Overtaking manoeuvre

Banque Populaire now 450 miles ahead of her rival, but a slow 48 hours lies ahead

Thursday February 3rd 2011, Author: James Boyd, Location: none selected

Image above courtesy of Expedition Navigation Systems and PredictWind. See Brian Thompson's updates from on board here

Date Lat Long Spd Crs Spd Spd Dist DTF v G3
      Inst   4hr 24 hour      
03/02/2011 10:00:00 UTC 45°21.65'S 015°38.04'W 25.2 86° 28.5 31 743.5 18 585 451.6
03/02/2011 08:00:00 UTC 45°15.61'S 016°52.33'W 27.9 96° 31.3 31.9 766.7 18 636 448.5
03/02/2011 06:00:00 UTC 45°08.48'S 018°18.89'W 33.4 102° 32 31.9 764.4 18 696 433.9
03/02/2011 03:45:00 UTC 44°52.49'S 019°57.79'W 32.7 101° 31.4 32.5 779.8 18 766 386.5
03/02/2011 02:00:00 UTC 44°34.97'S 021°13.00'W 34 110° 31.1 32.7 784.4 18 823 345
03/02/2011 00:00:00 UTC 44°06.83'S 022°38.13'W 10.2 118° 30.9 32.3 774 18 890 299.9
02/02/2011 22:00:00 UTC 43°40.21'S 023°48.92'W 34.8 115° 33.9 32.3 775.1 18 947 250.2
02/02/2011 20:00:00 UTC 43°14.89'S 025°13.19'W 33.5 115° 35.3 32.3 775.4 19 013 205.1
02/02/2011 18:00:00 UTC 42°47.54'S 026°40.23'W 36.3 114° 33.7 32.1 769.2 19 082 158.4
02/02/2011 16:00:00 UTC 42°11.24'S 028°04.58'W 35.8 124° 31.1 31.6 757.7 19 154 105.2
02/02/2011 13:45:00 UTC 41°36.24'S 029°27.57'W 29.8 110° 30.5 31.4 754.7 19 225 44.2
02/02/2011 11:30:00 UTC 41°05.18'S 030°51.84'W 30.1 127° 32 30.9 741.2 19 296 -13.6
02/02/2011 09:45:00 UTC 40°27.28'S 031°40.61'W 32.9 141° 34.3 29.7 713.4 19 346 -51.3

Well, we weren't far wrong. At 0100 this morning, Banque Populaire's 24 hour speed run topped out at 786 miles, or an average speed of 32.7 knots, which may not be the 900 mile day she managed on her transatlantic record, but has still been enough to propel her on her way. Significantly for the crew the last 24 hours has seen them start 51 miles astern of their virtual opponent, Jules Verne Trophy holder Groupama 3, while the large number of miles they have banked since then has returned them to 451 miles in front.

Unfortunately as the chart above amply illustrates, Pascal Bidegorry's maxi-tri is going to run out of breeze soon. Already this is showing up in the stats from the boat - her speed now more in the 20-25 knot range than 30-35. The latest GRIB files indicate that the depression she is riding moves a little east with her, but at some point today she going to run headlong into the ridge ahead of her and will have no choice but to cross that. The forecast has the weak depression currently located west of South Africa powering up over the next 48 hours and heading south, so it still seems likely that Banque Populaire will be turning her bows back to the northeast in order to skirt around the top of this.

In the short term though it looks like Groupama 3 may regain the lead.

"We've been having 30-35 knots of wind, and you have to start being a little careful," reported skipper Pascal Bidegorry yesterday. "If nothing is done, the boat accelerates to 40 knots and at this speed it can break. The animal has to be leashed! Even with two reefs it can go 40 knots. We've been reducing sail gradually. The sea is super short, even with our large boat we have planted it two or three times. So we've put everything in the back."

Bidegorry acknowledges the routing problem that lies ahead of Banque Populaire: "I think its safe to say it is a difficult situation. The only fast way would take us down to 55-57°S… So a solution has to be found. I am perplexed because looking at the weather it is a little complicated. What we do know is that there are ice floes at 45°S. So our strategists have to evaluate the choice between the danger in the South or sailing more to the north with headwinds and a much slower route. So we must profit today becasue we perhaps might not be tomorrow!"

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