Back up to speed
|Images courtesy of Expedition Navigation Systems|
Speeds are building once again in the Transat Jacques Vabre - in the 60ft classes at least - as the leaders key into the new northeasterly breeze, heralding the start of the Trade Winds.
This morning in the Open 60s, the order remains the same with Marc Guillemot and Charles Caudrelier on Safran leading from Michel Desjoyeaux's Foncia and Loick Peyron's Gitana Eighty, although the light winds yesterday has resulted in a slight compression between the front and back of the fleet.
Safran has once again been employing some great tactics. From being the most westerly of the leaders yesterday she headed SSE while the other leaders to the east headed SSW and she is now the most southeasterly of the frontrunners. As a result she was first into the new breeze, making the turn to the southwest a couple of hours ago. Once again Guillemot and Caudrelier have found the most favourable part of the race track as the forecast charts indicate there to be more breeze where they are. Gitana Eighty has also made the right hand turn in the last few minutes...
Mike Golding writes from Ecover
"It is all light up ahead. The big choices are going to come probably at the Canaries. We are all headed to pass inside Madeira which in itself is a little unusual. Because you are already off the rhumb line, but it is then where you transit the Canaries and it shows going inside through or around to the west which is more normal and then what you do on the African coast. Our routing currently had us scraping the shore off Africa. But, will you actually do that? It is a fairly big call. You are not influenced that much by what the other boats are doing, but you are looking for some sort of stability in the weather. We get a new iteration of the weather model twice a day and every time you get a new weather model you re-run the routing. And then when you see a certain amount of consistency with the route crossing a certain place then you can start to have some confidence in it But if it is different each time, as it is at the moment, then it is very hard to make a call. Or, if in doubt, then you tend to stick close to the rhumb line."
After some dubious routing in the English Channel, Armel leCleac'h's Britair is still struggling to rise up the results table. She is still in ninth place astern of Sam Davies and Jeanne Gregoire on Roxy.
"It's very comfortable here it is sunny and the boat is progressing well - what a good life! Our bad decision has been forgotten. It is really good to move forward and slowly get back the front. More importantly, we are still in the same weather system as the leaders. Our objective now is to ovetake the Roxy girls…"
Britair was close to the same position as Artemis when she dismasted off Cape Finisterre on Tuesday. Le Cleac'h confirms that the conditions were unpleasant. "The wind peaked at 40 knots, but more importantly it was also a very bad on Wednesday, the boat rolling. So if they don't sufficiently reduce sail, the risk of dismasting is high… On Britair we played the card of caution. We never went over the top. We have just finished a big check of the boat: nothing broken, so it's good. Now we're cleaning… "
As to their route le Cleac'h says: "In the short term, apart from going straight ahead as quickly as possible, there is not much to do. However, we will need to look hard beyond this with Nico and remotely with Marcel Van Triest, our router. The situation is not simple, it is a delicate choice."
On the radio yesterday Kito de Pavant on Groupe Bel reported: "We're under a little more stress. We are following the way in which the forecast is changing with great care. There may be a possibility to the east in the medium-term, however, in the long-term it is difficult to know, since none of the data is coherent enough. So we're racing on a 24 to 48 hour timetable. It is clear that things will happen in the next few days, since there will by very little wind and, in general, this is when leads are established. We already saw this at Ushant with Safran. Our little shift to the east is both dangerous and no doubt timely. We believe it's the right thing to do. It is not a comfortable option since we like being with the others, but we prefer to play by what we feel, and if the other racers have a better angle to the West, this should come round to us in the next few hours.
Yesterday afternoon he then reported: "The fine weather off the coast of Portugal has allowed us to recover a little from the eventful start of the race, but if the race is 'Bel', it is far from being won, or lost! Our shift to the east has not had the desired effect - perhaps during the night - the course is long and it will not be on a long tranquil ocean. The Trade Wind was ruined by the Azores low (I tell you there are no seasons any more) and ideas differ over how it will build up again next week. We are expecting calm waters towards the Canaries, and a possible grouping of the fleet. In short, we will have to be patient and especially vigilant."
Yesterday Sam Davies reported from Roxy of their eventful Cape Finisterre rounding:
"It was really good fun, but at the same time pretty stressful because it was windy, we had up to 43 knots and we were going pretty fast, up to I guess 25 knots boat speed, and jumping off the waves, which were really big. Sometimes we were ploughing into them and just diving and it was pretty full on for I guess 5 hours.
"We enjoyed the boat speed and Roxy seemed pretty stable and happy. At the same time there's always a worry in the back of your mind that we could break something or nosedive or something floating in the water in front of us.
Right now we're trying to get south as quickly as possible. And at last it's a little bit calmer and more peaceful. We're got full sail back up again. We're just trying to change all the gears as the wind drops and trying to keep Roxy going as fast as possible. And at last we can get some rest and sleep and being able eat something again because the last 24 hours have been pretty hectic with this stressful part and also just all the manoeuvers we've been doing. But it's a pleasure to relax for once.
"Right now we're sailing at a fast angle with the gennaker and thinking about changing to spinnaker or not. Not sure yet.
