Transat AG2R: Formation flying

The big turn towards St Barts took place yesterday afternoon

Tuesday May 8th 2012, Author: James Boyd, Location: none selected

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

Positions at 0930 UTC:

Pos Boat Crew Lat Long Spd Crs Spd2 Dist DTF DTL
          4 hr aver   24 hours      
1 CERCLE VERT Gildas Morvan - Charlie Dalin 14 17.06' N 44 43.92' W 7.4 291 6.5 155.2 1070.6 0
2 NACARAT Erwan Tabarly - Eric Peron 12 59.68' N 44 19.65' W 8 283 6.4 154.8 1114.7 44.1
3 CORNOUAILLE PORT DE PECHE Jean-Charles Monnet - Alexandre Toulorge 14 09.00' N 43 50.89' W 6.8 262 6.4 153.7 1122.4 51.8
4 BANQUE POPULAIRE Jeanne Gregoire - Gérald Veniard 13 34.42' N 43 57.08' W 7.9 289 6.5 155.1 1125.6 55
5 BRETAGNE CREDIT MUTUEL PERFORMANCE Anthony Marchand - Romain Attanasio 13 33.77' N 43 55.53' W 7.9 289 6.4 153.8 1127.2 56.6
6 LES RECYCLEURS BRETONS Michel Bothuon - Simon Troel 13 47.42' N 43 42.75' W 7.8 286 6.2 149.3 1135.5 64.9
7 MACIF Paul Meilhat - Fabien Delahaye 12 42.35' N 43 56.15' W 8.6 285 5.9 142.3 1141.8 71.2
8 GEDIMAT Thierry Chabagny - Christopher Pratt 12 32.60' N 43 49.52' W 8.3 277 6.5 156.9 1151 80.4
9 ARTEMIS Sam Goodchild - Nick Cherry 13 07.51' N 43 33.22' W 8.2 287 6.8 162.3 1155.5 84.9
10 LA SOLIDARITE MUTUALISTE Damien Guillou - Ronan Treussard 13 06.41' N 43 11.14' W 8 280 5.5 131 1176.4 105.8
11 GAES Anna Corbella - Gérard Marin 12 17.27' N 43 25.64' W 8.1 276 6 143.7 1178.1 107.5
12 SEPALUMIC Frederic Duthil - Francois Lebourdais 11 54.11' N 43 26.50' W 8.6 285 6.5 156.6 1185.1 114.5
13 EDM / PAYS BASQUE ENTREPRISES Amaiur Alfaro - Christophe Lebas 11 43.09' N 42 51.53' W 8.6 272 5.5 131.8 1221 150.4
14 ONE NETWORK ENERGIES Yannig Livory - Guillaume Farsy 12 23.22' N 42 08.66' W 8.4 280 6.1 146.6 1247.5 176.9
15 ARMOR-LUX / PERE LOUSTIC / CLOWN A L'HOPITAL Germain Kerleveo - Jean-Sebastien Henry 13 03.11' N 40 40.46' W 8.2 283 6.3 154.8 1318.2 247.6
16 HOTEL EMERAUDE PLAGE SAINT-BARTHELEMY Louis-Maurice Tannyeres - Joanna Tannyeres 13 27.88' N 38 27.29' W 7.9 264 6.3 150.7 1437.2 366.6

And so it has begun... Late yesterday afternoon, their crews reckoning that they had finally extricated themselves from the ridge, the boats to the south of the Transat AG2R fleet gybed on to a course just north of due west. They were followed in the evening by the boats in the north. And for the first time in more than a week all of the boats are now finally pointing towards the St Barts finish line rather than Brazil.

The drag race now begins with the boats in the south hoping that they will have a better angle towards the finish enabling them to make up the miles they 'invested' over the course of the last week by heading south to avoid the clutches of the high. So will this work? The boats in the south are generally sailing a knot faster than Cercle Verte - 8-8.5 knots, compared to 7.4 and generally the GRIBs are showing more breeze on the left side of the course for the next two days. This suggests that we are going to see some substantial compression in the fleet until conditions even out over the race course. At present there is 162 miles of lateral separation between Cercle Verte in the north and Sepalumic in the south and this will of course diminish progressively as the boats approach the finish. However Charles Derbyshire's expert routing is currently indicating that Cercle Verte will take the win from Nacarat in six day's time. 

