Transat Jacques Vabre: Welcome to Cape Finisterre!


06/11/2007 –

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 they 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.

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.

Jonny Malbon – Artemis – 12:30 before dismasting

We’ve got very windy conditions at the moment just off Cape Finisterre. We have between 25-28 knots of wind at the moment that should increase later tonight to 30-35 knots. The sea state is very very big. We are sailing downwind from 15 to 20 knots, so it is quite nice sailing. Already this morning we had two broaches, we were pretty full on. We were really pushing earlier on. We were under all main and the big spinnaker up and we were talking about changing down to the smaller spinnaker and we had a massive white wave lay the boat on her side, so that kind of raised the decision for us. We were fully aware that we were pushing hard to get back in the race. We are also aware there is still a long way to go and we don’t want to break anything. That was why we put the big spinnaker down. It was quite good fun to be honest. We want to take some miles on the boats in front of us. We are really looking to hunt on Roxy. She’s doing really well and keeping up with the front pack and we want to get back in there. Tonight is going to be unpleasant. We did not really get much sleep last night. That is really physical and pretty demanding that’s not a weather for the autopilot really.

Message from onboard – Fujifilm – 13:00

It’s been pretty good time here onboard the good ship Fuji! – was up on deck driving all last night , sailing down wind in 20 knots breeze, close to the top of the wind range of that sail. Had one wipe out this morning as the breeze kicked in. Other than that were going very well. Currently sailing under code 5 and full main trying to clip the top of the Spanish coast before rounding Finisterre. It all to play for and things are set to go turbo!

Photo: © MOCHET Marcel / AFP

– PR –

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