After the Canaries, tonight the Azores
As the Finistère Atlantique fleet tackles its fourth day at sea this Monday afternoon, offshore the battle is raging. At the front of the pack, the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild and Banque Populaire XI have been caught up in a merciless duel for the past 24 hours, which is as spicy as it is thrilling. The crews have given up their offshore watch system to switch to full-on, close-contact race mode, slugging it out in a quest for the top spot. At the 17:00 UTC position report, Charles Caudrelier and his men had the edge once again, having regained some precious miles to snatch back control of the race by late morning.
Manoeuvres in the dark offshore of the Canaries

Overnight from Sunday 3 to Monday 4 July, the Ultims competing in the Finistère Atlantique had to negotiate the Challenge Action Enfance Canaries gate; a narrow passage of around ten miles between the south of Lanzarote and the northern tip of Fuerteventura.  Added to that, it was moonless in a pretty lively breeze of up to 24-25 knots, according to the sailors’ on-board accounts, as the crew of the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild ticked off this course mark in 2nd place. Indeed, the men on Banque Populaire XI pipped them to the post by just 38 seconds! Earlier in the day, the two giants became embroiled in a real mano a mano as they dropped down towards the Spanish archipelago. However, the duel clearly reached a head at the Lanzarote passage: intensity and engagement were the words which best described the moment for Morgan Lagravière, who took control of the helm of the Maxi with Franck Cammas during these high-speed phases. As a bonus in this latest video are some stunning new drone images by Yann Riou!

Whatch the video here =>

This morning, Morgan gave us an insight into the passage of this famous Canaries gate and the conditions the crew of the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild had to negotiate: “The short passage between Fuerteventura and Lanzarote was bracing. Conditions were really full-on, quite varied with accelerations and mountains. It was pretty intense, which means I’ve slept well over the past few hours since then. Being so close to a fellow competitor is quite exceptional on these boats, especially so after 3 days of racing and an island rounding. During the passage, Franck and I took it in turns at the helm. There were peak speeds of 40 knots, with a little bit of moonlight and few visual references, so it was a bit stressful and full-on, but it’s good stress and the engagement went smoothly so it’s all good! There’s a slight sense of frustration though that we didn’t come out of it ahead of Banque Populaire, because we did have a slight edge at one point, but they’re better than us on this trajectory. It was still a real highlight and a great memory and there’s still quite a way to go in this race to play catch-up so we’re still in the game.”

Watching out for wind shadows

As soon as the Canaries were in their wake, the two leaders powered away on a reach at full speed, on a heading of 300 degrees bound for Santa Maria, the next course mark to the west of the Azores. It’s a point of sail where Banque Populaire XI has proven to be very much at ease, enabling her to steal a march on the five-arrow giant. However, with the large blue trimaran stalling for just an hour, caught in the clutches of a wind shadow off Madeira due to a trajectory that was too far north, the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild was able to make up all the lost ground and even gain an advantage by late morning this Monday.

With a ringside seat to watch these feats of arms and the ensuing drag race, it’s evident that the high-quality fleet is very evenly matched, a scenario which the crew of Gitana Team are delighted about, as Erwan Israël explains: “We’re enjoying a battle royal with Banque Populaire… This close-contact racing is just what we were after in this race so it’s really great. Added to that, we have fantastic conditions: flat seas, glorious sunshine, 15-20 knots of breeze, heading downwind under gennaker… champagne sailing!”

The first boats are expected to reach the Challenge Action Enfance Azores gate tonight.

Reminder - Challenge ACTION ENFANCE Canaries gate – Passage time order

1.     Banque Populaire XI at 2h35’44’’ after 2 days 13h35m44sec
2.     Maxi Edmond de Rothschild at 2h36’22’’ after 2 days 13h36m22sec
3.     Sodebo Ultim 3 at 5h34’31’’ after 2 days 16h34m31sec
4.     Actual Ultim 3 at 7h43’42’’ after 2 days 18h43m42sec

The Finistère Atlantique - Challenge Action Enfance

3,163-mile course across the North Atlantic
Concarneau, the Glénan archipelago, Madeira, Lanzarote (Canaries), Santa Maria (Azores), Concarneau (Brittany)

Crew on the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild

Charles Caudrelier, skipper
Franck Cammas, helm, navigator
Morgan Lagravière, helm, trimmer
David Boileau, trimmer, bowman
Erwan Israël, helm, trimmer
Yann Riou, media crew, helm

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