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Two plus five

Photo: Pierre Bouras
Photo: Pierre Bouras

Since yesterday, this Transat St-Barth / Port-la-Forêt has been played out in two stages. The leaders, Sébastien Josse (Edmond de Rothschild) and Paul Meilhat (SMA) are making headway to the west of the Azores. The five other IMOCA60s are grouped within 300 to 500 miles of them, at the front of a new, rather active low.

Sébastien Josse (Edmond de Rothschild) is approaching the Azores. On the back of the low, whose downwind conditions he’s been reaping the benefits of for nearly three days, the leader of this Transat St-Barth / Port-la-Forêt is enjoying good conditions: wind on the beam, 15-20 knots of established breeze, he’s powering along at an average of 17 knots and is set to continue this champagne sailing as far as the Portuguese archipelago. At that point, he should be able to ‘step’ directly into the new low, which is currently pushing the second half of the fleet, and track towards the north-west tip of France in an easterly breeze.

Sébastien Josse could be the only one of the seven competitors in this 3rd race in the World IMOCA Ocean Masters Championship to be able to really cut the corner through the Portuguese archipelago.

Indeed, after falling off the back of the ‘first wagon’ (initial low pressure system) yesterday, Paul Meilhat (SMA) will likely be forced to lengthen his journey by diving southwards to hunt down the following low.

 

In the thick of things

The second half of the fleet has undergone a dramatic transition over the past few hours: “we’re in the thick of this transatlantic race now”, Thomas Ruyant (Le Souffle du Nord) confirmed this morning. Indeed, the club of 5 in this eastbound sprint across the North Atlantic has been ahead of a fairly active low since last night.

Morgan Lagravière (Safran), furthest north of this group, is sailing upwind in crossed seas, with around 25 to 30 knots of established wind, which is neither fun, nor quick. In a few hours’ time however, they are likely to be able to open up their sails and slip along beneath the Azores archipelago.

Thomas Ruyant (Le Souffle du Nord), further south, is slipping along on a reach: “conditions are violent, but we need to make fast headway to be able to stay ahead of the front”. He too will go around the Portuguese islands to avoid the centre of the low and the 50 knots of wind forecast within it…

Some 85 miles to their south, on the attack, Fabrice Amedeo (Newrest – Matmut) is well positioned to make up some ground on the top 4.

Still bringing up the rear, the Irish sailor Enda O’Coineen (Currency House Kilcullen) has come back to within fifty or so miles of the Canadian Éric Holden (O Canada) despite only setting sail some 24 hours after the rest of the fleet…

Amidst the active low and the bunching up of the fleet, the situation is becoming more intense and the tension is rising a notch or two in this second half of the race. 

Thomas Ruyant (Le Souffle du Nord)

“We’re in the thick of this transatlantic race now! The pace has really picked up. There is more wind than forecast and right now we have 35 to 40 knots, it’s overcast and the cross seas are very heavy. I’m on a reach and it’s pretty violent. I’m happy to have picked up a good speed again and to be back with Morgan, even though I’m disappointed for him. It’s tough, he sailed a great start to the race. The second half of the fleet is catching up a bit behind and they’re bunching up again, which is interesting.

The aim is to make as good speed as possible so as to remain in front of the low, whilst taking good care of the boat. In terms of strategy, there’s no question of taking any risks either. The low will pass through the Azores archipelago, so I’m going to distance myself from that, with the wind set to ease for me in a few hours.

For now, I’m focused on managing the boat and getting her making good headway, but I have managed a few short naps: all is well!"


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