Pitstop for PRB
As the Cape Verde Islands loom up ahead of the Transat Jacques Vabre's IMOCA 60, which side to pass them is the key question today. It was confirmed late this afternoon that leader PRB would make a technical stop in the island group to repair a rudder. In the MOD70 fleet both trimarans are out of the Doldrums ready to take their enduring match race into the southern hemisphere tomorrow. And in Class 40 GDF Suez holds firm in the lead.
The PRB team issued the following news this evening: “Vincent Riou and Jean Le Cam are 190 miles from Cape Verde. They are going to make the most of the proximity of the islands to make a technical stop. The PRB duo discovered overnight on Monday that their port rudder is damaged This problem has not affected the overall performance because they have been sailing on a port tack. However for the rest of the race, it is absolutely necessary to make a repair. The technical team of PRB is already on site on the Cape Verde island of Sao Vicente and expects the Open 60 in the middle of tonight. The repair should be done very quickly. This pit stop, according to the routing specialists, will take PRB off their course by just a few miles.”
MOD70 Out of the Pot (Au Noir) and into the Fire?
For the MOD70s, the Doldrums appear not to have held too much in the way of stress. Both Edmond de Rothschild (Sébastien Josse and Charles Caudrelier) and Oman Air-Musandam (Sidney Gavignet and Damian Foxall) were back up to speed this afternoon with little change in their ranking. But Gavignet and Foxall have managed to position themselves about 100 miles to the east of their rivals, which may prove useful leverage as they drive south in the southeasterly trade winds.
Multi50s: Roucayrol and Riffet on board tug
At around 1100 UTC this morning it was confirmed that the two skippers Lalou Roucayrol and Mayeul Riffet have been successfully taken off their upturned trimaran Arkema-Region Aquitaine and are on board the Portuguese tug WEST. An attempt to turn the trimaran upright is expected to be made this afternoon.
It is some eighty five hours since their Multi50 trimaran capsized 200 miles west of Cascais on Sunday night around 2200 UTC and so the two French skippers have spent over three and a half days and in fact four nights inside the cramped, flooded 4m² of the upturned hull of the boat. Aboard WEST both skippers along with the whole crew of the tug will try to right the trimaran. The technique is to ballast the stern (to sink it into the water) and then attach two straps to the front of the central hull of the trimaran and then pull the boat at low speed. The back sinks slowly , thanks to 4 tonnes of water ballast and the boat is turned slowly end over end 180°. It is a complex operation, especially in the prevailing wind and seas – a big cross swell - and so success is not guaranteed.
Class40: Cascais, Revolving Doors?
The Marina de Cascais was almost working on ‘a one in-one out’ basis this afternoon. Solidarité en Peloton (Victorian Erussard / Thibaut Vauchel –Camus) was leaving this afternoon after repairing sails and replacing their wind wand, while almost at the same time Dunkerque Planet Enfants (Thomas Ruyant /Bruno Jourdren) arrived in to meet an ambulance which was waiting to take Jourdren, a Paralympic medallist, to hospital to examine the knee he injured yesterday afternoon.
Ruyant and Jourdren announced their abandonment early this evening.
The lead of the Class 40 fleet remains the exclusive domain of GDF Suez (Sébastien Rogues/Fabien Delahaye) and Germany’s mare (Jörg Riechers/Pierre Brasseur ) but the chasing pack have slowly been catching miles.
In third, ERDF Des Pieds et Des Mains (Damien Seguin/Yoann Richomme) has taken a few miles back while Britain’s Miranda Merron and her French counterpart Halvard Malbire on Campagne de France are seeing the benefits of their ability to push the boat they know so well in the hard downwind conditions, requiring a lot of helming. They are up to fourth, 30 miles behind third.
“I’ve just woken up, so not sure how we have managed to catch up so much, I’ve been asleep for two days and so it is all down to Miranda!” joked Mabire. “Seriously, we are comfortable in downwind sailing and not scared of pushing the boat in this. We are sailing under spinnaker. We got stuck at Cape Finisterre and suffered in that the calm before the storm, then got caught out by surprise in the storm but after we changed the genoa for the spinnaker and have been sailing with it ever since.”
Caterham Challenge, sailed by Mike Gascoyne and Brian Thompson, were on a charge yesterday, quickest in the fleet at times, but a big gybe last night ripped their mainsail and the British duo were in ‘sail-loft’ mode today, giving away some speed while their main was down.
Thompson told the live Radio Vacs with Race HQ in Paris today: “We got a rip nearly the whole length of the mainsail from luff to leach quite high up so we are having fun today repairing that. So we are a little slower.
"The race has been fantastic. It is great racing with Mike. The level of the fleet is brilliant. We have been back and forth but always trying to be with this front group. It has fascinating and really divers conditions. One day we had flat calm off Finisterre and in the afternoon we had 35kts of wind. We have upwind and then a couple of days of fantastic downwind conditions. We are really enjoying it and had a great day yesterday as the fastest boat in the fleet. Now we are not!
"Mike has been briliant, he uses his competitiveness, his intelligence and general knowledge of sailing. He is really right into everything on the boat. He is a very smart guy.
"Without the hours of going slowly so far we would have been up to fourth or fifth. We were definitely coming back in the fleet doing two or three knots faster than the rest of the fleet yesterday. So it is annoying to be losing time.
Gascoyne, competing in his first ever shorthanded offshore race, added: “We are pretty sure we will get the mainsail up and running soon. We are both doing the repair, good teamwork, but it is a shame because we were absolutely flying. We really felt we could get to the front of the chasing pack. I am loving it. Racing is racing.
"We knew the first couple of days would be tough for us as a new team with a new boat, Brian did not know the boat. We knew the first few days would be challenging and they are so critical.
"We have always been managing to catch up that front group. I have had cars stop before and then go on and so we have to get it fixed and get racing again.”
IMOCA 60s… Our lips are sealed?
Lips were firmly sealed among the IMOCA Open 60 fleet when the question was posed as to which side they would leave the Cape Verde islands which lay 200 miles down the track directly on their course. Indeed not only is the question which side to leave the islands, but – indeed – whether anyone may take the chance stop. And late in the afternoon it was confirmed that PRB will stop to repair an unspecified rudder problem.
Such is the usual psychological gamesmanship among the very closely knit group of skippers at the top of the fleet. Of course the top five boats all train together out of Port La Fôret but no one was giving anything away this afternoon. Vendée Globe winner François Gabart was quick to push the technical stop question of rivals PRB on Twitter.
Christopher Pratt, co-skipper on Maitre CoQ said: “We should get to the Cape Verde Islands in around 30 hours and it is an important point of passage and usually the entry to the Doldrums. We don’t really have a strategy yet because it will depend on how we handle these squalls.”
And Safran’s Pascal Bidégorry added: “It is just very difficult to know what to do between the Canaries and Cape Verde Islands. The weather just keeps changing. We have to be aggressive because the others have a good lead at the moment.”
And while PRB continued to lead this afternoon by 18 miles over MACIF (Francois Gabart and Michel Desjoyeaux) so too there is a great battle going on between eighth, ninth and tenth between Energa (‘Gutek’ Gutowski and Matiej Marcewski), Team Plastique (Alessandro di Bendetto and Alberto Monaco) and Initiatives Coeur (Tanguy de Lamotte and Francois Damien) were only ten miles apart in terms of DTF.