Monday, 23 November 2009
Foncia. Image copyright Yvan Zedda/Team Foncia.
by Régis Lerat
A little stability in the weather on the conveyer belt south towards the Costa Rica destination and west and the Transat Jacques Vabre intensifies. Gone are the dark days of high stakes strategies, big losses and gains. Now it is more about the tight games, the little boat-for-boat duels, the competitive clusters, the mid-fleet posses slugging it out for the odd mile here and there.
As the front of the IMOCA Open 60 fleet counted down past half way today the gains of Groupe Bel stabilised. Whether Kito de Pavant and Francois Gabart's ‘laughing cow' can still prove the smiling assassins who bring down Safran remains to be seen. The Groupe Bel twosome's gains have stabilised this afternoon at 26.3 miles as the pair line up more or less bow to stern on the straight line for the Dominican Republic milestone into the Caribbean. Guillemot predicted today that they will pass the mark of the course Thursday lunch time
Mike Golding and Javier Sanso on Mike Golding have received little by way of return for their hard work, trying to keep pace with the leading duo. Now just over 119 miles behind, Sanso felt sure today that they were in more even breezes and they fare better as the breeze went a little forward. He emphasised how difficult it is sailing against the two leaders, racing with no wind information beyond what they feel on their cheeks, see on the water and can see in their sails. But, their margin back to the double Vendée Globe leader Michel Desjoyeaux and Jeremie Beyou remains over 250 miles and Mike Golding Yacht Racing's speed is back up on par with the leaders this evening.
Desjoyeaux's Foncia in fourth is now 60 miles advanced on fifth placed Veolia Environnement.
Their northerly routing was pretty much forced on them, but as the high pressure enveloped them yesterday, 1876's Yves Parlier and Pachi Rivero remain philosophical and attacking as they push down a slightly radical, northerly routing with Veolia just 15 miles ahead. “We are enjoying it immensely” noted Parlier today, reporting that they has spent many hours on repairs since the big storm.
And Dee Caffari and Brian Thompson on Aviva are in a yacht race with the Spanish duo Pepe Ribes and Alex Pella on W-Hotels, less than a mile separating them in terms of DTF (distance to finish), whilst Caffari's old Vendée Globe chum Arnaud ‘Cali' Boissières on Akena Vérandas must fancy his chances with Vincent Riou as they try to close down the 66 miles ahead that the British pair are.
Marc Guillemot, (FRA), Safran:
“Our decision to move off to the south paid off. We're now sailing along on the direct route towards the Antilles. We should pass through the islands on Thursday lunchtime. Before that, our lead over the others could well increase, with the exception of Groupe Bel, who is clinging on to us. The trade wind is going to be easing off, but from behind, which is perfect for us. Since early in the night, the autopilot has taken over again. That enabled us to get some rest, as outside, it's still like being under a waterfall.
“Like us, the boat is in fine form. We shouldn't forget that last week she went through what was by far the biggest storm of her career, with the wind blowing steadily at 55 knots. It was much more than she saw in the Vendée Globe. Which just goes to show that even if she is the lightest boat in the fleet, she's as solid as a tank. What is more, if I hadn't had total confidence in her, I would never have taken her on that westerly route and we wouldn't be in the lead in the race today.”
Javier Sanso, FRA, Mike Golding Yacht Racing:
“ We are riding along well now, making a very good speed, I think we are seeing the last of 20 knots that we are going to see for a while.
“It is quite difficult even if you do normal cruising racing you will know how hard it is to do have no wind information, and having the 100% pilot problem, but the more used to it we become the more competent we become. Sailing is sailing and so we just adapt ourselves as we go. I feel we are getting in the groove again. It is hard when you have shifty winds and the wind is going up and down, but when it is constant it is much easier. Yesterday and last night it was very very shifty winds, and now it is a lot easier. The wind has gone forward, closer to the bow, we are fast reaching. We are going to keep up better. It is a lot easier to drive and to keep the boat in the groove.”
Yves Parlier, (FRA) 1876:
“We've managed to fix quite a lot of things, and the high pressure area we were crossing was ideal conditions allowed us to make the repairs. We are starting to come out of it. We fixed a lot of holes on the main sail which was good but still have a little problem with water coming into the motor, it is not serious but we have to keep an eye on it particularly when charging the motor. There has also been a slight problem with the auto-pilot that have not been too reliable.
“Our heading is different to the fleet, we would have liked to made more ground to the south, but couldn't get there so now we are heading west and getting to the trade winds, a different route to the other boats and it will be another four or five days until we know how it will work out. There is also the decision to choose the right moment to head south and avoid areas of calm which there are many!
“Our current choice was more a forced decision due to the position of the high pressure, and we have some good reaching conditions right now there the ever present risk that the wind will drop.
“For the first time since the start of the race both of us has actually had some decent time to ourselves. We are obviously a Franco Spanish team but generally speak French on board with the odd word in English or Spanish thrown in from time to time, it is not always easy to understand all the subtleties involved but we manage to get there eventually! There is always a fantastic atmosphere on board, and we are enjoying the racing immensely.”
Transat Jacques Vabre