Image: Kevin Escoffier in a nocturnal ambience
At some 520 nautical miles west of the longitude of Cape of Good Hope Charlie Dalin (Apivia) is largely matching the pace of the hard pressing group that is chasing him led by Thomas Ruyant (LinkedOut). And while Kevin Escoffier (PRB) has broken through to third this morning, his highest position in the race yet, Jean Le Cam continues to impress with his super direct course, averaging just two to three knots less than the foiling boats to his south.
Very experienced in the south crewed round the world racing and chasing crewed records, Escoffier may rank as a first timer in terms of solo racing in the southern ocean, but he has been the quickest over the 24 hours to 0400hrs this morning, breaking 480 miles to average over 20kts. So too Sébastien Simon on the new Juan K designed ARKEA PAPREC has been fast in sixth place.
The main peloton pursuing Dalin – who is 280 miles ahead – are very much on the top curve of the low pressure system they are riding with, and so contemplating their breeze progressively shifting from NW’ly through W to SW’ly. Simon, also a newcomer to the south, talked of his gybe this morning, “There is the front which will pass over us an then there will be a gybe to do a bit later. It is quite fast with this group I have been with since the last days in the Saint Helena high. Life on board is not so comfortable it is wet, not so pleasant for a few days, but the boat is going well, we are going well. The race is interesting because I’m in a good little group with Boris, Kevin and Yannick and so it’s a good little battle with them. For Thomas it is a bit more complicated and Jean has got out of a tricky spot, stuck a little in the anticyclone but he has escaped and he is there in the race too.” He explained,
“In the morning I will gybe, descend back south towards the exclusion zone just a bit before the Crozet Islands but we need to keep up the pace with this low or we will be trapped by the high behind so the goal is to stay fast.
The foils are the same as the last ones pretty much, a bit more solid so there is no big surprise there.
This is the longest I have been solo on a boat so I am discovering that but in fact the time goes in fast for the moment. The boat is good, it is a bit complicated without the wind vane, it is a bit hard that way so I need to be super vigilant I am always on lookout.”
The second half
The second half of the fleet is split in two, a group separated between 19th placed Stephan Le Diraison (Time for Oceans) and 20th placed Arnaud Boissères by 320 miles and another which is separated between 24th placed Pip Hare (Medallia) and Fabrice Amadeo (Newrest-Art et Fenêtres) by another 270 nautical miles.
They had an even more challenging North Atlantic with their own variety of sluggish trade winds and a difficult Doldrums and so none bettered Yves Parlier’s 2000 mark to the Equator (14d 03h 49'). The the group of five Medallia L’Occitaine en Provence (Armel Tripon), La Mie Caline (Boissères) One Planet One Ocean (Didac Costa) and Groupe Setin (Manuel Cousin) following the Brazilian coast, from Natal to Cape Frio did not really lose ground compared to the leaders. Even so their distance to the leader is now quite substantial – nearly 2000 miles in the case of Boissères – and so they are going to sail the southern ocean in entirely different weather systems, not least routing much further west around the South Atlantic High.
Only Tripon on the new Sam Manuard designed L’Occitaine harbours the hope of jumping the gap and joining the peloton in front. He is staying more west and should pick up a low pressure this evening so has a chance to ride with it early in its genesis and stay as long as possible in front of the developing cold front.
Logically, Arnaud Boissières on the former ECOVER 3 of Mike Golding should have the advantage of his retro fitted foils which allow him to accelerate better when the trade winds turn east, as they have for him recent hours. But Manuel Cousin manages to stay fast while Hare and Costa can’t really match their pace, slowly losing miles on their older boats. They will have to sail south almost to the latitude of the Rio de la Plata (border between Uruguay and Argentina) before starting the big left turn towards South Africa!