Musandam-Oman Sail gets the jump

Sidney Gavignet's team 17.6 miles ahead en route to Gib

Friday September 21st 2012, Author: James Boyd, Location: none selected

Image above courtesy of Expedition/PredictWind

Positions at 1530 UTC

Pos Boat Skipper Lat Long Spd Crs DTF DTL
          30 min aver      
1 MUSANDAM-OMAN SAIL Sidney Gavignet 36 08.49' N 5 54.81' W 14.5 101 806.5 0
2 RACE FOR WATER Steve Ravussin 36 13.07' N 6 16.08' W 12.6 131 823.9 17.5
3 FONCIA Michel Desjoyeaux 36 18.59' N 6 22.33' W 21.3 125 830.8 24.3
4 GROUPE EDMOND DE ROTHSCHILD Sebastien Josse 36 18.98' N 6 23.75' W 19.9 125 832 25.5
5 SPINDRIFT RACING Yann Guichard 36 20.16' N 6 28.71' W 16.1 121 836.1 29.7

Since pulling into the lead around midnight last night when they were the first to gybe east to pass Cape St. Vincent, Musandam-Oman Sail has continued to make the best of the difficult conditions compared to her rivals today. As a result, while lying midway across the Bay of Cadiz at the 1230 UTC sched, the Omani crew had extended to 17.6 miles ahead of second placed Race for Water, by far the biggest lead a boat has managed pull out so far in the whole of the 2012 MOD70 European Tour.

"Last night at the tip of Cape St. Vincent, the breeze began to drop,” reported Gavignet. “We tried to play the wind shifts, to find the right angle to go from puff to puff and that paid - we immediately pulled out a small gap on the other boats.”

For all five MOD70 crews, the early hours of this morning were taxing as they repeatedly gybed southeast to make the most of the shifts, while also attempting to extract themselves from the southeast corner of a ridge of high pressure converging with the west coast of Portugal.

But once again the Omani MOD70 crew made the boldest tactical move, carrying on east into the Bay of Cadiz and soon were being chased by their four rivals. At around midday with the breeze dying ahead of her, Musandam-Oman Sail was the only boat to put in a hitch south. At the time of the 1230 UTC sched, when Gavignet reported they were sailing upwind in 14 knot southeasterlies, Musandam-Oman Sail had not only pulled out her impressive lead, but was sailing at least five knots faster than the boats to her north, or consistently three knots faster than second placed Race for Water over the previous three hours.

While the Omani team’s performance is impressive there will be no opportunity to rest on their laurels for conditions ahead are set to get much more troublesome. At the 1230 UTC sched Musandam-Oman Sail had 66 miles to go before she entered the Strait of Gibraltar and conditions looked set to remain upwind all the way there. As Gavignet forecast: “We should keep this easterly wind until the approach to Gibraltar early this evening, when it will become very light. And in the Alboran Sea, it will be even lighter!”

With Race For Water holding second, at present the two boats at the bottom of the MOD70 European Tour’s overall scoreboard are leading what seems likely to be a snakes and ladders leg to Marseille.

Behind the leaders the race for third remains as tight as we have come to expect in this anti-clockwise lap of the European coastline between the 70ft one design trimarans with just two miles separating overall leader FONCIA in third from fifth placed Spindrift racing.

As FONCIA skipper, double Vendee Globe winner Michel Desjoyeaux, summarised this afternoon: “At the moment, things are complicated, the wind is not as forecast, so we are very indecisive! Fortunately, we have two rivals to play with, and strong rivals at that, with Gitana [Groupe Edmond de Rothschild] ahead and Spindrift [racing] breathing down our neck... There is still a way to go with a number of transitions ahead to negotiate, which will deliver their share of surprises...”

As the boats reach the Strait of Gibraltar this evening, the southeast wind is forecast to drop off leaving the trimarans at the mercy of the currents as they attempt to avoid the traffic separation schemes and the heavy commercial maritime traffic passing through these restricted waters. And then into the Alboran Sea, to the east of the Strait, the wind is set to disappear altogether tomorrow.

17.6 miles is a useful cushion for Sidney Gavignet and his crew, but with this forecast it means little.

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