Seven boats – five of which are foilers – are in the leading pack and currently benefiting from a NE’ly trade wind of around twenty knots in order to drop down towards the southern hemisphere at speed. Led by Armel Le Cléac’h, the head of the fleet is setting a blistering pace. However, because you rarely get out of it what you put in, particularly in offshore racing, the toll for this quick sprint down towards the equator is the noisy discomfort from the monohulls and an all-pervading fatigue in all the voices from the sea this Saturday.
This is particularly true given that this bunched start to the race, somewhat reminiscent of the “Solitaire du Figaro”, is forcing the men to pull out all the stops at the helm in order to stay in contact with the leaders prior to what is always a very tricky crossing of the doldrums.
The right measure
The final string of islands to negotiate in their descent of the North Atlantic, Cape Verde is set to be abeam of the first competitors from late afternoon this Saturday. At 14:00 GMT, Armel Le Cléac’h was positioned some twenty miles or so from Santo Antao, the most northerly island. Looking at the trajectories, the majority of the leading group seems to have opted for a route to the West of the Portuguese archipelago, with the exception of Briton Alex Thomson, who may still choose to pass between the islands as he has done before on occasion. The sailors know the dangers of getting too close to these coasts, because to leeward the trade winds are inevitably ruffled by the land mass.
The wind shadow of the islands to the South will also be worth keeping an eye on, particularly in terms of Pico do Fogo, the highest point of the volcanic island of Fogo, which culminates at an altitude of some 2,829 metres!
Edmond de Rothschild, hunting down Hugo Boss
At 14:00 GMT, Sébastien Josse had clawed back another place in the ranking, moving up into 5th place some 62 miles shy of the leader. Having covered 462.5 miles in the last 24 hours at an average speed of 19.3 knots, Edmond de Rothschild is one of the fastest boats at the head of the fleet. Solely Hugo Boss outclasses her in these conditions having devoured 476.9 miles. However, it’s worth noting that the two men have opted for different strategies, on opposing sides of the race zone, Sébastien Josse favouring an angle of attack and the gateway into the doldrums whilst Alex Thomson was letting the speed and power of his 60-footer do the talking.
Ranking on 12 November at 14:00 GMT
- Armel Le Cleac'h (Banque Populaire VIII) 22,404.8 miles from the finish
- Alex Thomson (Hugo Boss) 24.7 miles astern of the leader
- Vincent Riou (PRB) 37 miles astern
- Morgan Lagravière (Safran) 53.6 miles astern
- Sébastien Josse (Edmond de Rothschild) 62.2 miles astern
- Jérémie Beyou (Maître CoQ) 63.4 miles astern
- Paul Meilhat (SMA) 67.9 miles astern
- Yann Eliès (Groupe Gueguiner – Leucémie Espoir) 143.2 miles astern