Saturday 28 November 2009

TJV: Groupe Bel Air Finishes Third

Kito de Pavant (FRA) and François Gabart (FRA) on Groupe Bel. Image copyright Gilles Martin-Raget.

by Régis Lerat

Breaking the finish line at 17:33:32hrs UTC Tuesday 24th November (1137hrs local time, Costa Rica) after sailing for 16d 4hrs 2 mins 30 seconds at an average speed of 12.18 knots since leaving Le Havre on Sunday 8th November, Kito de Pavant (FRA) and François Gabart (FRA) took second place in the IMOCA Open 60 class in the ninth edition of the Transat Jacques Vabre two handed Transatlantic race. Groupe Bel sailed a distance of 5317 miles and finished 8 hours 40 minutes and 20 seconds behind the Class winner Safran.

Transat Jacques Vabre

Friday 27 November 2009

X40s: Oman Sail Masirah takes overall victory in Hong Kong

Oman Sail's Masirah continued their winning form by taking a comfortable overall victory in the first leg of the inaugural Extreme Sailing Series Asia in Hong Kong Tuesday afternoon

Oman Sail Masirah: winners of the first round of the Extreme Sailing Series Asia, in Hong Kong. Image copyright Marco Hong/OC Events.

by Lou Newlands

The champions of this year's European Series, skippered by Pete Cumming of Great Britain, consolidated their overnight lead by winning the first three races today to set them on the way to victory over the 20 races held in Hong Kong's spectacular Victoria Harbour during the last five days.

BT took second place, followed by the China Team and Shirley Robertson's Rumbo Almeira. The Wave, Muscat and Red Bull Extreme Sailing Team rounded out the six-boat field.

Said Cumming: "We had very different winds here to the European circuit and with two new members of the team we are really pleased to have done so well. We had to learn to adapt to a new bow and helmsmen and it's been a great challenge that the whole team has risen to. We came here not looking for or expecting a win, just gave it our best. Bring on Singapore!"

Masirah is backed by the Sultanate of Oman as part of a programme to reignite the country's maritime heritage and inspire Omani youth. As such, Omani squad member Khamis Al Anbouri was on the bow this week and thoroughly enjoyed the result.

"I'm so happy with the finish we had beating everyone and with lots of points to spare!" said Khamis. "I think I'm the first Omani in history to sail in Hong Kong since Sinbad travelled here from Oman all those years ago. I'm so pleased to race as part of a professional series and race in front of these top sailors. It's been a great experience and I think I'm allowed to call myself a professional sailor now - I'm so pleased!" he laughed.

Oman Sail Masirah's crew celebrate in Hong Kong. Image copyright Marco Hong/OC Events.

As Masirah and the BT battled for the top spot in Hong Kong, the fight for third was a thriller between the China Team, making their debut in the Extreme 40 Series, and Rumbo Almeira, skippered by double Olympic Gold Medallist Shirley Robertson.

With one race to go and the traditional double points on offer, Thierry Barot's China Team had to finish ahead of Robertson's team to secure the last podium position, which they successfully did in a fitting finale to the Hong Kong leg.

The champions of this year's European Series, skippered by Pete Cumming of Great Britain, consolidated their overnight lead by winning the first three races today to set them on the way to victory over the 20 races held in Hong Kong's spectacular Victoria Harbour during the last five days.

BT took second place, followed by the China Team and Shirley Robertson's Rumbo Almeira. The Wave, Muscat and Red Bull Extreme Sailing Team rounded out the six-boat field.

Said Cumming: "We had very different winds here to the European circuit and with two new members of the team we are really pleased to have done so well. We had to learn to adapt to a new bow and helmsmen and it's been a great challenge that the whole team has risen to. We came here not looking for or expecting a win, just gave it our best. Bring on Singapore!"

Oman Sail Masirah on her way to victory in Hong Kong. Image copyright Marco Hong/OC Events.

Masirah is backed by the Sultanate of Oman as part of a programme to reignite the country's maritime heritage and inspire Omani youth. As such, Omani squad member Khamis Al Anbouri was on the bow this week and thoroughly enjoyed the result.

"I'm so happy with the finish we had beating everyone and with lots of points to spare!" said Khamis. "I think I'm the first Omani in history to sail in Hong Kong since Sinbad travelled here from Oman all those years ago. I'm so pleased to race as part of a professional series and race in front of these top sailors. It's been a great experience and I think I'm allowed to call myself a professional sailor now - I'm so pleased!" he laughed.

As Masirah and the BT battled for the top spot in Hong Kong, the fight for third was a thriller between the China Team, making their debut in the Extreme 40 Series, and Rumbo Almeira, skippered by double Olympic Gold Medallist Shirley Robertson.

With one race to go and the traditional double points on offer, Thierry Barot's China Team had to finish ahead of Robertson's team to secure the last podium position, which they successfully did in a fitting finale to the Hong Kong leg.

Fleet racing on the final day of the Extreme Sailing Series Asia in Hong Kong.
Marco Hong/OC EventsSaid Barot: "It's a fantastic result. You always dream that you will do well, but before this event and being realistic, we felt we had no hope, particularly after our opening day which was really tough. But our boat handling got so much better, we started reading what was happening on the water and reacting to it and Hugh [Styles] was so confident and never had a doubt about making a decision - he knew our crew could do it.

"We were on such a steep learning curve, but showed the other teams here just what we could do."

One of the unique features of the Extreme Sailing Series is that the four-man crew is joined by a 'fifth man', a VIP guest or member of the media that is onboard for the racing action. Local Hong Kong model and actor Terrence Yin stepped onboard Red Bull Extreme Sailing Team today.

"It was exhilarating to be part of the wind and to move in the water without the sound of engine. This was my first time to be on a sail boat, so it was a privilege to basically sit still while all this work was going on around me," said Yin.

"I had in my mind the image of the drummer on a dragon boat as the fifth man, someone who acts as a cheerleader. It was definitely not like that. The Red Bull team was fired up and did a great job and did not need me cheering them on," he added.

The Extreme 40s were here in Hong Kong to demonstrate the potential of bringing a full scale public event to the region in 2010/2011 - a chance to showcase the specatacle of Extreme 40 racing to the national and international media and VIP guests.

Nola Ni from Nautica, one of China's leading boating publications, raced in the fifth man position onboard BT.

"For me, this was an extremely exciting opportunity. It is very different to what I have experienced before, because the racing happens right in the middle of the city. The contrast of the sport and real life going on in the harbour at the same time is great and so close to the shore. I like the way that the harbour is not closed to traffic, so you have working boats and the racing boats on the water at the same time.

"When you are actually on the boats in the fifth man spot, it is amazing. I had the chance to sail with some of the world's best skippers - the very best in the world were here, so that is unique," she said.

Nick Moloney, the skipper of BT, who won the Around the Island Race on Sunday as part of the Series, was delighted with his runner-up placing. A big push saw them finish with a second and a win in the last two races to secure the second spot.

"We needed those good scores earlier," said Moloney. "The trap with this type of sailing is to be conservative. If you think that, then you get hammered. You have to race to win - game on, don't sail to cover otherwise you get smashed. At one point we were sailing for third, forget that - go for the win! It's been awesome. To win the Around the Island Race was a highlight personally for me. When we finished, we erupted and it was genuine passion."

X40s on the last day in Hong Kong. Image copyright Marco Hong/OC Events.

The Extreme Sailing Series Asia now moves on to Singapore for the second leg (December 11-15) before the inaugural series concludes in Muscat, Oman, from February 1-5.

Final Standings:

1. Oman Sail's Masirah 104 points
2. BT 93
3. China Team 71
4. Rumbo Almeira 62
5. The Wave, Muscat 57
6. Red Bull Extreme Sailing Team 54

Extreme Sailing Series Asia

TJV: Rankings at 1330 CET on 24th November 2009

IMOCA Open 60

1 SAFRAN 0.0 15j 19h 22m 10s 24.11.2009 09:52 12.46
4 W HOTELS 776.2
6 AVIVA 867.2
8 1876 974.7
9 ARTEMIS 1097.9


1 CRÊPES WHAOU ! 0.0 15j 15h 31m 50s 24.11.2009 05:31 13.41

Transat Jacques Vabres

Wednesday 25 November 2009

TJV: Happiest of memories for Marc Guillemot as Safran wins Transat Jacques Vabre

Safran crosses the finishing line. Image copyright Marcel Mochet/AFP.

by Régis Lerat

Although the duo had battled through an horrendous Atlantic storm, during which they took the lead of the 14 boat IMOCA Open 60 class back on Thursday 12th November, the hard bitten skipper from La Trinité confirmed on the dockside that the worst part of their race was the final 24 hours.

