Three Multi50s retire

Carnage in the Transat Jacques Vabre's sole multihull class

Saturday November 5th 2011, Author: Andi Robertson, Location: none selected

In 2009 Yves Le Blevec’s first night of the Transat Jacques Vabre was one when he and Jean Le Cam were forced to watch the opposition disappear down the Channel. After Actual capsized they were rescued and had to abandon.

If last time he was left wondering at their misfortune, this morning the Actual skipper was perhaps slightly bewildered again. Three of their Multi 50 rivals – or half their division - headed for port with a series of different problems, and they are left with a 4200 miles match race to Puerto Limon, Costa Rica against their only remaining Multi 50 rival, Maitre Jacques which is less than 61 miles behind.

When the Actual duo – Le Blevec and Sam Manuard – emerged from a squally third night at sea in this tenth edition of the Transat Jacques Vabre they learned that Route du Rhum winner Lionel Lemonchois had abandoned the race with co-skipper Matthieu Souben because of a damaged forward cross beam. The beam was reported to have broken away from the port float but the pair had managed to secure it partially and were making for Spain.

It was in fact yesterday afternoon when Erwan Le Roux and Didier Le Vouch heard a series of cracking reports from their FenetreA-Cardinal. As Le Roux explained: “The sea had calmed down a bit and we took the opportunity to push the beast along a bit, but we heard two or three ‘cracks’. We are not sure what happened, but there was water in the bow with some cracks in the forward bulkhead. We were not sure what would happen so we took the chance to turn around. We will try to get to La Trinite which is about 310 away so we should be in Sunday some time."

And then the news of the abandonment of Franck-Yves Escoffier and Antoine Koch on Crepes Whaou! The Saint Malo skipper was on the point of changing watch with Koch when he was smashed against a winch injuring the base of his spine. The three times winner of the class in this race took to his bunk, tried to solider on and stand his next watch but found it too painful.

Yves Le Blevec skipper on Actual said: "It was a pretty brutal awakening this morning when we discovered that there were three of our class had abandoned. After the shock of that, we are still in the race. So we are focused on that and what we do for the upcoming conditions. We have nothing to worry about with our boat. Days like yesterday you can certainly do without, the boat was stressed in the chaotic seas"

His co-skipper Sam Manuard added: "We are sorry for those who have dropped out. It is sad news and I hope Franck-Yves Escoffier is not too bad.  Everything is fine on board. We checked the boat out this morning. We have taken the chance to get some rest, to get the boots and foul weather gear off. The race goes on a long way yet and there are many things that happen, so we try to sail clean. We are looking to have a sensible approach to this system that is coming."

350 miles NE of the Azores in the IMOCA Open 60 the lead has see-sawed between MACIF and Cheminées Poujoulat as the duos get well into the first strategic play of the race after four days of racing. Through the morning speeds plummeted as they went through a ridge of high pressure, the choice being how and where to cross. Those who stayed north hoped to be less slowed but face more headed conditions when the new low pressure arrives, while those to the south of the pack had a wider band of lighter breeze to sail across. The small gain has been to Bernard Stamm and Jean Francois Cuzon who lead by a couple of miles from François Gabart and Seb Col on MACIF .

Alex Thomson and Guillermo Altadill have traded third and fourth on Hugo Boss, just a mile of difference in terms of DTF with Armel Le Cléac'h and Christopher Pratt on Banque Populaire.

And in Class 40, Ned Collier-Wakefield, skipper of Concise 2 confirmed this afternoon that their key idea just now is to cover the leading boat as the fleet splits slightly behind them. They have been to within two miles of the long time leader, and the British skipper said today that the top three have largely been racing in sight of each other most of the time: “We have had a pretty interesting night with a load of squall clouds coming over, and so we have been pulling up on them and then losing a bit, then pulling up and losing a bit on them. And so now we are in are getting towards the high pressure there are a couple of boats to the north trying to scoot over the top of it, so we are about 26 miles to the south and so we are just trying to get through so that we don’t have the headwinds of the low after it, so we can maybe have something a bit more reach-y, and so I think the next 24 hours will be quite interesting. The options is the fleet have split a bit, some of the boats trying to get down south a bit where there is a squeeze between the ridge, where there will be less wind, but it is narrower, but the boats in the north will have headwinds when the low on the other side arrives. We will have the least winds for a little bit but on the other side it should be better for us. We are just staying with the leaders for just now. We have been looking at this very closely for the last 24 hours and decided this was our best route to go. It also means we cover the leader which is important this stage. Fingers crossed we can get through it, and don’t get stuck in it then we should be okay.”

Jesse Naimark-Rowse reported from 40 Degrees:  “There were lots of squalls and the wind was a bit in between that and so we were in between full main and Code Zero and then a squall of 30 knots with lots of rain and so you have to change down sails, and then were periods of very light winds. I think in that time we lost Picoty, she managed to pass us. But otherwise I think things are going very well.
I think we are happy with our seventh just now, a little disappointed to have lost them, we had seen them for a few days, they were just behind us and to weather all day yesterday, and then by this morning they are to leeward and just a little bit ahead. And so in the night they just cracked off a little bit more and managed to get by us.

"Just now there is about 10kts of breeze, slightly lumpy and slightly confused seas. So we are reaching with full main and code zero.
It seems like the boats out to our east will have some issues getting across this high pressure system, I suppose they are thinking more globally but for us the easier path across the high pressure is to the north. We work together, I have running a lot of running on Adrena and then we discuss things coming to a final plan what to do.

"We have been trying to do two hours on, two hours off unless there is a reason for one of us to be on deck at the same time. On your two hours off you will maybe make some food and get some sleep, and then anytime you can find to dry out some clothes and organise the boat and sponge some water out of the bilge, you get that in when you can.”

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