The first low, which enabled the top trio to stretch out a lead, has hardly finished rolling through the fleet and already minds are on the new disturbed system, which is set to scoop up the fleet within the next twenty-four to forty-eight hours according to each of their respective positions. One thing for sure, the solo baptism of fire for the rookies in the IMOCA class is going to pack quite a punch.
“Whatever happens, we’ll take the storm on the chin and we’ll just have to hang on in there.” Morgan Lagravière summed up the paradox of offshore racing to a T this morning. Caught in the clutches of the light airs, he’s launched into a drag race southwards in a bid to position himself on the southern fringes of the impending and particularly active low that has formed offshore of Bermuda and is set to sweep across the Atlantic. For the skipper of Safran, it’s a double punishment: “I haven’t managed to hitch up to the same wagon as the two leaders. I’ve been caught up by the light conditions and I’m being forced to dive southwards in a bid to negotiate the next low pressure centre. All of a sudden, it’s likely I’ll end up virtually neck and neck withThomas (Ruyant). I’ve gone from thinking I’d nailed the race to having to start over again.” However much Morgan repeats that his primary objective is to finish the race and qualify for the Vendée Globe, his competitive spirit keeps getting the upper hand. However, every cloud has a silver lining: “The one positive point I can take from this situation is that Thomas and I shouldn’t be too far away from each other when the bad weather hits. Psychologically it’s an advantage. It will be our first real storm in solo configuration…”
Race against the clock and the weather
Meantime, Paul Meilhat is still in with a chance of avoiding having to bend his course around like his pursuers. “It’s a big gamble. For now, I’m hanging on in there, managing to keep up a bit of speed. All the ground we cover to the east before the new low hits will help us better position ourselves ahead of this new weather system. Make no mistake though, it’s going to be lively…” At which point, Paul Meilhat describes the living conditions aboard a fully powered up IMOCA: “The minute the seas get a bit heavier and the boat is making fast headway, it’s worth knowing that life aboard becomes impossible. To move around inside the boat, it really comes down to crawling around on all fours and typing an email becomes a challenge in itself. All of a sudden, you’d be well advised to have everything planned, with all the stuff you’re going to need like bags of food grouped together around you…” For the time being, conditions are still manageable despite a very pronounced north-westerly swell. However, the imminent bad weather is already on everyone’s minds.
If there’s one person who rarely worries about what tomorrow will bring, it’s Enda O’Coineen, the Irish skipper of Currency House Kilcullen. Continuing on his merry way along an assumed southerly route, he’s sampling the delights that only solo sailing can bring: playing music without the risk of upsetting anyone other than the flying fish and philosophising about the meaning of life whilst traversing an ocean singlehanded: “I do what there is to do when necessary and I really love that. It’s a marvellous challenge and it’s really fulfilling to sail solo. They say it goes against human nature to be alone, but it’s also the spice of life. My aim is to make Port-la-Forêt come what may on this fabulous 60 footer, as I sail through the night. We will see what dawn brings.”