Homing in on the doldrums
The duel between the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild and Sodebo Ultim' is fiercer than ever at the head of the Transat Jacques Vabre race. The two leaders passed the Cape Verde islands over the course of the day and are now preparing to enter the infamous doldrums. Dreaded by sailors due to its random nature, the Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone does appear to be showing its best side to Sébastien Josse and Thomas Rouxel. In any case, that's the feeling that emerges from the satellite observations. At the 15:00 UTC ranking, and after a very fine comeback last night, which enabled them to reduce their deficit by half, the men of Gitana Team were positioned 31.8 miles astern of the black and orange trimaran and very slightly to the west of it.
Tonight, Gitana 17 and her rival will have to negotiate one of the key weather sections of the Route du Café. It is the doldrums of course. Questioned about what lies ahead for them, Thomas Rouxel replied with all the caution demanded by this zone when you've had the opportunity to traverse it in the past: “We'll be tackling the doldrums in a few hours' time. Of course, we have an idea of where we'd like to cross through it. If we use the basis of the latest forecasts, it looks fairly mild, which means we shouldn't have to hunt it down too far over to the west. It's still the doldrums though so you have to watch out! We're going to try that and then we'll see how things play out!”
During the midday audio session, Thomas also took the time to convey how the guys are doing after 5 intense days at sea having covered nearly 3,000 miles. “Yes, it's hot, but we have a fair bit of cloud cover now so it's bearable. The fatigue's setting in a bit and it's hard to wake up, but things are okay. The Maxi Edmond de Rothschild is a comfortable boat. Sébastien and I are often thinking about Prince de Bretagne; things must be more difficult for them,” admitted the sailor from Brittany.
A highly instructive mano a mano
The Maxi Edmond de Rothschild is the first boat from the new generation of large oceanic multihulls. Since her launch back in July, all the members of Gitana Team have been working flat out to enable Sébastien Josse and Thomas Rouxel to make the start of the Transat Jacques Vabre. With such a machine, the extent of its technicality and all the detail that the skippers need to be on top of in order to perform well, just being able to set sail from Le Havre was a success in itself.
To learn more and progress ever faster with understanding and utilising their steed, the Edmond de Rothschild duo were keen to come up against Sodebo Ultim', one of the references in the category. They've got what they came for: “Naturally we're less familiar with our boat than Thomas and Jean-Luc. As such, with every transition, we take a little more time to find the right trim. In terms of outright speed, yes, the boats are different, so there will be little separating us. However, since this morning, we've seen that on the whole Sodebo is a little faster than us. It's motivating as it enables us to constantly strive to optimise the boat's performance, which doubtless would have been less evident if we'd had a 200-mile lead. As a result, with a view to developing the boat, the situation is incredibly interesting. In terms of the race, we'd have preferred to have been 200 miles ahead of course. But this is how it is; it's a great race and frankly we're having a ball!” concluded the co-skipper of the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild.
Ranking at 15:00 UTC, Ultime category - Friday 10 November
1 - Sodebo Ultim' - 1,586.8 miles from the finish, 33 knots over 1hr
2 - Maxi Edmond de Rothschild - 31.8 miles behind the leader, 28.4 knots over 1hr
3 - Prince de Bretagne - 850 miles, 26.7 knots over 1hr