New VPLP Verdier designs looking strong

Francois Gabart and MACIF extend in the IMOCA 60's Transat B to B

Tuesday December 13th 2011, Author: James Boyd, Location: none selected

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

Positions at 0530 UTC


Pos Skipper Boat Lat Long Spd Crs Spd VMG Crs DTF DTL
          1hr - Between scheds - -    
1 François GABART MACIF 42 47.73' N 33 11.18' W 17.3 69 16.9 16.4 72 1371.9 0
2 Armel LECLEACH Banque Populaire 42 20.14' N 34 54.01' W 15.9 73 16.1 15.6 68 1448.4 76.5
3 Vincent RIOU PRB 43 32.81' N 35 55.43' W 17.1 74 16.9 15.9 68 1492.6 120.7
4 Alex THOMSON Hugo Boss 43 35.80' N 37 23.77' W 17.9 79 17 16.3 72 1556.7 184.8
5 Mike GOLDING GAMESA 42 19.88' N 37 53.75' W 15.6 74 15.3 14.9 69 1580.9 209
6 Marc GUILLEMOT Safran 42 46.30' N 38 36.88' W 17.7 76 16.7 15.7 64 1610.9 239
7 Jean-Pierre DICK Virbac-Paprec 3 38 16.37' N 42 07.21' W 6.1 144 6.8 2.1 144 1822.2 450.3
8 Louis BURTON BUREAU VALLEE 38 44.68' N 44 41.50' W 10 106 10.9 9.8 97 1927.6 555.7

IMOCA 60 solo sailing newbie Francois Gabart on MACIF has extended away from the rest of the Transat B to B fleet over the last 24 hours - from 57 and 90 miles ahead of second and third placed Banque Populaire and PRB 24 hours ago, these figures are now up to 76 and 120 miles. The inclusion of the new waypoint gate (incidated above), aimed at keeping the boats south and away from the worst of the gale force conditions buffeting the UK for the rest of the week, also benefits the two boats furthest south.

Introducing the waypoint gate yesterday was something of a controversial move by the organisers - while one apreciates the sentiment, the gate was introduced quite late in the day and since the IMOCA 60 skippers are in training for the Vendee Globe, one feels that they are more than experienced enough to make the decision over whether or not to head into 40+ knot winds. The routing certainly had them heading for the south of Ireland before gybing south for the finish. The race organisers state that the change of course was due to the very bad weather conditions forecast on the race area for the next few days - winds from 60 to 80 knots over Wednesday and Thursday.

While the boats are making respectible speeds, if the forecast is correct it looks like they won't be into the big breeze until later today. Due to the NW-SE orientation of this band of stronger wind, it looks like MACIF, PRB and Hugo Boss may all feel the effects of this at around the same time this evening.

Meanwhile Jean-Pierre Dick hasn't been heading south for cunning tactical reasons, but has a problem with the hook for his gennaker. Heading southeast into milder conditions, he hopes to scale the mast and repair the gennaker hook as at present he is unable to furl in his gennaker fully. Given the reticence that Alex Thomson on Hugo Boss demonstrated a couple of days ago about climbing his own mast to sort out halyard issues, this certainly isn't a challenge for the faint-hearted.

Yesterday the skippers reported in: 

Francois Gabart (MACIF): “I'm sure there will be a lot of people in Lorient to give us a warm welcome, especially as it's getting chilly here. The weather gate is a good solution for avoiding the violent zone. We've all been watching the depression for days and all the routing is showing us it. I've set mine so that I'm not allowed into zones with over 50 knots as the idea is primarily to bring the boat home. Safety is imperative then and if you're physically able to do something to avoid such conditions then that's what you have to do. It doesn't make much odds to me but perhaps that's easy for me to say at the front of the fleet. This option gives us a number of choices, including Lisbon and of course weather gates are good training for the Vendee Globe!”

Mike Golding (Gamesa): “The course change was the right decision. It's a bit frustrating as you kind of have a map in your head of what you're doing and why you're there. However, the last time I had such conditions I dropped my rig and it's always difficult to know what the breaking point of things is. Everything seems fine on the boat right now. I'm really just learning how to use some of the new systems on the boat such as the new reefing system. As such it takes more time and there's always a compromise with modification. I save time in certain areas but now it's not so easy to get the main down which puts more pressure on the battens and the sail. I have locks on the boom now too. There are benefits and compromises with such systems. There aren't any big gusts right now. Last night I had some with very, very heavy rain as the front rolled through. I was prepared though and it went fluidly. I came out the other side a little under-canvassed initially but things are under control now.”

Marc Guillemot (Safran): “I'm a bit tired. I really had a roasting yesterday as I spent 3 hours struggling to furl in my downwind sail. The decision about putting in a weather gate and hence extending the course to avoid the worst of the weather is a very good decision in terms of safety and the big storms in Brittany. It wasn't planned and it doesn't suit anyone but safety has to be the priority. Our arrival offshore of Brittany would have been pretty difficult otherwise with gusts of 40/ 45 knots in Lorient. You're essentially gambling with your boat and yourself in such conditions so I fully adhere to the plan. The wind state is okay at the moment – what's complicated is finding the right sail plan. It's not clear whether to work it according to the average wind or the gusts, the latter of which can hang around for a while at times. You're never entirely satisfied so it's not easy in the current conditions. The wind is unstable in terms of quantity and direction, shifting twenty degrees at a time. The word of the day is ‘patience'. At the start of this chat I had 20 knots of wind and I was making 13 knots. Right now I have 25 knots and 16 knots of boat speed. The biggest puzzle for me at the moment though is why we've kept coming across big islands of Sargasso since the Caribbean. I wonder if it's to do with pollution, particular weather phenomena…? I'd love to know the answer.”

This morning Mike Golding reported: “We are charging along downwind, we are back up to full main and gennaker and it really is okay at the moment, conditions have been pretty up and down between 22 and 30 knots, but then you go through a spell of gusts of 35-36 knots and that gets a bit more difficult. It does feel like you can never be on the right sail plan for long, it is hard to find the balance. So it is reasonably OK, there is nothing horrendous on the most recent GRIB [weather] files which have come in, but so far I have not looked at it very closely.

"I don’t feel like there was anything compromised for me due to the safety gate, not really. I certainly had a wobble. I guess it was a combination of things, I was tired and you are focused on doing one thing. And then you see Virbac Paprec 3 spearing across the course to the southeast and wonder what is going on, so I was confused.

"I put the bow down 20 degrees, got some sleep, and that was the right thing to do. I might be a little more south than I wanted, but it’ll work out. It is pretty steady at the moment, nothing much to say, no dramas, long may it continue!”


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