Because both they and their nearest rivals Groupe Bel (Kito de Pavant and François Gabart), who were just 90 miles behind, had chosen to go in ‘stealth' mode – during which their positions are no longer publically broadcast – he spent the final miles fighting through unpredictable light winds, squalls and shifting breezes as they closed to the Costa Rica coast through the night, being eaten up by worry that De Pavant and Gabart might still catch them with their ‘Laughing Cow' logo'd, an identical design from VPLP/Verdier partnership.

“The most difficult time was today, every time were battling under the clouds, the storms, the rain, with no wind I was imagining Kito and François with their Laughing Cow running down the slopes with 25 knots of wind, whereas we were stuck with three or four knots. It was hyper hard for the moral, very stressful. Even up to an hour before the line we were still very anxious. But the main thing is that we got in in front.” Grinned a relieved Guillemot.

A potent combination of 50 year old Guillemot's 30 years of experience multihull and monohull ocean racing, and the youthful intensity and stamina of Caudrelier's grounding in the Figaro class - in which he won the Solitaire in 2004 - the duo's win today overwrites the memory of finishing in a frustrating second place in 2007 into Salvador de Bahia, watching from astern as Michel Desjoyeaux and Manu Leborgne won.

Guillemot's win will be a hugely popular one in his native France, and throughout the global sailing community who readily recall how he stood by his injured friend and rival Yann Elies during the solo Vendée Globe round the world race last December. For nearly 48 hours Guillemot spoke from only metres away by phone and radio to Elies, who was stuck unable to move after smashing his thigh bone, immobilized with pain just two metres from his medical kit.

As well as pit-stopping twice in remote islands to try and repair his mainsail mast track, Guillemot sailed the final 1000 miles of the solo, non stop round the world race with no keel on Safran. After being damaged in the Southern Ocean some weeks earlier when he struck a sea-mammal, his keel unexpectedly dropped out of his boat. Regardless, he nursed Safran home to finish in third place.

Behind Safran when they finished into Puerto Limon are double Vendée Globe winner Michel Desjoyeaux, who was lying fourth before he and co-skipper Jérémie Beyou went into stealth mode, and 2004-5 Vendée winner Vincent Riou who lies ninth of the 14 boats which started in Le Havre on Sunday November 8th.

Marc Guillemot, FRA, Safran:
“ This is a win which was done without the hand of Thierry Henry, that should really be underlined. It really touched me to see my wife jump on the boat first, but at the same time knowing I am still in race mode, and it takes me a little time to come down, but I am so pleased she is here, so pleased that everyone is here now on board.

“This win is brilliant for all those who gave their time and their talents to this project, the people of Safran, the designers, and all of my team, everyone who has invested so much interest and passion. This win is just fantastic. It is brilliant, we said we would come back and do better than in 2007, so here it is. It is done.

“It was not easy. We had to do a lot of work on the boat, these boats are demanding, and we ourselves knew we could never let up at all.

“ We made a good pair with Charles to push the rate and rhythm, you have to do thaty when you are being pursued from behind, and so that really pleases me. And to the end we really pushed, and so I really am just so happy, It was a great Transatlantic race, for its length and by the high level of the competitors, and the keenness and drive, all desperate to win. And so, for us, the victory is all the sweeter to savour later.”

Safran finished at 08:52:10hrs GMT/UTC (02:52:10hrs local time Tuesday 24th) after 15 days 19 hrs 22 mins 10 secs. Co-skippered by France's Marc Guillemot and Charles Caudrelier-Bénac Safran won the 14 boat IMOCA Open 60 Class in the Transat Jacques Vabre transatlantic race which started on Sunday 8th November from Le Havre.

Safran sailed 5263 miles at an average speed of 12.46 knots.

Transat Jacques Vabre

TJV: Caffari and Thompson race at full intensity in the Transat Jacques Vabre

by Kelly Russell

Now less than 900 miles from the finish line in Costa Rica, Dee Caffari and Brian Thompson are continuing to race Aviva hard in the Transat Jacques Vabre.

Overnight, the British duo successfully stayed with the middle of the fleet, within 37 miles of Veolia Environnement. Caffari and Thompson will continue to focus on clawing back as many miles as possible whilst maintaining their lead over Akena Verandas.

At 10h00 Dee Caffari and Brian Thompson, onboard Aviva, were in seventh place, 33 miles behind Veolia Environnement in sixth. Open 60 race winner Safran successfully completed the course at 08h52 GMT this morning.

Dee Caffari and Brian Thompson’s latest diary entry received on 24 November 2009 at 0739 GMT:

“Fast sailing has been full on for the last 24 hours. With our group all doing the same there really is no let up and I am beginning to feel exhausted. If we are not gybing on shifts then we are facing squalls at break neck speeds only to be fighting back up to speed afterwards. It is a great feeling to have broken the 1000 mile barrier but I just know this is where this race is just starting. Costa Rica here we come. Also just wanted to say what an awesome race the lead boats have had. Congratulations to them and I hope they enjoy their welcome drink and some rest and relaxation.”

Aviva Ocean Racing
Transat Jacques Vabre

Tuesday 24 November 2009

MRT Australia Cup Bar Opens This Thursday

by Kinley Fowler

The Sunseeker Australia Cup begins this Thursday through to Sunday in front of the Perth CBD, and there is no better viewing platform than the MRT Floating Bar, stationed on the Barrack St jetty.

Thanks to a generous donation by Rottnest Express, the Mirsky Racing Team are able to host the Perth public on a modified ferry with a cash bar, live commentary, a split level indoor/outdoor spectator platform, and regular appearances by the Australia Cup competitors. Free to enter, the bar will be open daily from 1pm through to 8pm from this Thursday through to Sunday.

The Australia Cup is a showdown between the top teams on the International sailing circuit in the build up to the World Championship grand final starts on the 1st of December in Malaysia. So the Sunseeker Australia Cup can boast a world class line up, with three time Olympic Gold Medallist Ben Ainslie, current Match Racing World Champions Bahrain Team Pindar, the current tour leaders BlackMatch Racing, and of course Perth’s own Mirsky Racing Team and many more putting on a show for the people of Perth.

So come down and cheer on your locals, or just enjoy a drink in the MRT Australia Cup Floating Bar.

Mirsky Racing Team
Australia Cup

TJV: Newsflash - Safran

Safran. Image copyright Jean-Marie Liot/DPPI/Safran.

by Régis Lerat

At 08:52:10hrs GMT/UTC (02:52:10hrs local time Tuesday 24th) after 15 days 19 hrs 22 mins 10 secs on course Safran co-skippered by France's Marc Guillemot and Charles Caudrelier-Bénac crossed the finish line off Puerto Limon, Costa Rica to win the 14 boat IMOCA Open 60 Class in the Transat Jacques Vabre transatlantic race which started on Sunday 8th November from Le Havre. Safran sailed 5263 miles at an average speed of 12.46 secs.

Transat Jacques Vabre

TJV: Crepes Whaou! First to Finish

Image copyright Marcel Mochet/AFP.

by Régis Lerat

A huge, noisy Costa Rican welcome greeted Franck Yves Escoffier (FRA) and Erwan Le Roux (FRA), co skippers of the Crêpes Whaou when they emerged out of the Caribbean darkness, comprehensively winning the Multi 50 class and taking line honours for this ninth edition of the Transat Jacques Vabre race which started from Le Havre on Sunday 8th November.

Emerging out of the darkness to break the finish line off the historic port town of Peurto Limon at 2231hrs local time Monday 23rd (0431hrs UTC/GMT Tuesday) the French duo with their new build Crêpes Whaou! 3, only launched in August, maintained Escoffier's unbeaten record in this biannual classic, also scooping the IMOCA Open 60's to take line honours for the third consecutive time.

