Leading the sprint westwards
Having set sail from Le Havre at 12:30 GMT yesterday, the Transat Jacques Vabre fleet didn't hang about in the English Channel despite a very laboured coastal course to Etretat. With a south-easterly wind building to over 20 knots once they were across the Baie de Seine, the twenty competing Imocas were able to pick up the pace and the most recent additions to the class got a chance to let their foils do the talking. At this particular game, Sébastien Josse and Charles Caudrelier have clearly been inspired. Making between 20 and 23 knots throughout the night on the Mono60 Edmond de Rothschild, this morning the duo are leading the sprint due West. After a quick but very pleasant night, the sea state will become tougher this Monday as a very active Atlantic low rolls in.
Express Exit from the English Channel
Prior to casting off yesterday, Sébastien Josse predicted a rather colourful atmosphere: The start will be very light, but conditions will quickly change and turn to our advantage. If the routing scenarios pan out, we're lined up for a fantastic trajectory, with speeds bordering on 19 - 22 knots, so it's going to be quick! This first phase is clearly geared towards our boats. Given the average speeds racked up throughout the night by the most recent addition to the Gitana fleet, the forecasts were even slightly conservative in reality.
Indeed, between Cherbourg, which they left abeam of them at around 22:00 GMT last night, and the exit from the English Channel at around 04:00 GMT this morning, Sébastien Josse and Charles Caudrelier spared no effort last night. Taking advantage of a virtually full moon and a starry sky, the sailors on Edmond de Rothschild had to regularly take it in turns at the helm to get the very best from the Verdier design. If we add to that the constant sail trimming on these machines and the watch keeping, which is essential in the English Channel given the intense shipping, the first night of racing for our duo must have seen precious little if any sleep.
In terms of hard facts from this first night of racing, it is worth noting the pit stop in Roscoff for Jérémie Beyou and Philippe Legros following damage to one of the cables that supports their mast.
Channel Islands Option
In order to understand the fairly distinct route options posted by the protagonists in this 12th edition of the Coffee Route, you need to look closely at the upcoming weather situation. Indeed, a fairly beefy Atlantic low, dishing up 30 to 35 knots of north-westerly wind and waves in excess of 6 metres, is set to scoop up the fleet in the coming hours. The nub of this race start involved deciding how to tackle this phenomenon: round to the North of it, traverse it or round to the South of it. This decision will dictate the first days of racing. In this way, after less than 20 hours at sea, the Transat Jacques Vabre fleet has effectively been split in two. On the one side there are those favouring a south-westerly route, which is more direct and less lumpy, but they will become embroiled in a beat. On the other side are those favouring an option due West, of which Sébastien Josse and Charles Caudrelier are clearly part. As such, the Edmond de Rothschild duo is favouring speed and the points of sail in which their steed can express her true potential.
At the 07:00 ranking, Sébastien Josse and Charles Caudrelier were lying in 10th position some 24 miles shy of the current leader, Briton Alex Thomson. This position midway down the leaderboard is worth explaining and qualifying. In effect, the ranking is always calculated in terms of distance to the goal and hence in relation to the great circle route, which is none other than the most direct route to reach Brazil. By choosing the westerly option, the Edmond de Rothschild duo has invariably distanced itself from this virtual line, whilst Hugo Boss, by heading to the south-west and just skirting Ushant, has stuck to it like glue. Adhering to this reasoning, the small group of boats led by Alex Thomson and Guillermo Altadill is likely to hold onto the advantage of sticking to the direct route for several days, at which point we should be able to see which option reaps the most benefits. The verdict will likely fall around the latitude of the Azores.
The cartography for Gitana Team: http://gitana-team.geovoile.com/jacquesvabre/2015/ is updated every 30 minutes whilst an official ranking will be published every 4hrs (03:00 07:00 11:00 15:00 19:00 23:00 GMT).