into the Class40 lead

As the multihulls break out of the St Laurence in the Quebec-St Malo race

Tuesday July 24th 2012, Author: James Boyd, Location: Canada, skippered by Germany’s Jörg Riechers has taken a firm hold of the lead in the Class40 fleet racing in the Transat Québec - Saint-Malo.

The Sam Manuard-designed Mach40, one of the race favourites, has shown a good performance and Riechers, together with his expert crew of Sam Manuard, Rémy Aubrun and American Ryan Breymaier, has been setting the rhythm in the fresh southerlies around the Gaspé region.

Just four managed to maintain the pace, making further gains on the approach to the two final marks on the St Lawrence River: Gaspé and Percé, that the fleet should pass later today before reaching the open Atlantic.

Meanwhile the monohulls continue to struggle in the tricky river conditions. Just Erwan Le Roux, skippering the trimaran Fenêtré a Cardinal has reached the ocean’s open waters and is heading upwind bound for the next mark of the course at Madeleine Island.

Goodbye St Lawrence and thank you people from Québec…

Jörg Riechers approached Gaspé in front, a position he likes to be in most. “At St. Anne, a quick peel to the Code 0 allowed us to squeak past Comiris about 100m from the buoy for our first city win!” he said.

As the wind continues to build, with a strong southwesterly breeze of over 20 knots, and the protection of the Gaspésie hills is left behind, conditions on the river become less manageable for the crews as they approach their second to last compulsory mark rounding in the Bay of Gaspé.

The front pack comprises five boats that have all traded the lead place and which are now preparing for 'offshore mode': Mare, Thierry Bouchard’s Comiris, Sébastien Rogues’ Generation Eole GDF SUEZ, Fabrice Amédéo’s Geodis and Aurélien Ducroz’s Latitude Neige / Longitude Montagne. Behind this group the rest of the fleet is still pushing hard for a possible compression in the bay of Gaspé. Stéphane Le Diraison on IX Blue lies in sixth position less than 30 miles behind, David Augeix on his Akilaria EDF-Energies nouvelles is in 12th 40 miles behind the leaders and anything can still happen before the fleet heads on the long leg towards Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon. Luckily no issues or damage has been reported so far from the 25 boats who are about to leave the St Lawrence.

After flying past the Saint-Anne-des-Monts course mark last night, Gaspé and Percé today Erwan Leroux’s 50ft trimaran Fenêtré a Cardinal is bound for île de La Madeleine. Conditions have not been comfortable on the leading multihull, going upwind in 25 knots and with more expected at the river mouth, in an area already influenced by the open ocean; the foul weather gear is now ready to be put on.

Leroux and his crew now face a further challenge after the complex river navigation; attempting to keep ahead of a depression forecast to propel them across the Atlantic in favourable conditions. Erik Nigon on Vers un Monde sans Sida is surprisingly in second position, 63 miles behind, as last night Gilles Lamiré was forced to take an unexpected u-turn to go round the mark at Saint-Anne des Monts. Could it have been the strong current or was it a mistake by the crew? In any case it was a change of course that dearly cost the 60ft trimaran crew on Défi Saint-Malo Agglo that went from leading Italy’s 50ft monohull Vento di Sardegna by 17 miles and Erik Nigon’s Vers un Monde sans Sida by 21 miles, to being fourth, 90 miles behind Fenêtré a Cardinal. After some technical issues on the opening hours, this new setback surely is a bad blow to the Saint Malo-based crew.

Canadian Georges Leblanc on Océan Phénix is 160 miles behind the leader. “We have switched to a three hours watch system. I’m at the nav station, my eyes fixed on the computer screen, our track is nothing but depressing… it’s crazy, we are going round in circles. It looks like the Olympic logo. The weather is good, it’s warm at night, but so disappointing because what we see at sunrise it not that different from what we saw at sunset. If the wind is not going to show this pain will go on forever…”

5 out of 6

Having awarded five prizes of the total six, the new '6 town, 6 marks' circuit has proven to be a huge success, with local fans coming in droves to the river banks to encourage the fleet.

“Last night at 1am, we passed the small village of Saint-Anne de Monts, the mark was just 50 metres off the lock but still there were people there, their car lights on, clapping their hands and shouting. Amazing. It was a bit of a surreal moment, and it happened at each mark!” enthused Armel Tripon during this morning radio vac.

La Malbaie: First overall – FenêtréA Cardinal, Erwan Leroux

Rimouski: first monohull overall - Latitude Neige – Longitude Mer, Aurélien Ducroz

Matane: first Class40 – Eole Generation GDF SUEZ, Sébastien Rogues

Saint-Anne des Monts: first monohull overall – Mare, Jörg Riechers

Gaspé: first Class40 – Mare, Jörg Riechers

Percé: first multihull overall - FenêtréA Cardinal, Erwan Leroux

The only prize still to be awarded is the one for the first Class40 to pass Gaspé.

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