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Heading for the front

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The Transat St Barth – Port la Forêt IMOCA 60 fleet are heading along the Florida latitude and beginning to curb their direction toward the Azores. Still in shorts and T-shirts, but not for long. Sebastien Joss (Edmond de Rothschild) in first place ahead of an astute Paul Meilhat (SMA), with Morgan Lagravière (Safran) taking the final place on the provisional podium. The race will take a new turn this evening.

Flat seas and a big sun for the solo sailors on this 3rd leg of the IMOCA Ocean Masters World Championship. The easterly wind will move to the west this Tuesday afternoon within the space of just an hour or two – they won’t want to miss their chance so the front-runners are on the lookout and studying their weather charts! No afternoon naps for the skippers today who will be anticipating their manoeuvres perfectly. Like surfing on the crest of a wave, they’ll need to be at the right place at the right time to take full advantage of this rotation and to catch the flow channels as early as possible. From then on the wind will get progressively stronger from the west and “those at the front may well be on a roll,” warns Paul Meilhat.

Nice shot

In second place from the outset, SMA skipper’s clever westward move yesterday brought him up to just 0.4 miles of the leader. A technical hitch prevented him from converting the try, but it was a great shot.

Stable ranking

About 30 miles from the leaders, Morgan Lagravière (Safran) is holding onto third position with a slightly more westward route, staving off forth-placed Thomas Ruyant (Le Souffle du Nord) for the moment.

With an incomplete set of sails, Fabrice Amedeo (Newrest-Matmut) has to sail closer to the anticyclone where there’s less wind. Same strategy for Canadian Eric Holden (O Canada) in sixth place and about 100 miles from the head of the fleet.

Irishman Enda O’Coineen (Currency House Kilcullen) who left 24 hours after his race opponents is taking advantage of a steady Trade Wind, racing along at 13 knots this afternoon – catching up for lost time.

Tomorrow will be another day

As of tonight the leaders will set a course towards the Azores. The temperature drop will match the rise in humidity. 17 – 20 knots of North-Westerlies are expected tomorrow with possible gusts of up to 30 – 35 knots and heavy seas. The fine manoeuvring and tweaking is over – material management and rough racing ahead.

Words from the sea

Paul Meilhat (SMA)

“Great blue skies, not a cloud nor drop of rain in sight. Nine knots of wind, but it’s irregular.

Last night I had a couple of technical hitches – nothing serious but I lost an hour to Sebastien. I’ve managed to sort everything out and can use all my sails again.

The wind is starting to turn and we’ll be gybing in a few hours, to the other side of the ridge. Then we’ll be in a flow from the South-West, then West, and finally North-West. Perfect for a route to the Azores.

The front-runners are likely to shake off the others so I’ll have to get up to the front of the train. The change will be radical – I’m still in shorts and T-shirt, but once we’re in the depression it’ll be fleeces and wet-weather gear!

The start of this first solo IMOCA 60 Transat has gone really well although it’s super complex. You have to really think through and anticipate every manoeuvre. I was well prepared and to experience it is fantastic! Theoretically once we’re downwind in the depression things should be slightly easier than they are at the moment with all these manoeuvres. Since the race start, we’ve used everything there is on the boat!

I’ll pull out all the stops if I have to because a race is a race. But I also know that Sebastien is faster in crosswind conditions and the principal objective remains a qualification for the Vendée Globe.

Fabrice Amedeo (Newrest – Matmut)

“Things are going really well! Objective number one was to learn and discover and that’s exactly what I’m doing! I started carefully and I’m managing the race the way I had planned. But a race is a race and I’m slightly frustrated at not having a Code (0) (editor’s note: big front sail) and a problem with a hook that prevents me using the Gennaker. Without these two sails I can’t follow the same route as the others and have to luff up to a route closer to the anti-cyclone with only 6 knots of wind! Fortunately the sea is flat and I’m slipping along nicely.

About another 48 hours like this, then into steady downward winds and I’ll be able to sail my boat at full capacity again.

Other than that I’m super at ease on my boat, I’ve got into a good rhythm. I take the time to check everything every day. It’s great to do a first Transat in this direction, starting with calm conditions before struggling with the depressions. It’s better this way than the other way round.”


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