Making the break...! Hitching onto the wagon…! Riding the express train! Whatever you call it, Sébastien Josse (Edmond de Rothschild) has done it… He’s managed to keep on track and step smoothly from one low to the next and is now a whole weather system ahead of the rest of the fleet in the Transat Saint Barth / Port-la-Forêt. An experienced and talented cavalier on the very latest steed, this native of Nice is, perhaps logically, and certainly brilliantly, getting the better of his rivals, all rookies in solo IMOCA60 sailing, and at the helm of previous generation 60-footers. In his wake, his pursuers are preparing to weather their first very active front…
At midday this Sunday, Sébastien Josse (Edmond de Rothschild) had racked up a lead of nearly 400 miles in front of Paul Meilhat (SMA), still in second position, as the latter had to suddenly dive southwards yesterday, after falling off the back of the first low, and is hence over 45° off the direct route towards Port-la-Forêt…
A three-way battle for 3rd place
Less than 200 miles astern of Paul Meilhat, Thomas Ruyant (Le Souffle du Nord) has snatched third place ahead of Morgan Lagravière (Safran). 50 miles due south of the skipper from northern France, Fabrice Amedeo (Newrest – Matmut), 5th, is hot on the latter’s heels, just 4 miles apart. As such, this trio of sailors from 3rd to 5th place are grouped within just 50 miles of each other so the battle is on for the final step of the podium.
In 6th and 7th position, Enda O’Coineen (Currency House Kilcullen) has got ahead of Éric Holden (O Canada). Just 4 miles separate the duo at midday and the duel will likely spice up the second week of racing in this Transat Saint Barth / Port-la-Forêt.
Aside from the leader, the other six solo sailors in this Transat Saint Barth / Port-la-Forêt are at the heart of an active low, which is deepening as it climbs towards the Azores. 50 knots of established breeze is forecast at the centre of this system in the coming hours. As such, the competitors will be favouring the outside lane, distancing themselves from this low pressure, prepared to extend their journey. However, for at least 24hrs, they will have to contend with 35 to 40 knots of breeze and a powerful swell.
Whether they’re at the leading edge of this front (Paul Meilhat), at the heart (Thomas Ruyant, Morgan Lagravière and Fabrice Amedeo) or on the trailing edge (Enda O’Coineen and Eric Holden), their Sunday promises to be very sporty… “I’m a competitor through and through, that’s what I live for. In this instance though, it’s out of the question to play the performance card. I’m going to ease off the pace to let the front roll over the top, as the risks are just too great: I learnt what seamanship was all about yesterday…” explained Morgan Lagravière (Safran) at midday.
The situation will be less physical, but more technical for Sébastien Josse, who will devote what is traditionally a day of rest to traversing the Azores archipelago in a northerly headwind of around fifteen knots, before linking back up with the downwind conditions to track across to Brittany. He might well complete this 3rd race in the World IMOCA Ocean Masters Championship in next three days.
Morgan Lagravière (Safran): “safety takes priority”
“The breeze is filling in slowly but surely. I was already at the centre of the low yesterday, but I didn’t have the necessary conditions to drop far enough south in time. As a result, I ended up battling it out in close-hauled conditions in an almighty storm yesterday, obliged to put in a series of tacks. I was utterly exhausted, both physically and mentally. I wasn’t in a good state… Right now, things are going better. I had a good night making the right sail choices and getting some rest. We already have 35 to 40 knots, with 3 to 4-metre waves, which is a lot, but that’s nothing compared with what lies ahead. On a personal level there’s no way I’m going to play around in that. Safety takes priority. I’m going to ease off the pace to let the front roll through and shift further over to the east, forget about the ranking for a few hours and keep an eye on what the others are up to. The most critical point will be tonight, which is rather a good thing as it doesn’t look quite so impressive at night.”
Fabrice Amedeo (Newrest – Matmut): “I should get less of a pummelling than Thomas and Morgan”
“I’m happy with my trajectory to the south-east and then east, which I’ve been adopting over the past 3-4 days as I made my way along the edge of the high pressure system. The low is making its presence felt now. We have 35 to 37 knots of established breeze, gusting to over 40. I’m going to have to hunker down, adopt a policy of good seamanship, remain focused and keep my ears open for all the boat’s little noises… I’m not displeased to be further south; I should get less of a pummelling than Thomas and Morgan.
At midday tomorrow, I’m likely to be able to gybe onto a course towards Finistère. I’ll be at the back of the front, but I’ll still have 35 knots of breeze there.
It’s really nice to be battling it out with Thomas and Morgan, but I’m under no illusion. The minute we’re out of this low, I know they’ll be sailing a notch higher. However things pan out, I’ll be happy to have carved out a good trajectory. For now, it’s kind of nice to know, in conditions such as these, that there are a lot of people nearby…”