Virbac Paprec and Hugo Boss extend
Sailing fast towards the Caribbean and the final 1000 miles stage to Puerto Limon, Costa Rica, the two leading IMOCA Open 60s Virbac Paprec 3 and Hugo Boss continue to open up on a tightly matched pack which are desperately trying to keep up. With close to 500 miles to the passing mark of the Dominican Republic, Jean Pierre Dick and Jérémie Beyou had 240 miles in hand over the third placed IMOCA Open 60 Banque Populaire of Armel Le Cléac'h and Christopher Pratt.
The leading duo are separated by around 40 miles with Hugo Boss’ Alex Thomson and Guillermo Alatadill still refusing to be dropped by the newer design, indeed sailing almost a knot quicker this evening as they pass into what should be the final week of the race.
The bold moves of Maitre Jacques and Groupe Bel, respectively in the Multi50 and the IMOCA 60 classes, are still working for them. Kito de Pavant and Yann Regniau on Groupe Bel were still in sixth this evening but within 30 miles of the podium which they have set as their target meantime, some 400 miles to the southeast of the main pack. The choice of Mike Golding and Bruno Dubois to follow a similar route, to get south, has seen the Gamesa struggle for breeze at times today. They were in lane of lighter, confused airs which marks the boundary between the Bernmuda and Azores high pressure systems and they have had to hitch back to the northwest today to search for the better trades, at a small cost.
François Gabart reported from MACIF: “We have been close with Banque Populaire, sailing five or six miles apart and that makes us press on, but on our own or in company it is hard work. But with someone close it becomes easier to measure your performance. They are similar to our way of thinking and on a similar course which is not surprising as we use the same files and routing and train the same way, so not really surprising we end up together, I guess. It will all be settled in the Caribbean. It’s a place where the winds can have a mind of their own, but just now the trades are pretty well established but we will be careful until the end, because the final miles can be difficult to manage. We are on good form together. We get on well, we have a laugh. We did not really know each other very well before the start and it is going great. It helps to hold back a little energy for when it is really tough and tight, it takes so much physical and mental focus.”
Marc Guillemot, who won this race in 2009 with Charles Caudrelier Benac, conceded today that they need to make a pit-stop to repair a rudder linkage on Safran. Had they been in the match to retain their title then perhaps Guillemot would have pressed on, but he explained today that they had already damaged a key spinnaker on Saturday and the boat was increasingly difficult, and slow to steer. Under such circumstances a stop, with the opportunity to get the boat back to 100%, seems the best option. Two members of the technical team will be flying out with the parts that need to be replaced. The repair, “which shouldn’t take longer than an hour or two,” is due to be carried out on Wednesday in Bayahibe Bay, which is to the east of the Dominican Republic capital and largest city Santo Domingo. "That means we only have to go forty miles or so away from the direct route. It’s getting there that is likely to see us losing time, as this bay is on the leeward side," added Guillemot.
If they had been fighting for first place the two sailors might have tried to go to Puerto Limon, despite their disability that has already cost a spinnaker unable to catch an "exit route" of the boat. But stuck in the chasing group, the crew of Safran chose to repair so that you can use the full potential of his mount.
In the Class 40 fleet the leaders Aquarelle.com push on down the track with a healthy lead of over 150 miles now and the best prospect of clearing out of the high pressure zone first, but behind them there are now three main groups still, all struggling with lighter winds. None of the Class40 fleet were making double figure boat speeds today.
Yannick Bestaven, skipper of Aquarelle.com reported: “Everything is going well, it's nice, the sun rose an hour ago and it starts to be quite hot. Everything has dried; days and nights begin to be very pleasant. The light wind allows us to sail at 8-9 knots. It's good fun! It all builds our lead but there are questions about the weather for the future. We are happy with our position right now and we'll see in the coming three days what happens. It is unclear if the trade winds will be present ... we are interested in keeping a position to control the fleet a bit, we do not take any risk to just carry on the direct route."
In seventh place, Kiwi Hugh Piggin on 11th Hour Racing confirmed: “Right now we are trying to make a little southing to try and get out of the high, maybe getting a bit east, looks like there is another high forming in front of us which we will have to go over, so it is a bit tricky to squeeze between them”
In the Azores, on Terceira the all-girl crew on Gust Buster expect to have to wait until Monday or Tuesday for a new rudder blade.
Top three standings at 1700 CET
1 - Virbac Paprec 3 (Jean-Pierre Dick - Jérémie Beyou) : 1428,5 milles to finish
2 - Hugo Boss (Alex Thomson - Guillermo Altadill) : 44,7 milles to leader
3 - Banque Populaire (Armel Le Cleach - Christopher Pratt) : 282,8 milles to leader
1 - Actual (Yves Le Blevec - Samuel Manuard) : 2101,2 milles to finish
2 - Maitre Jacques (Loïc Fequet - Loïc Escoffier) : 96,9 milles to leader
1 - Aquarelle.com (Yannick Bestaven - Eric Drouglazet) : 2503,2 milles to finish
2 - ERDF Des Pieds et des Mains (Damien Seguin - Yoann Richomme) : 154,1 milles to leader
3 - Groupe Picoty (Jacques Fournier - Jean-Christophe Caso) : 282 milles to leader