The first night
After setting sail from Le Havre yesterday at 1200 GMT, the Transat Jacques Vabre fleet had what can best be described as an industrious first night at sea. Indeed, their passage around the Cotentin headland and their negotiation of the Raz Blanchard in particular, gave the forty-four competing duos a difficult ride. Leading the pack, the two Multi70s had to battle hard against the current to extract themselves from the zone. Blazing a trail out front, the trimaran Edmond de Rothschild is currently making headway offshore of the north-west tip of Brittany, at the latitude of Brest, and will begin to traverse the Bay of Biscay this morning, where boisterous conditions are expected.

The exit from the English Channel, particularly when there is a significant tidal range as there is at the moment, is never a picnic. And though the wind proved to be fairly tame over the initial hours of racing, the numerous currents punctuating the route towards the north-west tip of Brittany, certainly spiced up proceedings.

“The passage around Raz Blanchard was quite a mission!” Sébastien Josse joked this morning. “The wind was pretty light with around 10 knots of westerly, and we were punching into as much as 7 knots of current. It wasn’t easy to make headway in the right direction. After that, along the Breton coast, the wind picked up, but it remained very shifty throughout the night with tenacious head seas that didn’t favour speed. The aim was to hunt down a rotation of the wind from the west to the south-west (backing) just north of the Breton coast.”

In these variable conditions, the sailors only managed to get a little rest as Sébastien Josse confirmed this morning: “We were pretty busy and it was a short night! Although the speeds weren’t up to par and the conditions called for a great deal of trimming and manoeuvres, we forced ourselves to take it in turns to get our heads down for a few precious minutes. Indeed we know that with the boisterous conditions awaiting us in Biscay, it’s going to be a long day this Friday.”

In fact, for the two Multi70s, the passage around the Breton headland will coincide with the arrival of a cold front synonymous with a significant increase in wind strength: “as the front rolls through, the wind will quickly switch round to the north-west where it will build to 25 then 30 knots over the course of the day. It’s in these conditions that Edmond de Rothschild will begin to traverse the Bay of Biscay on a reach (wind on the beam) towards Cape Finisterre. The seas will be fairly heavy with a north-westerly swell generating 4 to 5-metre waves”, concluded Antoine Koch, the onshore router for the Edmond de Rothschild duo.

At today’s first position report (0400 GMT), Oman Air – Musandam was leading. However, three hours later, at the 0700 GMT position report, the trimaran fitted out by Baron Benjamin de Rothschild had regained control and boasted a lead of just over a mile ahead of its rival, which was position slightly further inshore. As such the 70-foot one-design duel is already in full swing and the race has only just begun.

It’s worth pointing out that there are six official position reports a day at the rate of one report every 3 hours from 0400 hours. No position reports are produced overnight and from 1900 GMT, a position blackout is observed. Timing of the official rankings

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