Saturday, November 10, 2007

Tricky choices at the Transat Jacques Vabre

[Source: Transat Jacques Vabre] Whether it is in terms of weather or racing the future days look a bit hairy for the skipper. Doldrums, Canary Islands, Madeira are words that echoe like sunshine, warmth and blue waters,...At sea in the Transat Jacques Vabre, they also mean tactics, - more - manoueuvers, happiness or low mood at the rhythm of the polls. Above all, imagine the weather patterns you are used to in this place - and you, a sailor of experience who knows his way among them - but the 3-day forecasts you previously relied on have proved to be random for the last 7 days. Tricky. This “new” situation” made this race interesting for the crews, but difficult too when they wanted to make a decision to stay in the match. What kind of discussions were taking place on board and how tough it would be to stick with their decision when the result was being stuck in a wind hole, is difficult to assess. After 7 days at sea the race proved to be tiring as much as challenging. And it’s not finished !

MONOHULLS – IMOCA and Class 40

At 12:00 the 5 frontrunners of the Imoca fleet were within 10 miles of each other. Groupe Bel snatched a few places to grab 2nd place. At 4:00 p.m, there were only 4 boats within 4 miles! Safran still leading before Groupe Bel, and Ecover 3 (who gained one more place), Gitana Eighty slipping to 4th. The gap in miles has increased in 4 hours between 4th and the 8th other boats sailing within a hundred miles of the leader. Foncia for example has slipped down three places after putting further east in her route now sailing 25 miles away from Safran (10 miles at 12:00).

The other boats leading the pack are following each other after all passing through the Canary. Generali 9th, 119 miles away from Safran and Cheminées Poujoulat 7th – are following the same track whilst Brit’Air and Roxy chose to pass through Gran Canaria and Teneriffe on a more westerly route.

The boats are still manoeuvring in a North / North-easterly flow of 15 / 20 knots trying to adjust their sails (spinnaker or gennaker) to their route and the wind conditions.

Aviva has been loosing ground after being surprised by the wind changing direction, at her approach of Madera. They are now back on the hunt to retake the ground lost in the operation.

Approaching Madera the fleet of Class 40 is sailing in 10/12 knots negotiating in a mined area of patches without wind and they do not have much choice regarding their route. Apart from Sidaction, the first part of the fleet (say till “En avant les enfants ranked 13th) will leave Madera at their west trying to keep the benefit of the flow that fills their sails. Clarke Offshore racing who positioned herself at the west yesterday (at the west of the direct route as well of Sidaction) seems to put some east in her route in trying to get back on a more direct route. The rear of the fleet will probably reach the island only tomorrow.


Groupama sails now with a nice 302 mile lead (4 p.m.) over Gitana 11 who mentioned at the audio session today that apart some failure aboard the green trimaran the game seemed to be over but....

After Gitana 11, it is now Banque Populaire’s turn to make a pit stop. The crew has spent 50h at sea trying to reinforce the rudder they had broken earlier and were trying to avoid stopping. They finally decided to stop in Sal (Cape Verde) where their shore crew is now working. They do not know how long they will have to wait before they can set sail again. Pascal Bidegorry was extremely disappointed as this incident will cost him 2nd place in the race.

Sopra Group put the foot on the accelerator after deciding to sail closer to the African coast (more that 200 miles gained at 12:00) whilst Brossard who stayed on his route is losing more and more ground.

At 4:00 p.m. the pace of Crêpes Whaou! has slowed down to 9 knots (16 knots at 4:00) and even after stopping the boat in a sheltered area beneath Fuentaventura for 2 hours to send Karine Fauconnier up the mast, the overall leader of the class 50 still shows 194 miles of advance on her closest 2nd. It needs to be said that Laiterie de St Malo was caught in no wind sailing too close to Gran Canarias Islands. It looks like they are still battling up to get out of the trap.

In 3rd Croisières Anne Caseneuve is sailing at 14 knots but is situated well above the archipelago. Last of this Class DZ is sailing 736 miles behind and still have not sailed pass the Strait of Gibraltar.



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