Back into the North Sea
“Stoke her up and don’t worry about the signals.” Rather like Casey Jones and his men shovelling on the coal until the furnaces are red, the two Multi50 frontrunners on the return leg of the Vendee-St Petersburg race are giving nothing away. Now approaching the north coast of Holland, Actual has made up some of her loss over Crêpes Whaou ! 3 and has clocked up an average speed of 17.7 knots over the last 24 hours. Taking into account the huge number of obstacles in the path of the multihulls as they sail back down the North Sea, that means that their real average speed has been around 23-24 knots.
When will they finish? The two leaders are doing much better than initially forecast and their ETAs are having to be recalculated again and again… Initially expected to finish on Monday, it now looks like they could cross the finish on Sunday night or even during daylight hours on Sunday. It will all depend on the weather situation in the Channel: will the ridge stretching between England and France allow anyone through in some light airs or will its engulf the leaders and hold them prisoner. If the latter happens, the race could come to a grinding halt. But if there is still a breath of air, the two leaders should continue to achieve average speeds of around ten knots.
Franck-Yves Escoffier skipper of Crêpes Whaou ! 3 reported: “We’re now sailing downwind in smooth seas in some brilliant sunshine along the German coast trying to do our best not to get caught by the calms that are developing in this area. We’re heading towards the coast of Northern Holland, then, we will swing around towards the Dover Straits that we expect to reach the second half of tomorrow. The boat and crew are both in fine shape and we’re tying to twist the giraffe’s neck to get her moving as quickly as possible.”
Crewman Loïc Féquet added: “We’re quite pleased. We feel like we’re managing better to keep up with the two frontrunners in comparison to the outward leg. Even if they are sailing more quickly: there is the boat of course, but they have much more experience than us to. The seas were very heavy off the tip of Denmark and we had to reduce the sail to avoid tiring the boat. On the other hand, in the Baltic, it was marvellous with peak speeds up to 24 knots under gennaker… ”
Further back, there are also some good reasons to feel upbeat: on board Région Aquitaine Port-Médoc, Lalou Roucayrol and his crew are enjoying themselves sailing as. Loïc Féquet and the crew of third placed Crêpes Whaou ! 2 are happy each day to talk about how they are understanding more and more about their trimaran - without giving anything away to the leaders. But we can be certain they are praying for the ridge to evolve at the front of the fleet allowing them to catch the leaders.
1 Crêpes Whaou ! 3 (FY Escoffier) 761 miles DTL
2 Actual (Y Le Blévec) 6.7 miles DTL
3 Crêpes Whaou ! 2 (L Féquet) 158 miles DTL
4 Région Aquitaine Port-Médoc (L Roucayrol) 291.6 miles DTL
5 FenêtréA-Cardinal (E Le Roux) 310.5 miles DTL
6 Naviguez Anne Caseneuve (A Caseneuve) 312.9 miles DTL
7 La mer révèle nos sens (P Hingant) 324.6 miles DTL
8 CLM (H Cléris) 370.6 miles DTL
9 π R2 (E Hochédé) 453.8 miles DTL