"Jeanne is sleeping right now at last because we haven't been able to sleep for the last day because the boat has been moving so violently. She's very well and catching up some good dreams, hopefully."
Now the boats have got a long way south, the low pressure out in the Atlantic is dictating the weather slightly more and this is pushing the belt of northeasterly trades further east, so it still looks as though the IMOCA 60s will have to head towards the African coast to get the best breeze, possibly passing through or even to the east of the Canaries. However this tactic will take the boats further away from the great circle south.
Meanwhile in the Class 40s Giovanni Soldini and Pietro d'Ali on Telecom Italia continue their charge south. Pretty much all the boats have taken a more westerly track compared to the Open 60s with the Italian leaders sticking to the middle of the course with the second placed Akilaria 40 Mistral Loisirs holding a similar track. Others have headed further west including Figaro sailor Bruno Jourdren on the Rogers-designed vecteur plus and he seems to be doing well, now up to third place, with the Pogo 40 Sidaction and Florence Arthaud's Deep Blue on a similar track.
As excepted the 40s to the east have suffered the most from the light conditions with Groupe Partouche dropping from sixth place yesterday morning to eighth today and worse, Benoit Parnadeau's giant Jardin Bio-Prevoir, not a good light wind boat, dropping from 15th to 22nd. Also suffering out to the east is Alex Bennett on Fujifilm who is now down to 26th from 23rd.
The forecast stlil indicates that the easterly course will pay off with the wind set to veer around to the north off the Portugese coast this evening. It is very probable that we will end up with a split in the fleet with the easterly boats being first to key into the northeasterly trades which they should pick up tomorrow around the latitude of Lisbon, while those heading down the great circle will be very much more headed, the wind from the southeast. Provided the wind doesn't go too far south, this could be a faster point of sail than the easterly option and will also allow the boats to stay close to the great circle.
Yesterday the Pindar girls Jo Royle and Alexia Barrier spent the morning and part of the afternoon repairing their mainsail mast track sliders that had pulled off in agale force gust the previous evening on the approach to Cape Finisterre.
Jo Royle takes up the story: “Just as we were starting to take the third reef we noticed that one of the lashings holding the sail to the car was about to wear through - this should have been fine as it was attached to the sail below the third reefing point. The idea was that we would put the 3rd reef in and fix the car.”
Just as they had eased the halyard and the sheets to reef the main, the Pindar 40 was hit by a gust of around 37 knots, causing several of the cars to be ripped right out of the track. “The gust knocked the boat right off course,” Jo recounts. “The lashing snapped and as it did the whole sail pulled away from the mast. We ended up with four of the cars holding the battens to the mast coming off.”
By the time the girls had got the mainsail under control it was dark and with the wind regularly gusting to 40 knots and a big sharp sea forming they chose the prudent option to leave the repair until day break yesteday. They are now back up to speed but the incident has caused them to plummet to 23rd position in the 30 boat fleet.
Nick Bubb reports from Novedia Set Environnement:
"Morning all, hope you slept well. Very pleasant evening off the coast of Portugal. Just cracked off the breeze and sailing with our big genoa, for the none sailors amongst you, that means easy sailing without massive spinnakers which can cause problems especially in the middle of these long, pitch black nights! We tacked at 0330 UTC onto a south east course after the latest positions came in. We wanted to stay west in order to benefit from better winds today but yet be close enough to Portugal (to the East) in order to benefit from the fresh northerly winds which are due to establish themselves around 2100 this evening there (Thursday 8 November). This tack will no doubt see us take a hit on the rankings but we have made our choice and will stand by it now. Although having said that we may well tack back again for a short time depending on how the wind swings. (In fact we have just put a short hitch back to the west again). We have set a rough waypoint of where we want to be tomorrow evening and are making our way there as fast as possible.
From the latest weather information we have, and from looking at the synoptic charts, we believe those further west of us although further south initially, will have to sail into light headwinds whilst we are riding downhill. This weather system is going to really divide the fleet and for now we see it as our great chance. After that, we then have to negotiate Madeira (prob. pass to the East) and then the Canaries (prob. pass through the middle). Better keep some of our plans quiet though in case this info makes it back to our competitors! For now at least, we are battling for the honour of being the first British boat with Peter Harding, sailing with former Vendee Glove skipper Anne Liardet, and Simon Clarke, sailing with 'kiwi 'Dave Lindsay. Alex Bennett and Ifor Pedley were riding high earlier in the week but they have slipped down the rankings as they take an extreme east option.
For those of you wondering, despite Tanguy and his sponsors being French, the boat is actually registered in the Isle of Man hence the GBR sail number and I'm obviously prime British beef (well ish, makes me hungry that thought..........)
See video from on board Alex Bennett's Fujifilm....
Meanwhile the ORMA 60 speedster trimarans are now tackling the Canary Islands . The latest positions show Franck Cammas' Groupama II in the lead and in an impressive piece of routing Banque Populaire almost ashore off the Moroccan coast! The boats are fully up to speed the two leaders averaging almost 25 knots! Lionel Lemonchois on Gitana II has admitted that they managed to break one of their foils in the rough conditions as they passed Cape Finisterre and will have to make a pitstop to fit another.