur and Florence Arthaud and Yves Pajot on Deep Blue are attempting a more westerly route. The position update above indicates that the boats to the west are still in more breeze.
Yesterday Michel Desjoyeaux sent this report through from on board Foncia :
“It’s been particularly wet since last night: we lowered the spinnaker in the black starless night and hoisted the gennaker instead because, as forecast, the wind really kicked in (over 40 knots) on the approach to Spain. We then reduced our sail area again at sunrise and gybed: conditions are still a bit feisty! We had great boatspeed throughout the night, which enabled us to make up a bit of ground on Marc Guillemot and get away from Loïck Peyron slightly. Rolling up the gennaker in over thirty knots is not easy though… especially with the very short seas.
"Since the start, we haven’t had a lot of time to rest due to all the manœuvres the first two days and now as a result of the breeze. We’ve been focussing on trucking across the Bay of Biscay but now we’re going to have to decide on our trajectory for negotiating Madeira and the Canaries. I’m waiting for the grib files late this afternoon to confirm the course I'd like to adopt for the next few days.
"In any case, Safran pulled off a fine coup off the tip of Brittany, which enabled it to be the first to reap the benefits of the new wind: things should balance themselves out now though...”
Sam Davies yesterday afternoon sent the following update from on board Roxy :
“A tiring night, as we approach Cape Finisterre, and the wind is building. We sailed as long as we thought reasonable with the spinnaker, then when the wind rose above 20 knots we changed to gennaker. The gennaker is slightly more of a "manageable" sail, as it is on a furler and should be easy to put away oonce the wind gets too strong. We're expecting strong winds just as we pass Cape Finisterre, and we don't want to take any crazy risks there!!!! (we already tried that in the Figaro, with spectacular consequenses!). Anyway, after the sail change we had the stacking to deal with: Downwind in a breeze, Roxy prefers to have the weight aft, so we spent half an hour inside, dragging all the other sails from the forward locker to under the cockpit - no more nosedives! Now the breeze is reaching 28 knots, it will be soon time to change sails again..... No rest for the wicked!”
Nick Bubb reports from on board Novedia Set Environnement :
Last night was wild, this morning is not! We got up to 8th on the 0400 position update then decided to put some west in to avoid this huge area of light winds off the Portuguese coast but to back track……. the wind built throughout yesterday afternoon as we approached Cape Finsiterre, we changed down sails as required pushing each sail combination to the limit. We went into the night with our small masthead spinnaker reefed to make it factional (a clever french invention where you zip up the foot…..more on that later) and had two reefs in the main, as the wind built to a steady 30 knots we were really flying down the ever increasing sea state.
In the pitch black we survived one or two near broaches and it was all hands on deck i.e. both of us, all the time. We were not only making great ground towards the cape but we were also working our way out west which was the part of the plan when looking at the bigger picture. To cut a long story short, the wind kept increasing and our fun came to an abrupt halt when the reefed spinnaker decided it wanted to unreef itself….perfect, we were hardly in control as it was! Anyway, we just about got her down in one piece and reverted to the solent and two reefs in the main for the remainder of the night, no bad thing as we had a steady 38 knots for a while and a huge sea. Top speed was 23.6 knots with this sail combination.
In the early morning, the breeze started to ease and we prepared the small spinnaker once more only to notice a halyard issue with the solent which, in brief, complicated things….. and the end result was me up the rig in 20 knots pitch black and a big sea, actually it wasn’t too bad and we got it sorted quickly before going up through the sail combinations to full main and big spinnaker as the wind slowly dropped.We are desperately trying to avoid the light winds coming our way, looks like those who got west last night will make a gain. We are petty much near the middle if anything slightly east so we better get back to it!
Position: 42 N 11W Speed: 7 knots Course: 195 degrees Nick and Tanguy
Dan Gohl and Tom Gall report from on board Concise :
The past few days have been pretty hard. Sailing into no breeze in the channel and watching the fleet go past was tough. Clarke Offshore Racing and AST Group were just next to us at the time but they managed to get some light pressure that took them around Ouessant before the tidal gate closed. They went straight to the front of the fleet and we ended up at the back.
We are know half way through the bay of Biscay running with full main and mast head spinnaker sitting at around 15kts boat speed. As we are playing catch up we are pushing really hard. Finding the balance between foot to the floor and wiping out!! We have past two boats in the past 8 hours and are catching others at pace.
The sailing is amazing. down wind, big breeze, in Biscay on a Class 40! Fantastic.