Will north or south pay for the IMOCA 60s?
IMOCA 60 positions at 1030 GMT
Class40 positions at 1030 GMT (click on image to enlarge)
With three of the 13 IMOCA 60s out of action and possibly a fourth if PRB retires (she's heading for the Azores with a crack in one of her forward bulkheads), with just two of the six Multi50 starters still racing and four of the sixteen Class 40 starters retired, so this year's Transat Jacques Vabre is turning into one of the most carnage-ridden on record.
With the severe front now passed, so the IMOCA 60 fleet has been taking a southwesterly course over the last 24 hours. However there is now a 250 mile wide northwest-southeast split between them, with Alex Thomson and Guillermo Altadill on Hugo Boss furthest northwest alongside Jean-Pierre Dick and Jeremie Beyou, who retook the lead yesterday morning on Virbac Paprec 3, and the group in the southeast led by Francois Gabart and Seb Col on MACIF.
This northwest-southeast split could well end up defining the results among the IMOCA 60s in this TJV, for already an enormous lobe of high pressure is extending out from the east coast of the USA into the mid-Atlantic, effectively barring the way for the fleet. However those to the southeast may be able to slip around its eastern extremity while the northwesterly boats, Hugo Boss and Virbac Paprec 3, may have to cross this ridge. In the meantime there is another much smaller-scale depression forecast to form to the north of the IMOCA 60 fleet tomorrow morning, and this could mean that around this time Hugo Boss and Virbac Paprec 3 will be seeing 25-30 knot westerlies, while on the other side of the race track, MACIF, Safran and Groupe Bel are all but becalmed... A benefit of the northwesterly boats is that they are sticking to a course much closer to the great circle to the mark at St Barts and therefore will have to sail less miles than the SEerly group.
Overnight the young British crew of Ned Collier Wakefield and Sam Goodchild aboard Concise 2 pulled into the lead of the Transat Jacques Vabre's Class40 fleet. However this morning disaster has struck and it appears that their Akilaria RC2 is suffering from delamination problems that will force them to retire into the Azores. Still, Wakefield and Goodchild have clearly demonstrated their ability in this race and we hope to see more of them in the future. British hopes in the class now lie with Hannah Jenner sailing Peter Harding's 40 Degrees with American Jesse Naimark-Rowse, currently in sixth place.
While the IMOCA 60s yesterday all left the Azores to port, it looks likely that the Class 40 fleet will sail through them or to their east. Yannick Bestaven and Eric Drouglazet on Aquarelle.com, who are set to retake the lead now Concise 2 is heading for port, look set to pass down the large channel between Sao Miguel and Terceira, with the bulk of the fleet in pursuit while Damien Seguin and Yoann Richomme on ERDF Des pieds et des mains, soon to take over second place, will leave the Azores to starboard.
The front may have passed them but the Class 40s are still having to tackle 30+ knot westerlies which are forecast to slowly abate over the next 24 hours. Brutal times.