MACIF back in front
In the Transat Jacques Vabre the inevitable has happened: Vendee Globe legends Francois Gabart and Michel Desjoyeaux on MACIF have regained the lead in the IMOCA 60 class. This came about after Vincent Riou and Jean le Cam took the previous IMOCA 60 leader on a brief pitstop in Mindelo on the island of Sao Vicente in the Cape Verde islands at 0645 UTC where the technical team of Jean-Marc Failler and Philippe Laor were poised to fit a new rudder blade.
PRB’s port rudder was damaged during the Monday night. The French duo seemed extremely motivated and now return to the Transat Jacques Vabre with their boat at 100% of its potential.
“We could not have done anything faster. Everything is good. We should not have lost too much in the rankings. This is certainly how we planned things.” Riou said as PRB left Mindelo. Fortunately the stopover didn't require too much of a diversion - it was on the way and as demonstrated by MACIF which passed to the south of Mindelo.
Approaching the West African island group, Michel Desjoyeaux reported from MACIF: "We are in the vicinity of the Cape Verde Islands. We can see the lights of Sao Vicente. We are 26 miles from the archipelago of Cape Verde. The trade wind has dropped a bit over night. As PRB passed between the islands we learned they stopped. You have to be careful of the wind shadows. I have been through the middle of the archipelago several times and there was always the wind. We decided to keep in touch with the leader, because there was a Transat Jacques Vabre winner a few years back who said he was stopping and he did not when the others had.
"There is still some distance to the Doldrums, but we are beginning to analyse. We watched the MOD70s and they chose different passages and it opens up the game. It works well on board, François spends a lot of time at the computer because he likes it - he does the routing."
Meanwhile the remainder of the top five - 70-100 miles behind MACIF in terms of DTF are forging a route which will leave the Cape Verdes to port.
Out in front, the two MOD70s passed into the southern hemisphere last night. Seb Josse and Charles Caudrelier on Edmond de Rothschild crossed the Equator first at 2030 UTC followed two hours later by Sidney Gavignet and Damian Foxall on Oman Air-Musandam.
Charles Caudrelier reported: "It's going great! We are into the southern hemisphere. It was hard work to get here but it's good but Brazil is in front of the boat! It was the worst Doldrums I have seen, lots of squalls, changes in direction, 35 knot gusts, it was more difficult in the west than for Oman Air-Musandam. Now we have 25 knots of southeasterly trade winds because it has veered over the last two hours and we’ll see between 25 and 30 knots. The sea is relatively flat, it's hot - almost too hot! In 10 to 12 hours we'll be off Recife and then it will be enjoyable. We are in great shape but we have made a big mistake in the Doldrums against Oman. I think Sidney and Damian will have a better angle in the coming hours - we will see." However this is only margin - Oman Air remains slightly further to the east.
Now fully out of the clutches of the Doldrums, the 70ft tris are into the southeasterly trades enabling them to resume making speeds into the high 20s. Getting into the trades the boats have also put into a sharp turn to the west, closer to the great circle, a route which looks set to cause them to shave Recife, the easternmost tip of Brazil.
The forecast indicates that the trade should carry the MOD70s past Rio, but between there and the finish some 350 miles further up the track, a significant looking high pressure ridge is developing that will provide a final hurdle for the boats. They are expected into Itajaì on the 19th, but the finish looks set to be a light one.
Next due into the Doldrums are the Multi 50 tris, the leader having passed west of the Cape Verdes overnight. Here Erwan Leroux and Yann Eliès on leader FenetreA Cardinal have extended their lead over Yves le Blevec and Kito de Pavant on Actual from 83 to 113 miles over the last 24 hours. The Doldrums are currently looking more active than when the MOD70s passed through and if they hold their course they look set to enter them at around 27°W, which is even further east than where Oman Air crossed.
Erwan Leroux commented on their progress: "We thought we were a bit affected by the wind shadow of Cape Verde but not really we passed without much problem. We made some good averages yesterday and last night but for an hour now the wind begins to ease.
The Doldrums are quite high (north) and wide. I think it went well for the MODs but it will be more complicated for us. We'll see tonight.”
Behind, the Class40s remain fanned out over the ocean with the lead Mach 40s some 280 mile west of Louis Duc and Stéphanie Alran, who are doing a remarkable job on their Akilaria Phoenix Europe. Latitude-wise, the leaders are now halfway Madeira and the Canary Islands, still relishing the big 20+ knot northeasterly trade winds, which, according to the GRIBs, are a little more backed for Phoenix Europe.
Out in the west, Sébastien Rogues and Fabien Delahaye on GDF Suez have maintained their lead of 35 miles over mare, sailed by German Jörg Riechers and his French co-skipper, Pierre Brasseur. They have extended slightly on Damien Seguin and Yoann Richomme on third placed ERDF-Des Pieds et des Mains, while, still holding fourth place, Halvard Mabire and Miranda Merron on their much campaigned Campagne de France have taken 12 miles out of their deficit on the leader over the last 24 hours, now 115 miles behind and with Seguin and Richomme just 12 miles ahead of them. Mike Gascoyne and Brian Thompson on Caterham Challenge have dropped a place, from 11th to 12th as they have been busy fixing a tear in their mainsail.
Pierre Brasseur reported from mare earlier: "It's great it was a magical night, the boat goes fast well. The wind has eased a little , it was about 25 knots and the sea calmed down and we can reall push it in the waves. These are ideal conditions for good speed in the waves with a beautiful moon. We are going quick and we take advantage! But we see from the last positions that GDF will as well."