Class40s underway again
The 26 Class40s are in the process of returning to the Transat Jacques Vabre race course, setting sail from Roscoff on the north Brittany coast in the early hours of this morning.
They left Roscoff in the order and deltas with which they arrived, with Sébastien Rogues and Fabien Delahaye on their Mach 40 GDF Suez first to leave followed by the Spanish duo Alex Pella and Pablo Santurde on Tales Santander 2014 and German Jörg Riechers and Pierre Brasseur on mare. By 0620 19 Class40s had left Roscoff but it will not be until 13:21:45 that the final boat, Eric Darni and Florent Bernard on Ecoelec-Fantronic, will leave.
At the latest sched GDF Suez was approaching the entrace of the Chenal du Four. The forecast looks set to benefit the frontrunners as the wind backs into the southwest on the nose to the north later this afternoon.
Yannick Bestaven, skipper of Watt & Sea Region Poitou Charentes, said: “The winds are not too bad this morning, 25 to 30 knots from the northwest and we are reaching towards the tip of Brittany. The wind will free and we will be under spinnaker in no time. The start was a bit early in the morning for such strong winds and it was so dark. It’s not easy but there you have it we are sailing for Brazil.”
Out at the front of the fleet, MOD 70s are now at the latitude of Cape St Vincent only they have now followed the curvature of the northeaster trade winds to make headway out into the Atlantic. With Edmond de Rothschild now 34 miles ahead of Oman Air and getting on for 300 miles to the west of the Portugese coast. The MOD 70s may decide to gybe south to get in stronger breeze.
Some 300 miles behind the MOD 70s, most of the Multi 50 and IMOCA 60 fleets are now out of the Bay of Biscay and the bad conditions too. With the Azores high shifting east, the wind is veering into the north and the boats are hugging the coast of Portugal to stay in the best pressure.
The IMOCA 60 and Multi 50 leaders are now half way down the Portugese coast. Impressively Francois Gabart and Michel Desjoyeaux on their IMOCA 60 MACIF are still ahead of the lead Multi 50s, where Arkema-Region Aquitaine, sailed by Lalou Roucayrol and Mayeul Riffet took the lead yesterday afternoon, with the Vendee Globe leader still 27 miles out in front. However now the Multi 50s are no longer fighting for their survival, MACIF time ahead of them is unlikely to last much longer and already the Multi 50s front runners are sailing some two knots faster.
In the Multi 50 class, Arkema is taking a more offshore course to Yves le Blevec and Kito de Pavant on Actual, in turn now 22 miles ahead of Erwan Leroux and Yann Eliès on third placed FenetreA Cardinal, which as Crepes Whaou! 3 won the 2009 race.
Among the IMOCA 60s, MACIF is fully kicking butt, now 47 miles ahead of Vincent Riou and Jean le Cam on PRB, in turn 10 miles ahead of Marc Guillemot and Pascal Bidégorry on Safran.
With boats of varying ages in both the IMOCA 60 and Multi 50 classes, something of a divide has already occurred between the boats now off the coast of Portugal and those still attempting to get past Cape Finisterre where the wind is still WNW. Thus in the former class there is now a 90 mile gap between Bertrand de Broc and Arnaud Boissières' seventh placed Votre Nom Autour du Monde and Italian Vendee Globe skipper Alessandro Di Benedetto and Alberto Monaco on Team Plastique. An even bigger split has developed in the Multi 50s where FenetreA Cardinal is now 160 miles ahead of fourth placed Rennes Metropole/Saint Malo Agglomeration, sailed by Gilles Lamiré and Andrea Mura.
From on board the IMOCA 60 Maitre CoQ, Jéremie Beyou reported: "It's been quieter now for a few hours. This feels like our reward at last because it was not easy. What was the toughest part was right in the middle of the Bay of Biscay where there was a massive squall line much more wind and an infernal sea, really tough and obviously MACIF were ahead of it. They got maximum success . Now we are into downwind conditions choosing between spinnaker and between code 0. It is good, the sea is calmer, it’s all good. Now we have to be careful not to get caught by the middle of the high pressure. The Portuguese coast is always the same : a transition between high pressure and depressions, here heavy clouds hang heavy and soft..."