Hugo Boss into the lead
IMOCA 60 positions at 1030 GMT
Class 40 positions at 1030 GMT (click on image to enlarge)
Hold your breath and cross your fingers...Alex Thomson and Guillermo Altadill on board their last generation Farr-designed Hugo Boss at the latest sched have pulled into the lead in the Transat Jacques Vabre's IMOCA 60 class. Unfortunately it is not quite as simple as that. With yet another intense North Atlantic depression (963mb) on its way heading east, so the fronts associated with this system are due to pass over the fleet in the early hours of tomorrow morning. Thankfully the boats are south enough now that they won't feel the full storm force brunt of this, however as they head upwind into the southwesterlies preceeding the onslaught so the IMOCA 60 fleet has split tacks. The northerly boats have pulled into the lead due to their being closer to the great circle than the southerly group.
Among the front runners, Hugo Boss and Virbac Paprec 3 have continued due west on port tack, while Bernard Stamm and Jef Cuzon on Cheminees Poujoulat, who yesterday afternoon took the lead from Francois Gabart and Seb Col on MACIF, have edged south over the course of this morning, along with Groupe Bel, Banque Populaire and PRB. While both groups will see the wind building over the course of today with 40+ knots preceeding the fronts in the early housr tomorrow, the wind should be less intense for the southerly group once the front has passed. For the northerly group as soon as the wind veers from the south into the west they will tack south and should see stronger winds for longer as they exit the depression. So tonight into tomorrow morning will be about surviving the front and looking after their boats. If this works out then Hugo Boss and Virbac Paprec 3 should be in good shape.
From on board Safran, Marc Guillemot reported this morning that they have changed their plans and are now opting for a more southerly strategy: "We know we are going to lose ground, but in certain circumstances like these, the rankings come second. This is a very deep low, a nasty little bomb with winds in excess of fifty knots and very heavy seas. We can’t see ourselves riding through that.
"We came to this decision a bit too late and that’s why we have dropped back in the rankings. Obviously we would prefer to be where MACIF or Groupe Bel are, as they have sailed really well. But that’s what racing is all about...and it’s not yet over! We’re still in the first third of the course and a lot can still happen. What is certain is that we will be fighting to try to catch up."
Given the carnage in the Multi50 fleet over night on Friday that caused two of the three front runners, Lionel Lemonchois' Prince de Bretagne and Franck-Yves Escoffier's Crepes Whaou! 3 to retire, so Yves le Blevec and Sam Manuard on Actual appear to have turned to a 'play it safe' strategy and with the next big depression due so they have dropped south since around midnight, a course which will see them pass to the east of the Azores. Their remaining competition in the Multi50 class, Maitres Jacques, has taken a similar strategy.
In terms of competition for the lead in the Class 40, not a lot has changed since Friday morning with Yannick Bestaven and Eric Drouglazet on their Verdier-designed Aquarelle.com still holding a narrow lead of just four miles over young Brits Ned Collier Wakefield and Sam Goodchild on Concise 2 just to the south. What is different is that these two boats now have put 63 miles between them and third placed Tanguy de LaMotte and Eric Peron on Initiatives Alex Olivier. More good news for the British effort is that after a slow start Hannah Jenner and her American co-skipper Jesse Naimark-Rowse aboard Peter Harding's 40 Degrees have pulled up to fifth place, albeit 103 miles off the lead.
But in the Class 40 there are widely different tactics unfolding. Holding fourth place is 2.4m double Paralympic medallist Damien Deguin and Yoann Richomme on ERDF Des pieds et des mains, however they are 135 miles to the southeast of the leaders. More extreme still is the route of long term Class 40 competitor Christophe Coatnoan and Etienne Laforgue on Partouche, who are clinging to the Portugese coast, clearly aiming at a more classic route across the Atlantic via the trades. However this tactic is looking far from promising.