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New York to Vendée Race
Fleet in action - 2016 New York–Vendée Transatlantic Race © Amory Ross / Sea&Co / Ocean Masters

New York to Vendée Race

After getting used to spending life inclined to the left since they started, the three front runners in the New York – Vendée (Les Sables d’Olonne) Race presented by Currency House and SpaceCode life are today having to get used to living heeled to the right.

The trio of front runners – with Alex Thomson on Hugo Boss still leading from Jérémie Beyou on Maître CoQ and Sébastien Josse on Edmond de Rothschild – all gybed on to port this morning. Furthest south, Beyou was first to go at 0900 UTC followed by Josse and Thomson both at around 0940 UTC. Gybing IMOCA 60s is no small task, but the skippers have spent much time refining this, changing course, tacking the sails, canting the keel, swapping the water ballast over and the moving the ‘stack’ including the sails that aren’t being used, plus spares, food, and all the gear, from one side of the boat to the other.

For the next period of the race the leaders will remain on port gybe. Running downing in 20-25 knot westerlies, on the new gybe the boats are currently pointing towards the southeastern end of the ice box. However the wind is forecast to veer northwest, a shift which will enable them to point their bows closer towards the finish.

The skippers are also battening down hatches in preparation for tomorrow when a cold front, currently to their north, will cross them. According to race meteorologist Christian Dumard the boats will see 35-45 knots to the north of this front.
Meanwhile the second wave of boats is still on starboard gybe in 20 knots southwesterlies.

Sixth-placed Tanguy De Lamotte, popular skipper of Initiatives Coeur, remembered Sunday’s start off Ambrose Light at the entrance to New York Harbour. “It was weird leaving in the fog and not being able to see the other boats. But spending the whole first day in fog was hell.

New York to Vendée Race

Fleet in action – 2016 New York–Vendée Transatlantic Race © Amory Ross / Sea&Co / Ocean Masters

De Lamotte added that with the conditions yesterday had been relatively stable and he had taken the opportunity to catch up with some sleep. “I’m pretty happy. I haven’t had to make many sail changes.”

Like the leaders, De Lamotte was expecting to gybe late this afternoon. Looking ahead he is ready for having to manoeuvre in 30-35 knot winds, providing with some practice for the Southern Ocean this winter in the Vendée Globe.
Meanwhile a race within a race is developing at the back of the New York – Vendée (Les Sables d’Olonne) fleet with the three boats that left Newport yesterday joining up with late starter Conrad Colman on 100% Natural Energy.

But while the leaders are enjoying 30 knot downwind conditions, those at the back have been wallowing. “I am enjoying my summer cruise!” reported Colman this morning. “I wish this was more of a race than a ‘float’, but that is what we had yesterday – a sustained 1.6 knots, gusting to 2.3! It was pretty intense.”

For solo skippers, sailing in light wind and keeping the boat going in the right direction with the correct trim can be as labour intensive as sailing in strong conditions. Sadly, no matter what her skipper did, 100% Natural Energy ended up going around in circles. This afternoon, UTC, the wind had returned but from the northeast.

This afternoon UTC, 100% Natural Power is within five miles of Jean-Pierre Dick’s StMichel-Virbac and Yann Eliès on Queguiner-Leucémie Espoir. However still surrounded in thick fog, Colman said he had been unable to see any of them visually. Since this morning Pieter Heerema on No Way Back has speared off to the south in search of breeze.

Despite all his competition being slightly lame, recovering from foil damage, Colman says there is talk of a ‘race with in a race’. But while the leaders make high speed across the ocean, for the tailenders they are going to have a rougher ride, with prolonged headwinds as an area of high pressure develops to their north. “The first half of this crossing is going to be quite complicated because there are small depressions and ridges to navigate, so we won’t be breaking any speed records that’s for sure,” Colman warns.

This group is soon to be joined by Morgan Lagravière on Safran, the last boat to leave Newport, Rhode Island at midday UTC, following repairs robust to get the boat back to France.

by Marion Cardon

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