Mike Golding regains the lead
With Mike Golding and Gamesa leading the eight IMOCA 60s across the Caribbean Sea in the Transat B to B, the competitors are setting a course to the north, far from the direct course. The thinking behind this option is that the fleet will be able to squeeze around a zone of calms via its western limit over the course of Thursday. Ultimately, the aim then is to hang a right as soon as possible and hook onto the depressions rolling across the North Atlantic.
Leading the fleet at the first position report this morning, and taking back the lead this evening, Mike Golding perfectly captured the complexity of the current situation: “All's well. The wind is fairly fluky so we've had quite a few sail changes. Right now I'm under full mainsail and solent, switching from one reef in the mainsail. I'm very pleased with the modifications and the boat's really geared up for solo sailing and hence the Vendee Globe. Clearly, once I finish there will be a list of additional modifications. Hopefully there won't be too many though. I imagine that I'll be able to hang a right in a couple of days. The forecast is improving a bit so we'll have a shorter route. The European and American models don't agree though. Heading North is clearly the right strategy but it's difficult to know how far to the West of North you can reasonably go!”
Indeed, it would seem that the boats furthest west could benefit from slightly stronger wind over this tricky transition phase over the coming days. From late in the day on 8 December, they should be able to hang a right and slip between the very deep depression to the North and the zone of high pressure. The game plan will involve positioning themselves properly, neither too far North, where the winds are very strong, nor too far South, where there's a risk of being becalmed.
The outlook was positive for second Armel Le Cleac'h too on Banque Populaire. “Things are going well, we're making headway, with Mike, Marco and I all sailing together as we head North. We're having to watch the situation closely. Essentially it's just a question of staying down below and adjusting the automatic pilot a bit. I'm getting a feel for the boat, getting my bearings. Solo sailing is obviously quite a different set-up to sailing double-handed in the Transat Jacques Vabre. The weather conditions are quite nice without too much sea. The air flow is fidgety. I had 20 knots of wind last night, making headway on a single tack with quite a bit of wind. Conditions have eased a bit now and there are fewer squalls too.”
Trailing slightly behind, towards the back of the fleet in the Transat B to B, at least in terms of the current leaderboard, Jean-Pierre Dick on Virbac-Paprec 3 was in reflective mode after his nomination as Sailor of the Year 2011 just last night. “It's certainly been a great year. It's very emotional and quite extraordinary to have been awarded this prize. Thank you to everyone! Back on the racetrack we're heading West with Bureau Vallée and Macif. It is strategic of course as the aim is to be the first to hit the westerlies. We need to latch onto the tradewinds as quickly as possible that's for sure but we'll see what happens!”