IMOCA 60s up to 20 knots in the Transat B to B

Sunday December 11th 2011, Author: James Boyd, Location: none selected

Chart above courtesy of Expedition/Tasman Bay Navigation Systems and PredictWind

Positions at 0630

Pos Skipper Boat Lat Long Spd Crs Speed VMG Crs Dist DTF DTL
          1 hr   Between scheds     24hrs    
1 François GABART Macif 39 23.71' N 50 23.29' W 18.1 61 16 16 59 341.2 2069.1 0
2 Armel LECLEACH Banque Populaire 38 37.90' N 50 59.29' W 17.4 58 16.8 16.8 59 330.3 2116.3 47.2
3 Jean-Pierre DICK Virbac-Paprec 3 40 43.27' N 53 05.53' W 18.6 97 19.9 18.7 79 357 2139.3 70.2
4 Vincent RIOU PRB 40 09.47' N 53 32.03' W 13.9 78 18 17 79 349.5 2173.2 104.1
5 Mike GOLDING GAMESA 40 06.49' N 53 36.32' W 13.8 80 17.1 16.9 69 345.8 2177.5 108.4
6 Marc GUILLEMOT Safran 38 26.45' N 53 07.89' W 16.8 69 15.2 15.2 58 329 2208.6 139.5
7 Alex THOMSON Hugo Boss 40 21.94' N 54 34.35' W 17.9 94 17.8 16.5 81 355 2208.8 139.7
8 Louis BURTON BUREAU VALLEE 36 55.25' N 57 03.95' W 15.5 65 12.2 12.2 58 278.7 2415.3 346.2

How things can change in a day. The eight IMOCA 60s in the Transat B to B are now into the strong southwesterlies between the high in the centre of the North Atlantic and the depression centred off Newfoundland. With this so boat speeds across the fleet have soared. Francois Gabart on MACIF and Armel le Cleac'h on Banque Populaire continue to lead, but it is the boats to the north that are making the best speed with Jean-Pierre Dick on Virbac Paprec 3 having averaged 20 knots overnight. The boats in the north have slightly more pressure but are able to sail on a faster angle.

The two groups of boats are currently converging with the group to the north catching up and the routing has them continuing on starboard in the southwesterlies. However the routing for both groups shows them gybing north today, the southerly boats early evening, Virbac Paprec 3 at around midnight.

Weather-wise the depression off Newfoundland is still forecast to travel ENE, half way across the north Atlantic today, merging with another depression southwest of Iceland overnight tonight. Meanwhile the high is remaining reasonably static, or shifting south slightly over the next 24 hours. For the boats the wind direction is going to be skewed by another area of high pressure developing over the eastern seaboard of the States and extending out into the Atlantic tomorrow that ultimately merges with the high out in the Atlantic by Tuesday. But the good news is that the forecast continues to show strong westerlies blowing for the rest of this week making for a lively ride back to the finish line at Lorient, getting in sometime on Thursday.

This morning Mike Golding reported from on board Gamesa: "It’s going good at the moment, pretty much sailing down the line in a good SW’ly which I think will pick up later today, it is picking up slowly. We are tracking nice and straight, there will be a little bit of a shift later on today, but I feel like I’m on good form and it is going well.

“Locally the weather model is now a bit clearer than it was, before it was not very precise, but now it is definitely clearer.  I will have to gybe later today and once I gybe it will start to get stronger. But the way it looks at the moment it will get windy, but not too windy. As long as we are downwind that is fine, I am looking forward to a bit of a blast and a sleigh ride home would be just fine. At this stage you just start to think of getting to the finish as quick as possible. Mind you, hearing about the temperatures at home….."

With a moment spare last night, Golding sent this update report: "At last we are able to begin to turn Gamesa eastwards towards the finish in Lorient. I don't recall ever having to sail so far on an unfavored tack/gybe - the weather in the Atlantic is horrendous - gales in the north and no wind in the middle. Still as we reach the latitude of New York at last we are making proper progress east.

"On this short sprint northwards Gamesa has sailed on all 'points of sail' against and in close proximity to each of the newer boats. The good news from a longer term Vendée perspective is that I really feel the  modifications we have made since June have brought Gamesa firmly into the game with these new generation IMOCAs. It is true that on some points our speeds differ slightly (not always to our disadvantage) but that is the nature of an open class where the performance solutions chosen by each team differ so greatly. Ultimately reliability, my choices and my fitness are going to make the difference - this is where we must focus next year as we prepare for the Vendée.

"Right now Gamesa is simply flying east under a gennaker and reefed mainsail - the boat is currently perfectly balanced and even when gusts exceed 30 kts she tracks straight and true. I am constantly monitoring the autopilot's reactions. If a large amount of helm is being used, the boat is struggling, now however now the tiller scarcely moves and the boat is charging along at speeds well in excess of 20kts. Below decks the noise is huge and surges of violent acceleration very unnerving - on deck all seems to be in control , easy miles at last.

"I am happy with Gamesa's positioning in the fleet, but aware of the potential benefits of being north but surprised by the effectiveness of the southern choice! This is long game and what will win through remains to be seen....

"Have had a really good clean of the galley after my two hours of stomach cramps a couple of days ago, I have not felt great since -  tired and lacking appetite - perhaps in part because I have no idea what brought it on and I don't want a repeat performance. As a precaution I have ditched everything that was opened of that could be culpable …."

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