Photo: © Virbac-Paprec Sailing Team

Into the Caribbean

Virbac-Paprec 3 and Hugo Boss pass the Dominican Republic

Tuesday November 15th 2011, Author: Andi Robertson, Location: none selected

Second in to the Caribbean, passing round Mona island at around 0830 UTC, British skipper Alex Thomson on Hugo Boss has succeeded in keeping up the pressure on Transat Jacques Vabre race leader Virbac-Paprec 3 after a long, hard night of intense work in the trade winds, making several gybes to best line up with the passage.

Some extension by Virbac-Paprec 3 was inevitable as Jean Pierre Dick and Jérémie Beyou cleared the lee of the island chain first.

Making the dog leg sharp turn around the tiny Mona island limited the lee effect of the Dominican Republic to their starboard, Hugo Boss following Virbac-Paprec’s line, arriving from a slightly more easterly track. She may have lost a few miles in the process, but they were still under 100 miles behind, sufficiently in contact with the duo which have lead the 4570 miles course for over eight days, to hold out hopes they can unfold an act of piracy in the western Caribbean and plunder the French duo of the title which they appear to be on course for.

Jérémie Beyou, co-skipper on board commented: “We are going well, we are heading west under the Dominican Republic. The wind is stronger in places due to local conditions. It is nice to see land but no lights and only glimpsed it through cloudy conditions. We are working on how to get the best angle towards the finish.: It's going well, the wind has increased bit along the the Dominican Republic coast. It's turned a bit left and we have good speed on a starboard tack under spinnaker. We'll gybe in about 100 miles, then a long port tack down to Costa Rica. Tell the others that it's one jibe, all the way to the finish line! I'm going to keep it to myself, though, what will happen after the gybe! I think that the whole world can see the little depression by Panama and we'll have to manage it well to pass the little 'shitty' bit which we are focussed on for the future.

"It's always nice to see the first land after many days, but I was a little surprised to see that the Island of Monna isn't inhabitated. We didn't see any lights, just the island in the clouds. We had to do quite a few gybes to get us out of the passage and it was nice to be doing several manoeuvres one after the other."

Sounding tired but positive when he spoke to Transat Jacques Vabre Race HQ in Paris this afternoon, Hugo Boss skipper Alex Thomson confirmed that he expects the trade winds which they have presently to expire over the final 200 miles of the course.

“We are into the Caribbean. We have been up all night and so we are pretty tired, we are just looking to get in to some steady wind and getting some rest to be honest. We had a few gybes coming through the channel, keeping out of the way of the little island in the middle, so it was a bit busy. It does look like the last couple of hundred miles as we close to Costa Rica could get very light, the models are slightly disagreeing as to how light it will get. The opportunity for us to attack Virbac would be nice, they have opened up a little more on us, given that we were slightly more east than they were coming down the track to the waypoint here. Hopefully it will not be too complicated and we will get our chance at the end. I guess vice versa as well, though, the guys behind would get an opportunity to work on us. And we should see some compression as the front boats reach Costa Rica, with the front boats slowing down.

“Last night we were going to do three hours on three hours off and it just did not work like that at all. I think I managed to get a couple of hours sleep, but Guillermo has not really had anything. The really hard thing is managing yourself and watching what you are doing, so that you just don’t burn yourself out. If you do burn yourself out it can be pretty dangerous, so we are trying to manage ourselves, thinking about tomorrow and not just today. We have to drive the boat harder I guess, with us on this boat to do any damage against the newer boats we just have to push harder, steer longer. I thought we might lose a few miles coming in to the Caribbean but we have not really, so I am pretty pleased that we still have a reasonable buffer there, 150 miles or so, and proud we did not lose Virbac. They should be shooting along right now, but we will be in the same breeze pretty sharpish and so we can hopefully stay with them.”

In third place, MACIF, the newest generation VPLP-Verdier design sailed by François Gabart and Seb Col, remained 140 miles behind Hugo Boss on this Tuesday afternoon’s 1500 UTC sched. MACIF has made no significant gains on Hugo Boss since last night. Forecasts for the leading duo at least remain favourable for the next day at least with 20-25 knots trade winds blowing right down the track towards Costa Rica. Vibac-Paprec 3 was consuming miles voraciously this afternoon, with 923 miles to the finish line.

The pursuit of the podium positions has lost none of its heat. MACIF had just five miles on the equally relentless duo of Armel Le Cléac'h and Christopher Pratt on Banque Populaire while Bureau Vallée brothers Burton were slightly slower this afternoon, but still just 30 miles off the stern of the crack French duo on the boat which finished fourth on the last edition as Foncia, in the hands of Michel Desjoyeaux and Beyou.

In the Class 40, the northern duo of 40 Degrees and Norway’s Solo, sailed by Ruune Aasberg and Simen Lovgren, have made steady advances on leader, gaining more than 50 miles over the preceding 24 hours. Jenner admitted their gains were the result of hard driving, but that they would eventually like to see some sunshine: “It is going well but it would be pretty nice if our ballast system was not leaking like crazy. That is what I have been doing this morning, trying to fix it and bail out, apart from that we are good. Once we have filled the tanks and shut the valves, the big central tube empties about eight buckets of water in to the boat.

“It is been pretty lively out here where we are. The GRIB files have shown 18-20 knots and the reality has been 25 with gusts to 30 so it has been quite full on. We are having to hand steer a lot just now, it is a bit too lively under the pilot which has tried to gybe us a couple of times, so we are doing two hours on and off during the day and one and a half hours on and off during the night and constantly hand steering. We are coming down on a nice band of pressure, we are doing OK on Solo behind us in terms of distance to the entrance to the Caribbean. There are two races still, one from here to the Caribbean and one in the Caribbean to the finish. I think in near future we can keep making some miles on them. They will still be a bit ahead in the Caribbean but not so far it is not beyond the realms of possibility. We are on good form. We would like some reprieve, just a couple of hours under pilot, you really seize up sitting up there. We would much rather have breeze than no breeze. And we are pleased that, so far, staying north has paid off. Now we have to make our way carefully down, and hopefully find some sunshine.” has picked up speed again this afternoon and remains 118 miles ahead of ERDF Des Pieds et Des Mains, a small loss of 18 miles to the second placed duo of Damien Seguin and Yoanne Richomme since yesterday evening.

Top three positions at 1700 CET:

1 - Virbac Paprec 3 (Jean-Pierre Dick - Jérémie Beyou) : 830,9 milles to finish
2 - Hugo Boss (Alex Thomson - Guillermo Altadill) : 99,9 milles to leader
3 - Macif (François Gabart - Sébastien Col) : 239,5 milles to leader

1 - Actual (Yves Le Blevec - Samuel Manuard) : 1326,3 milles to finish
2 - Maitre Jacques (Loïc Fequet - Loïc Escoffier) : 256,9 milles to leader

1 - (Yannick Bestaven - Eric Drouglazet) : 2156,9 milles to finish
2 - ERDF Des Pieds et des Mains (Damien Seguin - Yoann Richomme) : 119,6 milles to leader
3 - 40 degrees (Hannah Jenner - Jesse Naiwark) : 230,9 milles to leader

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