Tuesday, 24 November 2009
On board Foncia. Image copyright Michel Desjoyeaux/Foncia.
by Régis Lerat
The rewards for breaking from the Atlantic in to the Caribbean may be promising, but meantime the transition for the Transat Jacques Vabre leaders has been energy sapping and, at times, difficult.
As they approach the passage between Guadeloupe and Martinique to break into the Caribbean where the return of a more regular E'ly trade wind is likely, the two leaders have been experiencing difficult, unpredictable squalls and long lulls, dark clouds with heavy rain showers and very unsettled winds. Charles Caudrelier, co-skipper on leading IMOCA Open 60 Safran, remarked early this morning how the worst squalls always seemed to arrive when he was finally ready to sleep. Having then gone on deck to make adjustments it can be several hours until the conditions remain settled enough to return below. A squall-lull one-two punished Safran with a 15 miles body blow, allowing Kito de Pavant and Francois Gabart to reduce their deficit to a very tenable 54.4 miles this morning.
In third place, making better speeds again early this morning after another electrical outage, Mike Golding and Javier Sanso on Mike Golding Yacht Racing acceded some more miles due to their problem. Sanso explained that the issue slowed them again for several hours, but they are back on track now, pursuing the French leader at 14.5 knots this morning.
1876 have strengthened their position overnight, reaching fast from their northerly position as the quickest boat in the fleet. Yves Parlier and Pachi Rivero have now opened a lead of the best part of 180 miles over sixth placed Veolia Environnement.
Roland Jourdain and Jean-Luc Nelias on Veolia Environnement are having a slow motion race with Dee Caffari and Brian Thompson's Aviva as they try to extract themselves from a light winds ridge, with their French rivals just having the upper hand slightly further to the south and getting a little more favourable air this morning. But still this is the most engaging competition at the moment with only 23 miles – in DTF – separating the sixth placed French, seventh placed British and Spain's W-Hotels in eighth.
Charles Caudrelier (FRA) Safran:
“It was a busy, difficult night wind, less wind. Yes it was busy. Yesterday we lost 15 miles when we were hit by a squall and then were stuck by a cloud. That unsettled us a bit because it was a reminder that with a squall or a cloud you can easily lose thirty miles in one go, and so you don't have to do that too often to lose out. It was tricky because whenever I wanted to sleep the squalls came and I had to go out and change sails. And that is unpleasant because you never know how long you'll be outside. And so now we just set up to slide in between the islands and than can be a painful passage. And so we will be happy when the islands are behind us. I know this area quite well having stayed out here and Marc has been around here a bit, so we know a bit about these traps. I am not too worried.”
Kito de Pavant (FRA) Groupe Bel:
“It was a pretty disturbed and agitated night, but that is the way it goes. That's life in the West Indies, it's not easy. You maybe thought it would be easy but, it's not. There are some squalls and large black clouds which arrive, and when they do they bring rain and gusty, strong winds. Yesterday we were reaching with the spi and full main and we were hit with one of 30 knots. It was quite stressful to reduce sails. Now we have SE'ly winds of between 15 and 20 knots, but it is quite unstable.”
Javier Sanso (ESP), Mike Golding Yacht Racing:
“We had the same problem, charging. We solved the problem again and we are back on track again but we were slow for a bit, more or less stopped for a while. We are on top of it again. The weather is very very nice, we are doing good miles we are on track and the weather is looking fine ahead for us. Everything seems to be going well right now. For us we have seen no squalls for five or six hours and the weather is very, very stable, as stable as it has been for a long time.”
Transat Jacques Vabre