Out into the Atlantic
The 25 boats competing in the 8th Transat Québec-Saint Malo have now passed the last compulsory mark off St Pierre and are now out into the Atlantic.
While the multihulls will have another waypoint to round - the Fastnet Rock - the rest of the Open monohull and Class 40 fleets can now head directly towards Saint Malo.
No boat has been forced to abandon despite some 700 miles sailed in varying and sometimes harsh conditions over five very hard days down the St Lawrence river.
Some damage and technical pit stops occurred: both Benoit Parnaudeau on Transport cohérence and Louis Duc on Avis Immobilier have restarted after brief pit-stops to solve their issues.
Despite this the fleet is still close, even after the slingshot effect caused by the channel south of St Pierre, and the boats are sailing downwind propelled by a strong westerly. The vast ocean is now the new playing field and as the breeze is slowly shifting to the SSE, the Class40 fleet is split over more than 70 miles. This is the time when all the crews need to decide upon their most shrewd strategy to make the best of the remaining 2,000 miles to the finish line.
Geodis in front, Mare fights back
It only took a dozen or so hours to the Class40 fleet to leave the very last mark at St Pierre behind, before heading out to the Atlantic Ocean.
Following the Italian Open 50 Vento di Sardegna, that passed yesterday at 16:45 UTC, it was the turn of the Class40 leader Fabrice Amédéo on Geodis and his crew Armel Tripon, Loïc Le Garrec and Cyril de La Motte Rouge to sail past the waypoint positioned at Passe à Henry, a short stretch between Saint-Pierre and the islet of Grand Colombier.
They were followed Stéphane Le Diraison on IXBlue just six minutes later, under a overcast sky, in drizzling rain and fog but welcomed by several local spectators' boats.
At midnight Mare.de, skippered by German Joerg Riechers passed, on an impressively fast comeback made in strong westerlies, catching up on Le Diraison by staying north of the fleet, causing the pre-race favourite to jump back up to second. As American Ryan Breymaier pointed out in his daily blog: “One of the things I enjoy most about racing is the ease with which fortunes are reversed. After a very hard day losing miles yesterday, and the terminal death of our big kite just after rounding the scenic if not incredibly touristic St. Pierre, we were thinking we were done for... Fortunately the breeze filled in to a strength more to our liking and we spent the night kicking in winds up to 30 knots. We were down to two reefs and the small kite with a reef as well, but every reduction of sail only made us faster. We have managed to get back, having made up 30 miles overnight.”
The east to west fully crewed transatlantic race has thus started a new chapter in terms of tactics and performance, in the strong SSWerlies that are fast pushing the boats towards Europe and are causing the positions to keep changing at each successive report. Only four boats, among which those that sustained damages like Transport Cohérence (rudder issues) and Avis Immobilier (broken spinnaker and jib), are trailing more than 100 miles behind, but the other 16 teams cannot be signed out for a possible comeback, considering that the leader Geodis is separated from 16th placed Partouche only by 70 miles.
The race frontrunner Erwan Leroux's FenêtréA Cardinal is maintaining a solid lead and has already started pointing towards the Fastnet Rock, on a northerly course.
More north still is Vers un Monde sans Sida, the former ORMA 60 trimaran skippered by Erik Nigon that has been steadily reducing the gap. At the latest position report she was less than 100 miles behind Leroux, while Défi Saint-Malo Agglo looks to be opting for a more direct route and trails the leader by 266 miles.
Andrea Mura and his all-Italian crew's ambitions are well known: Vento di Sardegna aims at being the first monohull into Saint Malo, getting the line honours and possibly establishing a new reference time. Still duelling with the leading Class40, the 50 footer has not managed to slip away. On the other hand, for Mura's direct competitor Georges Leblanc on Océan Phénix, the route seems to be still a long one and the team from Québec is 90 miles from the Italian boat.
Top positions at 13:40 GMT
1 - Fabrice Amedeo – Geodis – Distance to finish 1984,5 nm
2 - Jorg Riechers – Mare – 13 nm to leader
3 - Stéphane Le Diraison – IXBlue – 16,2 nm to leader
1 - Erwan Le Roux - FenêtréA Cardinal 3 – Distance to finish 1672,9 nm 2 - Erik Nigon - Vers un Monde sans SIDA – 100,9 nm to leader
3 - Gilles Lamiré - Défi Saint-Malo Agglo – 266,7 nm to leader
4 - Andrea Mura – Vento di Sardegna – 179,7 nm to leader ( First Monohull)