Making headway despite the instability
Whilst the third day at sea in this Route du Rhum will draw to a close in a little over six hours, the maxi-trimaran fitted out by Baron Benjamin de Rothschild is continuing to trace a fine trajectory in the South. At the 0400 hours position report Gitana 11 was sailing at the longitude of Santa Maria, a small island in the Azores situated the furthest South of the archipelago. Second in the ranking since 2000 hours yesterday, Yann Guichard was still holding onto this place this morning, even though the distances between the trio pursuing the undisputed leader – Franck Cammas – had shrunk considerably.

“With the different options taken to round the Azores High, the rankings don’t really mean a lot for the moment. Personally I’m not really paying much attention to them. More than the positions, what is really interesting are the average speeds of the chasing pack, along with the headings and trajectories. We’ll have to wait for a few more hours before the situation settles down and becomes a bit clearer. In the meantime, there’s no point getting attached to second or third place…” explained Yann Guichard on the mention of Gitana 11’s rise to second position.

Decidedly this year’s weather patterns seem determined to complicate the daily life of those competing in this Route Rhum – La Banque Postale. For over 48 hours, those on a S’ly course, including Gitana 11 and Idec – have had to deal with a breeze reminiscent of a tradewind, but much less cooperative than usual and one that fluctuates greatly. The instability of this wind, both in terms of strength and direction, is making the sailors exhausted. Indeed, besides the rare minutes of sleep, they’re having to string together a series of manœuvres and trimming on the deck of the maxi-trimarans. In fact yesterday Francis Joyon conceded that he was having to trim his boat constantly. Last night Yann Guichard again put in two gybes to adjust his trajectory and reposition himself where the wind pressure was remaining strong. In view of the grib files, there is uncertainty reigning over the next stage of the course and this trend is set to continue for a few more days, or possibly all the way to the finish…

Tonight Gitana 11 will cross a front which Franck Cammas, given his lead, will negotiate during the course of the day like Thomas Coville, the latter being situated further North and further West than the maxi-trimaran in the colours of the Edmond de Rothschild Group. Such a change of pattern is something that Yann Guichard is already prepared for: “Yesterday I made the most of the boat’s ability to slip along nicely to properly stow things away aboard Gitana 11 in readiness for the next stage of the race”. In the short term, the current ESE’ly breeze will slowly head throughout today, Thursday, to finally establish itself to the South at the end of the afternoon. Such a wind rotation will at least imply a sail change aboard Gitana 11.

Cruel blow amongst the Ultimates
With nine boats at the start, the Ultimate Class has lost two of its members in less than 48 hours, which logically brings the number of sailors still racing in this category to seven. Indeed after the retirement of Côte d’Or the day before yesterday, it was sadly the turn of Sidney Gavignet to lay down his weapons yesterday. Midway through Wednesday afternoon, we learnt that the sailor had just set off his distress beacon following major structural damage. Indeed, without many explanations for the time being, the forward beam on Oman Air Majan broke causing the mast to fall and resulting in serious damage to the multihull’s platform. The skipper was extremely lucky not to be injured in the damage and he was able to wait in the central hull for the emergency services to arrive. In the evening Sidney Gavignet was picked up by a bulk carrier which wasn’t far from the zone when the incident occurred. The vessel has since set sail for Gibraltar again and Oman’s shore crew are organising themselves to salvage the trimaran.

Ranking for the Ultimate Category on 4th November at 0400 hours
1- Groupama 3 some 2,017 miles from the finish
2- Gitana 11 some 280.8 miles from the leader
3- Sodebo 296.7 miles astern
4- Idec 299.1 miles astern
5- La Boite à Pizza 635.3 miles astern
6- Défi Cancale 843.7 miles astern
7-Saint Malo 2015 some 885 miles astern
Not located - Oman Air Majan
Retirement- Côte d'Or II

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