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Sébastien Josse due into Port-la-Forêt this evening

© Brian Carlin
© Brian Carlin

Sébastien Josse (Edmond de Rothschild), the undisputed leader of this Transat Saint Barth / Port-la-Forêt, is expected on the finish line late evening today. Fabrice Amedeo (Newrest – Matmut), second, now has under 1,000 miles to the finish, whilst Enda O’Coineen (Currency House Kilcullen), now third, is making headway in a steady breeze to the north of the Azores. Thomas Ruyant (Le Souffle du Nord) and Morgan Lagravière (Safran) made port this morning in the Portuguese archipelago for a scheduled pit stop of around 24 hours. Éric Holden (O Canada) is set to join them over the course of the day. Finally, relief for Paul Meilhat (SMA), who is already on his way to Lorient.

This Transat Saint Barth / Port-la-Forêt will draw to a close this evening for Sébastien Josse (Edmond de Rothschild). For the five other competitors still racing, the aim is now to complete the race before the deadline is up so as to be ranked.

Up to 58 knots

Leading the way, from the opening hours of the race, the supremacy of the skipper of Gitana Team was only challenged for a few hours by Paul Meilhat (SMA) at the start of the course. Naturally, for Josse, this race was an opportunity to qualify for the Vendée Globe, as well as a technical test in big conditions for his foiler.

It’s mission accomplished because, barring last minute issues, Sébastien Josse is about to secure victory and qualification whilst being able to test his IMOCA60 in very bracing weather conditions: 40 to 45 knots of established wind yesterday with at least 5 to 6-metre waves and a peak speed of 58 knots... in downwind conditions fortunately.

Resolute

In second position, Fabrice Amedeo (Newrest – Matmut) is continuing on his course towards Brittany despite a broken rudder. Last night he passed under the symbolic 1,000 miles to the finish barrier. Positive and resolute, Fabrice is likely to complete his race this Saturday if the winds remain in his favour and he’s not forced to rely on his truncated rudder.

A spring-like Sunday in Port-la-Forêt

After setting off some 24 hours later than the rest of the fleet, the Irish skipper Enda O’Coineen (Currency House Kilcullen) moved up into 3rd position this morning. He’s making headway to the north of the Portuguese archipelago in what is still a strong breeze. In his latest email, Enda was no longer waxing lyrical about his faithful trumpet as he did at the start of the race. He admitted to feeling exhausted, but remains philosophical and, having enjoyed the summer in the West Indies, autumn and then winter over the past few days of racing, he hopes to find spring in Port-la-Forêt, where he is expected to make landfall this Sunday.

Christmas at sea, qualification attempt number 2?

Three competitors are or will be making a pit stop in the Azores. Thomas Ruyant (Le Souffle du Nord) arrived in Punta Delgada late morning this Wednesday. He was welcomed in by the SMA team; his own team having only just landed. Shortly afterwards, Morgan Lagravière (Safran) set foot in Horta. The two teams have at least 24 hours of work ahead of them before they can release their respective skippers back onto the ocean.

This morning, Éric Holden (O Canada) announced that he too was diverting to Horta having detected play in his keel… However, he is having to punch into the wind and waves to make the famous little port in the Azores.

All three have to cross the finish line in Port-la-Forêt prior to 25 December (less than 9 days after the first finishers) in order to be ranked. Thomas Ruyant already has his qualification in the bag (having completed the Transat Jacques Vabre, he only had 1,500 miles left to sail in race configuration). Meantime, Morgan Lagravière and Éric Holden will have to make the finish within the deadline in order to qualify. 

Paul Meilhat already heading back to Lorient

Paul Meilhat (SMA) has been forced to retire from the race after being injured on Monday during a manœuvre. Airlifted by helicopter yesterday and immediately taken in hand, Paul is already on a flight back to Lorient. He’s suffering from two fractures, one to his pelvis and one to a rib. He’ll be quickly taken care of so he can get back aboard his IMOCA60 as soon as possible. He now needs to complete the Transat New York – Vendée to validate his qualification for the Vendée Globe.

Sébastien Josse (Edmond de Rothschild)

“I’m fine, I have around twenty knots… I should make the finish at around 18:00 GMT. I’ll wait until I’ve crossed the finish line before I talk about victory and qualification. Yesterday, weather conditions were really boisterous with impressive seas. The boat has handled very well and the foils add stability and power. It’s been an excellent test for the boat. It’s very positive. You have to be in a race to come up against such conditions. It’s been a steep learning curve.”

Enda O Coineen (Currency House Kilcullen)

“Being honest, I was scared. Through the early morning, it blew up to 40 knots – I ran off before it. The waves trundled after us, sometimes as high as double-decker busses and predictable like the 7A - However it’s the odd rogue wave, against the flow - that catches you unaware. Eventually last night’s storm abated. I dozed off to sleep and awoke about 90 minutes later. The miserable grey dawn had arrived - like a black and white movie – now the days are so short they morph into the night that it's hard to tell the difference. The wind had dropped back to 15 knots. Like getting a thrill being the very last on a plane, or doing something that’s against the rules - its living on the edge which brings the kicks - and somehow I am not sure if that’s healthy, even if I have survived, so far as my hairs get greyer.”

Eric Holden (O Canada)

"Just after dawn I was doing a boat check after a recent broach in a 50kt squall. There had been an issue with the keel rams loosing pressure slowly over time for a while but during this inspection it become evident that the keel was now moving in the for and aft direction. I was only around 100nm from the Azores, so I had to make the very sad decision to head to Horta rather than risk the 1200nm to France with a hurricane force depression approaching"


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