Transat Jacques Vabre – Twenty-five miles of lateral separation, five miles on the NE-SW axis – that is the footprint that the top three IMOCAs share as they sail through a Doldrums passage that is so far proving much more generous than the TJV leaders, the Ultimes, experienced.
The IMOCA fleet is now led now by PRB, the IMOCA race winners in 2013, with Queguiner-Leucemie Espoir on the west flank, and Banque Populaire VIII in third. Equidistant to the east, the three IMOCAs are slowed to around seven knots, sailing upwind as engaging battle to be first into the trade winds occupies every waking moment for the three duos.
Charlie Dalin, co-skipper alongside Yann Eliès on Queguiner-Leucemie Espoir, said this morning that whoever breaks free first could gain a decisive advantage. All three are targeting the same exit, and with just over 80 miles to go to a more solid SE this afternoon, the Doldrums should be over for these ‘three musketeers’ by tomorrow.
The one unknown is the potential performance advantage of the ‘foil’ assisted Banque Populaire VIII of Armel Le Cléac’h and Erwan Tabarly. Reaching in the NE’ly trades the new VPLP/Verdier design appeared to have an edge over the two older generation boats, PRB and Queguiner-Leucemie Espoir.
Both have a solid pedigree on this course, Elies’ boat is the 2007 launched ex-Safran that finished second in 2007 and won in 2009. The leaders will emerge into trades blowing from a direction well south of east which lift progressively as they close down the Brazilian coast. And the synopsis right now suggests the trade winds will hold all the way to Cabo Frio.
‘As we are all going out the same door in the Pot-au-Black, that is to say, where, statistically, we all thought it was the closest and, therefore easiest, Charlie and I decided it would be interesting to try a small shift to the west so we are not just follow my leader. Now the report is quite favourable. Even if we could stay like this, it would be OK. In theory, we should cross a little easier being more west but then we are slightly more upwind as we get out. But I think we go well in the light.” Said Elies today.
It has been a productive day for fifth-placed Sam Davies and skipper Tanguy de Lamotte as they gain another six miles against fourth placed Thomas Ruyant and Adrien Hardy. Initiatives Coeur was still more than a knot quicker Le Souffle du Nord this afternoon.
Briton Sam Goodchild reported today “We are averaging 17-18kts now which is the best speed we have had since the beginning, the boat is in good shape. We have small issues like everybody but nothing serious. So we are sailing the boat to its potential now which is good. The next complicated thing for us is the Doldrums, arriving there tomorrow night and hopefully that will be a catching opportunity. Hopefully, it won’t be too painful to get through and we are looking at it all the time. Things, I hope, will get a bit better.”
Goodchild, partnering French skipper Eric Bellion on Comme un seul homme Stand as 1, lies ninth but is at the back of a group lead by MACSF, Bertrand de Broc and Marc Guillemot, who are 130 miles ahead. Considering both are on their first ever IMOCA race they are going well.
The breakaway in Class 40 may prove untenable. It has been a question of good timing for Yannick Bestaven and Pierre Brasseur on Le Conservateur. The duo sailing the Tizh 40 designed by Guillaume Verdier, which this summer won both legs of the Les Sables Horta Les Sables race are now over 210 miles ahead of V and B, Maxime Sorel and Sam Manuard. They now seem destined to scrap over second with Solidaire en Peloton/ARSEP and Carac Advanced Engines. Second to fourth is covered by just eight miles.
And in the Ultimes, the breaaway lead that MACIF has is growing. Francois Gabart and the wily Pascal Bidégorry outfoxed Thomas Coville and Jean Luc Nélias getting out of the Doldrums better but more to the point MACIF, with their foil working on this port tack, are quicker and extending away, now nearly 100 miles ahead. In the Multi 50s, the lead of FenetreA Prysmian is now 188 miles and Erwan Le Roux and Italy’s Giancarlo Pedote should finally pass the first IMOCA in the next 24 hours, Doldrums permitting.
From the boats:
Erwan Le Roux, skipper de FenêtréA Prysmian (Multi50): “We’ve been in the Doldrums since this morning. We’re continuing to make good headway and haven’t been slowed down that much. We currently have a 10 knot ESE’ly and should make our way out tomorrow morning. I hope I’ll be luckier than our friends. The Doldrums are very stressful, as we are afraid of getting stuck here. Each time, the Doldrums are different. I’ve never experienced the same conditions twice. That’s what gives them their charm.”
Vincent Riou, skipper de PRB (IMOCA 60): “It looks like the Doldrums are not very active, but there isn’t much wind either. There aren’t many clouds or squalls. There are some, but I have seen worse. It isn’t being fed by moist air. But, the wind isn’t very steady and we have to make do with what we get. When it is more stable, we’ll get some rest. For now, we’re taking it in turns and that is set to continue, as we need to keep a clear head. We haven’t had that many manoeuvres to carry out. But at one point we are getting two knots and then just after that 10 knots, so it’s all light stuff.”
Adrien Hardy, co-skipper de Un Souffle du Nord (IMOCA 60): “One day is much like another. We’re still on the port tack with the same wind. It was nice getting down the African coast at speed. We took advantage of that to get some rest. It’s very hot and wet inside the boat. From this evening onwards, we’ll have more manoeuvres with the Doldrums looking complicated. We’ve been thinking about it, as we passed through the Doldrums in the Mini Transat. We know that the first one out usually has a clear advantage. We hope we don’t make too many mistakes afterwards. We’ve been spending some time together. We try to eat together. There’s lots of weed around us. It’s worrying for our future, when you see so much, as it is far from normal. It’s surprising, as we haven’t seen any dolphins or whales, but plenty of weed.”
1 – Le Conservateur
2 – V and B
3 – Solidaires en Peloton ARSEP
1 – FenêtréA Prysmian
2 – Arkema
3 – Ciela Village
1 – PRB
2 – Queguiner – Leucemie Espoir
3 – Banque Populaire VIII
1 – Macif
2 – Sodebo Ultim’
3 – Prince de Bretagne