Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Welcome to Cape Finisterre!

[Source: Transat Jacques Vabre] Artemis dismasted off Cape Finistere. Jonny & Graham are safe and sound. Most of the skippers have been desperately seeking the slightest puff of wind since the start. Starting yesterday, the weather conditions changed radically as they sailed down the Bay of Biscay. They had to deal with up to 25-30 knots in rough seas. If such weather conditions usually need to be handled with caution, it is even more true for the newer boats. Not only because of the possible material breakage, but also because the skippers need to haul the right sails (as mentioned yesterday the sail range is not yet known) to keep the boat manageable and competitive. It seems most of the crews found the right balance between pushing the boat and keeping her within her “safe limit” with a foot on the break. Artemis told us at midday they had reduced the sails after two broaches and a massive wave laying the boat on her side. News of her dismasting came in at 17:00, The wind is gradually filling up in the Bay of Biscay to push the rest of the fleet to Cape Finisterre where the conditions are rough. The Orma is now level with the Imoca, which set out one day earlier and should pass them overnight.

MONOHULLS – IMOCA and Class 40

The speeds on the ranking sheet of the Transat Jacques Vabre gradually increased since yesterday starting with the Imoca fleet. After her great escape, Safran was within sight of her runners up, Foncia and Gitana Eighty, after a lead of 40 miles or so yesterday. The ranking of the three boats are changing with the rhythm of the jibes. At 4 p.m. the Verdier – VPLP design was 10 miles ahead of Foncia, with Gitana Eighty chasing the leader 30.7 miles behind. Gitana Eighty, Ecover 3, VM Materiaux and Goupe Bel opted for a westerly route to avoid falling into a lower-pressure ridge to the south – along the Portuguese coast. Ecover 3, which sailed closer to the coast to pass Cape Finisterre, lost ground and is now ranked 6th after grabbing 2nd place yesterday at the 8 p.m. ranking.

This morning Roxy, Artemis and Aviva were still holding their positions in the middle of the fleet at 12:00, between 100 and 140 miles behind the leader.

At the vacation today Jonny was mentioning two broaches and a huge wave laying the boat on her side in 25-28 knots of wind. The two skippers reduced their sail area but were expecting the wind to increase up to 30 knots tonight. Jonny and Graham are shattered but safe, according to the Artemis press release, after the mast broke close to the deck and fell forward onto the boat, along with the boom and the sail. Artemis is heading toward the Spanish town of Vigo, which is 100 miles east.

Three foreign crews are now leading the 40-footer fleet. Telecom Italia is so far sailing a very clean race (not ranked at the 4 p.m. poll). Fujifilm jumped from 5th to 2nd (12 p.m. poll) at the ranking after choosing a route closer to Cape Finisterre coast. All the boats that followed that option are up a few places in the ranking now.

The most impressive gains were for boats that kept closer to the direct route ( ATAO, Novedia - Set) doing better VMG (Velocity Made Good) even though their boat speeds were a bit lower than the boats in front of them

The first boats of this class should reach Cape Finisterre in the middle of the night but with worse sea conditions that the IMOCA. The race will start to take its toll on the competitors that did not get the time to manage their sleep properly, which could be the case with the crews that struggled in lighter winds. It is possible that the boats will regroup after Cape Finisterre.

Yann Elies and Sébastien Audigane onboard Generali. 6 November 2007. Video copyright Jacques Vabre

MULTIHULLS – ORMA and Class 50

The decision taken by Gitana 11 and Brossard out of Brittany seemed to pay even though the skippers are taking more risks, sailing in higher winds and rougher seas (they sailed more to the west in the center of the low-pressure system). The skippers took the risk because they know their boats could cope with these conditions. The first 3 boats should pass Gibraltar tomorrow night or early Thursday.

The sailing should become more manageable as they continue down along the coast.

All of the 50 class multihulls have reached the Atlantic since this morning with Crèpes Whaou ! still in the lead. Laiterie de St Malo came back to 2nd (her “natural” place) 61 miles behind F.Y Escoffier’s bolid (at 4 p.m.) after slipping into 4th yesterday. Her route along the English coast, the boat bouncing in the wake of cargo ships, was hard to maintain but now looks worth the effort.



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