Class40 and IMOCA make island choices
The four fleets in the race are now well spread out over the North Atlantic from the French West Indies, which Maxi Banque Populaire XI is expected to reach at around 1800hrs local time today, to the Canaries and Cape Verde Islands. The first ULTIM is speeding towards Fort-de-France, where the welcome is ready for them. In the Imoca class, there is a huge separation with around ten boats now preferring to head towards the West, close to the Azores.
The leading boats in the southern group have crossed the ridge of high pressure and so for the IMOCA leaders going on the southerly routing and the Class40 pacemakers, yesterday and today are all about making the best decision where and how to pass through the Canary Islands.
In the IMOCA race the theoretical gains continue for the duo in the west, led by Justine Mettraux and Julien Villion on Teamwork.net. The French co-skipper who is a renowned weather router in his own right, commented this morning, “We’re 150 miles East of the Azores with manageable seas, but it’s a bit choppy, so the boat is slamming a bit. We have 20-22 knots of wind. Yesterday was fairly quiet. Things are going as planned. The fact that we have Groupe Dubreuil, a boat from a different generation along with us is a bonus, as it is very motivating. Justine has sailed quite a lot with them(ex 11th Hour Racing which she raced The Ocean Race on ndlr), but I don’t know whether knowing them well is an advantage or not. Behind the next front, several strategies are possible. We’ll be trying to position ourselves to swing around after the low-pressure system on Wednesday. We’ll be in the Azores on Wednesday morning. It’s going to require a lot of work in that area, but afterwards, it looks like things will go as planned.”
Since yesterday evening, the Southerners appear to have left the calms behind them and can now go better, reaching in the trade winds. For those in the north the routing gives them an advantage promising them higher average speeds. The two boats furthest west are preparing for a passage through a front tomorrow morning which does not look too active. On Wednesday, however, a deeper low-pressure system will move in and they need to get to the other side of it to be able to dive south.
Sam Goodchild and Morgan Lagravière on For the Planet are 11th, about 80 miles behind the two boats which are setting the pace for the south-bound tradewinds route, Charal (Jéremie Beyou and Franck Cammas) and Paprec Arkéa (Yoann Richomme and Yann Eliès). Lagravière reported this morning, “There’s so much noise with the foil whistling. We have to keep our ear-plugs in. Apart from that, the boat is great. It has been good from the start and now is pleasing us downwind. We’re clocking up high average speeds. There’s just the infernal noise all the time… After the start of the race, we are feeling tired, so fighting with each other to see who can get some rest first.
Our option doesn’t look, too bad. It’s what we planned at the start. We didn’t fancy going via the Northern route. I don’t know whether Teamwork and Groupe Dubreuil will go all the way West. We should pass the Canaries during the morning. In daylight, which is good. We don’t have time to admire the skies, as we’re concentrating on the speed of the boat to stick with our friends ahead.”
In Class40 Achille Nebout and Gildas Mahé have stuck with their most westerly route, and are passing to the west of Tenerife on Amarris. Furthest to the south and east and going slightly quicker have been a posse of four boats led by Ambrogio Beccaria and Nico Andrieu on Alla Grande- PIRELLI who ware about four miles ahead of Café Joyeux (Niclas d’Estais and Léo Debiesse). They appear to have broken into better SE’ly trades closer to the African coast but are very east of the direct course.
Beccaria said this morning, “It’s fantastic. Off the Canaries, we have a lot of wind and the boat is very fast, so we’re happy. We were a bit scared to see Achille and Gildas’s position, but in the end, we’re on our way to get to the trade winds. We’re not alone, as we have some friends with us. We can see them. One has just gybed behind us and we’ll be gybing shortly too. We were expecting more wind. There’s more than 20 knots, sometimes more than 25 knots.”
“I had to dive, as after the passage down the coast of Portugal, we were losing speed, whereas until then we had been the fastest. With our camera, we saw a huge net caught up in the keel. We didn’t know how to get rid of it, so we stopped the boat and managed to remove it, but there was still a large part left. It was there for 24 hours before I managed to dive yesterday to get rid of it. It’s the first time I have done that. The water was warm. So it’s not the same as when you dive in Brittany!”
Co-skipper Andrieu added, “We should finish with the stronger winds in a few hours. After that, it’s a matter of positioning, so we’re working on our route. It’s starting to look more and more like the trade winds. In general, we’re in great shape. Last night, we had quite a few gybes and we took it in turns to grab a nap.”
Brian Thompson on T’quila mused on their options, but in the end the British duo who are the second most westerly boat and sixth on the ranking table, chose a middle route to the east of Tenerife.
“ We have got the sun up, the solar panels are out we are making electricity and we had dolphins jumping in the morning, leaping as high as the guardrails about three metres from the boat. That was good. We are 40 miles from the end of Tenerife which is becoming clear. It is still low cumulus cloud and it has stopped drizzling finally now we are near the Canaries which has to be good for people on holiday here. So we have had a lot of navigation head scratching which gap of the islands to go through and we have bought a ticket for the middle gap, Amarris have gone for the right hand gap (between Tenerife and La Palma). We would have to gybe to go with them but that would have separated us from the little group we are with. And we did not want to do that. There should be more wind as we come out of this gap according to the models. The right hand gap was looking better until last night which is why we went to the west but we recalibrated. And now we are getting lifted. The wind is lighter than forecast and we are all going slower than expected. It is a big tactical chess match out here. We can’t see anyone except on the computer screen. Yesterday we were about three miles from La Boulangère and they were sailing well, we sailed about 15 miles together and it was good to be able test our speed against them and we were very similar.
We are trying to eat three square meals a day and get some good rest. And we are now going through the same gap we went through on the old boat two years ago and so we are on a trip down memory lane, now hopefully with less technical issues than we had back then.”
Text & Image: Transat Jacques Vabre