The battle of north and south continues
Since Franck Cammas and Groupama 3's fine victory yesterday, so Francis Joyon and IDEC have pipped Thomas Coville and Sodebo to the post to claim second place in the Route du Rhum-La Banque Postale, arriving in Pointe a Pitre mid-evening local time. Read more here.
At the latest sched Thomas Coville and Sodebo were negotiating the west side of Guadeloupe with 50 miles still to run to the finish line. Coville will not be at all happy to have been beaten by Joyon, his arch-rival on the singlehanded record breaking circuit, although this is probably not a boat speed issue but one of routing. Sodebo's northerly approach to Guadeloupe has been considerably more sticky, upwind in light conditions than it was for Joyon, who yesterday had IDEC reaching in towards Guadeloupe at 25 knots.
After Coville the next arrival in the Route du Rhum-La Banque Postale should be Yann Guichard on Gitana 11, the boat which as an ORMA 60 won the Route du Rhum in the hands of Lionel Lemonchois four years ago. At the latest sched Guichard still had 415 miles to go.
The race is all on in the Multi50s where the two runaway leaders Franck-Yves Escoffier on Crepes Whaou! 3 and Yves le Blevec's Actual have now sunk to fifth and fourth place respectively in their crippled boats. At present Lalou Roucayrol on his trimaran Région Aquitaine - Port Médoc holds the lead with 800 miles to go at the latest sched. However as we predicted yesterday the 2006 Route du Rhum winner on the newest remaining boat racing in the class - Lionel Lemonchois on Prince de Bretagne is staging a monumental recovery. The latest sched has him up to second place in the Multi50s and in the last 24 hours has reduced his deficit on the leader from 156 miles to 117. Once again Prince de Bretagne is the fastest boat in the fleet having averaged 14.8 knots over the last four hours to Roucayrol's 7.7, The writing is surely on the wall?
Among the IMOCA 60s, leader Roland Jourdain on Veolia Environnement has disappeared from the latest sched but at 0330 was still 46 miles ahead of Armel le Cleac'h on BritAir. It is interesting to observe that these are two older generation boats...
Yesterday mid-afternoon with the wind veering from the south into the west, so the boats tacked south and at the first sched this morning Veolia had her bow pointed at the finish line, but was some 126 miles to the west of BritAir. The forecast indicated that the lead IMOCA 60s have a light 24 hours ahead of them that will require the full concentration of the skippers.
With 659 miles to go to the finish for Veolia earlier this morning, the hopes for the southerly group of Arnaud Boissieres on Akena Verandas and Michel Desjoyeaux on Foncia, respectively 501 and 513 miles off the lead are running out, although there will be the opportunity to take miles out of the leader today. As the leaders flouder, Boissieres and Desjoyeaux will be riding in towards the Caribbean on 10-15 knot trade winds, hoping to emulate Francis Joyon. The forecast on this route is looking a bit better than it was yesterday with the wind now possibly holding until they reach the Caribbean.
In the Class 40s therre is now a 700 mile span across the race course between leader Thomas Ruyant on Destination Dunkerque and the most southerly boat - Pete Goss on DMS. As anticipated Ruyant was first to break into the strong SSEerly breeze yesterday and so has extended his lead further - now up to 127 miles over second placed Yvan Noblet on Appart City from 103 24 hours ago.
Over the last 24 hour the westerly group has gained. The boats are currently being influenced by the Azores high to their north with Ruyant and the west group first into the strong SSEerly between the high and the intensifying depression out to the west. Conditions are getting lighter for the southerly group as they sail away from the high.
Looking ahead for the Class 40s, the forecast has the Azores high being shunted off towards Gibraltar over the next 24 hours as the multi-centred depression elongated to the northeast. This is likely to see the wind remain much the same for the westerly group but building and veering into the southeast for the southerly group. 48 hours out the European model has the depression dropping slightly south possibly heading the westerly group with the wind fully into the south for the southers.
Looking at the long terrm forecast the depression seems to remain resolutely to the west of the Class 40s until into early next week so the only choice for the west bound group will be to head towards the south of its centre and tack out on the shift. With the Azores high hovering around Spain, the prospects for the southerly group are looking little better - they will have to sail a long way south if they are to find the trades.