Musandam-Oman Sail takes the lead
At approximately half stage of the MOD70 European Tour's second leg from Dun Laoghaire to Cascais, having sailed more than 550 miles since Sunday afternoon's start, the one design trimaran fleet remains tight, but this morning has seen a dramatic lead change.
Last night the top four were separated by less than two miles at one point, after the chasing pack took miles out of the leader when Spindrift Racing fell into a nasty hole in the breeze which slowed them to nine knots while all of their main rivals were still making 20 knots.
As Guichard described it: “We were powerless because as well as the lighter winds, there was a sloppy sea: there was no more than than six to nine knots of breeze.”
In the early hours of this morning, the entire fleet gybed with the wind veering into the north as they drop down the east side of an area of high pressure off the Bay of Biscay. At around 0400 with the wind 15-18 knots from the northeast all of the top four boats were making 20-22 knots and Guichard’s crew had extended again slightly, albeit with less than five miles between the top four in terms of DTF.
From on board Spindrit Racing Yann Elies reported: “We gybed an hour and a half ago because the wind turned sharply to the right. Now we are getting into warmer waters and that is nice because I have the fleece off now. We don’t really know how it’s going to finish because there its very uncertain what the wind will do in terms of strength and direction over the next few hours. We have seen our rivals come back at us since yesterday afternoon. It’s all a bit tense on Spindrift Racing.”
Some 175 miles NW of Cape Finisterre this morning Spindrift Racing has Foncia to her northeast by some 3.7 miles but Yann Guichard, skipper of the leading boat, said that he was more concerned about Musandam-Oman Sail which is at the same latitude but which is some 12 miles to the west having left her gybe until later.
And Guichard's fear were confirmed at the 0631 UTC sched when the Omani trimaran surged into the lead sailing at 27 knots, some three knots faster that Spindrift.
Though their progress was good, heading on a SSE course in towards the west coast of Spain, the breeze was forecast to lighten after daybreak as they get trapped in the light winds between a very weak depression currently centred some 500 miles due west of Lisbon and the Portugese coast. As a result Guichard said that they remain a little unsure as to whether they would be better sticking to the coast or if heading offshore would prove better.
"There will be areas of erratic pressure and so we took the chance to rest," said Guichard. "We had only two people on deck at times yesterday to be ready and rested for this final stretch to Cascais.”
In view of the light winds forecast Race Committee has shortened course. After passing Cascais the MOD70 trimarans were due to continue south down past Cape Saint Vincent and were due to turn at Lagos off Portugal's Algarve coast. Now the turn will be at Sines some 50 miles to the south of Cascais. With this factored in their present ETA, according to Guichard is tomorrow afternoon.
Guichard continued: "This transition zone extends over a hundred miles and our progress will depend entirely on getting across it. There is Finisterre to negotiate and just now and currently there is no wind along the Portuguese coast: there are a lot of pitfalls on the road! Normally, the breeze will settle again tomorrow night but today is difficult...
“At present we are making 20-23 knots, but it is difficult to go fast as the wind is very unstable and the helmsman has to work hard not to drive too low on the course and it is not easy because we have not much moon, but the sea, fortunately is beginning to calm flatten out.
“Two boats are a bit downwind of us, offshore: they managed to get higher before the jibe and it allowed them to get outside. And Race for Water was handicapped by its technical problem which is a bit slowed, but it can come back at us today.
“The wind will ease off at dawn turning towards the East-North-East but nothing is really safe. We'll have to get the balance right between taking risks and covering the opposition.”
Standings at 0430 UTC
1 Spindrift racing, EUR (Yann Guichard FRA) 673.3 miles to finish
2 Musandam-Oman Sail, OMA (Sidney Gavignet FRA) +3.7 miles
3 FONCIA, FRA (Michel Desjoyeaux FRA) +3.9 miles
4 Groupe Edmond de Rothschild FRA (Sébastien Josse FRA) + 4.6 miles
5 Race for Water SUI (Stève Ravussin SUI) +16.8 miles