Sunday, 15 November 2009

TJV: Sunday is Sun Day?

Prince de Bretagne. Image copyright Pascal Desroche.

by Régis Lerat

By and large it is back to the business of racing, give or take the chance to tidy up, make running repairs and catch some much needed rest. For the crews on the Transat Jacques Vabre they can look back on a very tough, demanding first week en route from Le Havre to Costa Rica, and forward to a whole new set off challenges as the weather picture suggests there will be rewarding spells of fast sailing in the sunshine.

It is the leading IMOCA Open 60's who will profit most, according to the weather models, but the scenario is still changeable with slightly complex pattern when normally crews might be looking forward to, as double Vendée Globe winner Michel Desjoyeaux put it before the start of this race, ‘putting a heavy rock on the accelerator pedal'.

In fact it is Desjoyeaux-Beyou on Foncia, Boissières-Riou on Akenas Verandas and the group to the south and east who face the more variable weather patterns although their time may come.

The final third of the track, across the Caribbean can be riddled with potholes under certain meteorological influences, as race director Jean Maurel, Mike Golding and W-Hotels's Pepe Ribes, all united to point out at different times during today's radio vacation from Paris Race HQ.

Charles Caudrelier and Marc Guillemot on Safran could scarcely conceal their relief after emerging from the bad weather with a decent lead of over 40 miles on Mike Golding and Javier Sanso on Mike Golding Yacht Racing. Guillemot admitted their problems were minor, a repair to their rudder which had been tricky and some work required on their mainsail, but their position at the head of the IMOCA Open 60 fleet looks strong.

DCNS. Image copyright DPPI.

Mike Golding conceded that he had been happy to be to the south of Safran on Mike Golding Yacht Racing, but their position had weakened marginally as their French rivals were, he believed, getting a little more wind pressure.

Pepe Ribes of W-Hotels reported that they had crash tacked twice with the keel on the wrong side of the boat and waves crashing over them.

Marc Thiercelin and Christopher Pratt took the hard decision to head back to France today, the third IMOCA Open 60 to retire, after discovering a problem with their keel mechanism on DCNS 1000.

The Sabbath may be a day of rest for some, but forecasters predict speeds to rise among the leaders as the weekend progresses, a return to brochure conditions.


Mike Golding (GBR) Mike Golding Yacht Racing:
“We are just dealing with some quite shifty winds and a complete lack of instruments so it is quite tricky to know what we are dealing with.

“Obviously we are very pleased to be out of the bad weather and very pleased to hear that the team on BT are OK. It has obviously been a very bad gale by any standards and so we feel pretty lucky to have got away with a few broken bits of electronics, the boat's fine the sails are fine. Obviously we had plenty of advance notice and so the boat was prepared for the worst, but it was pretty damaging conditions and I think it was a bit of a surprise because it was even worse than we saw on the forecast files. We were expecting 40-45 knots not 65…and periods of a full 50.

"Javier is a very experienced sailor and it has not taken him long to settle in to a rhythm and it is working well, and where we are in the fleet says it is working really well. He is a pretty easy going guy and has a lot of experience with my previous boat Ecover 2. There is a great deal in common between the two boats and so it is quite natural for him to step on board and operate at 100% straight away. He is a tough cookie, no question about it and a good man to have alongside you in a storm, that is for sure.

"Positioned to the left of Safran and we were pretty happy being south of him, but we seemed to have lost our south advantage, or a lot of it which is slightly disappointing, maybe it is less important now. But as the breeze rotates and we get lifted there might be some advantages to being where we are, but at the moment we are in slightly softer pressure, maybe a couple of knots.

"So I am pretty happy with our position, but there is a long way to go and plenty of sections of the course where things can happen, and I know that Safran is equally quick and so is Groupe Bel.

"We will be trying not to get bogged down in that and just concentrate on keeping the boat going at 100% and concentrate on seeing what we can do later on in the week.

"Alex, I looked a few days ago at his routing, and he actually came out on top. But a lot of things have to work out exactly right for that plan to work, so it is still an unknown and we will have to wait and see.“

Pepe Ribes (ESP), W-Hotels:
“We are good, just getting through it and south of the Azores. It was very tough because the forecast was totally right and there was a lot of wind. We had for an hour 50 knots constant and so we went through all the sail combinations and we stuck in the reef four and the storm jib and then we had a problem in that we were not very fast and the waves broke over us. We had two crash tacks with the waves breaking over us and the keel on the wrong side, with water coming in the hatch. It was tough, yes.

"At the moment we don't have too many problems with the boat, we had some electronics problems but today it is all good. We had a spare compass on board and we replaced the compass and the boat is fine and we are ready to go. We are ready to go.

"No the truth is we are very, very tired. This morning we were dealing with a very light wind spot, so we have both been on deck for half the night.

"So we need to start to work on sleep and eating and take it easy a little bit.

"It is so different with two. Here when you have a very little problem it becomes a massive problem in a very short time. With ten people you can fix problems with ten people in heavy winds, with two people it is just dangerous. Crash tacking with two people is just unbelievable. There is not much you can do. One has to hold the helm and the other has to do all the jobs. And the waves are breaking over you, and so a little problem becomes a huge problem.”

Transat Jacques Vabre

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