Multi 50s eye Itajai
The complexion of the Transat Jacques Vabre's IMOCA 60 race has changed overnight with the sad dismasting of Francois Gabart and Michel Desjoyeaux's leader, MACIF. At present the reason for the dismasting remains unclear, however her crew are okay and with the mast cut away they are now heading for Salvador de Bahia, some 140 miles away.
Meanwhile the Multi50s are past Cabo Frio to the east of Rio and are now on the final push to the finish in Itajaí. While there is no trough to cross, as the MOD70s experienced, the trade winds appear to still be strong but in the northeasterlies the inshore or direct route to the finish is effectively in the lee of Cabo Frio and so there is evidently more breeze offshore. And so the Multi 50s front duo are taking different routes accordingly. Erwan Leroux and Yann Eliès on leader FenetreA Cardinal are taking an offshore route, whereas Yves le Blevec and Kito de Pavant on Actual are on more of a direct route and have managed to reclaimed miles - 23 miles at 1830 UTC yesterday, down to 14 at the latest sched, with the latter having sailed an average of 5 knots faster over the last two hours. So watch this space...
With MACIF out of the competition, so PRB, sailed by IMOCA class legends Vincent Riou and Jean le Cam, have now regained the lead with a comfortable 62 mile lead over second placed Safran, sailed by Marc Guillemot and Pascal Bidégorry, but who in turn are more or less neck and neck with Jeremie Beyou and Christophe Pratt, on MACIF's sistership Maitre Coq. All three boats are now past the latitude of Salvador de Bahia with just over 1000 miles left to race.
Weather-wise in the south Atlantic, there is an area of high pressure centred at the latitude of Uruguay but a depresison is just in the process of exiting the mouth of the River Plate between Urugary and Argentina. Tomorrow another front associated with a depression in the Southern Ocean is setting up between Itajai and Cabo Frio. This front edges east over the course of tomorrow night and into Saturday allowing an area of high pressure to fill in behind it. So despite all this activity, by the time the lead IMOCA 60s are into this area, the weather scenario won't be overly different to the present one for the Multi 50s, only that there appears to be even more strength in the breeze offshore as they sail the final leg to Itajaí.
Over the last few days as the boats have taken on the Doldrums, so the fleet has clustered and behind the lead four IMOCA 60s remains the remainder of the IMOCA 60 and Multi 50, who are reasonably tightly grouped and approaching the Brazilian coast.
Still to the north of the Equator, the Class40s have been tackling the Doldrums over the last 24 hours. Unfortunately for the smallest sized boats in the race the Doldrums appear to have been a bit wider than they were for the fleets ahead of them, spanning 4-6°N. It appears that the lead two Mach 40s are in the process of emerging, with Sébastien Rogues and Fabien Delahaye on perennial leader GDF Suez having taken a route more to the east of Jörg Riechers and Pierre Brasseur on mare. As a result the Franco-German team has managed to close in to just 19 miles of the race leader, from 42 this time yesterday. However GDF Suez remains further to the south and in theory should be first to get into the solidifying SSEerly breeze marking the exit to the ITCZ. Increasingly threatening is also the third placed Tales Santander 2014 which has closed from 78 miles to 45 miles off the leader in the last 24 hours.
“The satellite images show the Doldrums are all the way to the Equator,” warned Fabien Delahaye.