In France they call him ‘Le Chacal’. Armel Le Cléac’h gained his nickname for good reasons. It was on the Figaro circuit that he gained the reputation for staying power, sticking around in second ready to pounce on mistakes or problems, picking off victories in the late stages of legs or races.
In 2003 he won La Solitaire du Figaro overall, by just 13 seconds, the smaller ever margin. But the peaks of his career have been marked by second places. He was second in his very first attempt at Le Solitaire du Figaro in 2000. On Brit Air he was second in the 2008-9 Vendée Globe behind Michel Desjoyeaux. And in 2012-13 on Banque Populaire he chased François Gabart around more than half of the planet to finish runner up. Again.
This time The Jackal is armed and dangerous. And second
His Banque Populaire VIII is the only remaining latest generation, foil assisted IMOCA in this Transat Jacques Vabre. Lying second Le Cléac’h and Erwan Tabarly are just 34 miles behind 2004-5 Vendée Globe winner Vincent Riou, sailing PRB with Seb Col.
That is certainly within striking range for The Jackal as the IMOCA leaders now have just 850 miles, or about two and a half days of racing left. Le Cléac’h was not issuing any threat, not delivering any warnings today, other than saying he and Tabarly are in good shape. They have put their electrical problems largely behind them – now that their hydro-generator is working at decent efficiency – and are set for the last miles of the race, where he says the race will be settled.
There is still a key transition zone off Cabo Frio, to the east of the Bay of Rio. If Banque Populaire VIII can be remain in touch in 250 miles time – until this time tomorrow – then it will be anyone’s game. Some compression of the leading trio seems inevitable in this, by far the most competitive class of this 12th edition of the Transat Jacques Vabre. The winners are expected in Itjaí on Wednesday morning, but whether it will be the orange hull of PRB – winners in 2013 – or the blue and white hull of the recently launched Banque Populaire. But it could yet get down to fractions of a mile on the line. And, having missed out on last year’s Route du Rhum due to an unfortunate accident, the Jackal’s predatory instincts are as feral as ever.
Armel Le Cléac’h, co-skipper Banque Populaire VIII (IMOCA): ‘We had some technical problems to solve. Energy problems. Now it’s mostly fixed and we are going well, even if the wind is quite unstable: there are times when there is enough wind advance on them with the foil. We reckon there is three days before the finish. This is the last sprint. The goal is to get closer, to be in the fight at the end, and to win. All is well with Erwan. We had energy problems, because we had a fuel leak in the early days, we have damaged the electrical circuit. We cannot use the engine. We have enough to get to the end. Now we are using hydro-generator, but it was complicated in the Doldrums. It can charge the batteries. It was all down. All we had was heading speed and occasionally the computer. For 48 hours now it works well we can work it again.”
We watch everyone. We are vigilant and take care. The weather is good and the sea reasonably orderly. The good thing is the wind is lifting and so we should change the sail configuration later in the day. We stay aware that there will be complications and challenges towards the end. There are different options. The game remains open. This race will be decided in the home straight. At night our watches are well structured. Two to two and a half hours at a time. The pilot steers well in these conditions. We are in good shape, a little tired but it is going well. We take advantage of the positive things about this boat.”
Thomas Ruyant, Le Souffle du Nord (IMOCA) ‘We’re going faster than the routing. And this is a nice tack along the Brazilian coast. For us it is great to have Initiatives Coeur. We are attacking during breakfast. We are pushing hard. We saw their sail yesterday and sailed against them, we don’t see them any longer but we can feel them breathing down our necks. It’s a beautiful race and the sport just takes you over. We made a few miles last night and we will be with them for a few days. The boat is 100%. We are fit. We sleep well. Us and the boat, we are going well. We will have some transitions. We watch the weather closely and we have to save something for the end of the race which may still be quite hectic.”
Pip Hare, GBR, co-skipper Concise 2, Class 40: “We have lots of wind. We have about 23kts of wind. It is very good now. We are happy to see it. We gybed in the night at about 11pm. It is busy. We are hand steering all the time because we have no true wind and so the autopilot finds it very hard to steer. So we are hand steering all the time, just taking it in turns. The speed on one side does not work. Other than that everything is fine, we are eating, sleeping, steering. We are enjoying it. We have a boat behind us and Groupe Setin is just to the south of us. We have been watching all night. There is good competition at the moment.”
more info ……. transat-jacques-vabre.com
Central hull problem for Arkema
At 1640hrs UTC Lalou Roucayrol and Caesar Dohy contacted Race Direction to inform them of a worrying delamination problem on the main central hull from daggerboard up to the bow. The crew of Arkema is considering the best possible solution to finish the race: repair at sea or divert to make a repair.