Last night Fred came out of the thick fog which had settled since the passage of the ridge of high pressure on Tuesday morning severely reducing visibility and the damp atmosphere over the last 24 hours. But although the skipper can now see the bows of his Gitana 11, the temperature has taken a tumble after the warm front blew over and the wind has dropped :
« Things have livened up this morning and freshened up too… The rotation is starting to make itself felt and is currently at 10-15 knots 220° (SSW). In fact, the breeze fell yesterday as the front passed over at the start of the night then a 20-22 knot wind came back in with some drizzle. I kept all the canvas up to keep up with the fleet, to the extent that I did a top speed of 31 knots and came off pretty well. I'm not far behind Stève Ravussin and Alain Gautier. The sea is quite choppy with a southerly swell indicating that the low is not far away. »
Fred is on form was able to sleep for an hour and a half this morning as the wind had calmed and the boat is « in tip top condition ». The low will force the soloists to steer a very northerly course (more than 150 miles above the direct route) today. It will be giving rise to S-SW winds of 30-35 knots and a swell three metres high. The wind shift north-west overnight will kick up a chaotic cross-sea, which is extremely tough on the boats structurally. But Gitana 11 and the whole multihull fleet will then be able to head SW and make for Newfoundland very quickly in a beam wind. On the telephone this morning Fred described how he was.
« I'm pleased as I'm now at the same pace as the leaders. The gaps between the boats have stabilised and we now have to get ready for a night of strong wind and a tough seas. We can't afford to leave any feathers behind ! We have to avoid breaking the boat and not get carried away when the wind shifts as we'll have a head sea… »
La Trinité sur Mer.
The whole of the Gitana Team is hard at work to get Gitana X back into fighting form. Since Marc Guillemot arrived in La Trinité yesterday at 12h, the Gitana Team is on the warpath to find a solution to the damage sustained to the daggerboard on Gitana X in her first night of racing. Behind the obvious fatigue of his look, lies the confidence of having found a possible solution to replace the keel of Gitana X, cleanly broken off on a level with the casing and thus unable to be repaired.The Gitana Team has found the solution in Port La Forêt, where the trimaran Bonduelle is based. Jean Le Cam's trimaran has traded in his 60-foot multihull for a monohull with a view to racing in the Vendée Globe 2004, and should be able to adapt the dagger board from the 60-foot multihull to Gitana X's casing.Trials will take place all day under the attentive eyes of a motivated technical team led by Jean Le Houérou-Kérisel. Objective – enable Gitana X to set out on a delivery voyage no later than 18th June for Québec to be at the start of the Québec-Saint Malo, on 11th July.
In La Trinité sur Mer, another member of the Gitana Team has done a great deal to deal with this change in programme. Bianca Deren, assistant to Yann Marilley, the Gitana Team's manager who since last summer has been taking care of the administration of Gitana's base in La Trinité sur Mer has, since yesterday afternoon, spent hours on the telephone to adapt the new programme for Gitana X's technical and sailing teams. Plane tickets have to be changed, hotel bookings too and check that all passports and visas are in order.