« Our gennaker halyard broke overnight when boat speed was around thirty knots… We had to make a double turn and sought shelter in the Gulf of Bejaïa, known as Candle Bay (Little Kabylia) as repairs required climbing up the mast to reach the halyard. We got underway again at around 3h30 in the morning » Nicolas Raynaud during a brief radio chat session. Difficult to imagine the shambles on board Gitana X in the middle of the night when a loud crack was heard and all of a sudden the sail flying more than 250 m² of canvas came tumbling down. Boat speed of thirty knots, with rough seas. All hands on deck to recover the sail as fast as possible – without damaging it at all. At least half an hour spent pulling on the slippery cloth with waves breaking all around. Then Thierry Duprey du Vorsent decided to hoist the Solent jib and luff to rally sheltered waters as soon as possible so that the crew could get a new halyard ready and check the cloth. Pitstop with furled sails in Candle Bay so that a member of the crew could shinny up the 31 metre high mast to thread a new halyard through. Meanwhile the rest of the fleet continued racing bound for Cape Bon.
Tough on crew morale. Gitana X had run a superb race over the first half of the IB Group Challenge managing to come back on the peloton just before the night. But the team is a resourceful one and got going before day break without having to worry about what lay ahead. In fact, conditions had already started to slow fleet leaders down. 900 miles from the finish in Nice and Gitana X is still in with a chance of latching back onto the fleet thanks to this new transitional zone close to Tunisia.
Gitana 11 did not have such a productive night as expected. Frédéric Le Peutrec and Yann Guichard took an offshore option as did Michel Desjoyeaux and Armel Le Cléac'h, for fear that the wind decrease close into land. But the Mediterranean is a special place indeed and renowned for its fickle weather patterns. Pascal Bidégorry and Franck Cammas were able to make a break away, pushing forty miles ahead of the pack by 4h00 this morning. However, by 6h00 this morning, Yann Guichard indicated that the wind was non-existent on the race zone. « We've little more than a 4-6 knots westerly blow. We overtook Géant an hour back coming to within 50 metres of her but the two others disappeared in the night. The problem is that the wind is slackening off abeam ! Fairly rough cross seas still westerly but veering gradually east – boat-breaking conditions. We started the night in the lead and had 25-26 knots but did not want to head inland as we were worried that there would be no wind. How wrong you can be ! We are making way to Tunisia under cloudy skies and light air. The easterly won't be with us until 14h-15h this afternoon. We prefer to remain with Géant to have a reference as helming and trimming are tough-going right now. And it looks as though offshore wind pressure will be increasing this afternoon »
Malta is still more than 350 miles away. A tricky phase lies ahead with chaotic seas to negotiate as we hug the Coast of Tunisia tacking in the strait of Sicily. End of race conditions are going to be light. There are still plenty of options to be taken before reaching Nice probably not before Monday evening at the earliest.
Rankings – Friday 13th May 04h00 (French time) :
1- Banque Populaire (Pascal Bidégorry) with 935.5 miles to the finish
2- Groupama-2 (Franck Cammas) + 3.1 miles
3- Géant (Michel Desjoyeaux) + 39.5 miles
4- Gitana 11 (Frédéric Le Peutrec) + 41.6 miles
5- Foncia (Armel Le Cléac'h) + 69.5 miles
6- Gitana X (Thierry Duprey du Vorsent) + 142.6 miles
For further information… www.gitana-team.com