Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Transat Jacques Vabre: Compression at the gates to the Caribbean

[Source: Transat Jacques Vabre] Lighter winds which the leaders will roll into first suggest that compression is inevitable, some of that gap from third to fourth will be eaten away as the trade wind are killed off periodically....

In theory they should have done enough. The leading trio of the Transat Jacques Vabre race from Le Havre to Costa Rica, Safran, Groupe Bel and Mike Golding Yacht Racing have a substantial cushion to fourth, and seem set to scrap over who wins which step on the podium, but there will still be some nervous hours ahead and the weather forecasts are none too stable.

Onboard Akena Verandas. Atlantic Ocean, 18 November 2009. Video copyright Transat Jacques Vabre

The trio, the two French leaders and Britain’s third placed Mike Golding who is racing with Spain’s Javier Sanso on Mike Golding Yacht Racing, will tomorrow be first to hit a wall of lighter, even more unsettled breezes and compression – as the chasing pack catches miles back on them – is predicted to continue periodically for the next couple of days.

The margin back from third to fourth, to double-Vendée Globe winner Michel Desjoyeaux, is now 270 miles with less than 2000 miles to go.

Desjoyeaux, who has squeezed close to 100 miles ahead of Veolia Environnement since passing them, re-asserted today that there was no acceptance on his part that the race was a foregone conclusion, and clearly his legendary fighting spirit is undimmed. If there is one skipper out there who is as happy battling the mathematical odds as he is his opponents, it is him.

At midday today leaders Marc Guillemot and Charles Caudrelier on Safran were about 500 miles from breaching the gap between Antigua and Guadeloupe for the final trans Caribbean stage down to the finish at Puerto Limon.

Onboard AVIVA. Atlantic Ocean, 18 November 2009. Video copyright Transat Jacques Vabre

The gap between first and second has been prised open again by the leaders Safran, standing at 52.5 miles back to Groupe Bel, whilst Golding and Sanso had sneaked back under the 100 miles from the lead line early this morning, but their gains have been nullified over the day and the third placed boat has now 125 miles to catch up. The British skipper today reported that he has had some success in repairing the electronic wind instrumentation which is helping their attack slightly, but he noted that he considers there will be several tactical opportunities through the final few days of this passage.

Down the fleet the sentiments are the same. The attack goes on, from first to last the conditions may be pleasurable but the rhythm is intense. Sam Davies, the effervescent British Vendée Globe skipper on Artemis, remarks that spirits between her and her French co-skipper remain generally high, despite them having a big deficit to make up.

“It’s hard because you’ve got to keep concentrating as well so you have to find a balance between not being suicidal because you’re last so you do have to find the light side of things, and also at the same time keep concentrating, because it’s never over till the fat lady sings, and there’s a long way to go.” Emphasized Davies.

Dee Caffari and Brian Thompson’s alliance on Aviva seems to be reaping rewards as they hold the upper hand over their nearest rivals, the Spanish crew on W-Hotel. From being just a couple of miles ahead yesterday Aviva had moved 13 miles clear this evening, and they have gone from a deficit of about 60 miles on fifth placed Veolia Environnement to an increasingly tenable 23 miles this afternoon. The battle for fifth to ninth is increasingly engaging as just 130 miles separates Veolia from Akena Verandas and, just as for the leaders, more compression is virtually inevitable.



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