Wednesday, 11 November 2009
BT. Image copyright Th. Martinez/Sea&Co.
by Régis Lerat
Their strategies may be different but the unavoidable facts remain that the Transat Jacques Vabre fleet will have to deal with some difficult wind and sea conditions through Wednesday and Thursday as they encounter the first big Atlantic storm of the race. Crews on both the IMOCA Open 60's and the Multi 50's were preparing for winds which are forecast to exceed 40 knots at times and big seas.
Seb Josse, co-skipper on BT, the IMOCA Open 60 which has lead the fleet through the day, admitted this morning that there are no clear cut advantages between the more northerly routing which he and Jeff Curzon have been following, and that of the double Vendée Globe winning Michel Desjoyeaux on Foncia, who last night seized the opportunity presented to maximise his southing with co-skipper Jérémie Beyou, and split away from the southerly grouping.
Whilst Desjoyeaux told today's live radio chat session that his option was principally in search of a little relief from the worst of the forecast conditions, Foncia was still marching hard south, on the wind this evening, theoretically taking a loss in miles and placing in search of the longer term gain.
British pairing Dee Caffari and Brian Thompson on Aviva continued with their strong position, racing through the day in second place, sliding on the afternoon ranking to sixth with a 14 miles deficit to BT. Racing virtually alongside Kito de Pavant and Francois Gabart, only about 400 metres apart during the morning, Thompson highlighted the similarity in speed of the diverse designs before they tacked off to the north-west this afternoon, leaving the Mediterranean pairing, for the meantime, to a more southerly track.
The split in the fleet, such as it is, sees a group of five opting for a more northerly routing – mainly BT, Veolia Environnement, Mike Golding Yacht Racing, and Aviva – while the southerly cluster now comprises mainly Akena Verandas, Artemis and W Hotels.
Armel Le Cléac'h was forced to observe that perhaps he played his good luck cards in finishing second in the Vendée Globe after suffering no major damage as Le Cléach and his long-time friend Nicolas Troussel have been the first IMOCA Open 60 pairing to be forced to re-route because of damage. They took the tough decision to head for Concarneau very early this morning after a flailing headboard car ripped away 80cms of their mast track. ‘The Jackal' – so named because of his ability to stay the course when others have faltered and pounce late in a race – said that they will make there decision on whether to continue or not as soon as the damage has been fully assessed.
First to play the stealth card – going into furtive mode – was Yves Parlier and Pachi Rivero on 1876.
In the Multi50 fleet Prince of Bretagne has been forced to head for La Coruna after also suffering mainsail mast-track damage, while Crepes Whaou! still leads from the advancing Région Aquitaine Port Médoc.
Aviva. Image copyright Dee Caffari Limited.
Seb Josse (FRA) BT:
"It is important for us to manage the boat well so that we get out of this aggressive depression in good shape. In the south it is not immediately obvious that Michel (Desjoyeaux) will have weaker winds. He will still have 40-45 knots and contrary waves like us. These are different approaches to the same depression but the conditions will be pretty much the same. There are many different solutions but I don't think that any one is obviously better than the others. We look at them all, the extremes and those like ours".
Michel Desjoyeaux (FRA) Foncia:
“It is not going too badly. We are a little bit lonely over here, not many around us to play with. Whatever, we are where we need to be, given what is forecast to happen. But, we will see, I think that we will suffer a little less where we are. I don't know if we'll go quicker, but there will be less wind and it will be a bit less extreme.
“We're certain to have some tough hours at times, but we will not be as badly affected as some out in the west.
“We are getting into the SW'ly wind and are hard on the wind configuration. And I reckon to be like this for a couple of days.” “The stealth mode? We failed to use it yesterday and changed our mind and today it is no good because we are now like this for two days. “The boat is well set up, all stacked on the same side. And my autopilot, whose name is Jérémie Beyou, will allow me to sleep well. We have eaten well since the beginning and so we are both in good shape.
Armel Cléa'ch (FRA) Brit Air:
On board Brit Air there is a problem with the mast track for the mainsail, so we are heading for Brittany to see if we can repair it and set out again. We are going as quick as we can. Last night after the front went through the wind got up and we broached, got into trouble with the mainsail and ripped the track off level with the first reef. The headboard car pulled off and tore the track off the mast. We have to get the mainsail all the way down to re-attach the car and so even then we can't get it above the level of the second reef. We can't sail to the potential of the boat and the repairs we have to do we can't do at sea. We're disappointed that this has happened now because we were very much in the race. I did not have much big damage in the Vendée Globe but maybe now it's our turn in this Transatlantic race. We'll find out tomorrow if it makes sense to set off again. We'll talk with the team and make the decision once we know how long it will take to repair. I think we'll be in Concarneau by dawn.
“We have gennaker, staysail and full main, about 20 knots of wind. It is quite showery. “At the moment we are all on the north side of the trough, maybe with the exception of Michel.” “I think he is trying to avoid the worst of the weather and come through a little bit further south. That is the kind of thing he did in the Route du Rhum and won. It is not necessarily the fastest routing. If we are slowed down because it is too rough to sail to our potential.
“The question for us is how close to the centre of the low you want to get, to get a lift on starboard because the wind will be more NW the more W you are, but to get W you need to do a lot of beating upwind on port, taking you closer to the low. And also that is not going to take you very close to the mark, that is the trade off really, whether it is better to go on starboard and sail more miles.”
Transat Jacques Vabre