Image copyright Marcel Mochet/AFP.

Escoffier and Le Roux took 15 days, 15 hours, 31 minutes and 50 seconds to complete the course which took the Multi 50 fleet south of Barbados on a course which for the winning pair was 5805 miles, which they completed at an average speed of 13.41 knots.

The new destination for the coffee route race, finishing in Costa Rica, served up a carnival greeting for the winners, Escoffier remarking immediately that without doubt the high point of their race was the warmth of finish. Sailing with Le Roux, a successful former Mini 650 Class 40 and multihull sailor who has completed two previous Transat Jacques Vabre races, the pair chose a prudent southerly routing to avoid the very worst of a very active depression before then building a big lead over their Multi50 Class rivals.

Image copyright Marcel Mochet/AFP.

Asked about the memories, the key moments, Escoffier said:
“You have to start with this finish, the arrival here has been an extraordinary reception. We have seen some great welcomes but here in Peurto Limon between the fireworks and the whole world out to greet us on the dock, that was a great moment. But so, too the start was interesting too. There is always a build up of adrenalin you need pumping as a competitor, and I felt like we made the strongest start of the Multi 50's. And a strong memory yesterday when we just stopped ourselves from tipping the boat over. It was not funny. Erwan, who is younger than me really had to rein me in from time to time. We can smile looking back...”

On the subject of the Class 50, and asked if they did not feel out on a limb without much competition in the end, Escoffier explained:
“ We are about to succeed in making it (the Multi 50) take off with the new boats in the class. Unfortunately the two other newest boats are not at the finish too. We missed competition a little, but we should not forget Guyader pour Urgence Climatique who are a good crew. In the multihull there is not much to teach them, but they lack the finance to have a boat like Crêpes Whaou! And it would be good if they could find it. And I hope that before I leave this class there will be a proper class of boats like ours. But the objective was always, as well to beat the IMOCA Open 60s in and we pushed hard to do that.”

Transat Jacques Vabre

US Match Racing Championships: 7th Overall At The US Match Racing Championship

It wasn't all bad... Image copyright Chris Love/SailGroove.

by Anna Tunnicliffe

22nd November wrapped up the final day of the USMRC which was won, in a very tight final, by Bill Hardesty from the Chicago Match Race Center. Bill won the finals against Dave Perry 3-2 in a heavily contested five-race series. We won our knockout series for 7th/8th places, against 2007 National Champion, Brian Angel, 2-0, to finish 7th overall.

There was wind, finally, for the last day, but as we had only completed one and one-third rounds of the scheduled two round robins, the organizers wanted to get into the semi-finals and the finals for the event. Unfortunately for us, this meant that we were not going to be able to climb up the standings by any more than one place. Because the rounds were not completed, we were scored in a way that is called 'fractional scoring'. The scoring system is a bit complicated, and it didn't help us out in the standings, leaving us in 8th going into the last day. There was a small possibility that the second round was going to be completed instead of the semi's and finals, which would have increased our chances of moving up more. However, the way it worked out, the finals were so much fun to watch, I'm glad the regatta was sailed the way it was.

And for my next trick... Image copyright Chris Love/SailGroove.

I started the day by running a 5k road race. I had a bit of frustration from the week built up inside me and needed to let it out, so I ran a race before sailing on Sunday and it cleared my head. I didn't run as fast as I had wanted since I was tired and suffering from a cold, but I did managed to finish 3rd overall, and 2nd woman, with a time of 20:08. (Warm up for the Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving). After the race, I met my team at the sailing center and we were notified of the format for the day's racing. Despite being disappointed by the format, we used the racing as good practice, and executed the plans that we wanted to. The team worked very well together and everything felt as if it was flowing. It was a great way to end our season, with two wins and, fantastic and effective team work.

After we had finished racing, we stayed out, anchored our boat, and watched the finals. I don't think I have ever seen so many penalty flags in five races as we saw in these finals, but needless to say, it was very exciting. Both teams sailed exceptionally well, executing great moves and being very aggressive. We watched and took notes, and are going to study them in our off-time over the next couple of weeks.

So our season has ended for the year. We have a month and a half off from sailing, except that I'm heading to Australia in a week, for a week of Laser training with my friend Marit, from the Netherlands. I am looking forward to sailing my Laser again, to work on my fitness and hiking, since it's been a while. As a match race team, we are focusing on our fitness programs and weight gain for the Elliots. Our next regatta is our USSTAG team qualifier in early January, which will be our qualifier for the Miami OCR regatta.

Anna Tunnicliffe
US Match Racing Championships

TJV: Newsflash - Puerto Limon, Costa Rica

Crêpes Whaou! Image copyright L. Critot.

by Régis Lerat

After 15 days 15 hours 31 minutes and 50 secs at 22:31hrs local time Monday 23rd November, 04:31hrs UTC/GMT Tuesday 24th November, Franck-Yves Escoffier and Erwan Le Roux on the Multi 50 Crêpes Whaou! broke the finish line off Puerto Limon, Costa Rica to take line honours in the ninth edition of the Transat Jacques Vabre transatlantic race from Le Havre. For the 5805 miles sailed their average speed is 13.41 kts.

Transat Jacques Vabre

X40s: Oman Sail Masirah dominate Day 4 and steal lead from BT

Rumbo Almeria and China Team. Day 4, Hong Kong, © Guy Nowell/OC Events.

by Lou Newlands

Day four of the Extreme Sailing Series and it was all change at the top of the leaderboard as Masirah, one of two teams from the Sultanate of Oman, dominated the fleet today.

Masirah racing on Day 4 of the Extreme Sailing Series Asia in Hong Kong, © Guy Nowell/OC Events.

With four wins in five races, the European Extreme Sailing Series Champion skipper Pete Cumming was pleased with their performance today, "We are racing with 50% of our original crew so to be back at the top of the leaderboard is real testament to how hard our new crew members Khamis [Alanbouri] and Leigh [McMillan] are gelling with the team. Khamis, in particular, has had a brilliant day. Every day he is improving and it is really satisfying to see him become an integral part of our team. This is only his third full day of top level competitive racing and we aren't going easy on him, putting him in tough racing conditions but he's rising to the challenge each and every time."

Extreme 40s racing in Victoria Harbour during the Extreme Sailing Series Asia in Hong Kong, © Guy Nowell/OC Events.

It was the last race of the day that was the undoing for the team as Pete Cumming explained. "It was a school boy error and a lesson that you only need to learn once. We had a bad furl at the mark and were too focussed on the mark rounding and not on getting the kite away correctly. It's tough in these race conditions, but we are all learning from our mistakes and it won't happen again."

For BT it was a disappointing day having dominated the previous two days racing in both the longer Around the Island Race and the shorter, sharper racing more familiar to these professional Extreme 40 teams.

Onboard BT during Day 4 of Racing in the Extreme Sailing Series Asia in Victoria Harbour Hong Kong, © Guy Nowell/OC Events.

"Today the guys on Masirah came out right from the very start gunning for the wins. Every time they were in a perfect position on the line which gives them a huge advantage. We made a couple of mistakes and they punished us every time," said BT Helmsman Andrew Walsh. "Masirah is sailing in the same way we did two days ago and we aren't adapting fast enough.

"We have already had a debrief on the boat on the way in and are aware where we went wrong and are ready to get out there tomorrow, get clean air off the line and back to where we were two days ago - at the top of the leaderboard," he concluded.

Fleet racing on day 4 of the Extreme Sailing Series Asia in Hong Kong, © Guy Nowell/OC Events.

The unique aspect to this Extreme 40 racing is that every boat has a guest onboard in the "fifth man" position. Philip Cook, a VIP guest with Red Bull Extreme Sailing Team today, came off the boat grinning with excitement. "I'm honoured to be out here, wonderful setting and great to be with these guys, what more can I say. It's superb. It's hard to describe, if I were to give it a rating out of ten, I'd give it an eleven! It's superb absolutely wonderful."

It was disappointment for Red Bull Extreme Sailing Team, a new addition to the Extreme Sailing Series Asia circuit as they had to retire during the fourth race today due to hydraulic problems.

Racing on day 4 of the Extreme Sailing Series Asia in Hong Kong. Image copyright Guy Nowell/OC Events.

