|Images courtesy of Expedition Navigation Systems|
One of the saddest pieces of news in our sport at present is the expected anticipated demise of the ORMA 60 trimaran at the end of this Transat Jacques Vabre. We'll be reporting more on what happens now, next week. However hearing their death knoll the boats have in the meantime been making a fabulous last stand.
As we write Franck Cammas and Steve Ravussin aboard their Groupama II are approaching the finish line off Salvador de Bahia having covered the 4,300 mile long race from Le Havre in just 10 days. With a 144 mile lead their first place seems assured, however the real action has been going on behind them. The latest sched shows that over the last 24 hours Pascal Bidegorry and Yvan Ravussin (Steve's brother) have covered 649 miles, but in the 24 hours leading up to 0800 this morning, they sailed 663.3 miles at an average speed of 27.6 knots. Assuming these figures are accurate they demolish the 628 mile/day record for the ORMA class, set by Yvan Bourgnon in the speedy 2000 Quebec-St Malo race.
IMOCA Open 60s
Meanwhile most of the Open 60s have now passed the Cape Verde islands and are lining up for the Doldrums. With the trades winds now re-establishing off the African coast, so the boats are gybing downwind while trying to stay on track for the crossing south.
In the last 24 hours Mike Golding had lost just 4 miles of his lead, now down to 33 miles from Loick Peyron and his sailmaker Jean-Baptist le Vaillant on Gitana Eighty. As Golding states in his email below the question is when to gybe. The latest sched shows all the front runners heading south, with the exception of Armel le Cleac'h's BritAir which is now on to a similar track to Ecover, and Foncia and Bernard Stamm's Cheminees Poujoulat which have literally just gybed west again. Ecover and Gitana Eighty are virtually neck and neck in their race south, Ecover ahead in the rankings by virtue of her being to the west and nearer the great circle.
Who is right? The results will be decided in the quasi-lottery of the Doldrums. If Golding continues his present track and they remain as they are at present, the Doldrums belt will extend before him between 5-8degN with the southeasterly trades of the South Atlantic arriving at 5degN. The question will be east or west of Ecover's track south be better or worse? Will the cunning French opposition be better at playing the highly localised squalls? We'll know in the next 24-48 hours.
While Jean le Cam and Gildas Morvan on VM Materiaux headed west some days ago, leaving the Cape Verdes to port, when all the other leaders left them decidedly to starboard, they have been joined by Marc Guillemot and Charles Caudrelier on board Safran. Safran made a bold call to sail through the Cape Verdes to reach VM's position so it will be interesting to see if le Cam and Guillemot have some information that the other 60s don't have that has prompted their westerly route. While VM Materiaux was averaging about 3 knots less than Ecover yesterday, both she and Safran are still sailing slower than the easterly boats, but now only by a knot.
Mike Golding reportsed from on board Ecover yesterday aftenroon:
" I am buried in media kit trying to make it work at the moment, and not having much success. Other than that we are just pondering gybing to the south or carrying on pushing west.
It is a very even wind at the moment, we've got the breeze just kicked in at 15-18 knots now which is nice, so we are zipping along. It is going well."
Foncia's past Vendee Globe winner Mich Desjoyeaux put some of Ecover's gains down to good spinnakers on today's Radio call round. Golding responds: " We have a got a big spinnaker, no bigger than anyone else's, I don't think. And we have the man on board who would know. (North Sails France's Bruno Dubois). It is more important than the 100 miles that he [MichDes] is adrift is the 100 miles he went over to Africa and back! Not too much of it is down to sails or the way we are sailing, more down to the route and the wind shifts. Our spinnaker is just a development of the one we had on the other boat. Sure, we have done some work on it over the winter, with a few people and some wind tunnel stuff, but it is a spinnaker for crying out loud, it's not going to make that much difference!
"For sure I think it is the whole package at the moment, you can't just say it is the spinnaker. You have to look to the boat, and the whole thing seems to work well in those conditions. It is quite nice to have Bruno and to have speed in this particular wind speed and direction, but the guys who have lost miles have lost miles because they have gone off in different direction. They have tried to make calls to get round us rather than truing to get past us.
"The same applied to Foncia and Safran. The one which is closest to us just now is the one that has stuck closest to us (to our track), Gitana. We have stayed closest to the rhumb line and modestly played the shifts. They made a small deviation to the east and they are 40 miles adrift because of it. I feel we have just played the numbers and that is all. There is no magic.
"Bruno is a great character to sail with and obviously it is a two way street because we hope that Bruno is going to co-ordinate our sail programme into the Vendee Globe. By having him on board he is getting to see the actual difficulties. We have got some sails on board which work really well but are way too heavy, he knows why they are way too heavy because he is having to lug them around. And we have got sails on board which, frankly, don't work terribly well. On paper they fill the area cross-over and in reality they don't work that well. But we have predominantly had success with the programme, so we think the kites are very good. We think our A1 (big gennaker) is very good and we used that very effectively to make some inroads approaching the Canaries. But remember everything on the boat is brand new and so we are just getting our heads around it. They are 'spangly' new sails.
"The breeze is kind of filling in from behind and we expected them to make gains, but we are pleased they are not bigger than they are. And the other thing is we are in a rotating breeze. As we go on we are slowly getting hooked round to the west and we are always more lifted than the boats behind. So they are pointing more towards the mark for longer and I think they are making the majority of their gains from that, rather than speed. And so when we gybe and go south, we should recover and if we stay strong and we should maybe recover and a bit more."
