Not going into that much detail over the last few days, as the conditions have been rude and the crews have spent a fair bit of time playing at Mr Fixit. Both boats are truly getting into the swing of things. The pace has remained fast due as the wind has not really calmed since the fleet left the Channel. And although the wind has changed direction from head to following wind, both crews confirmed by radio this morning that the NE blow has never the less remained quite strong at around 25-30 knots.
Frédéric Le Peutrec (Gitana 11) at 8h00:
« We have the gennaker up and the main fully hoisted – and it's warm out here ! Sea state is still quite choppy with squalls overhead and wind shifts at more than 30 knots. You have to stay at the helm if you are to steer a straight course. We are trying to put some west in our heading but it is probable that if conditions remain the same, we will have to sail through the Canary Islands. If that happens, we'll aim for the passage between Tenerife and Gran Canaria which is further out in the open sea and less perturbed. We're trying to catch up on lost sleep but conditions are not making that possible for the time being. But we are making progress ! Average boat speed is between 22 and 25 knots. The fact that our navigation unit is out of order is not doing us any good. It is impossible to determine wind force and direction with any precision. We're sailing as people used to sail in the olden times and we have to be very careful not to get caught out, particularly at night. The moon is not that strong at the moment and the sky is only just beginning to clear.
Thierry Duprey du Vorsent (Gitana X):
« We're really out of it physically: we've spent the past couple of nights repairing, which drains energy. The first night we had to sort out our problems with the mainsail and the second night we had to work on the rudder to get us down to Porto. Gitana technical team did a great job in the short space of two hours. We are speeding along now to make up for lost time ! Wind speed of around 25-30 knots with one reef in the main and Solent jib up front. The sea is very short and tonight speeds picked up to 30-35 knots in the squalls ! Forecasts are not expecting conditions to change over the next few hours. We're going to have to establish a normal watch system so that we can rest a little. The last few days we've been kept busy helming or repairing … We're going to see what's happening up front but there's a strong chance that we'll pass east of the Canaries – we're the closest to shore of the whole fleet. There's not much choice in our track with this NE wind. »
For all the gaps with the new leader Banque Populaire are important, they are not final. Groupama-2 also had to make a pitstop – for five hours in Porto Santo (Madeira) to repair a part of their rudder and helm. Hugging the African coast should turn out to be the right option once past the Canary Islands. That leaves just 1 500 miles to go to the Doldrums - the trimarans will certainly have one or two gybes to do and in any event, the leaders will be the first to slow down when they run into the Inter-tropical convergence zone.
Both crews of the Gitana Team will be able to freewheel down to the equator as conditions improve, giving them the chance to rest and get back into shape physically. There's still a long way to go before they can hear the sound of the Brazilian samba !
1 Banque Populaire
3 Groupama 2
4 TIM Progetto Italia
5 Gitana 11
6 Gitana X 3