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Transat Jacques Vabre: How to hook the trade winds first…

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07/11/2007 –

Passing Cape Finisterre in 35/40 knots of wind was as stressful as enjoyable for the sailors. If breakage on the boats is always on their minds, the skippers nevertheless appreciated the bumpy rides and reach of the waves that pushed the boats up to 30 knots. We haven’t heard of major breakages, but ripped sails or spinnaker might have caused extra work onboard today. After nice surfs on big waves and 25/30 knots of wind pushing them south, the front runners should meet lighter winds shifting from north – northeast to southeast on the way down. Even if not clinically precise, the wind charts the crews are receiving onboard are showing two possible options: sail along the African coast or to put to the west along the route to catch the winds generated by a low-pressure system in the Azores that seems to be moving towards the Canary Islands. That is the question all the skippers approaching Madere Island have had to deal with in their descent.

At 4 p.m. the boats were still heading south looking to catch up with the trade winds. At the rear of the fleet the questioning is not the same. The wind is going to drop dramatically, chipping away at the miles separating the two parts of the fleet. Tomorrow should start to show the results of these decisions.

MONOHULLS – IMOCA and Class 40

At 4 p.m. the chart was still showing the fleet of Imoca heading south, with some putting a bit more to the east in their route. They should enter a transition zone overnight with unsteady winds to deal with along the African coast. No point saying they kept silent about what choices they would make regarding their passage through the Canaries.

Ecover maintains 5th place 62.5 miles away from the leader, whereas the Roxy girls are steadily maintaining their position (at 100.9 miles from Safran).

In the 40-footer fleet, apart from Telecom Italia, which has been dominant since the start, the ranking has been moving fast in the last 24 hours. After being soundly dominated by the foreign entries, it seems the Frenchies are getting back some strength after making some good weather decisions. But we would have expected Dominic Vittet (Atao Audio System) or Damien Grimont (Chocolats Monbana) to have ranked since the start where they stand now. Fujifilm (23rd) lost 21 places after being 2nd yesterday at noon and Offshore Clark Racing, which was occupying 3rd, is now 13th. 40 degrees ranks 10th at 4 p.m today only 65 miles behind Telecom Italia. On Pindar 40, Jo and Alexia, after sailing blind (they were not receiving any weather information onboard), had to drop down the mainsail for repairs.

The speeds are starting to drop at the rear of the fleet with some of the boats ghosting around in 5 knots of wind.

MULTIHULLS – ORMA and Class 50

Brossard took the lead of the Orma fleet between yesterday (ranked at 4th at 12:00) and this morning. Putting more to the west in her descent toward Spain seeking for more winds (as did Gitana 11) finally paid off after 3 days of racing. However, the rough conditions encountered passing Cap Finisterre took their toll. Banque Populaire has a leak (not too serious) in one of the floaters but the crew is not considering stopping. Gitana 11, which announced they had lost a foil in the first night of sailing, is heading toward the coast for the quickest possible repair.

Sopra, the oldest trimaran entry in the race, is now 109.9 miles behind Brossard, whereas the 4 leaders are within 18.3 miles of each other.

Avocet 50 (Class 50)a announced she was retiring from the race due to a problem in her daggerboard and is routing to the Corogne. It was no surprise when Crèpes Whaou ! broke away from her competitors and is even showing off with 9 Imoca at her rear. Even if F.Y. Escoffier dominates the situation, Laiterie de St Malo keeps the pace, showing the same speed at 4 p.m. but 70 miles behind the leader.

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Mike Golding – Ecover

It is all light up ahead. The big choices are going to come probably at the Canaries. We are all headed to pass inside Madeira which in itself is a little unusual. Because you are already off the rhumb line, but it is then where you transit the Canaries and it shows going inside through or around to the west which is more normal and then what you do on the African coast. Our routing currently had us scraping the shore off Africa. But, will you actually do that? It is a fairly big call.”
“You are not influenced that much by what the other boats are doing, but you are looking for some sort of stability in the weather. We get a new iteration of the weather model twice a day and every time you get a new weather model you re-run the routing. And then when you see a certain amount of consistency with the route crossing a certain place then you can start to have some confidence in it But if it is different each time, as it is at the moment, then it is very hard to make a call. Or, if in doubt, then you tend to stick close to the rhumb line.”

Source Ecover

Samantha Davies – Roxy – this morning

It was really good fun but at the same time pretty stressful because it was windy, we had up to 43 knots and we were going pretty fast, up to I guess 25 knots boat speed, and jumping off the waves, which were really big. Sometimes we were ploughing into them and just diving and it was pretty full on for I guess 5 hours.

We enjoyed the boat speed and Roxy seemed pretty stable and happy. At the same time there’s always a worry in the back of your mind that we could break something or nosedive or something floating in the water in front of us.

Right now we’re trying to get south as quickly as possible. And at last it’s a little bit calmer and more peaceful. We’re got full sail back up again. We’re just trying to change all the gears as the wind drops and trying to keep Roxy going as fast as possible. And at last we can get some rest and sleep and being able eat something again because the last 24 hours have been pretty hectic with this stressful part and also just all the manoeuvers we’ve been doing. But it’s a pleasure to relax for once.

Right now we’re sailing at a fast angle with the gennaker and thinking about changing to spinnaker or not. Not sure yet.

Jeanne is sleeping right now at last because we haven’t been able to sleep for the last day because the boat has been moving so violently. She’s very well and catching up some good dreams, hopefully.

Photo: © MOCHET Marcel / AFP

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