Mabire and Merron into the lead
2008 Transat Québec Saint-Malo winner and race veteran Halvard Mabire together with his co-skipper Miranda Merron and crew Christian Bouroullec on Campagne de France have taken command of the Class40 fleet while Erwan Le Roux on FenêtréA Cardinal 3 is less than 880 miles to the finish, heading to the Fastnet Rock and 50ft Vento di Sardegna skippered by Italian Andrea Mura is leading the monohull charge towards Saint Malo.
The fleet's progress is being affected by the passage of a very active cold front that has forced the competitors to sail in very testing conditions for all, but mostly for the Class40s.
Strategy is paramount as surely knows yesterday's leader Stéphane Le Diraison on IXBlue whose northern option has proved to be very costly, with the team falling back to 11th, around 120 miles from the frontrunners. The leading quartet, that chose a more southern route, is also closer to getting into the strong southwesterlies that will propel them to the finish line, now some 1,400 miles away.
Huge gaps among the Class40s
The Class 40 fleet is no longer sailing in a close pack, with distances increasing both to the finish and laterally, while a group of four boats is creating a wider and wider gap on the rest of the competitors.
Halvard Mabire and Miranda Merron's Campagne de France is the new leader since last night, followed by Sébastien Rogues on Eole Generation GDF-SUEZ and German Jöerg Richers on Mare.de, who has managed to stay in third despite having broken the big spinnaker that will no doubt be of great use when the breeze will start to turn to the west.
The fourth boat of this 'band of four' is Fabrice Amedeo on Geodis who, at the latest position report, is 20/5 miles from the leader.
The chasing group is a further 40 miles behind and is led by Aurélien Ducroz on Latitude Neige-Longitude Mer, who is still waiting to reach the southwesterly the leaders have been sailing in for a few hours.
Some ten boats are trailing Ducroz, spread over 85 miles and a new split is starting to appear, with US David Rearick on Bodacious Dream 190 miles back and unfortunate Benoit Parnaudeau on Transport Cohérence, 300 miles behind the top boat. According to the latest weather forecast the low pressure system could push the Class 40s quickly towards Saint Malo, where the first boats could get as soon as next Saturday in the early hours.
Le Roux heading to the Fastnet Rock
Well ahead of the rest of the teams, Erwan Le Roux's Multi50 trimaran FenêtréA Cardinal 3 seems to have complete command of the situation and maintains a steady, fast pace, already with less than 880 miles to go to the finish, reporting long surfs at 20+ knots.
The trimaran crew decided to gybe to stay well north of the Azores high, in a strong westerly breeze in order to head towards the Fastnet Rock - their last mark of the course before the finish. But a small high pressure ridge between Ireland and the Brittany coast could slow them down and their ETA may slip back from Monday night.
The leading multi is the only boat that has successfully escaped the worst of the front, managing to stay just off the centre of the low pressure system. Erik Nigon on Vers un Monde sans Sida is just about to break free of an area of shifty and variable winds in which he was trapped for more than 36 hours, a situation that allowed the ORMA 60 trimaran Défi Saint-Malo Agglo skippered by Gilles Lamiré to close the gap on him.
Italian skipper Andrea Mura on the 50ft monohull Vento di Sardegna has opted for a different strategy and is on a more direct course to Saint Malo, which also allowed him to overtake the leading Class40 from the first time after getting out of the St Lawrence and has some 20 miles advantage on Campagne de France.
Top position report on July 29th at 13:40 GMT
1 – Halvard Mabire – Campagne de France – Distance to finish 1457,2 nm
2 – Sèbastien Rogues - Eole Generation - GDF SUEZ– 13,4 nm to leader
3 - Jorg Riechers – Mare– 17,5 nm to leader
4 - Fabrice Amedeo – Geodis – 20,5 nm to leader
1 - Erwan Le Roux - FenêtréA Cardinal 3 – Distance to finish 878,2 nm
2 - Erik Nigon - Vers un Monde sans SIDA – 535nm to leader
3 - Andrea Mura – Vento di Sardegna – Distance to finish 1,436 nm (First Monohull)
4 - Gilles Lamiré - Défi Saint-Malo Agglo – 569,2 nm to leader