Another new addition to the circuit, China Team, skippered by Hong Kong resident Thierry Barot also made their mark with three second places. Crewmember Tan Wearn Haw, from Singapore was pleased with their performance, "It was good fun today! We recovered from a not so glamorous first two races [they had an On Course Side or OCS - they were over the line at the start and didn't return to restart their race and in the next race were placed last] and then settled down in the stable conditions and got into a really fabulous groove. Hugh Styles is teaching us a lot and slowly slowly we are getting better. We are racing against guys who have sailed together all season so I'm really pleased with how we are performing against them."

The final day of racing will take place tomorrow from 2pm followed by a prize giving in the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club at 7pm. The boats will then be packed up into their 40foot containers and shipped to Singapore where they will be reassembled with racing to begin on the second leg on 11 December.

Results after day 4 of the Extreme Sailing Series Asia:

Oman Sail Masirah 78
BT 71
Rumbo Almería 53
China Team 48
The Wave, Muscat 48
Red Bull Extreme Sailing Team 46

Extreme Sailing Series Asia

VOR: Ayre Challenge Presents its Volvo Ocean Race Porject

by Pierre Orphanidis

AYRE Challenge presented today in Denia its project to take part in the next three editions of the Volvo Ocean Race, all of which will start in the Spanish port of Alicante.

The presentation of this 10-year-long project and milestone in Spanish yacht racing took place in Denia, a city that has strong ties with AYRE Challenge. Two years ago, the Spanish team presented its challenge for the 33rd America’s Cup representing the Real Club Náutico de Denia (Royal Yacht Club of Denia).

The city of Denia also belongs to the province of Alicante, starting point of the next three editions of the Volvo Ocean Race, highlighting AYRE’s firm commitment to participate in all of them.

The speakers in the presentation were Ana Kringe, mayor of Denia, Knut Frostad, Volvo Ocean Race CEO, Pedro Perelló, General Manager of AYRE Challenge, Manuel González-Devesa, President of the Denia Royal Yacht Club, and Augusto Sanguinetti, Sports and Technical Director of AYRE Challenge. In addition, during the act were present, among others, Arantxa Vallés, General Director of the Sociedad Gestora para la Imagen Estratégica y Promocional de la Comunitat Valenciana –showing the institution’s support of the project-, Edouard Legendre, AYRE Challenge Commercial and Marketing Director, as well as José Juan Parets, AYRE Challenge Financial Director.

Knut Frostad, Volvo Ocean Race CEO, expressed his satisfaction with the firm intention of AYRE Challenge: “We are very happy that teams such as AYRE present their firm intention to take part in our competition, proving the sport and commercial appeal of the Volvo Ocean Race as a platform with international reach and impact” and pointed out that “AYRE Challenge is a project with a long-term commitment that will guarantee its participation in at least 2 editions”.

From left Ana Kringe (mayor of Denia), Knut Frostad (Volvo Ocean Race CEO), Arantxa Vallés (General Director of the Sociedad Gestora para la Imagen Estratégica y Promocional de la Comunitat Valenciana) and Pedro Perelló (AYRE Challenge CEO). Image copyright Pedro Martinez/AYRE Challenge.

Pedro Perelló, founder and CEO of AYRE Challenge, outlined the main lines of action of the team: “AYRE Challenge was born as a new reference in yacht racing on a national and international level, based on 3 fundamental foundations. It will be a winning project, spanning various yacht classes and various aspects (sport, cultural and social).” Perelló wanted to highlight that the team opted for the VOR as the first important sailing event in which to kick off the AYRE project mainly because of “its international reach, its international values and positioning, its prestige, and the solidity it provides to our sponsors”. Regarding AYRE Challenge’s participation, “the key of the project is the ability to have continuity in time in order to break away from the usual cycles in yacht racing and for that reason the team commits to participate in the next 3 VOR editions that will start in Alicante in 2011, 2014 and 2017”.

Augusto Sanguinetti, gave a first brief overview of the project’s main technical and sports aspects: “Our latest-generation VO70 boat will be built in the Region of Valencia in 2010 and according to our initial schedule the boatbuilder will be Richard Gillies”. As far as boat design is concerned, the team is currently studying proposals from 2 designers of the highest international caliber and a decision will be taken before the end of 2009.

Team AYRE Challenge will rely on 2 active bases during the preparation and actual competition of the next VOR: The base in the Valencia Region will be the Team’s permanent one, housing its headquarters and used for both logistics and maintenance operations as well as for the organization of various events by the Team. The sports base, on the Atlantic Ocean coast, will be where the most important tests for the new boat development will take place.

From left Manuel González-Devesa (President of the Denia Royal Yacht Club), Pedro Perelló (AYRE Challenge CEO), Ana Kringe (mayor of Denia), Knut Frostad (Volvo Ocean Race CEO) and Augusto Sanguinetti (Sports and Technical Director of AYRE Challenge). Image copyright Pedro Martinez/AYRE Challenge.

The aim is to have 3 key persons in the sailing crew: the skipper and 2 watch captains. They will be the ones to decide and ultimately select the sailing crew that will compete in the next Volvo Ocean Race and in addition they will actively take part in the buildup and evolution of the Team.

Sanguinetti concluded that, “we have 24 months ahead of us from today before the start of the next VOR and our objective is to make the most of our time in order to build a great team with the best preparation possible.”

The countdown towards the 2011-12 Volvo Ocean Race has just started for Team AYRE Challenge.

AYRE Challenge
Volvo Ocean Race

RC44s: Training in Dubai

by Paul Cayard

We have had two days of training here in Dubai on Katusha. Today was a very good day with wind speeds up to 14 knots. The boats were surfing downwind and there was plenty of action.

We trained with Aqua most of the day. We had about eight match race starts and three races with them. They had the upper hand on us all day, but we learned a lot. We have two new crew members for this regatta, Bob Little who will be our fleet racing helmsman and match racing tactician and Alan "Buddah" Nakanishi who is helping Robbie with the trimming of the kite and the jib. Alan is from Hawaii and been around as long as I have.

The remainder of the crew includes: Morgan Gutenkunst on the bow, Sander van der Borsch in the pit, Tahito Sanchez (mainsheet assist), Robbie Naismith (genoa-spinnaker trim), Jared Henderson (cockpit), Marco Constant (mainsheet) and me steering in the match racing and tactician in the fleet racing.

I took a few photos at the airport and around the Dubai International Marine Club which is hosting the Gold Cup. The airport is HUGE! You would think Dubai is the hub of the world with how many flights and people pass through here. I was here a few times 5 and 6 years ago and I can tell you that all those building behind the Yacht Club were not here as well as most of the other structures near the marina. We are just in front of The Palm and it is still under going massive construction. You wonder who is going to buy all these places.

The forecast for tomorrow is even more wind, maybe up to 20 knots, from the Northwest, then easing for the rest of the week. Hopefully not too much easing.

Cayard Sailing

Black Swan Racing Home at Sunseeker Australia Cup

Keith Swinton versus Ian Williams. Supplied image.

by Black Swan Racing media

This week the team will be racing in the newly launched Sunseeker Australia Cup. The regatta will be sailed on both Matilda Bay and Perth Water in front of Barrack Street Jetty and the Perth CBD. This will provide some fabulous viewing opportunities for spectators to view world class match race sailing.

The regatta plays host to an incredible international field with the top five match racing sailors taking part along side Americas Cup teams and the best young up and coming talent.

It will be great to have our full team in Perth for the regatta with bowman Nick Bastow and pitman Jakob Gustafsson flying in from overseas for the event. The team will train for two days prior to the event to refresh our techniques on the Foundation 36 yachts.

Black Swan Racing team for Sunseeker Australia Cup:
Keith Swinton (AUS)
Doug Cooksey (AUS)
Jesper "Fang" Warren (AUS)
Jakob Gustafsson (SWE)
Nick Bastow (NZL)

Racing begins on Thursday and we encourage everyone to come down and take a look. Our friends at Mirsky Racing Team are running a floating bar off the western side of Barrack Street Jetty which will offer drinks and a good viewing platform of racing in Perth Water so this is a good option if you don't have access to a boat.

