Tacking out of the high
The Ultimate class skippers have a lot to do if they are to catch Franck Cammas on his runaway Groupama 3. The Jules Verne Trophy holder is now 206 miles ahead of Francis Joyon on IDEC, who is locked in combat on the southerly route with Yann Guichard on Gitana 11.
"I’ve hardly seen the rankings, so yes it is going well," said Cammas yesterday. "But we’ll have to wait for three days to see how it really pans out, because then we will see ourselves converging. So we have two groups and both will have different conditions, but we will start to see the real situation at the entry to the trade winds. It is hard to know at the moment. The options are really open until the end. I never concern myself with the classification, I look at the speeds and positions to see what their performances are and to try and judge how their routes will play out. Just now, according to all the routings, it is all very close. I went for this option because its good for the boat, it makes it easier to play to its strengths. There are some not bad little light spots ahead and a front and after that we will see. I have had conditions which are good for the boat, making a course with good winds and a powerful boat, we make fewer sail changes working to the averages, and so I’ve made less manouevres. After a front it is a different story. The first night I became exhausted because I had several gybes off Ushant and so I was exhausted. But I can rely on the boat to do what it does well, and so I don’t have to do much between manouevres and trimming and can work on the navigation."
Meanwhile Thomas Coville on Sodebo and Sidney Gavignet on Majan Oman Air are still gunning on the northerly route. At around 1300 yesterday Sodebo tacked back to the northwest, crossing ahead of a southwesterly bound Majan Oman Air at around 2200 last night. Gavignet followed suit, tacking back to the northwest at around 0200 this morning.
Currently to the north of the high, Sodebo and Majan Oman Air are heading towards a trough which they must cross before keying into the favourable northeasterlies associated with a second area of high pressure forming in the northwest North Atlantic that will enable them to speed towards the Caribbean and the Guadeloupe finish line. They should get into the northeastlieries to the north of the Azores in around 24 hours time. Meanwhile Groupama 3 is circumnavigating the south side of the high at present in southeasterlies winds that are veering south the further Cammas proceeds down the race course. This route will take him some 100 miles to the south of the Azores, still some 300 miles away. Cammas looks set to break into the northwesterlies but later and further to the south. He is also likely to have a long transition through the trough in order to reach them than the boats to the north.
The Multi50s are making incredible progress compared to the Ultimate class. With Lionel Lemonchois' main halyard problems on Prince de Bretagne that have caused him to head for Spain, so the lead has been taken by Franck-Yves Escoffier on Crepes Whaou! 3, at present 150 miles astern of Gitana 11. Escoffier did well yesterday by shaving the east side of the high closer than Yves le Blevec on Actual and as a result has pulled out a 62 mile lead. Both are substantially ahead of Lalou Roucayrol on Région Aquitaine - Port Médoc, who is taking the northerly route, still heading for the centre of the high, set to tack out like Sodebo, later today.
In the IMOCA 60s the boats that appear to be in the chocolates are the northerly group. They too are heading for the high where they will tack on out as the wind back to the southwest. Here Armel le Cleac'h, this year's Solitaire du Figaro and Transat AG2R winner is leading but it is still fabulously close, with BritAir just 10 miles ahead of Roland Jourdain on board Veolia Environnement. We should also mention Christophe Pratt, who is having a great race, currently third, on his first major outing on board Marc Thiercelin's DNCS. So at present, against expectations, there are two Finot-Conq designs and a Farr design in the top three. Vincent Riou on PRB and last year's Transat Jacques Vabre winner Marc Guillemot on Safran have already tacked back to the northwest away from the high.
Meanwhile Michel Desjoyeaux on Foncia and Arnaud Boissieres on Akena Verandas are struggling on the southerly route just off the Portugese coast as the high rolls over them taking away the wind. Foncia has covered just 56 miles in the last 24 hours and her present course towards Lisbon may either indicate that there are some problems with the double Vendee Globe winner's brand new boat or that the high has enveloped his boat and he is sailing 90degrees to the course to get out of its clutches. No doubt more will become evident over the course of the day.
Some 180 miles behind the IMOCA 60s, the Class 40s are still struggling to get out of the Bay of Biscay, with the fleet now fanned out on some very differing options. Two boats, Davide Consorte's Adriatech and Regis Guillemot on Regis Guillemot Charter tacked northwest at around 0800 yesterday morning and have since just continued on this course. Adriatech is now back up to the same latitude as St Malo. Meanwhile some 350 miles to the southeast, two boats are approaching Cape Finisterre in Pete Goss' DMS and Damien Seguin on Des Pieds et Des Mains.
At present 10 miles separate the top four Class 40s in terms of DTF. In the centre of the race track, last year's Mini Transat winner Thomas Ruyant on Destination Dunkerque took over the lead from Bernard Stamm mid-afternoon yesterday as the boats were generally heading southwest with occasion hitches to the northwest. Ruyant is the furthest right of this leading pack, with many of the top contenders of to port including Sam Manuard on Vecteur Plus, Stamm, Damian Grimont on Monbana, Eric Defert on his Verdier-designed Drekan Energie-Groupe Terrallia and Jorge Riechers on mare.de.
With the high to their south sliding further towards Portugal over the course of today, it seems likely that this group of Class 40s will tack back tot the northwest as the wind backs into the southwest this afternoon. We don't quite see any good news for Pete Goss and the boats to the south in the next 24 hours as they are sailing straight into the high. The only consolation is that nearby is double Solitaire du Figaro winner Nicolas Troussel, so there must be some sort of strategy to be played out here. We also can't see too much going for the northerly route as Consorte and Guillemot look set to have to sail north for at least a couple of days before they see the wind shifts northwest allowing them to tack back.