Hooking onto the tradewinds
It’s been two nights at sea since the start of the Route du Rhum-La Banque Postale and Yann Guichard has managed to round the tip of Spain without getting caught up by the light airs now being served up over Cape Finisterre. However, he is now having to deal with some rather asthmatic Portuguese tradewinds to slip along under full mainsail and gennaker to the South of the Azores High.
Franck Cammas has made good his escape and the solo sailor is likely to increase his lead still further this Tuesday. Indeed the skipper was able to sail fast in the big seas of the Bay of Biscay thanks to the sheer power of his trimaran, which is something Yann Guichard couldn’t do without risking structural damage. However, the skipper of the trimaran in the colours of the Edmond de Rothschild Group has nonetheless been able to put a stop to the haemorrhage of miles in relation to his two closest rivals, namely Thomas Coville further to his NW and Francis Joyon now just slightly ahead on the same track. In fact the latter opted to bend his course further towards the South during a gybe as his boat had less pace than Gitana 11 in this NE’ly breeze varying between 10 and 19 knots this Tuesday lunchtime…
Uncertainty for Friday
“The first issue was to pass below 42° North on Monday evening. With that done Yann can now slip along the southern edge of the zone of high pressure. However the winds are not very strong and are pretty unstable at between ten and fifteen knots… Gitana 11 will continue downwind for several days. In fact, if possible, we’ll avoid him having to put in some gybes, but he will probably have to reposition himself towards the South at a given point if the breeze eases too much, so as to keep hold of good wind pressure. At the front of the pack, Franck Cammas is benefiting from more wind, between 15 and 20 knots. As such he’s bound to extend on his lead as he got round Cape Finisterre earlier. However, there is a big area of doubt from Friday as to how the programme will pan out: the weather models aren’t offering the same scenarios! The final third of the course, after the Azores, would have us believe that there could be some fairly radical choices of route… For the time being, we can’t make any long term plans so we’re trying to keep the maximum number of options open without committing ourselves to anything definitive. One thing for sure is that the two “Northerners” have at least 500 miles to sail against the wind…” indicated Sylvain Mondon, the router for Gitana 11 this lunchtime.
As such Yann Guichard is carving out a fine curve with a steady average speed this Tuesday afternoon beneath the Azores High and it’s likely that he’ll get back very close to Idec’s stern at the end of the day. Indeed at the 1600 hours position report, Francis Joyon had conceded over five knots to his pursuer. However, it’s worth remembering that the trimaran fitted out by Baron Benjamin de Rothschild is pretty much at ease in these moderate, shifty conditions, which enable the boat to pick up the pace whilst gaining headway to the SW. And yet, for the time being, Yann Guichard isn’t able to get the best out of his machine due the swell being tricky to negotiate. Of all the ‘Ultimate’ trimarans, Gitana 11 is in the best position to hug the edge of the high pressure thanks to her potential in the light airs.
It should be noted that after a little over 48 hours of racing, there are only eight of the original nine Ultimate class boats still racing. Indeed whilst still picking his way across the Bay of Biscay, the skipper of Côte d’Or - Bertrand Quentin – had to be airlifted to hospital via helicopter this Tuesday after experiencing health issues.
Ranking for the Ultimate Category on 2nd November at 1600 hours
1- Groupama 3 some 2,803 miles from the finish
2- Sodebo 65.1 miles astern
3- Oman Air Majan 106.8 miles astern
4- Idec 160.5 miles astern
5- Gitana 11 some 208.8 miles astern
6- La Boite à Pizza 336.7 miles astern
7- Défi Cancale 390.1 miles astern
8- Saint-Malo 2015 some 395.5 miles astern
9- Côte d'Or II some 540.8 miles astern