Black Swan Racing
Australia Cup

Jules Verne Trophy: Head down but an unfailing morale

by Vincent Borde and Caroline Muller

Tied up alongside in the port of Cape Town since Saturday, Groupama 3 certainly isn't being left in peace, far from it in fact. Barely had she reached the dock, then the shore crew managed by Yann Mérour, all of whom had made the trip down from Lorient, had taken control of matters with the assistance of the sailors. Structural analysis of the damage and observations made on site by composite specialists, confirm that it will indeed take a week's work before Groupama 3 can head out to sea again, bound for Brest, for a new stand-by period set to begin on 1st January 2010.

Benefiting from the technical means available in the Shosholoza base (a team which participated in the 32nd edition of the America's Cup), Pierre Tissier, Sandy Blanalt, Sarah Lynch and Eric Beylot are all working on Groupama 3's port float. In a dry, oppressive heat, which is favourable for working on carbon, they have begun by cutting out the faulty bulkhead and then constructing its replacement: "It's never easy to work in such a confined space. Luckily this bulkhead is very close to the access hatch though. This enables us to poke our heads out into the fresh air on a regular basis. It certainly is hot though!" says Eric Beylot, who is almost missing the gloomy weather reigning back home in Brittany.

Having made the journey down from Johannesburg, three infra-red analysis specialists have inspected the affected zone without finding any side-effects. This is a good thing according to the skipper of Groupama 3, who only rarely leaves his telephone, as he's in regular contact with his design office, the architects from the VPLP and HDS: "By running the data through their computers again, they've realised that the load case which concerns us today was not intended to exceed six tonnes. The sailing conditions we endured very certainly produced greater stresses than that. This is why we're also going to reinforce the equivalent bulkhead on the starboard float" explains Franck.

As far as the rest of Groupama 3 is concerned though, she's in perfect condition, ready to head back out to sea and set off once again to tackle this famous Jules Verne Trophy record, the value of which can now be appreciated even more: "It's clear that in order to stand a chance of beating it, we're going to have to go fast. We're also going to have to go far, which we haven't managed to do to date. It's now down to us to prove we're capable of that. From the moment the damage occurred, the whole crew have expressed their commitment to this. I'm proud of them and also proud of Groupama 3, which is an excellent boat. The same goes for my loyal partner, Groupama who, once again, are giving us their support in what is a difficult time" concludes Franck Cammas.

During this time, the rest of the crew are rinsing off the deck fittings and foulies, tidying up their `home' and inspecting the deck from top to toe. Certain lines, such as those which control the descent and rise of the foils, are worn and have been replaced. When it's time for lunch, conversations regularly revolve around the anecdotes experienced during the first 11 days of this Jules Verne Trophy attempt. These are always coloured by laughter which demonstrates, if there were a need, the extent of the bond between the ten crew, who together form a great team.

Cammas - Groupama

LVT: A Legend Reborn

Azzurra win the Louis Vuitton Trophy in Nice. Image copyright Stefano Gattini/Azzurra.

by Chloe Daycard

Azzurra is the oldest name in Italian grand prix sailing, and today the spirit of 1983 powered Francesco Bruni's team to a famous victory. The legend of Azzurra is reborn...

Modern racing teams tend to be made up of many different nationalities. Like in top-flight club football, the thinking is that you recruit the best person for the job, regardless of where they come from. The new Russian team, Synergy, for example had eight nationalities represented among the 17 crew.

But the two teams that made the final were the most single-nation of all the eight teams in Nice. Emirates Team New Zealand was Kiwi throughout, with the exception of British navigator Jules Salter. In Azzurra, American-born Tom Burnham was the only non-Italian on board, although seeing as the team’s strategist is married to an Italian wife, Burnham is considered an honorary Italian.

Tommaso Chieffi, one of the most experienced tacticians in the game, valued the opportunity to sail with his compatriots again. “Having the same language on board helped us out. Even Tom Burnham can speak very fluent Italian, so being able to communicate in your own language when things happen so quick is a big bonus. We can all sail in English but sometimes there are subtleties and things that you might miss. It was good to prove that we can do it, and the team did a very good job. As a tactician I could ask for anything and this crew could deliver it, even if it was a short layline or whatever.”

Francesco Bruni with the Louis Vuitton Trophy won by Azzurra in Nice. Image copyright Stefano Gattini/Azzurra.

The Italians are well known for their passion, and for their outward display of emotion. Even before they’d crossed the finish line of the winning race, they started celebrating. Grinder Francesco Scalici says a tight bond has formed in the team already. “Italy and New Zealand have a big tradition in sailing, but today we sailed well and maybe with a bit of luck.” That luck he refers to could include a man overboard incident where sewer man Pietro Mantovani was swept off the foredeck during the final spinnaker hoist, but was pulled out of the water before the boat swept past him. It was a magnificent recovery from potential disaster, and it was the sign of a regatta that has gone impeccably for this new team with an old, respected name. “The name Azzurra is very important for us because it has a big tradition from 1983,” says Scalici. “We respect this brand, and we are proud to do justice to it.”

Skipper of Emirates Team New Zealand, Dean Barker, was magnanimous in defeat. “It’s disappointing for us to lose a regatta. We had every opportunity to win it but Azzurra sailed better than us. Everything choice they made was right. All the 50:50 calls seemed to go their way, which is frustrating, but that's how it goes sometimes.”

Barker is a quiet sailor who leads a quiet team, the very opposite of the ebullient Italians. The quiet approach didn’t prevail on this occasion, but Barker won’t be changing his ways. “We work very hard on our composure on the boat, keep things level whether we're winning or losing. The good thing about that is the emotional rollercoaster potentially isn't quite as big. We back ourselves well to recover from losses or mistakes. That's one advantage of having a steady emotional platform.”

Riccardo Bonadeo and Giovanni Maspero. Image copyright Stefano Gattini/Azzurra.

Grant Dalton, too, is aware of the cultural difference between the Kiwis and Italians. “We could hear them when they finished,” he laughed, “and good on them too. New team, come together, and it's a funny bitter-sweet moment for me, because I've got an involvement with Riccardo Bonadeo and the whole formation of that team. If I was going to be beaten by anyone, that's who I'd like to be beaten by, and they're really good people.

“Azzurra is the oldest of the sailing brands in Italy, and this is its rebirth. In theory the semi-finals probably should have been us, Artemis, Team Origin and BMW Oracle, but in pop two of the upstarts with Azzurra and Synergy, and they kick out two of the big teams from the semi-finals, and then kick out Origin in the semi-finals. So it's kind of a fairy tale story, and Azzurra deserve to win.”

Louis Vuitton Trophy

TJV: Day 15: Final week of the Transat Jacques Vabre - time to ration the diesel…

Sam Davies on the helm and enjoying the sun. Image copyright Artemis Ocean Racing.

by Artemis Ocean Racing media

Into the third week of the two-handed Transat Jacques Vabre, Artemis Ocean Racing and 1876 remain the only two boats to pass through the West Indies and into the Caribbean Sea, but they should do so later tonight somewhere close to St Vincent and the Grenadines: “We’re hoping for a little duel with 1876 but they are still miles ahead of us at the moment, but it is looking like they are quite slow and we are quite fast.

"Hopefully, we will close in on the miles and I think the way we are approaching the Caribbean we genuinely have more wind than their approach; so, hopefully, it will be to our advantage to catch up a little bit,” relayed Sam. “We’re working really hard because we see this as an opportunity to catch up or even overtake them if luck goes our way for once! It will be fun to have another boat to play with because for the whole race we haven’t really had the chance to line Artemis up against the other boats in fair conditions.”

Yves Parlier and Pachi Rivero on 1876 followed a radical northerly option all the way across the Atlantic before dropping south and approaching the Caribbean from the NNE; at the start of the weekend that strategy still looked good as they were ranked in 5th place but light airs this weekend have seem their boat speeds tumble and their position on the leaderboard, now in 8th place. “We are in good Trade Winds now so we’re doing some good miles,” confirmed Sam.

Artemis Ocean Racing has 1500nm to go to the finish in Puerto Limon, Costa Rica, expecting to arrive late Friday or early Saturday morning. Sam and Sidney make be looking forward to a some closer-quarter sparring but there is another potential hitch on the horizon: “We’re a bit tight on diesel so we are limiting everything we do,” said Sam. “Well, we’re more than ‘tight’ we are probably going to finish with no batteries and no engine. We reckon we’ve got three days of diesel left!” The Artemis duo will be rationing the diesel usage to ensure they have enough to get the weather and positions reports, otherwise they really will be sailing ‘blind’.

