ORMA trimaran fleet leaders are being squeezed yet again ! The SE trades have been steady over the past three days but are now in the process of becoming much weaker altogether. The previous 25 knots is turning into a feeble 15 knot flow. Wind direction is changing too, east, then north-east towards Saturday evening. Although this is unlikely to change the final order, the gaps between the boats are however likely to shorten. We could be in for a one-on-one style regatta. Up ahead the wind is decreasing seriously and so the speed difference between leader Banque Populaire and closest rival Gitana 11 was just eight knots at midday today. In Salvador de Bahia, the wind is likely to be lighter still, becoming nowhere near as steady, shifting and changing as clouds come in from the open sea , it is quite possible that the trimarans finish within a very short time of one another. Unforeseeable only two days ago !
This new situation on the south Atlantic, does not play into Gitana X's hands. Her Solent jib tore last night and Thierry Duprey du Vorsent and Erwan Le Roux are having a tough time in a weakening trade wind with shortened sail, a less efficient heading and with Ascension Island still 200 miles of as the crow flies. Bad luck for the pair who are now contenting themselves with the idea of having to circumvent the Saint Helena High, head to wind on Sunday morning. As there is less wind, the end of the course for Gitana X is going to be long-winded indeed. Frédéric Le Peutrec and Yann Guichard can put paid to any worries about lack of freeze-dried food on baord. They are now spurred on by the hope that they can gain ground on Banque Populaire. Gitana 11 is making good progress and have gained more than ten miles between each satellite position polling, every two hours ! As they are offset in terms of longitude, as they have to gybe to head for Bahia, they are still in with a chance of pulling something off before reaching All Saints' Bay.
Yann Guichard (Gitana 11)
« We have the mainsail and gennaker up and are making good speed. The sea is a bit choppy and not that easy to negotiate with this boat. Man and machine are pushed hard. We've still got 500 miles to go but everything's fine on board. Géant is a little to our south. We're going to have to gybe tonight or early tomorrow morning. Not too bad from where we are right now so long as we still have a bit of wind. Running a bit short on freeze-dried food, but not long to go now. It's warm too and not easy to get to sleep.
Up ahead, the wind should start to ease off and veer east. We'll have to make sure we get our gybe right as that will determine our angle of attack for the home stretch into Bahia. It's difficult to imagine that the situation could change between the top three tris, but they may find themselves squeezing together at the end. »
Thierry Duprey Du Vorsent (Gitana X)
« It's still windy here 16-18 knots, SE but the sae has finally clamed down a bit. So much the better as it was difficult ot sleep and prepare stuff to eat. We're really hoping that the wind doesn't drop of altogether as our Solent ripped in two yesterday. We've got the main up and the staysail. Difficult sailing close-hauled like that and we can't sail fast. The approach to Ascension is going to be tricky. It may take quite some time. It's 200 miles off and we should make it there by Sunday morning. After that we'll be downwind but in light air as the trades tend to weaken then ! Everything is contriving against us so that we take a slow ride to Bahia. But we've still got a smile on our faces ! It's obvious we're not going to catch the others. But we're still fighting hard – for the sporting spirit, the team, the Gitana Team and all those who have encouraged us. Not that easy though when no-one pushing from behind and no-one close enough aead. We've had to make two stops and since Dakar it's perfectly obvious that we wouldn't be able to catch the leaders. The wind always comes in upfront. They were not stopped in the Doldrums. Yet we were glued there for hours on end. We're continuing in the racing spirit for other reasons, not to win. A nice competition upfront for the finish – and it's not over yet !
This is the first time, fingers crossed, that we'll be finishing the Transat Jacques Vabre. A reconnaissance mission for the next time ! We took on supplies for a fortnight and we're going to over run but as I don't eat much anyway, one meal a day is enough. And we hardly touched a crumb in the first few days too. We're not going to starve out here ! »