From on board race leader Cercle Verte, Charlie Dalin explained: "There is more wind in the ridge than the GRIB files indicated, so we're pretty happy with that. So we headed west! I was at the helm on port in 8 knots of wind when it started to become very shifty and going left. We waited a bit and then we gybed, late afternoon. We saw the clouds and the wind starting to settle. We knew we were out of the woods. So Wwe find ourselves a little northwest to the fleet followed by Cornouaille Port de Pêche, Banque Populaire and Bretagne Crédit Mutuel Performance. But we will not go down to them particularly. We have ahead of us a long starboard gybe with a short port towards the end. We expected 30 knots of wind in a few days, so we'll go fast. What a pleasure it is to finally sail to St. Barth and we're happy to see that the wind will be with us on this last stage of the race. Today we will pass the symbolic threshold of 1,000 miles to go. We know nothing is settled until the finish line is crossed."

From on board Nacarat, Eric Peron reported: "We gybed yesterday around noon GMT. There was little wind (6 knots) and suddenly, it returned allowing us to gybe and sail to St. Barts. We are finally heading to the finish! All our competitors have done more or less the same thing at the same time. So now it is a question of whether the north-south shift will be more or less favorable ... We knew approximately when it would happen, but it was unclear how it would hurt the northern boats. The surprise is that they seem to have come out ahead. Some have "taken the expense" as they say, by being south, but Cornouaille Port de Pêche, Banque Populaire and Bretagne Crédit Mutuel Performance are doing fairly well. Cercle Verte, meanwhile, is in the same position - it's good for him, too bad for us. We took great care to avoid being slowed down. Now we have five to six days of sailing on the same gybe. We may have more favorable winds depending on our angle. The wind is now up to 16 knots, it is a little choppy but it's still relatively quiet. The wind will get stronger and there will be small shifts, especially towards the end, but it's a bit far ahead to say it. Now we'll have our hands taped to the helm, and won't let go. Each good surf will earn us a few meters. The routing shows very close arrivals, so we will have to be better than the routing."

Yesterday Nick Cherry reported from Artemis:

Bank holiday Monday onboard Artemis 23 is a bit of an anticlimax. No day off out here, watches in the middle of the day still unbearably hot and the tactical situation is as tricky as ever. No problems with traffic though and the shops being shut isn't affecting us too badly. We have also just become aware of a slight accountancy error in the food department, meaning we now have a bonus 9 food bags left with a predicted 8 days of sailing. We have agreed to hold off on the inevitable binge for couple of days yet, just to make sure the weather doesn't play any nasty tricks on us.

Its been pretty light today, bottoming out at a sluggist 6-7 knots of wind. We're hoping to have been sheltered from the worst of the light winds by being a bit further south than a lot of boats . The next Pos report will be a intersting one, hopefully showing the boats to the north of us all sitting in a windless hole!

Yesterday we had fun hoisting Sam up the rig to check for wear and tear and stick couple of patches on the main where it has chafed of spreaders etc. I was glad we had rigged up to guy ropes to the deck as the minute he left the mast to try and reach the middle of the sail things got pretty tricky. Bouncing around in the chop it was impossible to hold him still and in the end the best I could do was limit his range of swinging to a less harmful small area around the damage patches. It was then up to Sam to time his swing in order to place the sticky patches on the sail and get them stuck down. I think he's done a good job becasue as well as not putting his foot through the main, the patches have stayed on.

On the wildlife front the flying fish continue to bombard our decks at night leaving scales, the odd eyeball and a lot of ooze behind them. A slightly worrying trend over the past three days has been a distinct lack of any dolphin activity around the boat. Whilst they had previously visited several times a day without fail things have been eerily quiet of late. Several theories for their absence include, being too far away from land, someone else in the fleet offering out dolphin treats on a regular basis to distract them or that we have somehow offened 'Iranuhoauu' lord of the atlantic dolphins with a throw away tuna joke. Whatever the case it would be nice to see them back again before too long.

My turn do do an hour in the early afternoon heat on deck.

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