Stalling around Madeira
Charles Caudrelier and Erwan Israël have known since last Sunday’s start in Le Havre that the transition southward would require a great deal of patience as they try to negotiate an area of light winds. Indeed, following an intense start to the race in some difficult and boisterous conditions for both the men and their machines, as they close on the Portuguese archipelago of Madeira this morning the ambiance is flat calm on the deck of the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild. In reality, a ridge of high pressure is sprawled across the ULTIMs’ route, causing their progress towards the trade wind to slow dramatically. Synonymous with a windless zone, as well as a general bunching up of the fleet, this section has the air of a restart and it could be an important turning point in this 16th Transat Jacques Vabre Normandie Le Havre.
Flat calm 

A total paradox. Whilst Brittany and more broadly the coast of France and the UK prepare for storm Ciaran to roll through with winds due to gust to over 140 km/hr, at the head of the ULTIM fleet, which is closing on Madeira, the wind gods are a no-show. As predicted, Charles Caudrelier and Erwan Israël, third in a tightly grouped top trio at the 12:00 UTC position report, are dealing with a zone of high pressure this Wednesday. The boat speed aboard the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild and all her rivals has dropped at a dizzying rate and is currently fluctuating between 2 and 6 knots… After the stress of the high speeds colouring play during the first two days, a different war of nerves has begun aboard the 32-metre giants: the wait… Though the forecasts are very uncertain in such conditions, the duos hope to be able to get some wind in their sails again tonight by leaving the island of Porto Santo, to the north-east of the Portuguese archipelago, to starboard.   

In the early hours, the skipper of Gitana Team shared this ‘pond-like’ atmosphere :   

Radio link-up with Charles Caudrelier, Wednesday 1 November:   

“After a third night, it’s a rather different atmosphere aboard the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild. Right now, we have 5-6 knots at most… It’s beautiful but not very effective! I’d say that it’s peaceful yet tense as you don’t really know how things are going to play out when you traverse something like this! We had a chat with François (Gabart) this morning as we’re within VHF range, and we were saying that we needed a crystal ball to find out what was going to happen. The wind is very shifty. It wants to lift, but because the ridge of high pressure is dropping southward with us, it’s yoyoing instead. For now, we’re in a breeze fluctuating between west and north-west. It’s lovely here. It’s glassy, but not very nice as there’s a swell and no breeze causing the sails to flap. We’re under full sail, trying to make the best out of every sniff of breeze. On the routing you always manage to make headway, but on the water it’s a different scenario. We’re tightly bunched in our option with SVR and Banque Populaire, and behind us Sodebo and Actual, who were set back a bit, are trying another option further east… It’s very hard to know which option will reap rewards.   In any case, even if we continue to stall, once the depression (Ciaran is set to sweep across France and the UK tonight) rolls through, the zone of high pressure will reform. We will get through this… but when?  One thing for sure, the first to hit the fresh breeze will be off. In the Solitaire du Figaro, 1 mile is sometimes all it takes to make a difference! Better days are on the horizon and we always knew that this section would be synonymous with a restart.”  

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