The two top IMOCA boats in the Transat Jacques Vabre have gone into ‘stealth mode’, electing to use their 24-hour blackout period in the final stages of the 4,730-mile race. At 0700 GMT this morning, the leader Safran had just under 200 miles to go, with Groupe Bel, 70 miles behind, taking a flier to the north in hope of more breeze. They are expected to finish later tonight or the early hours of this morning.

In the middle of the leaderboard, 40-odd miles separates 5th-placed W Hotels and Veolia Environnment, whilst Aviva play catch-up after a brief diversion to St Lucia to collect a spare part but there really is very little between these three boats in the final phase of the race.

Sam Davies: “The Trade Winds are rocketing Artemis towards the Caribbean and the fast, and sometimes, furious downwind sailing is exhilarating. I love the nights at sea, and last night was just magic... It was an “ipod” moment and so out came all the great ‘sing-along to’ songs!”

Artemis Ocean Racing
Transat Jacques Vabre

TJV: The Safran monohull expected in Costa Rica Monday night

Safran keeping up the suspense

by Soazig Guého

Since 1100 hrs this morning, Safran and Groupe Bel have switched to stealth mode. They had one final card left to play with the finish still expected in the middle of the night between midnight and 0400 hrs CET (2300 hrs - 0300 hrs GMT).

Even if the two leading boats are now in stealth mode, they are being closely followed by Jean Maurel, the Race Director and by their own teams thanks to the GPS positions regularly and automatically sent back ashore.

Good speeds

The members of the Safran Sailing Team therefore know Safran’s bearing, speed and distance from the finish. Only one thing can be said for now: everything is fine on board, even if the official rankings at 1700 hrs are notable for the absence of the two frontrunners! The track is remaining as smooth as ever and the speed is clearly good in respect to the weather forecasts. On the other hand, the Safran Sailing Team has no way of finding out what is happening aboard Groupe Bel at the moment. A better course, a higher speed? Only the Race Director can reply to that question or indeed one of the members of the Groupe Bel team…

Two hours before the finish

The suspense, which increased when the two boats battling it out for victory slipped into stealth mode, should come to an end two hours before the finishing line is crossed. At that moment, according to Race Instructions, the crews have to make an official announcement. That is why that we shall only find out late in the night what the real gap is between Safran and Groupe Bel. Will it have extended or be much less than the last rankings showed at 0800 hrs this morning, when 90 miles separated them. The suspense is building...

Leading the race for eleven days, the duo of Guillemot - Caudrelier Benac are expected to finish in Costa Rica in the middle of the night (between midnight and 0300 hrs CET, according to the latest forecasts). Second in the last edition of the race, third in the last Vendée Globe, Safran is getting ready to grab first place on the podium.

There is thunder in the air, with lightning flashing across the tropical night sky above the big spinnaker, which is propelling Safran along towards Puerto Limon, although she is now “invisible”. Like Groupe Bel, the boat chasing after them, Marc and Charles have switched to stealth mode for this final stretch of the race. So there will be no positions for the two doing battle before they reach the finish, which means that the tension has increased a notch, with the trade wind changing. Surfing along as they did in the past few days at more than twenty knots where there is the permanent threat of damage now belongs to the past. Marc is tired, but he knows now that the hardest part is behind him. “We still have a few more gybes to go and the final 50 miles look like being rather sluggish, but the lead we currently have allows us to remain composed. The lead over Groupe Bel could be cut, but we’re certainly not going to give anything away now.”

A great track

To be in with a chance of winning, you do not have simply to sail quickly but also in the right direction. This is a well-known principle in ocean racing, and Marc and Charles have applied it to the letter. Since they made their way out of the English Channel on Monday 9th November, Safran’s track has been perfectly smooth. There have been no hesitations, even in the heart of the storm that Safran had to brave. “We know that we have left a smooth trail in our wake. As not everything can be done by the two of us together, concerning the weather it was Charles, who did most of the work picking up and analysing the data”, explained Marc. “Then, we took decisions together. We always agreed about them.”

Safran pushed to her limit

In the lead since Thursday 12th November, or in other words for eleven days, Safran has not only shown the others the way, but has also set a cracking pace. Groupe Bel never managed to find any greater potential to catch them up. But perhaps the best measure to show this high speed pace is to look at Mike Golding’s 60-foot boat. After the storm, as they sailed north of the Azores, the British sailor was just thirty miles behind Safran. Now he is more than 300 miles behind. “With one or two exceptions, we always sailed with the maximum amount of sail. That requires a lot of energy. It really drained our reserves to carry out these manoeuvres and there were many of them. If we do manage to win, it will certainly feel good, as we really gave it our all throughout this race.”

No damage to report

A big spinnaker torn just before they passed through the Antilles, a mainsail that was slightly damaged in the worst moments of the storm... that is the only damage that Marc and Charles have to report. The boat itself did not experience any damage, even if she is known to be the lightest of the fleet of 60-foot IMOCA boats. With the finish coming up, she truly deserves her nickname of “the jet fighter”. Two years after she was launched, she is in the process of achieving her first major victory.

Transat Jacques Vabre

TJV: Caffari and Thompson powered up for final stage of the Transat Jacques Vabre

by Kelly Russell

Dee Caffari and Brian Thompson have successfully repaired the faulty generator onboard Aviva having collected a spare part off the coast of the northern tip of St Lucia.

The British duo minimised the loss of miles of the rest of the fleet by slowing for just 14 minutes to receive the spare part which was ribbed out to Aviva from the Rodney Bay Marina, having been sent by the Aviva Ocean Racing shore team.

With the generator now functioning, Caffari and Thompson are able to charge the batteries than run Aviva’s onboard systems and will be looking to draw on the support of instruments such as the autopilot and wind instruments to help navigate the optimum route to the finish.

Harry Spedding, Aviva Ocean Racing Campaign Manager added:
“I do not think it has been stated enough just how hard a time Dee and Brian have had over the last 10 days. In the middle of last night they rendezvoused with a rib from Rodney Bay Marina in St Lucia. Shortly afterwards they were able to fully charge the batteries and know that they could race on to Costa Rica.

“Before this they have been conserving power in every way possible. This has meant that they have had the use of no autopilot for over a week, they have been steering an hour at a time for that entire week, during their hour off they must do all the other jobs that need to be done as well as eat and drink, before they snatch some rest. They have only been able to get the most basic of weather information each day, and have had no real in depth knowledge of the fleets’ whereabouts (other than when they were in sight of Veolia Environnement). They have not been able to run the water makers, other than for real essential. In the light airs they could not trim the keel as often as they would have liked.

“Manoeuvres are complicated with the lack of an autopilot. One person has to drive all the time, so the other person is basically sailing single handed. In the heat of the Caribbean this is energy sapping.

“Having spoken to them both recently it is undoubtedly the lack of rest that has affected them the most, combined with hot conditions and probable dehydration. Speaking to Dee in the small hours the relief was evident in her voice. They now feel that there is every chance of catching the two boats in front as the gybe the last 1000 miles to Costa Rica.”

At 10h00 Dee Caffari and Brian Thompson, onboard Aviva, were in seventh place, 33 miles behind Veolia Environnement in sixth.

Dee Caffari and Brian Thompson’s latest diary entry received on 23 November 2009 at 0607 GMT:

“The gentle purr of an engine in the background as I write this is the generator producing juice for my batteries. It has been a while since we heard this sound and some very hard work has been done by the shore team, Brian and myself to get to this stage. It is a great place to be that marks our entry into the Caribbean Sea.

"A quick detour into Rodney Bay saw us rendezvous with Adam Foster, the General Manager of Rodney Bay Marina and his guys as they delivered our much wanted package with a true welcoming smile. After a thank you and a discussion on how nice a rum and ting would be on the beach at 'Spinnakers', Brian and I turned back out to the west and set sail again.

