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Transat Jacques Vabre: Compression or not compression?

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19/11/2007 –

The battle is raging for first place in the Imoca Class. Safran is fast, very fast, showing a better speed than Foncia over the last 24 hours and therefore chipping away the miles gap between them after overtaking Cheminées Poujoulat overnight. The situation onboard is demanding and the crews’ adrenaline is peaked. A bit further down in the ranking, Ecover is still pushing, awaiting a compression that should happen – if it does – at the end of the day. Bahia’s harbour will see a bevy of arrivals starting overnight with Crèpes Whaou! finishing just in front of the first Imoca.

Cheminées Poujoulat could not repel for long Safran‘s attack and speed. The former leader of the Imoca fleet (from the start to the Canary Islands) is demanding the maximum from his boat in order to stop Foncia from cutting in front. 40 miles, 35 miles, 31 miles, the distance between the two leaders is shrinking along with the distance to the finish line, which one of them should reach tomorrow, Tuesday, at midday (French time).

Although we may think the end is already written, Jean le Cam on VM Matériaux reminds us that there are still a few hundred miles to run and anything can still happen. The skipper might be overlooking as well this “compression” that is on Mike Golding’s mind. Frustration has arisen on Ecover. Not only did the doldrums take their toll on her lead but, since yesterday, the boats in the front have accelerated as they reached more pressure and a better sailing angle. As a result, Ecover‘s bow is now pointing 139 miles from Foncia‘s and succeeding in maintaining a consistent gap with her follower, Groupe Bel (6th). Whether the “compression” Mike Golding has mentioned several times will occur will be known before the end of the day.

Generali (8th) passed Gitana Eighty this morning. Still on their way to the equator and therefore sailing in the northern hemisphere, the boats in 11th (Maisonneuve) and further in the ranking. Aviva did not succeed to control Cervin EnR and dropped to 14th yesterday, showing only a 25-mile deficit at 4 p.m. But for this part of the fleet there are still 1,000 miles to run and chances are we’ll see the ranking move again.

In class40, we have seen several boats (ATAO Audio System, AST Group, Appart City and further north Pindar40) moving slightly to the east to try and get an advantage, seeking for a small passage through the doldrums to pass Telecom Italia. At 4 p.m. when the Italian leader was showing only 2.6 knots of speed, the boats to the east and west of him (only a 30-mile move on either side) are still sailing in 6 to 8 knots of wind. Chocolats Monbana, in the wake of Telecom Italia, was also hit by the doldrums’ calms, ceding her 2nd place to ATAO Audio System. The doldrums do not seem too active at the moment but their configuration can move quickly and become tricky. It will certainly be a demanding passage that will require more of the skippers’ energy and surely increase their stress level. The first class40 should be out of the area by Wednesday, but the predictions being what they are, they will be updated continuously.

MULTIHULLS Class 50

Franck Yves Escoffier should cross the finish line overnight and therefore log his second victory in the Transat Jacques Vabres (to add to last year’s Route du Rhum la Banque Postale). For now, the red trimaran is sailing at 18 knots on Rhumb line to Bahia.

Laiterie de St Malo should pick up speed again with the two skippers seeking to be at the prize giving ceremony (tomorrow evening).

Croisières A. Caseneuve and Nim Interim Management are fighting to get out of the doldrums while Negoceane is entering them.

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Mike Golding – Ecover

We’ve seen a lot of extension from the boats ahead and we could see some compression. But it seems Safran and Foncia, particularly Safran, are very quick on this point of sale. VM Matériaux is having a bit of trouble now with her westerly position and having to head up closer. And for the rest of us, as I say, we’re on a conveyor belt just dealing with the wind strength that we’ve got and the wind angle that we’ve got but it’s all pretty even as we head toward Salvador. So now as their first boats are hitting the shore they’ll get a little lighter weather and we might see some compression of the fleet, maybe.

Oh, I think it’s quite soon [to see compression of the fleet] you know in the next poll [we] might start to see some and it could go on for awhile.

It’s not all about the wind speed, sometimes it’s about angle. … Probably we are now [sailing at the same angle] and the boats ahead are getting more and more lift and the breeze is getting lighter and lighter and it’s the same for us. But we all, the boats behind get it always a little later.

We’re just getting on to get to Salvador as quickly as possible regardless of what happens in the next four hours.

Photo: © MOCHET Marcel / AFP

– PR –

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