Transat Jacques Vabre: Fast tracks and slow motions


10/11/2007 –

Apart from the Class 40, the fleet in this Transat Jacques Vabre is benefiting from a north east flow (trade winds) of 15 to 20 knots. The Orma and Imoca are now reaching beautiful seas and all is well aboard the boats, even though the polls that fall every four hours on their screens are an occasion to scrutinize the positions of their opponents, what they do, where they are… Because even though they note that they are sailing their own race with the wind conditions they have locally, the skippers need to keep a close eye on who is on their heels. And they ought to keep as much distance as they can between their boat and the others, providing the conditions exist under which to do this.

MONOHULSS – Imoca and Class 40

The Imoca boats, with Safran still leading after 5 days of racing, are approaching the Canary Islands at around 12 knots with a northern flow. They should reach the islands overnight. The passage through the islands must be taken with care as the mountains will shadow the winds, which could result in being stuck for a few hours. The decision Marc Guillemot will make will be closely followed by his pursuers. In case he slows down, the boats sailing far enough to change their route may want to try another tact rather than follow him into the trap. With six other boats chasing Safran within 53. 6 miles – Foncia and Gitana within 18 miles – there is much at stake.

While noting their critical position after tacking a course east a few days ago, Ecover 3 skippers have consistently held 5th place, 37 miles behind Safran. After snatching 2 places from their competitors in the morning, the Roxy girls are now in 10th, 138 miles from the leader. As for Aviva, Dee Caffari, who wanted to hold the top ranking of the older boats right behind Roxy, is definitely achieving her goal in the first 500 miles of the race. Dee is also working on building her confidence regarding decision-making, with co-skipper Nigel King playing coach during the Transat Jacques Vabre. The tail end of the Imoca fleet has already accumulated a 2-day delay behind the leaders.

The 40 footers are now navigating under spinnaker in 10 to 16 knots of north easterly wind. Telecom Italia is still leading and is now level with Gibraltar. The fleet is spread out 20 to 30 miles in latitude, which means they are not sailing with the same wind angle to progress towards Madeira, which the leaders of the fleet should reach tomorrow. Clarke Offshore Racing finally decided to cross behind the fleet and now stands to the west at 6th (4 p.m.). The girls on Pindar 40 are once again receiving their weather information and have hoisted their mainsail up after repair. They are climbing up the ranking slowly but surely at each ranking and are now 21st, 128 miles behind Telecom Italia but only 9 miles behind the 20th.

Fujifilm could not be located at 4 pm but the mood was up onboard at midday. Ranked 27th at 12:00 the boat was level with Lisbon and still sailing along the Portuguese coast, with a speed deficit confronting the boats positioned to the west.

MULTIHULLS – OMRA and Class 50

Groupama and Banque Populaire are approaching the Islands of Cape Verde not sailing on the same tack with Franck Cammas on port tack in control of the blue trimaran (on starboard tack) behind him. Banque Populaire is now following in the track of his predecessor and is gaining miles at each polling (only 82 miles behind at 4 p.m. against 100 miles at 8:00 this morning). Gitana 11 is in 3rd, 217 miles from Groupama but no doubt that if Lemonchois finds the right wind conditions, he will push hard to make gains. After the islands, the trimarans will deal with the doldrums area where a speed race will start in steady trade winds. The question then will be: how much risk do they want to take to push their boats?

The wind is back in the sails of Crèpes Whaou’s pursuers who are now 234 to 539 miles behind her.(boats are called her) F.Y Escoffier is sailing through the Canary Islands while Victorien Erussard, Laiterie de St Malo (2nd) is at Madera. There are 80 miles or so separating Croisières Anne Caseneuve from Laiterie de St Malo. Negocéane in 4th, sailing 80 miles behind the latter;

Jo Royle – Pindar 40

“We are going to have pretty similar conditions over the weekend, so we’re just going to follow the Rhumb line to the Canary Islands and we should reach them in a couple of days.”

Our watch system is quite random at the moment. When the wind is stable it only needs one of us on deck, but when it’s variable we are both on deck. At night it’s pretty much the same routine and we both make sure we’re getting enough sleep. We don’t run the radar all night because we need to conserve battery power, but we use the Active Echo system a lot which sounds an alarm if a ship nearby is using a radar and picks us up on his screen.”

“We’re in T-shirts, it’s great although it’s still a bit chilly at night. Yesterday when there was no wind I even managed to have a salt water, bucket shower.”

source Pindar

Alex Benett, Fujifilm

The sun is out and shining. It’s getting warm and we’re making progess toward the Canary Islands.
We had a no-wind zone off Portugal and the fleet was further out to the west and I think they managed to sail around us, so now we’re into catch-up really, which is fine. We’ve started to move now. We’ve got some good wind so we’re looking at our tactics to get back in the race.
We were actually just discussing whether to drive out to the west of our rhumb line which takes us through the Canaries and get back into the bulk of the fleet, or do we hang in the east and wait for favorable winds that might occur later on in the next 4 to 5 days.
We haven’t completely decided yet, we might drive out to the west and try to get back to the further end and work our way through them.
We’ve adopted a watch system of 2 hours on, 2 hours off to keep outselves alert. We make sure we eat well and we drink well and we discuss the tactical scenarios all the time, making sure that we don’t miss anything. I can assure you that on board this boat we talk about nothing else besides where the other boats are and how we can get in front of them.
We’ve got about 10 knots of wind from the north to east and we currently have our spinnaker and obviously our full main sail. We hope it will turn to the east. I think it’s still going to be very light winds for the next few days. The boats further out to the west they may see some slightly stronger winds but more sort of coming from the east. We’re going to have to make a decision as to whether we head over towards that side of the race where the fleet is or hold our position in the east. And we’ll make that decision in the next few hours for the next few days.
One thing for sure, this race is becoming a tactical race, deciding where to be and where to position your boat. … At the end of the day, the next week we’ll spend in catch-up mode trying to work our way back to the front of the fleet as soon as possible.

Photo: © MOCHET Marcel / AFP

– PR –

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