Attrition in the Route du Rhum
The last 24 hours have been costly to the Route du Rhum-La Banque Postale fleet as the attrition kicks in from unexpected and prolonged sailing upwind in the North Atlantic. The most high profile rescue came about when the Ultimate class trimaran Oman Air Majan broke her main beam causing her to dismast. Last night skipper Sidney Gavignet was rescued successfully by a passing ship (read more about this here).
In the 'Rhum class' for smaller multihulls, Un Monde Bleu Toute en Vert, sailed by Guadeloupean Christine Monlouis, was dismasted when she was hit by a fishing boat. The Class 40 has seen several boats heading back. They include Norwegian doublehanded Round Britain and Ireland winner Rune Aasberg on Solo and Italian David Consorte on the polar-bound Adriatech.
On the positive side early leader in the Multi50 class, 2006 Route du Rhum ORMA 60 winner Lionel Lemonchois on board Prince de Bretagne has managed to fix his main halyard issues and is back in the race. However as he spent most of yesterday heading back towards Spain, he is now down to 10th place in his class and is currently some 462 miles off the lead.
Back on the race course the Ultimate class is possibly still a two horse race. The last 24 hours have seen Franck Cammas and Groupama 3 add another 100 miles to their lead with Francis Joyon's IDEC now 294 miles behind, moving up to second ahead of Thomas Coville's Sodebo in terms of DTF. Coville is continuing to make his bid to the north and we have yet to see the two tactics pay out - as the chart above indicates, Sodebo has some 100 miles still to sail before she gets into the favourable northeasterlies. Cammas meanwhile has come to port slightly since yesterday and while he looks set to enjoy another big day of reaching in unusual southerly conditions, ahead lies the shallow depression which Cammas will have to tackle tonight. So if Coville is up to maximum warp speed by lunchtime today - will this be enough to make up the 300 mile deficit he has on Cammas' powerful big green trimaran? We suspect not.
Meanwhile IDEC and Yann Guichard on the substantially smaller Gitana 11 remain at loggerheads, like Cammas following the southerly route.
In the Multi50s we wait to see how much of a comeback Lionel Lemonchois can make aboard his repaired Prince de Bretagne. However slowly extending his lead at present is the class' most seasoned sailor, Franck-Yves Escoffier on board Crepes Whaou! 3, who this morning is 82 miles ahead of Yves le Blevec's Actual, up from 62 yesterday. This duo have pulled out a substantial lead over third placed Loic Fequet on board Maitres Jacques, the former Crepes Whaou! 2, that is now 213 miles from first.
Competition is like a Figaro race among the IMOCA 60s where the top four boats remain within 20 miles of each other. Roland Jourdain, who we admit we seriously undervalued in our form guide, and his Veolia Environnement regained the lead from Armel Le Cleac'h and BritAir late yesterday. 24 hours ago all the lead group of 60s tacked west and have remained on this course ever since, now with a 50 mile north-south split between them - Vincent Riou on PRB in the north with BritAir and Jean-Pierre Dick on Virbac-Paprec 3 to the south, with Jourdain in between, trailed by Marc Guillemot's Safran and Kito de Pavant's Groupe Bel.
This group of 60s are, like Sodebo, currently sailing in 20 knot southwesterlies heading for the front beyond which lies the northerlies and ultimately northeasterlies. As it stands at present the favourable breeze is around 400 miles away but are moving east in the direction of the 60s who should be feeling their benefit by tomorrow morning. The axis of this front is NE-SW so in theory the boats to the north (ie PRB) should be through to the northerlies first.
However. Yesterday morning the southerly route being taken by Arnaud Boissieres on Akena Verandas and Michel Desjoyeaux on Foncia came good with the high that has been blocking the path south, finally moving up into the Bay of Biscay. Yesterday afternoon Foncia was recording the highest speed in the IMOCA class. In terms of DTF, Foncia is currently 127 miles astern of the leader. However the forecast is not looking good for the southerly duo as the easterly winds lighten while the northerly group are making hay and the forecast indicates this situation won't equalise until the weekend.
Among the Class 40s the fleet remains incredibly spread out over the race course. Regis Guillemot is continuing on his passage northwest although his trajectory towards Greenland banked out slightly yesterday. Meanwhile the southerly group are now off the coast of Portugal, around the latitude of Porto, some 530 miles away from Guillemot.
The Class 40 leaders are not quite as close as they are in the IMOCA 60s with 28 miles separating the top four. Like the 60s, the majority of the middle group of Class 40s tacked west yesterday morning. Ignoring the ambitious Guillemot, there is now a 113 mile north-south spread among the westbound group with New Zealander Conrad Colman on board Peter Harding's 40 Degrees furthest north and talented German Jorg Riechers on mare.de furthest south and up to third place. The constant factor over the last 24 hours has been last year's Mini Transat winner Thomas Ruyant on Destination Dunkerque who has continued to hold the lead, although he has another experienced Mini sailor Sam Manuard holding second directly astern of him.
Like the IMOCA 60 skippers the westbound group in the Class 40s are awaiting the arrival of the front and the northerlies beyond and once again, in theory, the boats to the north should find these first. However it seems likely that Ruyant will be into them first and this will give him another jump on the opposition.
However. Contrary to what the forecast was indicating earlier in the week, the high blocking the route south off the Portugese coast, has in fact re-opened the door south. Boats such as Nicolas Troussel's Credit Mutuel de Bretagne and Pete Goss' DMS are now sailing as fast as the westbound group and since yesterday have been able to come to starboard on to more of a southwesterly heading. However as is the case with the 60s which have taken this route it looks like they will have softer conditions until around Sunday.
In terms of British interest, Pete Goss is currently lying 24th some 88 miles off the lead. Richard Tolkien on ICAP ORCA is 27th 110 miles off the pace and following the southerly group of westbound boats. Honorary Brit, London-based Italian Marco Nannini on UniCredit is currently 23rd 78 miles from the lead following the northerly group of westbound boats - read Nannini's blogs here.