Gybing ballet offshore of the Iberian peninsula
The Transat Jacques Vabre fleet is already entering its fourth day at sea this Wednesday. Following a race start punctuated by light airs and very slow progress in the Bay of Biscay, the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild and her Ultime rivals have finally been able to pick up the pace, leaving Cape Finisterre in their wake yesterday, very late in the day. Franck Cammas and Charles Caudrelier snatched back the reins in the transatlantic race shortly after this rounding, overtaking Sodebo in outright speed, and is this lunchtime slipping along at between 25 and 30 knots abeam of Cape St Vincent in Portugal. Together with their weather cell, comprising Erwan Israël, Stan Honey and Chris Bedford, the skippers of Gitana Team are enjoying a great start as they etch out a very fine trajectory in this 2021 edition, which is shaping up to be as complex as it is tactical.
Night cargo

The passage around Cape Finisterre is never a formality, a fact that sailors are well aware of. From the proximity of the Spanish coast, to what can be violent weather conditions due to the Venturi effect, as well as the significant shipping which requires the utmost vigilance and permanent monitoring… the north-west tip of the Iberian peninsula has all the ingredients to spice up this race start.

Yesterday, the headland certainly lived up to expectations. Following on from an interminable Bay of Biscay where the duo on the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild had to traverse a ridge of high pressure and deal with erratic winds in order to make southing by hook or by crook, Charles Caudrelier and Franck Cammas were itching to locate more pressure. The eagerly awaited NE’ly breeze finally joined the mix at midday yesterday, enabling the five Ultimes to finally lengthen their stride and reveal the true potential of their machine.

The first to latch onto this fresh breeze, the sailors of Gitana Team and the duo on SVR - Lazartigue made the approach on the coast of northern Spain at the head of the pack. Further out to the west, Sodebo and Actual were benefiting from a better angle to catch up with them and trade places in the top trio on rounding Finisterre. From there, powered up at an average speed of over 30 knots thanks to a NE’ly breeze fluctuating between 26 and 29 knots, the giants launched into a gybing ballet. Suffice to say that the third night at sea was but a short one for Franck Cammas and Charles Caudrelier, as was doubtless the case for their adversaries. Aboard the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild though, our duo got quite a fright…

Maxi-sounds from the oceans – Charles Caudrelier on Wednesday 10 November

“The analysis of yesterday and last night is pretty good, as we’ve managed to snatch back the lead and get a bit of separation, but when you look at what awaits us further down the track in terms of weather, it’s evident that things are going to be complicated. The Maxi Edmond de Rothschild is doing well, she’s in good condition, as are the sailors. Yesterday, along the TSS Finisterre, things smacked a bit of a Jules Verne Trophy revival, but this time we overtook Sodebo to windward. It was a lively night and we got the fright of our lives with a cargo ship. We were preparing for a manœuvre and a cargo ship passed within 30 m of us. Franck leapt onto the helm and bore away big time and we passed along the side of the cargo ship. It was sheer madness… Up next, it’s as clear as mud in terms of weather strategy, but we know that the wind is set to die off again and we’ll just have to deal with it!”

Positions on Wednesday 10 November at 14:00 UTC
  1. Maxi Edmond de Rothschild (F. Cammas / C. Caudrelier)
  2. Sodebo (T. Coville / T.Rouxel) + 32 miles
  3. SVR - Lazartigue (F. Gabart / T. Laperche) + 54.8 miles
  4. Actual (Y. Le Blevec / A. Marchand) + 60.8 miles
  5. Banque Populaire XI (A. Le Cléac’h / K. Escoffier) + 84.6 miles
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