Trade wind slalom off Cape Verde
Just three days after it left the north-west tip of Brittany, the head of the fleet in the Brest Atlantiques is passing offshore of the Cape Verde archipelago this Friday and has already racked up over 2,000 miles on the clock. Though the first hours of racing have been very full-on in a raging Bay of Biscay, the pure racing mode has quickly reasserted itself. The weather conditions right now, a NE'ly breeze fluctuating between 10 and 16 knots, are providing a strategic and hence thrilling descent of the Atlantic to say the least. At 15:00 UTC, the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild had consolidated her lead, boasting a 64-mile advantage over second placed Macif.
Breathless trades and wind shadows
For the past 24 hours, the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild and her three rivals have been having to deal with a rather lacklustre NE'ly trade wind. The breeze is fluctuating between 10 and 15 knots, causing the giants' speed curve to vary according to the numerous squalls joining the mix: “the forecast isn't stable and Franck and Charles are having to confront a great deal of oscillations in the wind both in terms of strength and direction”, noted Marcel Van Triest. It's proving to be a tricky scenario for these machines, as Franck Cammas explains: “The nights have been complicated for the past two days! Last night our progress was halted with a long period of light airs. There were a lot of lifts and headers of 30 to 40° which we weren't able to exploit. With our boats, the manœuvres take too long so we aren't able to react to variations that are too quick. Between the start and end of a gybe for example, 15 to 20 minutes rolls by.”
There's also another parameter influencing play in this set-up: “The breeze is also being disturbed by the wind shadows created by the Canary Islands and soon the wind shadows of the Cape Verde archipelago. This is very clear on the satellite photos, which we've been relying on in our routing,” explains Marcel.
“A fine regatta on an oceanic scale”
At the 15:00 UTC ranking, the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild had consolidated her lead acquired in the early hours of yesterday. The latest addition to the Gitana fleet boasts a 64.8-mile lead over Macif and 181.9 miles over Sodebo Ultim. Meantime, Actual Leader is positioned 354.3 miles astern of the blue maxi-trimaran. These figures testify to the fact that it's a close-fought match and that it's very much game on offshore of Cape Verde: “We knew this is how it would be! With these boats that power along at 30 knots, 100 or 200 miles don't amount to a lot of separation... Last night, between two rankings, we saw around a 10-knot difference in speed between boats. With such deltas, you quickly lose and gain ground. We're very happy to be able to play about like this with Macif, which remains the reference. François knows his boat inside out, he knows how to make fast headway the whole time. To be in front is even better, but it's only the start of the race. As such, we can't draw any conclusions from this position for now,” explained Franck Cammas during the first official radio link with the organisation, which took place this Friday at noon at the Maison de la Bretagne in Paris.
This “appreciation of scale” was also a sentiment shared by the weather router for the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild, as he admitted to us a few hours earlier: “With this type of trimaran, what's particularly interesting is the XXL aspect, even in terms of the rankings. From one ranking to the next, you can lose - or gain - 30 to 40 miles. You have to get used to that!”, said an amused Marcel Van Triest.
The Doldrums and the equator on the cards for the 1st weekend
On the Atlantic chessboard, it's important to understand that the positioning adopted by the crews yesterday was aimed at lining themselves up for their passage through the famous Doldrums. This zone of low pressure, traditionally on either side of the equator, and stretching from West to East between Latin America and Africa, is a zone that is always feared by the sailors as it is renowned for being a meteorological minefield, as has recently been verified in the Transat Jacques Vabre for the Imocas... “Our current course is a question of compromise going forward”, explained the weather router: “At the moment, we would have preferred to have been further to the West so as not to be subjected to the wind shadows of the islands (Canaries, Cape Verde...) but for the exit from the Doldrums it's generally better to be further East, hence the balance you have to strike.”
For Charles Caudrelier and Franck Cammas, the entry into the Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone, the zone's more scientific' name, should take place tomorrow afternoon and the Edmond de Rothschild duo could well cross the equator 24 hours later. If this timing is confirmed, the resulting passage times could be interesting to say the least! In the meantime though, we'll need to negotiate the trials and tribulations of the Doldrums and try to extract ourselves from its clutches, which as the sailors know can be tough-going.
=> TODAY'S VIDEO BY YANN RIOU / Ménage à trois
The Maxi Edmond de Rothschild is a high-tech trimaran designed for races, a trail-blazer in the new generation of flying maxis However, for our three on-board sailors, it remains a living space where the simple day-to-day tasks can become a real headache. To relax before the weekend, Yann Riou - our media man - treats us to a rather humorous insight into one of these scenes from daily life.
Ranking on Friday 8 November at 15:00 UTC
1. MAXI EDMOND DE ROTHSCHILD (Franck Cammas / Charles Caudrelier / Yann Riou) - distance to the goal: 11,690 miles - average speed over the last 30 mins: 28.7 knots
2. MACIF (François Gabart / Gwenolé Gahinet / Jérémie Eloi) - 64.8 miles behind the leader - average speed over the last 30 mins: 29.6 knots
3. SODEBO ULTIM 3 (Thomas Coville / Jean-Luc Nelias / Martin Keruzoré) - 181.9 miles behind the leader - average speed over the last 30 mins: 17.8 knots
4. ACTUAL LEADER (Yves Le Blevec / Alex Pella / Ronan Gladu) - 354.3miles behind the leader - average speed over the last 30 mins: 30.4 knots