Benoit Stichelbaut / Sea & Co / MOD

Spindrift Racing takes the lead

Light winds strike the MOD European Tour trimarans

Monday September 3rd 2012, Author: Andi Robertson, Location: none selected

After a thrilling exit Sunday afternoon from Kiel, Germany, a high speed chase through the islands to the east of Denmark, an interlude of 27-30 knot headwinds potentially boat breaking conditions off Skagen point at the north corner, the leaders of Leg 1 of the MOD70 European Tour are now set to have their first ever real encounter - as a racing fleet -with very, very light winds.

Through the first 24 hours of this opening stage from Kiel to Dublin, via the English Channel, the fleet had already covered more than 450 of the 1238 miles, enjoying sustained bursts of 32-34 knots through the islands in the dark of Sunday evening, but an elongated high pressure system centred over the south of England and extending into the North Sea looks set to offer an entirely new challenge for the crews.

Winds over the next 24 hours may be as light as two or three knots for the new fleet of one design trimaran speedsters.

The only similarity to July’s remarkable high speed Transatlantic dash, the Krys Ocean Race is that the same top three boats are presently led, again, by Yann Guichard’s Spindrift Racing, which managed to pass Michel Desjoyeaux’s Foncia in the small hours of Monday morning.

“In an area where the wind died down for a few miles, we were expecting it to come back and did not set more sail. And it didn’t….so the bolder Spindrift took the chance to overtake us,” recalled Desjoyeaux today.

Spindrift stayed some four miles further off the Danish coast and managed to power pass Foncia to earn a lead, which they had grown to five miles by Monday afternoon. Seb Josse’s Groupe Edmond de Rothshild lay third, just 14.2 miles behind the leaders, on the same SWerly track.

The passage down and across the North Sea into the Channel had already seen Race for Water – with the combined talents of Stève Ravussin, Franck Cammas and Thomas Coville in play – making an early move to the northwest from their trailing position, seeking to try and stay with the remnants of the breeze for longer by avoiding the centre of the ridge.

Mid-afternoon Monday the leading duo still had some 175 miles to make to the entrance and were progressively slowing, ready to deal with the slalom of marks and buoys marking out shipping lanes, wind farms, oil platforms, which Desjoyeaux calls the ‘Pas de Calais gymkhana’

Race for Water’s 25 mile hitch to the northwest was matched a few hours later by fourth placed Musandam-Oman Sail. Sidney Gavignet’s crew were just under 50 miles off the lead, ruing some small mistakes during the first night, but all well aware that there are at least three major transition zones where the fleet is likely to compact again before they reach Dublin.

Recent weather models show it might be Tuesday afternoon or early evening before a more stable northwesterly breeze returns for the MOD70s, so patience and focus will be tested to the extreme over coming hours. ETA Dublin is still late Wednesday, early Thursday but that may be ambitious given the evolution of the weather over the next few days.

Brian Thompson on Musandam-Oman Sail reported mid-morning: “We are off the coast of Denmark going upwind on port tack in 18 knots of breeze with a full main and the big jib, the Solent up, with reasonably flat seas and everything is good on board. It is looking like it will be upwind all the way across the North Sea so it will be very strategic. Race for Water tacked before us but we have three boats in front of us who have not tacked yet, so it looks like we can split across the North Sea and it will be interesting and there are light winds expected so all to play for.

"It was a great start in Kiel with so many people turning out to see us and hopefully we put on a good show. And it was really fast sailing last night through the Danish islands. The highlight was passing Race for Water about ten metres off when we were doing 33 knots and they were doing a sail change, just above them just as they were finishing their sail change. The leaders got away from us a little bit but there is a long way to go.”

Michel Desjoyeaux, skipper of Foncia, added: “After starting out with a fanfare from Kiel, pocketing three nice 3 bonus points, the climb to the point of Denmark saw us making good speed on a flat sea, a good time to slide along at speed. For 300 miles up to the Cape we managed to hold on to our opponents, but in an area where the wind died down a few miles we were expecting it to come back and did not set more sail. So the bolder Spindrift took the chance to overtake us.

"The passage between Denmark and Norway was made upwind on a long tack along the coast in 30kts of wind and a short sea and so it was not easy to go fast, it slammed a lot. As it went NW the wind began to soften. The sea is flatter, it's really nice in the sun with organised watches on board Foncia. We should see the first course mark of the Pas de Calais gymkana in a couple of hours, and after the wind dies away tonight we might be here a while”

Standings at 1230 Monday

1-Spindrift Racing (Yann Guichard, EUR) at 780,4 miles from Dun Laoghaire
2-Foncia (Michel Desjoyeaux, FRA) at 5,5 miles from leader
3-Groupe Edmond de Rothschild (Sébastien Josse, FRA) at 14,2 miles from leader
4-Musandam-Oman Sail (Sidney Gavignet, FRA) at 49,3 miles from leader
5-Race for Water (Stève Ravussin, SUI) at 70,6 miles from leader


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