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Transat Jacques Vabre: Orma leader in Bahia (soon), Imoca leaders in the Doldrums

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13/11/2007 –

Groupama 2 should cross the finish line tomorrow morning, if doing such before 13:00 she will break the Transat Jacques Vabre’s record set in 2003 (11 days, 23 hours and 10 minutes) by Groupama 1 with the same crew of Franck Cammas and Steve Ravussin. The miles are unfolding quickly under the hulls of the green trimaran, showing averages of 23 knots (4p.m.). But still the drivers are being cautious with their demanding thoroughbreds. They require full attention as the slightest mistake at the helm could cause a scare — or end their race. At the same moment the green bows should cross the finish line, the leader of the Imoca class should enter the Doldrums some 1,500 miles from the finish.

MONOHULLS Imoca and Class 40

The monohulls are entering their 11th day at sea and the 7 boats in the front of the pack are sailing within 80 miles of the leader. So far so good for Ecover 3 which has been controling her competitors for 3 days now, whether they are just behind her, to her west or to her east. Her gain during the night left her competitors speechless. According to M. Desjoyaux (Foncia), Ecover 3 is holding a spinnaker that enabled Mike Golding and Bruno Dubois to sail at a different wind angle while the other competitors were running.
Gitana Eighty, Groupe Bel and Cheminées Poujoulat are still sailing in the path of Ecover 3, while VM Matériaux‘s option in the route west no longer looks like a threat.
Safran‘s move through the Cape Verde Islands has cost her 4 places since yesterday. Marc Guillemot positioned his boat to the north of the leaders to try and optimize his entry point into the Doldrums. Crossing this area should take up to 3 days for the monohulls, depending on the weather conditions. Pascal Bidegorry (Banque Populaire – Orma) cited particularly rough conditions in the area in this Transat. The Roxy girls are 20 miles away from Generali and a bit more north of her. At the moment they are sailing close to the direct route right above the portugueese archipelago while keeping an eye on the rear-view mirror as Maisonneuve has halved the mile gap between them.

Opting for a western route to cross the Canary Islands was definitely not the right move in the Class 40. Sidaction, which briefly led the fleet at Madera, dropped to 6th, while Clarke Offshore Sailing, which made some nice gains in the rankings after crossing the fleet (Nov. 8th) by gybing west, fell to 16th (4 p.m), sidelined by a massive no-wind hole; a situation that should last at least another day, according to the British and Kiwi skippers. As a result, the top of the rankings – Telecom Italia (even if not positioned at 4 p.m.), ATAO Audio System and Chocolat Monbana – welcomes new competitors. 40 degrees gained four places since yesterday and Deep Blue reached 5th. AST Group has kept her place in the top 7 since the North Atlantic (now in 4th at 4 p.m), which in those conditions means manoeuvering every hour. As noted today by Marc Emig, that does not leave much time for sleeping! Sailing along the African coast, Novedia Set Environnement has racked up a few places in the rankings and closed the mile gap (86 miles from the leader at 4 p.m.). Tanguy and Nick made an inventory of their rations and water reserve onboard, which they will be cautiously managing until the finish. And they might not be the only ones.

MULTIHULLS Orma & Class 50

As Groupama 2 is steadily approaching the finish line in Bahia showing a nice average of 528 miles per 24 hours (4 p.m) Gitana 11 is obviously still pushing and picking up miles on her, making 581 miles in the last 24 hours. But apart from a breakerage, the end game is already known. Banque Populaire‘s skipper Pascal Bidegorry (388 miles behind the leader) noted his frustration in not having been able to spar longer with Franck Cammas (because of the pit stop he was forced to make to repair his rudder). In 4th, Yvan Bourgnon said he saw nothing of the inter-tropical convergence zone (Doldrums) and was enjoying the ride on his trimaran, Brossard – finally sailing on a single floater at 30 knots. Sopra is still hot on his heels (31 miles behind) and will surely not give up the hunt for 4th place.Crèpes Whaou ! sailed through the Cape Verde Islands and gybed a few miles in front of Ecover 3 on the same route. Laiterie de St Malo is some 320 miles away, showing a better average over the last 24 hours but with the Portuguese archipelago left to negotiate. Croisières Anne Caseneuve is 100 miles behind Laiterie. Negoceane and Nim Interim are sailing with the last Imoca — or the first 40 footers depending on how you look at it.

*******

Mike Golding – Ecover (Imoca) – this morning

It’s certainly not too bad, the conditions on board because it’s black water, down-wind sailing. It’s relatively straightforward. No, I think he [Safran in west position] might have a bit of a problem now because we have a wind shift and he’s going to find the islands straight in front of him. I’m glad I’m not where he is. We’re delighted and obviously when you build a new boat and you start a new project you input as much as you can and you work with the designer. In the end, you’re in the hands of this designer and the builder to deliver you with something that is competitive. At least in these conditions the boat is very competitive but we’ve still not tested the boat against the others in all conditions and that’s what’s important.

It’s very encouraging. Remember before this Jacques Vabre, I’d only sailed on the boat 7 times so this is my 8th sail on the boat … so we still have very little experience with it. But so far so good.

By the time we get down there [the pot au noir] it will still be bad but maybe not as bad as it looks right now. But it could well make a mess of the rankings.

[On Groupama‘s Bahia arrival] It’s been a very slow race for the monohulls and I think when it’s a slow race for the monohulls it’s a fast one for the multis.

Mike on the spinnaker – source Ecover

We have a got a big spinnaker, no bigger than anyone else’s I don’t think. And we have the man on board who would know. (North Sails France’s Bruno Dubois). It is more important that the 100 miles that he is adrift is the 100 miles he went over to Africa and back! Not too much of it is down to sails or the way we are sailing, more down to the route and the wind shifts. Our spinnaker is just a development of the one we had on the other boat. Sure, we have done some work on it over the winter, with a few people and some wind tunnel stuff, but it is a spinnaker for crying out loud, it’s not going to make that much difference!”
” For sure I think it is the whole package at the moment, you can’t just say it is the spinnaker. You have to look to the boat, and the whole thing seems to work well in those conditions.
It is quite nice to have Bruno and to have speed in this particular wind speed and direction, but the guys who have lost miles have lost miles because they have gone off in different direction. They have tried to make calls to get round us rather than truing to get past us.”

Anne Liardet – 40 degrees (Class 40)

Another long day ahead after a long night… so there we are in a rather uncomfortable but satisfying position. The other day, I mentioned throwing the weather files in the bin and straight-lining it. Well that’s what we did, except that I nearly got caught out wavering like a beginner: stay with the bulk of the fleet… so we did put some westing in until we ran into unstable breeze – the way out of here is south, and so south we went. Conclusion: 40 Degrees is a fine boat because I don’t know whether it is her speed which makes me seem intelligent, but at least she lets me get out of jail from semi-mistakes.

On another subject, we are making the most of the last half hour of cool air, because the sun is about to rise from behind the clouds on the horizon; in fact it looks to me like trade wind skies… to date I have seen only one flying fish and that was three days ago – having studied the shape of the deck, I have concluded that it’s not good for fish-catching, so think we will have to do without fresh fish. However, we have another problem – the water in the tanks is almost undrinkable. The tanks have been treated with an antibacterial agent and there is probably residue. We have been using the water to rehydrate food, and drink ‘special taste’ tea, but it’s almost undrinkable even with squash in it, not to mention probably not so good for you in the long term. At least we will be able to wash with it. So we have 70 litres of drinking water left, which should be enough added to the rain we will get in the Doldrums.

Photo: CLASS 40 – Lord Jiminy – © MOCHET Marcel / AFP

– PR –

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