There are certain parameters which cannot be controlled at sea, as is the case with this band of stormy clouds coming in from the Canaries, which were sweeping across the South of the Azores late last night leading to zones without wind! This explains the worrying drop in speed to 2.2 knots recorded by Gitana 11 at the 0700 GMT ranking this Thursday 4th November. The outcome was tough as Yann Guichard remained at a reduced speed – making an average of just two knots – while Francis Joyon, only a short distance away, was continuing his course at over twenty knots… The upshot of this was that the solo sailor lost nearly fifty miles on his rival, after managing to get the better of the round the world record man on the Wednesday. Contacted by the Press HQ in Paris, Yann Guichard simply recounted the spell of bad luck he’d had: “I’m battling, but things are ok… I got caught in some stormy squalls which came out of nowhere. That’s how it goes sometimes: there was no wind beneath them! There was no indication of any storms coming in from the South. I’m not yet clear of the zone either… Since the start, the wind hasn’t been steady and the automatic pilot is finding it hard to keep up. As a result I’m very often having to helm. The same is true for Francis Joyon though.” Fortunately Gitana 11 managed to get back up to ‘cruising speed’ during the course of the morning, and the noon ranking showed that Idec hadn’t been spared of this stormy zone either. Indeed, at that time, Francis Joyon was making laboured headway at an average of ten knots.
The only one to favour the N’ly course, following Sidney Gavignet’s retirement from the race yesterday evening after the trimaran suffered major damage with the breakage of her forward beam, Thomas Coville found himself in a very different environment today. The skipper from La Trinité in SW Brittany, had already traversed the cold front which Yann Guichard is likely to reach tonight. After four days of racing, the situation is very open, even though Franck Cammas is continuing to make good his escape, making it increasingly difficult for his pursuers to make a comeback.
That said though, the West Indies are still 2,000 miles ahead and the weather situation promises to be extremely confused for the last three days of the race. In any case, the trimaran fitted out by Baron Benjamin de Rothschild has demonstrated in the hands of Yann Guichard, that she was worthy of her status of outsider. Indeed, since setting out from Saint Malo, the pace set by the skipper has been very high! Of course the fatigue is beginning to sting, but the solo sailor should be able to recuperate a little over the coming hours in a slightly more established S’ly breeze. In fact, once through the front, it will be necessary to deal with very rough seas and downwind conditions once more, which are set to build later. The next 24 hours promise to be intense, as the skipper of Gitana Team indicated this morning: “I’m still in the SE’ly tradewinds and I’m going to hunt down a depression which is ahead of me. I’ll have to put in a long port tack. Groupama 3 has constantly been faster since the start and it’ll take something pretty big to get back within reach of her. I’m going to have to keep an eye on Thomas Coville, to the North, as he’ll soon pass through the front and will then pick up pace, even though he’ll have to deal with heavy seas. The battle for me at the moment is with Francis. However, there are still at least four days at sea to go so I’m not focusing on the ranking. I’m concentrating on my own race and we’ll see what’s what at the finish…”