Slowly counting down
Yann Guichard is finally clear of the zone of squalls which have caused him to lose a great deal of miles over the past two days. However, this doesn’t means that Gitana 11 is safely onto the home straight. Indeed the S’ly wind forecast over the next few hours isn’t set to be very powerful as far as Guadeloupe and the solo sailor is reckoning on a further two days at sea.
The ninth edition of the Route du Rhum-La Banque Postale has been atypical to say the least! After a high speed start to the race, came a second third marked by having to traverse a zone of storms, culminating with a final section involving the negotiation of a windless magma caused by a tropical depression. In such conditions, the trimaran fitted out by Baron Benjamin de Rothschild hasn’t been favoured. This was the case in the big seas in the Bay of Biscay and then the highly unstable winds which really put the pressure on Yann Guichard, and finally amidst the light airs firmly embedded over the West Indies. 800 miles from Guadeloupe, the solo sailor still has a lot of work ahead of him on the deck of Gitana 11, even though the line of squalls now seems to be in his wake.
A vast zone of storms
Hurricane Tomas has drastically modified the usual Caribbean landscape: breaking up the tradewinds, casting the Bermuda High northwards and creating a vast stormy mass reminiscent of the equatorial doldrums beneath the tropics. Indeed, the current situation has no bearing on any previous scenario recorded during earlier editions of the Route du Rhum-La Banque Postale. As a result of this, none of the top four ‘ultimate’ multihulls to either the North or the East are able to enjoy the luxury of some well established tradewinds. At the top of the playing field, Franck Cammas and Thomas Coville are having to tack their way along to reach Guadeloupe. Meantime, via the coastal option, Francis Joyon and Yann Guichard are gradually escaping the zone of storms to make it through to the home straight at a slow pace in a S’ly air flow, which is taking its time to settle into position this Monday afternoon, due to a few isolated, but highly active squalls.
All’s well aboard Gitana 11: there isn’t a lot of air this morning, but I’m finally clear of the squalls. The last of them is twenty miles to my North: my course was lit up throughout the night by the lightening! I sailed along a line of squalls and managed to get through them, but the spectacle of lightening in every direction was something else. It was reminiscent of the doldrums, with some very unstable wind. Things are better now, but I still have two and a half days at sea in the light airs before I get to the finish. As such there won’t be much respite over the final days, just a few short slots of sleep here and there. It wasn’t easy to sleep with the storms. I spent four hours with zero knots of wind and I was forced to take the helm because the seas were still big. As Gitana 11 is beamy and sits quite low on the water, she gets carried away by the waves and you have to try to guide her along as best you can so she doesn’t suffer. It’s pretty frustrating when the boat goes off course and it takes a while to get her back on track. However Thomas and Francis must be experiencing moments such as these too” explained Yann Guichard to Race HQ this Monday at 0800 GMT.
Cammas expected on Tuesday morning
Victory seems very much within the grasp of Franck Cammas now and he has sailed a superb course, pushing his machine along extremely well, especially during the passage across the Bay of Biscay and the quick glide down beneath the Azores. No solo sailor was able to keep up with the pace set by the Jules Verne Trophy winner. For his part, Thomas Coville opted for a more ‘classic’ route for a transatlantic, but it proved to be just as difficult behind a very extensive front. As for Francis Joyon, he was a tough opponent for Yann Guichard and the to-ings and fro-ings between the two trimarans maintained an air of suspense all the way to the zone of storms, which ultimately dashed any hopes of victory for them.

“I couldn’t take the W’ly route (like Thomas Coville) because the seas were even bigger along that course and I wouldn’t have been able to go as fast as my rivals. Right now there are no strategic options left: it’s a straight course. Today though, it’s going to be a day without wind and without waves. The benefit of that is that it won’t be so full-on with only a few manœuvres now before the finish. The last 800 miles will be long” indicated Yann Guichard this Monday morning at the radio link-up with Race HQ.

Ranking for the Ultimate Category on 8th November at 1500 GMT

1- Groupama 3 some 193.4 miles from the finish
2- Sodebo 263.5 miles astern
3- Idec 334 miles astern
4- Gitana 11 588.5 miles astern
5- La Boite à Pizza 1,092.7 miles astern
6- Saint-Malo 2015 some 1,502.9 miles astern
7- Défi Cancale 1,508.6 miles astern
Retirement- Côte d'Or II
Retirement- Oman Air Majan
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