Charlie Dalin on Apivia has had to bide his time for a few days on the righthand side of the course, but it has all come good for him in the last 24 hours as he now leads the Vendée-Arctique-Les Sables d’Olonne Race once more.
The bow of Apivia is to windward of the fleet .as Dalin continues on his way towards the Gallimard Waypoint, 300 nautical miles to the south-southeast, where the skippers will turn to port and head for the finish off Les Sables d’Olonne
Ahead are yet more areas of light winds which could yet compress the fleet again, but in the meantime Dalin was clocked at 13.4 knots in a west-southwest breeze that is forecast to track round to the south-southwest.
In a return to the status quo early in the race, Dalin has Jérémie Beyou’s Charal right on his transom, just two-and-a-half miles astern in second place and then comes Thomas Ruyant sailing a similar heading on LinkedOut but nine miles behind Dalin.
Among the leading group, Ruyant has sailed the longest course to date, underlining that his boat is certainly quick and secondly that the Frenchman has continued to sail his own race while the pair ahead of him have largely stayed together.
Twenty miles to leeward of Dalin, Kévin Escoffier is continuing to sail an impressive race on PRB (+15.8), just four miles ahead of Sam Davies on Initiatives-Coeur (+19.6). Then it’s Yannick Bestaven on Maître CoQ IV in sixth position (+38) who is nine miles ahead of Boris Herrmann on Seaexplorer-YC de Monaco (+45.7), the most leeward boat of the top-13.
Herrmann has been hampered by the failure of the mainsail headboard car on Saturday, but the German skipper has now managed to hoist his main as far as the second reef and is still making good headway. He very quickly realised that experiencing this failure now was far better than in a few months time.
“I am happy, in a way, that it happened now,” he said in a video from on board. “This would be the worst, worst nightmare in my life if it happened during the Vendée Globe.”
Less fortunate has been the Franco-German sailor Isabelle Joschke who was sailing a great race on MACSF only to break her boom on Saturday. This has dropped her well out of contention and this morning she was back in 13th position, 90 miles off Dalin’s pace.
The intensity of the race continues to impress. The top-13 boats are sailing in a box that measures under 100 miles first-to-last on a southwest/northeast axis, while the lateral spread, from Apivia to windward and Seaexplorer YC de Monaco to leeward, is just 70 miles.
Although many skippers have talked about the Vendée-Arctique’s undoubted usefulness as a “warm-up” for the Vendée Globe, this level of intensity is very different to what is usually experienced in the round-the-world race itself when separations build and then increase as boats jump from one weather system to the next.
One team manager said this morning he expected all the skippers to reach the finish this week in a state of utter exhaustion after pushing boatspeeds and manoeuvres at far higher levels of intensity than they would normally expect on a long distance solo course in the IMOCA class.
The top echelon of boats has made itself fairly clear over the past eight days but the Vendée-Arctique has also underlined that the skippers sailing the next generation of slightly older boats that have been retrofitted with foils – or been upgraded – among them Initiatives-Coeur, MACSF, PRB and Seaexplorer-YC de Monaco, are going to have an incredible battle during the Vendée Globe.
While Escoffier has lived up to his standing as one of France’s top offshore sailors and with excellent technical skills to match, Sam Davies has also shown her ability and long experience in this sort of racing as she has kept a 10-year-old boat on the pace.
by Ed Gorman