Actual back in front
FenetreA-Cardinal became the first victim of what looks to be a complicated and difficult passage of the Doldrums for the Multi50 class in the Transat Jacques Vabre. Slowing right back to two knots today, the leading French duo, Erwan Le Roux and Yann Elies, have lost the best part of 100 miles since last night to Actual. Yves Le Blevec and Kito de Pavant on Actual was able to regain the lead in the early afternoon rankings.
The MOD70s are well within the final 1000 miles to the Itajai finish, but those last miles could prove decisive. First there is the cyclogenesis zone off Cape Frio – where low pressures spin off the coast – and then the last stretch in to the finish is likely to be light, cloudy, shifty and all in all slightly random.
Off Salvador de Bahia today, the lead of Edmond de Rothschild, the MOD70 sailed by Sebastien Josse and Charles Caudrelier has looked very solid for some days, but has also been severely trimmed by their opponents Oman Air-Musandam. The strategy of taking a more easterly passage through the Doldrums seems to be paying now for the French-Irish duo of Sidney Gavignet and Damian Foxall who are now less than 40 miles behind and sailing slightly quicker.
Gavignet and Foxall are certainly in shape and right up for the final fight, as Gavignet observed: "We are through the worst just now and it is easier. The sea is relatively flatter and with the Wind we have it is going well. We have managed to reduce the gap a little to Edmond de Rothschild. How did we do it? (laughs)... Well we probably had more wind think. We are 46 miles apart now . We are always steering, always on deck.
"In the next 24 hours, the scenario is perfect in terms of the wind with a small depression in the Bay of Rio which means gybing, opening up the game until the end - until a few miles before the finish! We try be at the maximum for the near future."
There is no such significant change in the IMOCA 60 class where MACIF, sailed by Vendée Globe winners Francois Gabart and Michel Desjoyeaux, is on the most direct, rhumb line course, 23 miles ahead of PRB. The leaders in this class will be watching the evolution of the Doldrums and in particular how the Multi 50s fair. They are 180 miles – or 10 hours - ahead of them.
From Maitre CoQ, Jeremie Beyou commented: "We have opened the gap with our nearest rivals. We worked the squalls and gusts a bit more than Safran and Cheminees Poujoulat. I think that last night we did a little more than they did and got. Conditions are optimal for great surfing! We have between 23 and 28 knots of wind, we sailed at 120°AWA so we were sailing at 20-22 knots, which is cool the boats are fully loaded at this angle of the wind, so it goes fast but we must be careful. We will tackle the Doldrums shortly. We will try to do something good. Significant clouds are already in sight, so it will be difficult to predict."
While the leading positions in Class40 continue to be monopolised by the Mach 40 duo of GDF Suez (Rogues and Delahaye) and mare (Riechers and Brasseur), Briton Miranda Merron and her French counterpart Halvard Mabire on Campagne de France currently have the better of ERDF des Pieds et des Mains (Seguin and Richomme) for the moment, rising to third overall but the two boats are less than one mile apart on the water after nine days of racing.
There is no let up in pace when there are such private battles as an added spur, and just as Campagne de France and ERDF press each other ever harder, so also Alex Pella and Pablo Santurde on Tales Santander 2014 are enjoying tight racing with Watt & Sea (Bestaven and Ducroz) which is four miles behind them.
Speaking today on live radio with Race HQ in Paris, Pella confirmed that the Spanish duo are very happy with the speed of their very new boat which they are only now getting an extended chance to learn. They are well to the West of the rhumb line and – Pella said today – will need to get back to the east to avoid the worst of a Doldrums minefield up ahead.
Italians Stefano Raspadori and Pietro dÀli revealed that they will stop in Tenerife imminently to make a repair to their mainsail track on Fantastica.