Approaching Finisterre
Decidedly the weather is doing nothing to spare the sailors competing in the Transat Jacques Vabre. After a tactical start to the race in the English Channel, playing with the currents in relatively light winds, the fleet got straight to the point yesterday with the negotiation of a very deep depression. Aside from the Class 40s that is, which are still sheltering in Roscoff. Heading the pack, the two Multi70s have, as forecast, devoured the Bay of Biscay at high speed. However, this express crossing hasn’t been much fun. In messy, heavy seas (5-metre waves), the trimaran Edmond de Rothschild and her rival have had to jump off waves coming at them side on in a steady breeze that often picked up to beyond 30 knots leaving very uncomfortable, stressful conditions for Sébastien Josse and Charles Caudrelier.


An express but testing Biscay

The images shot* by a surveillance plane from French customs late yesterday morning as Edmond de Rothschild and her adversary were making headway around the Raz de Sein, offshore of Brittany, give some indication of the sailing conditions over the past 24 hours. However… “They had a lot bigger seas and wind afterwards as they traversed Biscay,” explains Antoine Koch, the onshore router for the Edmond de Rothschild duo.

Despite the Multi70s carving out a long diagonal wake, the negotiation of the Bay of Biscay proved tricky. In seas swept by a substantial north-westerly swell and winds of between 25 and 30 knots, the trimarans and the sailors were given a rough ride. Indeed in an incessant din comprising a mixture of cracking carbon and waves slamming violently against the hulls, it was tough for Sébastien Josse and Charles Caudrelier to get some shut-eye or even to rest as they waited for their next stint at the helm. Added to that, the instability of the wind called for a series of sail changes from the crew and constant attention from the sailor in charge of the tricky piloting manoeuvres.

Weaving wildly to the north of Spain

The duo had hoped to find more manageable conditions as they approached the Spanish coast, but to no avail alas! “It was a lively night for them,” Antoine explains from HQ in La Rochelle, where he’s working day and night in collaboration with the meteorologist Jean-Yves Bernot. “The depression we’re concerned with right now has deepened and to the south of the front, the wind has been stronger and further over to the left than forecast”. Inevitably there are direct consequences of this for Sébastien Josse and Charles Caudrelier: “On the approach to Spain, the wind was set to ease a little. That hasn’t really been the case and instead they’ve had to link together a series of tack changes in really tricky wind and sea conditions. The north-westerly swell is still significant (4 to 4.5 metres) and those stretches on port tack, that would enable them to head offshore, have been really very hard with huge head seas.”

This morning, the trimaran fitted out by Baron Benjamin de Rothschild had set a course to the South along the Iberian Peninsula, bound for Cape Finisterre. The Josse-Caudrelier duo’s troubles still aren’t over though: “the south-westerly wind is taking its time to ease. They still have 25 knots, but that should drop to around 20 knots this afternoon. They’re on a reach (wind on the beam) with a continued swell and though progress should be fast, it’s not the most pleasant point of tack on these boats. This is particularly true given that in cold wind the gusts are stronger and more dense,” Gitana Team’s router concludes.

At the 0700 GMT position report, the two Multi70s were virtually neck and neck but Sébastien Josse and Charles Caudrelier were holding onto first place, just a little over a mile ahead of Oman Air – Musandam.

Please note 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: 0400, 0700, 1000, 1300, 1600 and 1900 hours GMT.

* these images are available on the race website in the video space.

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