New gate imposed

Transat B to B organisers attempt to keep their boats south

Monday December 12th 2011, Author: James Boyd, Location: none selected

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

Positions at 1030 UTC

Pos Skipper Boat Lat Long Spd Crs Spd VMG Crs Dist DTF DTL
          1 hr aver  - Between scheds - - 24hrs    
1 François GABART MACIF 41 18.59' N 40 12.28' W 18.7 73 16.6 16.4 71 382.5 1604.2 0
2 Armel LECLEACH Banque Populaire 40 51.11' N 41 18.17' W 17.7 80 17 16.5 76 367.6 1660.9 56.7
3 Vincent RIOU PRB 41 55.01' N 42 49.76' W 15.3 72 17 16.5 78 408.5 1694.3 90.1
4 Alex THOMSON Hugo Boss 42 09.73' N 44 09.68' W 17 69 18 17.9 70 398.3 1741.7 137.5
5 Mike GOLDING GAMESA 41 00.91' N 43 59.73' W 14 87 14.1 13.3 82 355.6 1758.6 154.4
6 Marc GUILLEMOT Safran 41 03.38' N 44 56.56' W 13.6 89 15.2 14.6 77 341.3 1802.3 198.1
7 Jean-Pierre DICK Virbac-Paprec 3 40 07.45' N 44 19.09' W 9.8 149 10.7 2.4 139 268 1803 198.8
8 Louis BURTON BUREAU VALLEE 39 17.56' N 49 09.50' W 12.2 94 12.6 11.4 85 312.9 2022.6 418.4

MACIF and Banque Populaire have done an excellent job to hold their lead as the eight singlehanded IMOCA 60s in the Transat B to B have been making good mileage east. The four lead boats have been making the best progress. Out in front MACIF and Banque Populaire are at the point of exiting the high, only that over the course of today the eastern edge of the high extends further east. To north third and fourth placed PRB and Hugo Boss are doing well, and due to their proximity to the high the wind appears to be slightly freed up for them.

Meanwhile Jean-Pierre Dick on Virbac Paprec 3 is playing a different game and has sacrified his place leading the northerly group to gybe south, with the intention of hooking into the strong southwesterlies. However with this move there will be no opportunity for him to do anything other than fall in behind the two leaders. Interesting...

This morning the race organisers of the Transat B to B have announced that there will be a mandatory gate aimed at keeping the boats south, out of the strongest conditions forecast for the remainder of this week to the west of Ireland. Thus the boats will have to cross 42°N somewhere between 20 and 16°W (as indicated on the chart above). 

Yesterday the skippers reported:

MACIF skipper Francois Gabart: “I'm in good shape and I know how important it is to remain like that. I can't afford to go into the red because I don't have the experience to deal with things in that state. As such I'm focusing on getting more sleep so I can manage any crises, such as broken gear etc. and remain operational. That will be my philosophy all the way to Lorient. All the conditions we'll have along the way will set us up nicely for those we experience in the Vendee Globe and I can't wait to be at that point. In the Barcelona World Race I obviously learnt a great deal about boat handling alongside Michel (Desjoyeaux) as well as the overall game plan for getting a boat to make headway. As such I'm a lot more confident about my ability to apprehend all the different points of sail. However, we didn't have a lot of downwind sailing in that race and obviously we didn't rely on the autopilot so much. There is more wind here too and, to be quite honest, I've never experienced such winds before, let alone in solo configuration. I'm taking it all in though, discovering new sensations and understanding how Macif reacts. I don't really close my eyes when I sleep as I'm listening to the boat, all the new sounds she makes, how she moves…”

From on board Gamesa, Mike Golding added: “It is pretty comfortable. It is difficult conditions, though. It is difficult to know what sail plan to run as at times we are on a gennaker and at other time we are on the white sails [genoa, solent or staysail], you are always teetering on the balance of knowing what to run as the gust range is so high. We have had gusts of near 40 knots and the boat several times has ended up stalled out and laid on its side until we eased the gennaker and got back on our feet again. As quickly as it comes it disappears again and you are back to the softer conditions. To be honest, (though PRB is close), I am sailing my own race and keeping the boat going fast. I doubt either of us is doing anything different. I haven't seen him, but I know he is close. We probably criss cross ourselves as we try different sail programmes. Yes, it would be nice if it were steadier but it should be fairly fast now. The other thing to decide is whether to stay away from the front or go towards it. Right now we are going well, but the faster we go, the more we head towards it. I'm not liking the look of the finishing weather though, it looks pretty serious. The coachroof is good in these conditions - it's my little house! It definitely is perfect for these kinds of conditions, you have reasonable visibility, no need to get wet and going downwind is fine. On deck it is quite pleasant when you are going downwind, and the coach roof has worked well. It is very noisy at high speed, when reaching and water is entering, but apart from that it works really well. I am sleeping ok. The last two times I've slept, I have woken up with the boat on its side. It is fraught with danger going to sleep and that is a bit nerve racking. That is one of the stressful parts of solo sailing. The boat is going nicely, going steady, but the moment you put your head down you either break something or lose miles. The autopilot seems to be doing alright, it would have been easy to put it down to pilot errors but in fact when you look at the data it is clear that we have had a big gust of wind.”

Jean-Pierre Dick on Virbac-Paprec 3 said: “The wind is really packing a punch now with peaks of 35 knots. Last night I had 37, 38, 40 knots at times which was impressive. We're absolutely hammering along and it's stressful-going all alone on the boat. The old reflex actions are coming back to me and conditions are reminiscent of the deep South. Everyone's going pretty fast and there's no downtime. Last night there was a good luminosity though the moon was dancing behind the clouds at times. It was magical with surfs at 25 knots which was fun. The work on the cockpit means it's much better protected. You're not completely sheltered but it's important to still be able to have a feeling of what's going on outside so you've got to get the balance right with it. I'm hoping the year ahead will be a good one but there are some very good sailors around me like Armel and François. It'll certainly be a battle. Last night really was full-on. However, in the North Atlantic you're obviously less isolated than in the Deep South and the emergency services aren't so far away so it's not the same liquid desert. As I've been speaking to you we've been making a 20 knot average so all we need is some albatrosses now!”

Vincent Riou on PRB: “I thought the wind would be stronger than it is right now. It's struggling to pick up with 25/30 knots last night making 20/25 knots of boat speed. We're slowly picking up speed and things will accelerate with the front. It's pretty tricky at the moment because conditions aren't quite perfect for one particular sail plan so it's difficult choosing which sail to carry. You just have to make do and it's the same problem for everyone. However, it's considerably less risky when conditions are stable. When we're having to put in a gybe in 40/45 knots it's going to be pretty special. Everyone has their own technique shall we say but it's not easy. It's the kind of manoeuvre where you're most likely to break stuff. It's up to you to decide between doing it safely and hence not so quickly, or quickly and hence not so safely! The boat's going well for now. We're slipping along at 20/ 22 knots so we'll be home more quickly hopefully. It's really great to be making good headway and seeing the boat move through the water. The Transat B to B is a great test in real conditions for the Vendee Globe so it's very important. Thanks to my cuddy I'm completely dry too so above all it helps with sail trimming and keeping watch while the autopilot takes care of the steering.”

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