Tricky weekend ahead
IMOCA 60 positions at 1030 GMT
Class 40 positions at 1030 GMT
Alex Thomson and Guillermo Altadill aboard their 2008 generation Hugo Boss continue to do a fine job hanging on to the coat-tails of Transat Jacques Vabre IMOCA 60 class leader, the state-of-the-art Virbac Paprec 3, that at the latest sched is now 37 miles ahead of them. However the gap between Hugo Boss and the second wave of IMOCA 60s to the ESE is currently up to a substantial 232 miles. Over the last 48 hours this second group has merged with Mike Golding and Bruno Dubois on board Gamesa now tentatively up to third, just a mile ahead of Francois Gabart and Seb Col on MACIF in terms of DTF, with MACIF some 60 miles to Gamesa's SSE.
At present the IMOCA 60 fleet are to the south of a giant area of high pressure centred southeast of Newfoundland. Thus with the wind veering into the southeast, at around midnight last night, Virbac Paprec 3 and Hugo Boss gybed WSW, while in the second wave, Gamesa was the first to make this move at around 0600 and we expect the rest of her group to follow imminently.
However the 60s are in for a difficult 24 hours as they have to tackle another front tonight. For the lead pair of boats the forecast indicates that the wind will build making for a fast afternoon's sailing, but will slowly continue veering into the southwest putting them on the wind once again. Fortunately this front doesn't appear to feature the 40 knot winds of those they experienced earlier in the race and by tomorrow morning the leaders should be through, tacked, and back into northwesterlies, heading for the mark. Over the weekend the wind continues to veer into the northeast as another area of high pressure develops out of the Carolinas on the US' east coast. This will provide the leaders with a fast port gybe to get to St Barts.
Between the two groups it looks as through the leaders, by virtue of their northerly position, will be dealt the better hand, benefitting more from this rapidly changing weather while for the group behind the transition is likely to be a longer and slower one to get into Sunday's northeasterlies.
Class40 positions at 1030 GMT
In the Class 40s, Yannick Bestaven and Eric Drouglazet on their Verdier-designed Aquarelle.com continue to dominate, at the latest sched being 136 miles ahead of Damien Seguin and Yoann Richomme on ERDF Des pieds et des mains, due east of them. Compared to the 60s, the lead 40s have dived south a lot earlier with the exception of Hannah Jenner and Jesse Naiwark-Rowse on 40 Degrees and Norwegians Rune Aasberg and Simen Lovgren aboard Solo. 40 Degrees continues to hold fourth place by virtue of being closest to the great circle, but despite being in stronger winds they don't seem to be making better speed than the race leaders with Aquarelle.com recording 12 knots at the latest sched, the highest speed in the fleet.
The Class 40s are currently to the southeast of the giant area of high pressure dominating the north Atlantic, with the boats to the north experiencing substantially more wind than the race leaders. However the weather situation is not ideal with this high forecast to move south into the path of the boats over the weekend and into early next week. This could possibly turn favourable for the northerly boats who, as the boats to the south are entrapped by the high, continue to be in breeze to its north.