"Now we realise there are three of us onboard. We can use the pilot which had all but been forgotten and it makes a much better course than us who at times have been tired and distracted by hunger or thirst. Yippee! is the general consensus onboard and now we have some lost miles to recover.”

Aviva Ocean Racing
Transat Jacques Vabre

TJV: Too late to play cat and mouse

W Hotels. Image copyright Marcel Mochet/AFP.

by Régis Lerat

Too late to play cat and mouse... it seems like Safran – the super light, quick IMOCA Open 60 boat the sponsors like to call the ‘jet fighter' – will have devoured Groupe Bel by the time that the Transat Jacques Vabre leader appears from under the cover of ‘Stealth Mode' to cross the finish line off Puerto Rica this evening to take a well deserved, hard earned victory.

Both of the leading pair, Safran and Groupe Bel, pressed the stealth button in unison together to complete their final miles away from the public tracking system, but at eight this morning Marc Guillemot and Charles Caudrelier-Bénac were already champions elect, with a 90 miles lead and less than 200 miles of the gruelling 4730 miles course from Le Havre to the finish off Puerto Limon, Costa Rica.

While Bel was last seen tracking slightly north in search of some last minute bonus miles as the trade winds fold, Safran was steadily rolling down towards the finish line, on the verge of a significant triumph. Second in the last edition of the race in 2007 and an heroic third on the last Vendée Globe when Guillemot brought the wounded Safran the final 1000 miles with no keel, Safran has lead this race since Thursday 12th, before battling through the storm of Friday 13th.

Guillemot was predicting a slightly ‘sluggish' finish in light winds, but could not see any obvious reason why their long time rivals Kito de Pavant and Francois Gabart on Groupe Bel should close that significant gap.

“We still have a few more gybes to go and the final 50 miles look like being rather sluggish, but the lead we currently have allows us to remain composed. The lead over Groupe Bel could be cut, but we're certainly not going to give anything away now.” Guillemot told his team today, happy with the routing they have taken since leaving the English Channel 14 days ago: “We know that we have left a smooth trail in our wake. As not everything can be done by the two of us together, on the weather it was Charles, who did most of the work picking up and analysing the data. Then, we took decisions together. We always agreed about them.”

And they have always pushed extremely hard:
“With one or two exceptions, we always sailed with the maximum amount of sail. That requires a lot of energy. It really drained our reserves to carry out these manoeuvres and there were many of them. If we do manage to win, it will certainly feel good, as we really gave it our all throughout this race.”

Built-in reliability has been one of the keys to the two leaders successes this race After being hobbled by gear problems, not least a damaged main sail mast track in the Vendee Globe, Guillemot reports that their only damage is to their big spinnaker and slight mainsail damage.

The battle for line honours, between Crepes Whaou! – the Multi50 – and Safran is in the balance. While Franck-Yves Escoffier was relishing the chance to beat the monohulls home, the three times winner of the Route du Rhum and twice winner of his class in this race, is keen to break the finish tape first.

Mike Golding's power problems have continued and the British skipper and his Spanish co-skipper Javier Sanso have been unable to start their engine for the last 48 hours and so are running with next to no electrical power. Mike Golding Yacht Racing had acceded a few miles to fourth placed Foncia but still has over just under 200 miles in hand over the double Vendée Globe winner with 412 miles to go to the finish. Foncia has been consistently quicker, while Golding's avowed intent recently was simply to get across the finish with his boat and the podium finish intact.

Spanish fortunes are both climbing and declining. Alex Pella and Pepe Ribes on W-Hotels are positively buoyant with their speed on the Farr design, making miles all the time on Veolia Envirinnement and Aviva. Adding more sail area, to the main and their spinnakers, is paying a regular dividend as is their hard driving style. Meantime 1876 was just emerging back into the trade winds again but has dropped to ninth.


Franck-Yves Escoffier (FRA) Crepes Whaou:
“Yes we are still hoping to get in before the IMOCA's, even if our chances are reduced a little, we are little quicker on a straight course, but at night we tend to take the foot off the accelerator. But we are always truthful that our aim, that is for sure. When it happens, whoever is first – us or the IMOCA's – there will not be very much in it. We think we will arrive during the night (Costa Rica time) But a little mouse told us there will not be much wind when we are arriving so nothing is for sure. We have fed flying fish with Whaou Crepes, they seem to like them because they keep coming back to the boat.

When we get there I will be congratulating the Crepes Whaou designers, saying to Vincent, to Erwan, Kévin and the others, that we have been on a boat which is great. It is good and looks good, which is good because I wanted a boat which was faster and more powerful, and I think that goal has been met.”

Marc Guillemot (FRA) Safran:
“All is good on Safran. We decided to go in stealth mode. We thought about it while passing through the West Indies, then thought about it yesterday but finally we went for it today. I understand it can be frustrating for those on shore, but it adds a bit of spice. But it's a card to be played and it would be stupid not to use it before the end. There was a difference of 90 miles and with 250 miles to go, I don't think we needed it or it will help in any way, there no great gains to be made.
"I don't think we need to worry unduly about big surprises, unless Kito and Francois expect a big surprise. For the moment we have not really looked too closely at the weather forecasts to the finish, we are happy to be just racing in and to trim the sails. We kind of saw this time coming a couple of days ago. And we don't have to do too much to push the boat. We have not really thought about breaking the finish line.
"Over this race focus has been 100% on the sporting result, there have been no side adventures, since the start gun the focus has just been on getting to the finish. These boats are very demanding, they require a lot of hard work to make them go. The physical effort has been great and we are tired of all the manoeuvres. If Crepes Whaou! get in first, so be it, it won't bother me. And it would be good for Franck-Yves and Erwan but what interests us is in getting in before Groupe Bel and the others. They are a different class and did a different course.”

Yves Parlier (FRA) 1876:
“We have finally reached the trade winds and now have a much better speed, but we have been through some areas of terrible calms for the last 24 hours. We have started to have really hot conditions; there is a lot of light but not a cloud in sight. Yesterday it was 35º inside the boat, and now it is 32 with no shade at all. We have water so there is no worry of being dehydrated. However for the connections and the screens the pilots are broken, and so right now I am at the chart table and trying to drive at the same time with the only pilot that is working still. I am lying down at the bottom of the boat, head up looking at then gennaker through one window and when I want to correct the pilot I have to move, but at least I am in the shade! Pachi has just had a short rest as he has spent a lot of time taking the pilots apart and trying to repair them.

“We are not too surprised that we were overtaken as until just a while ago we were only making two knots. But the road is still long and we hope not to lose any more positions, and even try and win something!”

Pepe Ribes (ESP) W-Hotels:
“Things are going extremely well. It is downwind in the Caribbean Sea, spinnaker, shorts and beautiful sailing here today. We are a bit surprised by our downwind speed, the last five or six days. In the Istanbul Race we were able to keep up with some of the boat here but now we faster than them, so the changes we have made are paying off.

We have a new main, much bigger, 17 sq m, and we have changed to downwind Quantum Sails, and so little by little we are getting better.

“We are pushing very hard, the others will be doing the same. But it is hard, 12 hours every day on deck, the secret to be fast is not to use the auto-pilot, to steer as much as possible, you have to steer.

“I think we are OK, a long way to go. We are maybe 50 miles to leeward of Veolia and maybe 120 miles to leeward of Aviva and it is a downwind race. We are sailing fast and in a good position.

“ We share everything. Normally Alex pulls the grib files when he is off watch, but at the moment I am doing the weather. And we are sharing everything, we share the helm and just keep changing. We have little problems with the batteries and so on, but I hope we will be able to sort it out and have no more problems.”

Transat Jacques Vabre

LVT: The Best Eyes in the Business

Emirates Team New Zealand's decision maker, Ray Davies, has some of the best eyes in the business looking for breeze from up the mast - Adam Beashel

Australian Adam Beashal, of Emirates Team New Zealand. Image copyright Frank Socha/Louis Vuitton Trophy.

by Chloe Daycard

One of Emirates Team New Zealand’s big strengths is longevity. The length of time and the number of races that the afterguard has been working together. Aside from skipper/helmsman Dean Barker, two key players at the back of the Kiwi boat are tactician Ray Davies and windspotter Adam Beashel.

