The two key podiums which remain open in the Transat Jacques Vabre, the IMOCA and Class 40 will see decisive racing in the hours through Monday night into Tuesday.
With less than 550 miles to go for the IMOCA leaders, the transition of Cabo Frio early tomorrow might well decide which of the top three duos – just 86 miles from first to third. But equally critical will be whether the long time Class40 leaders Yannick Bestaven and Pierre Brasseur can finally escape out of the clutches of the Doldrums.
Bestaven and Brasseur have tried to remain patient and focused on Le Conservateur as their 315 miles lead has melted away ‘like snow in the sun’ to just 57 miles. They have been stuck, scotched – as the French call it – for the best part of 48 hours while the dueling, chasing duo behind have swallowed miles at a voracious rate. Even this afternoon skipper Bestaven – fourth in last year’s solo Route du Rhum and winner of the Transat Jacques Vabre in 2011, considered that they would get into better breeze this evening. But Maxime Sorel and Sam Manuard on V and B were still making over nine knots to Le Conservateur’s average of three. For their first big ocean race together, Brazilian duo Eduardo Penido and Renato Araujo are still sailing an astute race on Zetra, lying fifth.
In August Vicent Riou and Seb Col proved they were the form partnership going into this race when they won the Rolex Fastnet offshore. Now today they have less than one Fastnet – 607 miles – to finish Riou and Col are in the driving seat with a lead of 36 miles, still, over Banque Populaire VIII, Armel Le Cléac’h and Erwan Tabarly. The leading three boats gybed this morning around breakfast time and have been closing to the Brazilian coast all day. Significantly perhaps Riou and Col have chosen a layline which will allow them to pass the point NE of Cabo Frio and get closer to the land where the breeze is forecast to be slightly stronger.
Seventeen miles is all that separates Le Souffle du Nord, Thomas Ruyant and Adrien Hardy, from Tanguy de Lamotte and Sam Davies. Davies noted today that they are determined to beat the boat in front of them and are enjoying the duel for fourth and fifth immensely.
Damaged Multi 50 Arkema, Lalou Roucayrol and Cesar Dohy, were 70 miles from Salvador de Bahia this afternoon. The duo have their technical team standing by to make a laminate repair to the cracks in the main hull which were allowing substantial water ingress, requiring them to pump to keep the boat safe.
From the boats:
Charlie Dalin, co-skipper of Queguiner-Leucemie-Espoir (IMOCA 60): ‘The sun has just risen it is damp again and late night it was cool. We just had a gust to 21 knots, there is still wind, we are more downwind now, we sail angles which are slower. At Cabo Frio it is a bit like Cape Finisterre. The wind accelerates but so too there are oil platforms. That is another challenge to take account of. There is lots to do and we have to be careful to find the right route. Tonight there will be some platforms. We think we will finish in Itajaí Wednesday afternoon around 2000hrs French time. The end of this race is not simple. There is a depression which will come out to sea. And of course the models do not agree. We will give it all we have. The objective is to finish with no regrets, to make some good moves. We are always pushing. We give it our all until the end. On board it has been exactly as I expected as my role. It is such a great experience I am happy to be here.”
Sam Davies, co-skipper Initiatives Coeur (IMOCA 60): “We look forwards to beating Le Souffle du Nord. I’m having so much fun that I will be a little sad when it is over. We are very happy on board. We lack for nothing. We still have chocolate. Initiatives Coeur is a solid boat, we feel safe. Tanguy is lucky to have this boat and this will give him confidence to go forwards to the Vendée Globe.”
Erwan Leroux, skipper FenêtréA Prysmian (Multi50): ‘Aboard FenêtréA Prysmian we are under gennaker and have one reef in the mainsail, we are on starboard tack and we are sailing along the Brazilian coast. What has happened to Arkema is a shame, I hope they will repair successfully and bring the boat to Itajaí. The important thing is that Lalou can save the boat. Through that first week of the race, we had our share of all miseries with these four different wind regimes. Even the last 500 miles of the race and we’ll see 25 knots with gusts to 35. It’s a long race and very technical. It was a stormy depression that hollow, one is obliged to go near the coast, we will cross a front. We have a big problem on the mainsail. We have to sail with one reef and in no time we’ll take a second reef.’
Yannick Bestaven, skipper of The Conservative (Class40): ‘It’s the same as the last three days. There is not much wind, some wind is just puffs. We hope to be out tonight. We accept our troubles patiently. Our lead melted like snow in the sun. We are tired…. We persevere to just try to get south and get out of here. We manoeuvre quite a lot to try and stay with the changes in the breeze as it goes round. We try to follow the pace imposed on us by the wind. It’s tiring. But we have done the hard bit. We’ll take a shower as soon as we are out of here. These Doldrums are fierce. We hope to be going by Four Deg N. And by this evening life should be better. In terms of food we have enough, we are light on sweet stuff, savoury we have enough to go around the world.”
Thibaut Vauchel-Camus, Solidaires en Peloton ARSEP, (Class 40): “It’s OK. We go slowly and gently into the Doldrums. We have a bit of a battle on with weed. Our motivation is good, we don’t let up at all. But we share our good humour. We are always sharing jokes.”