Leading the way to the Azores
After five days of racing, Sébastien Josse heading the fleet since the opening miles of the race is set to cross the virtual midway mark this evening. Having covered 1,876 miles over the ground at an average speed of 15.2 knots, the skipper of the Mono60 Edmond de Rothschild can certainly feel satisfied with his progress in the first part of the race. Indeed, at the 19:00 GMT position report, the solo sailor was maintaining a fast pace and really making an impression! Looking at the numbers, he boasts a 113-mile lead over second placed Paul Meilhat and has over 300 miles on Morgan Lagravière, 3rd in the provisional ranking. However, as Sébastien Josse admitted at midday, his position at the front of the fleet is far from secure given that the weather systems rolling across the North Atlantic may still have a few surprises in store for the fleet in the Transat Saint-Barth - Port-la-Forêt.
Holding onto the breeze
Yesterday, the head of the fleet was riding out the first low on its transatlantic journey; a high point very well handled by Sébastien Josse, though it saw 3rd placed Morgan Lagravière fall off the back of the system, the latter not quite making the time slot to fully reap the benefits of the powerful north-westerly winds that accompanied this tempestuous episode. In a solid position at the head of the party climbing the North face, the skipper of the Mono60 Edmond de Rothschild gave us his analysis of these rather boisterous twelve hours or so aboard the latest of the Gitanas: It's already pretty strange to be rolling with the lows in this direction; we're not used to it! By sailing an eastbound transatlantic, we haven't got the classic configuration with the rainy atmosphere that accompanies the storm. There's no rain so immediately behind the front you're sailing under skies left by a storm. The NNW'ly wind oscillated between 22 and 30 knots and the seas were heavy, with a swell bordering on 5 metres. It wasn't easy to make fast headway in these conditions, because as soon as the boat exceeds 20 knots, it's a bit like a war zone aboard. You have to think before every move to avoid hurting yourself.
After such a description, one might well imagine that the past few hours at sea have been far from restful, as the skipper of Gitana confirmed: I let the pilot helm whilst trying to assist it as much as possible. In a big storm, it's too complicated to sleep. Even, though you want to get some shut-eye you can't as the boat's moving every which way and slamming down below. Once we were through the worst of it, sleep still didn't come easy as it was important to hoist more sail aloft immediately so as not to lose ground in relation to your playmates and above all stay on track with the timing of the routing. Indeed, even though we've managed to hitch up to the first wagon in the system of lows, we cannot afford to dawdle if we're to stand a chance of benefiting from a favourable sequence of systems once we're past the Azores.
An uncertain transition
Though this Friday evening, the lead racked up by the Mono60 fitted out by Baron Benjamin de Rothschild over its pursuers is more than substantial: 113 miles in relation to SMA, 303 miles in front of Safran and 455 miles ahead of Le Souffle du Nord, Sébastien Josse remained prudent with regards to the next stage of events: I should be able to stay in the north-westerly breeze as far as the Azores, but once I get there, a few uncertainties remain. We need to negotiate a transition. In the worst case scenario, we could have a few hours close-hauled and in light airs, but there is also an optimistic version, which would enable us to hook onto a low coming up from the south that which boats like Safran, Le Souffle du Nord and also Newrest - Matmut are likely to hit this evening without too much downtime. This new low promises to be meaty, with winds bordering on 40 knots that will test both the men and the machines. However, it comes with one undeniable advantage: that it will propel the fleet in the Transat Saint-Barth - Port-la-Forêt on a single tack towards the finish and obviously at a fair old speed.
Ranking on 11 December 19:00 GMT
- Sébastien Josse (Edmond de Rothschild) - 1,736.8 miles from the finish
- Paul Meilhat (SMA) - 113 miles behind the leader
- Morgan Lagravière (Safran)- 303.5 miles back
- Thomas Ruyant (Le Souffle du Nord) - 455.6 miles back
- Fabrice Amedeo (Newrest-Matmut) - 562.3 miles back
- Eric Holden (O Canada) - 596 miles back
- Enda O'Coineen (Kilcullen Voyager) 653.1 miles back