Michel Desjoyeaux reportsed from on board Foncia yesterday afternoon:
“Things aren’t going too badly, at times at least, since the breeze is fairly fluky and it's very dark at night... However, we have glorious sunshine, it is warm, there's a gentle breeze... We're making 12-13 knots in a 15 knot N to NE’ly wind, still under large spinnaker and full main. We are sufficiently far enough away from the Cape Verde islands so as not to be affected by the effects of wind off the land and we’re picking our way towards the W-SW prior to gybing, most likely tomorrow lunchtime.
"Ecover has a good lead but we are just astern of Groupe Bel as well as Gitana, positioned slightly upwind of us… Our option close to the African coast was also a way of validating the reliability of the grib files over this zone.
"We have already made a lot of progress in getting to understand the boat during the first part of this race, where we've been able to sail in contact with the leaders. Foncia is right up there and there are no surprises with this pretty boat, which I’m sure can develop still further. These yachts have made enormous progress downwind and in the light airs. In 24 hours’ time we will only be approaching the doldrums and once we’re out, we’ll still need four days before we reach Salvador de Bahia!”
Sam Davies writes from on board Roxy ...
“Hello everyone! We are currently gybing through the Cape Verde Islands, trying to do better than our effort in the Canaries and not get in a no-wind trap! We are snapping at the heels of Yann and Seb in Generali, and all night Jeanne and I thought we could see their masthead light!!! Wishful seeing! We're a bit disappointed not to see the islands, and not even a light from a lighthouse, even though we are only 12 miles from land. Gybing was a messy business, because as we moved the stack of sails (all the sails we aren't using are stacked up in the best place on deck) we discovered the second use of the stack - anti-flying-fish defense wall!! So, before moving the stack we had to do a thorough check and clean out to avoid more nasty smells!!! Now I'm off back on deck, with my breakfast porridge, to go and super-fine trim everything because Generali is on the menu for lunch!!!”
Class 40s (see chart at the top of this report)
Despite Giovanni Soldini and Pietro d'Ali's Telecom Italia dropping off the radar yesterday and the wind apparently favouring the boats in the east, it appears this morning they have lost none of their advantage and while being some 130 miles to the west of the Dominique Vittet's ATAO Audio Systems, they have managed to keep their speed on and are still just to the south of Vittet's boat. They have done well considering that their beamy Guillaume Verdier-designed Class 40 looks sticky in the light conditions.
In fact this morning the relative speeds of the boats to the east, including Peter Harding and Anne Liardet's 40 Degrees (on the heels of Vittet and up to the fourth at the latest sched) indicates the wind to have decreased in the east rather than built. Hence Damien Grimont's Chocolats Monbana, following much the same track as the Italians is now up to second place.
To the north the boats in the west have particularly suffered including Simon Clarke who has dropped from 13th to 18th in the last 24 hours.
Longer term the easterly option is forecast to play as the depression out in the Atlantic fills spins up properly and heads for the Canary Islands over the next three days. The effect of this will be once again squeezing u pthe favourable band of northeasterly trade winds up against the African coast.
Nick Bubb reports from on board Novedia Set Environnement
A slightly disappointing night, but never the less still good progress. We were expecting a solid 14 knots all night and had spent the day manoeuvring our selves closer to the coast to line up for this new breeze, which in the end did not materialise.
We spent most of the night in 6 to 9 knots from 030 and it looks like those in the mid-west had better breeze as they pulled out a few miles on us. The same for those in the far west who got south enough....no consolation for 'Clarkee' and 'Kiwi Dave' who 'defected' from the east to the far west and have been losing miles quickly over the last day and are now back in 20th.
The bigger picture still looks very good for us with a good angle to start crossing over toward the Cape Verdes and lining up for the Doldrums. Right now it looks like we will take one more hitch towards Africa before passing to the east of the Verde's.
Breeze up to 9 - 10 knots now (0800 UTC) so moving a little better. Direction not so useful, 050 so a gybe could be imminent. Looks like the wind filled in from behind as the fleet is really starting to compress together.
Lots of fishing boats last night, tense times for many reasons......
Dan Gohl and Tom Gall report from Concise :
‘Monday was a good day for us on Concise. We had a nice 'warm' northeasterly all day helping us to hit 16 knots boat speed at times! It was a good feeling when you know that the boats to the south west of you are doing 4 knots! Hopefully we can now get some pay back after our disappointing first week.
"We have now gybed on to starboard and are heading 230deg with good boat speed and it's a really nice angle for the Code 0. The repair to the spinnaker is under way but it will take all day at least, maybe longer. Fingers crossed we have enough tape for the repair. Next waypoint for us will be the Cape Verde islands some 850 miles south off us.
"It was a shame to hear that two boats have retired from the race due to gear failure. It brings it home to us that finishing this race is no easy feat. Resisting the temptation to push these boats to there limit is a challenge! You have to find that balance of pushing hard, but not break anything. Someone once told me 90% can sometimes be a 100%!!!"
Realising that both Tom and Dan are rising to the challenge of chasing the fleet, their sponsor Tony Lawson is hoping that they will "have a chance to pick up a few places, while there are still a group of boats to the west going nowhere."