Fourth boat home
The Route du Rhum-Banque Postale had its fourth arrival last night in the form of Yann Guichard and his trimaran Gitana 11. Guichard and his boat, the same trimaran in which Lionel Lemonchois won the ORMA 60 class in 2006, only now extended to 77ft LOA, crossed the finish line at Pointe a Pitre last night (Thursday ) at 23:58:38. The boat, owned by Baron Benjamin Rothschild crossed the Atlantic in 11 days 11 hours 56 minutes and 38 seconds sailing 4356 mile at an average speed of 15.79 - ironically very much slower than Lemonchois managed four years ago.
Skipper Yann Guichard looked visibly relieved to bring Gitana 11 across the finish line, ending a four day period over which he suffered with a lack of wind making very slow progress. With the smallest and lightest machines of the latest generation Ultimate class multis, Guichard admitted that it had been very hard work for him at times, making more sail changes and manoeuvres than his rivals. But as a first solo race for Guichard it was a race enriched by big challenges and great memories, not least the start, and less so the sticky, slow finish.
Next in over the weekend - at some point - will be the lead IMOCA 60s, where Roland Jourdain and his Veolia Environnement, are looking strong, 222 miles from the finish and with an 84 mile lead over Armel le Cleac'h and BritAir. Since yesterday afternoon the lead 60s have been making slow progress south with the exception of Marc Guillemot on Safran who has been continuing southwest and at the latest sched has averaged 4 knots more than the opposite over the last four hours and is now just four miles adrift of second place. However as the chart above shows on the water Safran is some 190 miles away from BritAir and for the route to Guadeloupe over the next 48 hours the forecast is indicating it to be peppers with areas of no wind.
The issue appears to be the tropical depression Tomas which has formed to the north of Haiti, making the sailing conditions in the south western quadrant of the North Atlantic particularly difficult to interpret: winds that fade away, breezes that suddenly swing around, choppy seas appearing out of nowhere, heavy rainfall and then blazing sunshine, unexpected gusts…
Marc Guillemot explains: “The weather charts are not that clear. They can’t agree between the American and European models and they don’t reflect what is going on out here on the water: So it’s certainly no easy matter trying to work out how to tackle the last few miles… The wind I have right now, is what I was expecting in two hours time. At one point during the night, the wind got up and I was sailing along at more than twelve knots, but an hour later, there was not a breath of air. It’s hard, as you have to switch between Code 0 and genoa, then back to Code 0 before hoisting the genoa again. I’m not worrying about what my rivals are up to. They are where they are. I’m just trying to get to the French West Indies as quickly as I can. It’s tricky managing things on the boat and very demanding at the moment, and that was particularly true last night. At the moment, there is a south-easterly, but the further Safran goes towards the Caribbean, the more the breeze will come from the right as it veers south-westerly. So we’re in for some upwind sailing, then we will change tack and finish upwind on the starboard tack. Everything is really unpredictable with this easterly pattern, which is shutting off the normal trade wind flow.”
Among the Multi50s, finally our predictions are coming true with Lionel Lemonchois on Prince de Bretagne having just overtaken Lalou Roucayrol's Région Aquitaine - Port Médoc. The 2006 winner now less than a mile ahead of his opponent with 480 miles left to roll to the finish line. However Lemonchois has achieved this in much the same way as Safran has in the 60s - by heading west while the opposition has been heading south. Earlier this morning Prince de Bretagne crossed tacks with Région Aquitaine - Port Médoc.
Yesterday Franck-Yves Escoffier, skipper of the damaged Crepes Whaou! III officially retired from the Route du Rhum, a race he has won in the Multi50 class on the less three occasions.
Over the last 24 hours Thomas Ruyant on the Class 40 leader Destination Dunkerque has been holding his own and has regained a handful of miles over second placed Yvan Noblet on Appart City, now 86 miles off the lead with sailor/designer Sam Manuard now 107 miles from the lead.
The last 24 hours has seen the boats in the south come good again. Some 450 miles southeast of Ruyant, Nicolas Troussel on Credit Mutuel de Bretagne is now up to fourth place having pulled back from 185 miles off the leader to 112 at the latest sched. Even further south, Pete Goss on DMS is still holding 15th place, but has closed from 416 to 357 miles astern of Ruyant. The average speeds for both Troussel and Goss show them having sailed 1.5 knots faster than the westerly group over the last four hours.