Transat AG2R: Different options emerging

When to gybe south? That is the question

Monday April 30th 2012, Author: James Boyd, Location: none selected

Chart courtesy of Expedition/Tasman Bay Navigation Systems and GRIB (European model) from PredictWind

Positions at 0630 UTC:

Pos Nboat Crew Lat Long Spd Crs Spd Dist DTF DTL
          4 hour aver   24 hrs      
1 CERCLE VERT Gildas Morvan - Charlie Dalin 25 48.64' N 22 54.31' W 7.2 230 7.2 173.5 2269 0
2 NACARAT Erwan Tabarly - Eric Peron 25 40.67' N 22 51.66' W 7.1 219 7 168 2270.9 1.9
3 MACIF Paul Meilhat - Fabien Delahaye 25 39.93' N 22 31.21' W 7.8 212 6.8 164.3 2289.2 20.2
4 BRETAGNE CRÉDIT MUTUEL PERFORMANCE Anthony Marchand - Romain Attanasio 25 49.52' N 22 27.11' W 7 207 6.9 165.7 2293.5 24.5
5 ARTEMIS Sam Goodchild - Nick Cherry 25 35.90' N 22 09.81' W 7.9 207 6.6 159.5 2308.3 39.3
6 GEDIMAT Thierry Chabagny - Christopher Pratt 25 14.46' N 22 04.38' W 7 226 5.9 142.1 2312.1 43.1
7 LA SOLIDARITÉ MUTUALISTE Damien Guillou - Ronan Treussard 25 58.64' N 22 05.11' W 6.9 217 6.8 162.7 2313.8 44.8
8 CORNOUAILLE PORT DE PECHE Jean-Charles Monnet - Alexandre Toulorge 25 47.08' N 22 02.54' W 8.1 220 6.7 160.9 2315.4 46.4
9 GAES Anna Corbella - Gérard Marin 26 10.36' N 21 59.98' W 6.9 251 6.9 165.7 2319.2 50.2
10 SEPALUMIC Fréderic Duthil - Francois Lebourdais 25 13.84' N 21 55.81' W 8.5 222 5.9 142.3 2319.8 50.8
11 EDM / PAYS BASQUE ENTREPRISES Amaiur Alfaro - Christophe Lebas 26 17.43' N 21 53.94' W 8.1 256 7 167.1 2325 56
12 LES RECYCLEURS BRETONS Michel Bothuon - Simon Troel 25 33.50' N 21 50.43' W 7.9 202 6.5 156.6 2325.6 56.6
13 BANQUE POPULAIRE Jeanne Gregoire - Gérald Veniard 25 02.80' N 21 45.68' W 8.3 201 5.6 133.3 2328.5 59.5
14 ONE NETWORK ENERGIES Yannig Livory - Guillaume Farsy 26 30.14' N 21 07.12' W 9.2 244 6.4 153.8 2367.7 98.7
15 ARMOR-LUX / PERE LOUSTIC / CLOWN A L'HOPITAL Germain Kerleveo - Jean-Sébastien Henry 26 29.30' N 19 58.21' W 9.3 206 5.2 125.8 2429.2 160.2
16 HOTEL EMERAUDE PLAGE SAINT-BARTHELEMY Louis-Maurice Tannyeres - Joanna Tannyeres 28 03.24' N 19 19.27' W 8.3 243 7.3 174.4 2470.1 201.1

Since round the turning mark to the north of La Palma on Saturday, so the 16 doublehanded Figaros competing in the Transat AG2R have been fanning out across the Atlantic as they make for the finish in St Barts. With the Azores high still forecast to shift abnormally far south over the course of this week, all the boats will be going south to some degree, but as ever on this course the question is how far south to go? Sailing further south competitors may enjoy between conditions, but will have to sail substantially more miles. 

So the leaders are chosing to stay north, with Gildas Morvan and Charlie Dalin on Cercle Verte edging ahead of long term leaders Erwan Tabarly and Eric Peron on Nacarat at the latest polling, as Tabarly and Peron have chosen to move south. However old AG2R hands Jeanne Gregoire and Gerald Veniard on Banque Populaire were first of the front runners to gybe south and now have the most extreme southerly position among the leaders, already some 77 miles southeast of Cercle Verte. Sepalumic and Gedimat have also subsequently chosen this option.

Sam Goodchild and Nick Cherry on Artemis are holding the middle ground and have done a good job overnight to move themselves up to fifth place overall, but still have their work cut out to catch the fourth placed boat 15 miles ahead of them. However at present the leaderboard isn't really providing an accurate picture of what is going on as those who drop south are further away from the great circle.

According to Paul Meilhat on MACIF, they waited until this morning at around 0300 UTC, to gybe as the wind shifted from the NNE to northeast. Nacarat appears to have followed suit.

From on board Nacarat Eric Peron said: "Last night went very well, although we did not get much sleep. We had to be very attentive to the shifting winds and manoeuvring. There was 17-20 knots of breeze and a 1.5 m fairly regular swell and clear skies - easy sailing or at least more relaxing than the first days of racing... Banque Populaire, Sepalumic and Gedimat have chosen to go further south. The rest of the fleet chose the same option as is. Before long, everyone should gybe on to port. Then we shall see who is taking what option. When you look at the position of Banque Populaire, which is 35 miles away to the south of us, we can say we have a small cushion of flexibility and security, but let's remain vigilant..."

Gildas Morvan reported from Cercle Verte: "It's going well. Life on board is much more enjoyable than a few days ago - the first six days were particularly stressful, but interesting nonetheless. Even if the wind is a bit light right now, it is downwind, the boat is flat, the conditions are more pleasant. With Charlie, we are trying to decide when we go south. We saw Nacarat just now, which was pretty interesting ... We are continuing to look at the weather and routing. We have scheduled a gybe point 8:40 to be precise. We reckon that there will be a port tack race south."

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