Where Beashel’s priority is to find the best breeze across the race course, from high up in his perch on the top spreaders of the mast, Davies has to balance the most favourable breeze against the tactical considerations of where the opposition is. This has been a particularly challenging compromise in the light winds of Nice. “It’s always a tough balance playing the boat or the wind,” says Davies. “In light airs it’s near impossible to cover someone downwind. There’s a crossover in the windspeed where you can’t afford to cover someone the way you can when it’s windier. You can’t afford to match someone tack for tack or gybe for gybe. Sometimes you’ve just got to go your own way.”

With starboard tack holding right of way over port tack in the Racing Rules of sailing, this puts an emphasis on going for the right-hand side of the course. “On these short beats you’ve got to protect the right,” says Davies. “The second race of the morning is the tough one, when you get the end of the morning breeze. Sailing after 10 o’clock here, you’ve got to forget about the other boat and just sail the breeze.”

Some people might have been surprised at how much separation across the course crept in between the Kiwis and the trailing Russians on Synergy during their semi-final showdown on Saturday for example. “We had quite a bit of discussion in the race against Synergy when there was a lot of separation,” Davies recalls. “We knew we were in reliable wind where we were but we reckoned that if we gybed back we’d get stuck between two different breezes. It would have been tempting to try and get back and them cover them. As it was, it was a huge gain for us down the run, but I bet they were hoping we’d come back and try to protect which would have dragged us back into the no-wind zone. We just had to back ourselves and stay with our plan and not cover the opposition, but there’s definitely a time and a place.”

Emirates Team New Zealand tactician Ray Davies said of the first semi final race against Synergy: "Yeah, it was pretty tense on board. You have to expect close races in this round. We're down to the best teams. You have to expect close, ding-dong races otherwise they wouldn't be worth winning." Image copyright Frank Socha/Louis Vuitton Trophy.

When making those brave calls to go the other way from the opposition, Davies is relying heavily on Beashel’s judgement to see the breeze from up the mast. It’s a job that Beashel has done for some years now, and one that he’s grown comfortable with. “People talk a lot about local knowledge, but when you get up the rig you work things out pretty quickly. Sometimes your first picture is your best picture. I don’t like being up there before a start, because you can overcomplicate things. I like to get up there just 10 minutes before a start and get a snapshot, and say, ‘this is what is going to happen for the first beat.’”

Maybe the other reason is that, as Beashel admits, it can be a lot colder being 100 feet above sea level than down in the shelter of the cockpit below, especially on these early mornings in autumnal Nice. “It’s pretty cold up there, so it’s another reason to stay on deck,” smiles Beashel. But the heightened sense of awareness that you gain from being up high is one that he wouldn’t be without. “On the last race against Synergy, going into the finish, just as we gybed I could smell smoke, so you just had to look for the fire and you could tell where the wind was coming from.”

Louis Vuitton Trophy

TJV: Rankings at 1330 CET on 23rd November 2009

IMOCA Open 60

2 FONCIA 697.8
3 W HOTELS 1117.7
5 AVIVA 1198.0
6 1876 1271.0
8 ARTEMIS 1507.2



FU refers to Stealth Mode - no position report

Transat Jacques Vabre

TJV: Close to the finish

Guyader pour Urgence Clinmatique. Image copyright Emmanuelle Jestin.

by Régis Lerat

Having opened a further 15 miles on Groupe Bel which has pursued them hard more than the last week, there was an element of relief in the voice of Safran skipper Marc Guillemot this morning. While his co-skipper Charles Caudrelier snatched some well deserved sleep, Guillemot admitted that now, with some 90 miles in hand and with 240 miles to the finish line of the Transat Jacques Vabre in Puerto Limon, Costa Rica the pressure on them was slightly relieved.

In 2007 there was the pain for the Safran duo of actually being able to see the race winner up ahead in the distance.

These are the final miles that Guillemot, who had such an heroic Vendée Globe earlier this year, is savouring, on what he hopes is the brink of a great sporting win.

For the chasing pair, Kito de Pavant and Francois Gabart, on Groupe Bel there is the final throw of the dice, perhaps a realisation that their chances of simply powering past their rivals on the same course in the same winds, was not going to happen. Instead they have headed further north, in the hope of gaining more breeze and a more favourable wind angle in to the finish.

Meantime the Multi v IMOCA Open 60 Class battle is also nearing its conclusion as Franck-Yves Escoffier and Erwan Le Roux on the powerful, new Multi 50 Crepes Whaou! hunt down the leading mono Safran which was about 80 miles ahead on the same course. The red multi was a knot or two quicker at times in the fast, downwind conditions, but it will be a close finish.

British pair Dee Caffari and Brian Thompson completed their ‘007' mission off St Lucia when they slowed down for only minutes to collect a spare part for their generator system. Under cover of darkness they dropped Aviva's spinnaker rounded through the bay and slowed to receive the replacement control panel for their generator. Even their predicted losses proved accurate. The Aviva shore team expected to lose around 15 miles to Veolia Envoironnement. It was closer to 14. “It's cool, we are still in the hunt and it is game on!” Said an audibly pleased Caffari.

And for Spanish skippers Pepe Ribes and Alex Pella, there is the contentment of moving up to fifth on the standings and leading the pack of three with 71 miles in hand over Aviva and 42 on Veolia Environnement.

Marc Guillemot (FRA), Safran:
“One of us is asleep and one of us takes care of business. This has been a good night and one to get some rest. And we make some miles and so that makes us a little happier. We are not getting wet any more, compared to what it was at the beginning, it makes us feel good not to have wet heads. The wind is getting lighter and so we need to make the manoeuvres to balance up the boat for the lighter winds and so we have to move the kit around below. We need to get the movers in again! Since the last position report there is less pressure. Two years ago we could see the boat which was in front of us. It was right there. Now the position of the second boat allows us to approach the final hours of this race coolly. However, until the line is crossed, we stay very focused The current ETA has us arriving at Puerto Limon on September 24th between 0130hrs and 0400hrs in the morning.”

Erwan Le Roux (FRA): Crêpes Whaou!:
“Now it is dark and we are on a good course, the home straight. We have 20 knots of wind and there are no gusts, just some clouds around. We are able to rest a bit as well, each grabbing a few hours as we can.”

Dee Caffari, GBR, Aviva:
“It was wicked. It was a shame it was dark because that made life a little more tricky. It was ‘crash-bang', job done, on our way again. We are going to celebrate when we get into the daytime, because I am confident that I can produce power for this boat now. So we are in a new world that we have nit been in for a long time where we can use the autopilot, the keel and everything is all kooshtie, so we are so I am looking forwards to it. We slowed down at the top of St Lucia and spoke to the general manager of Rodney Bay Marina who had agreed with us an met us with the part that the team had sent out.

"We dropped our spinnaker and turned in to the bay at the same time that he was organizing for his team to come out to meet us. That part of the mission was accomplished with the part on board, our mission was then to get away from the island as quickly as possible. “We were aware that every minute we were slowed, the further the others were getting away. And we still had to get away from any wind shadows. So as tempting as it was to drop a hook and celebrate with a little rum punch moving into the Caribbean, so we bid them farewell and got on our way as soon as possible. Time for a sleep, and then daylight will prevail, but I am pretty confident it is what is needed.

“It's cool, we are still in the hunt and it is game on!” “We are flying. It feels like really comfortable sailing, we are in really flat water and the boat seems to be really enjoying it too.” “It is interesting now because all the routing has us going north, which is interesting because all of the boats ahead of our group have gone south along the Columbian coast, and now that all three of us W-Hotels, Veolia and us have all entered the Caribbean at slightly different places, it will be interesting and see who does what, and what tactic works and we will see more in the morning, when the new weather comes in.”

Alex Pella (ESP) W Hotels:
“During the afternoon we passed the wind was not so clear with some clouds and so we had some decisions to take, whether to go along the finish line coast or to go straight north, and at the moment we are going straight north and we are really happy with our position in the race.

"The thing is that we started so late with Pepe on this boat. We only sailed together for six days before the start. Ok we did the Istanbul Europa Race but we only sailed together for the qualification. Now the feeling is so good with the boat that we can push really hard with the boat. That is all: we are sailing well together as a team, and with our strategies, we are pushing hard, we were lucky with some good positions and that is all.”

Transat Jacques Vabre