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At sea, on shore

Photo: Jean-Marie Liot / DPPI
Photo: Jean-Marie Liot / DPPI

Right now, the race is being played out as much on land as it is at sea for the end of the Transat Saint Barth / Port-la-Forêt course. At sea, Fabrice Amedeo (Newrest – Matmut) is expected to reach Brittany tomorrow, while Enda O’Coineen (Currency House Kilcullen) is racking up some very fine average speeds at the leading edge of the front making a 15 – 17-knot VMG. In the Azores, solo sailors and teams are either busying themselves or champing at the bit, all with the same objective: to cross the finish line before Christmas.

The days pass by, but the gales continue to colour proceedings. Today, like yesterday, the sailing conditions are boisterous in the Bay of Biscay and rather impracticable offshore of the Azores.

Staying ahead of the front

Respectively 24 and 36hrs from the finish line, Fabrice Amedeo (Newrest – Matmut) and Enda O’Coineen (Currency House Kilcullen) are swallowing up the miles: 370 in 24 hours for the Irish skipper yesterday and some 325 for the Parisian sailor. At the leading edge of the front, in 40 to 45 knots, increasing to 50 over the course of the day for Enda O’Coineen, and in 30 to 35 knots for Fabrice Amedeo, they’re getting the most out of their machines, despite the accumulation of fatigue and equipment that is a long way from being 100% operational. They have no other choice than to go fast: the aim being not to get caught up by the low.

The skipper of Newrest – Matmut is expected to make landfall in Port-la-Forêt on Saturday afternoon.

Stand-by in the tempest

Horta, 17 December 2015: the seas are raging, 40 – 45 knots of wind is blowing and the Venturi effect between these volcanic islands is further accentuating the Dantean character of this infuriated nature. “It’s a fabulous spectacle”, say the shore crews of the skippers on stand-by, “but we’re very happy to be on shore…”

Morgan Lagravière (Safran) is technically ready to go. A weather window is shaping up for tomorrow afternoon, but it is yet to be confirmed. The seas are extremely heavy with 10-metre waves in the thick of the front and it isn’t about to calm down any time soon.

For Thomas Ruyant (Le Souffle du Nord), it’s a different problem. The storm and the harbour infrastructure in Ponta Delgada mean that it’s neither quick nor easy to lift the IMOCA60 out of the water. In fact, he will have to wait until 08:00 hours on Monday morning. The team from Lorient is intending to remove the keel, replace the bearing and reattach the keel over the course of the day in order to relaunch her at around 16:00 hours the same day and, if possible, enable Thomas to immediately get back out on the racetrack. Such a timeframe should enable him to make the finish before 21hrs 18min 17s on 25 December and be ranked in this 3rd race of the World IMOCA Ocean Masters Championship.

There is not a complete diagnosis yet on the condition of boat skippered by Eric Holden (O Canada). Beyond the keel bearing issue, he has lost or ripped several sails and his radar is damaged… After a good and much needed night of sleep, the Canadian skipper will take the necessary steps to move forward. To achieve this, he, like the Safran team, are enjoying the very efficient support of the team led by Armando Castro, who is in charge of the port of Horta.

It’s all part and parcel of offshore racing. You have to learn to compromise with the means you have aboard, alone, whatever the weather conditions. Needless to say perhaps, everyone agrees that this return transatlantic sprint has been hard and mentally, physically and technically demanding, and it isn’t over yet…

Morgan Lagravière (Safran), contacted by telephone this morning.

“Things are better, but we’re not yet in fighting form as we’re stuck here. There is still another third of the way to go. It’s frustrating to be remaining here now that the boat is operational again. I’m going to analyse the grib files to find a favourable window, but however things pan out, the end of the course is going to be boisterous. The trains of lows have generated a huge swell, which isn’t about to calm down any time soon. We’ll just have to make do, safe in the knowledge that it won’t be a picnic however you look at it. That’s why I’m going to really study the situation before I leave so as to avoid taking any unnecessary risks.

All in all, it’s a pretty tough time right now: it was a project which was mounted quickly with this adopteunskipper.com boat, my first transatlantic in solo configuration, in some very strong conditions, damage and now this stand-by period… It’s intense, a very steep learning curve, but not very pleasant frankly.”

Enda O’Coineen (Currency House Kilcullen) – today’s message

“AS PROMIED from yesterday, I can now disclose the great secret . It was given to me by an old Master Mariner , Captain Wholley, in the Galway sea scouts as a child.

“Me boy” says he

“The secret to all good navigation is to steer around the rocks”

That advice is a metaphor for live itself. So the only rocks I had to steer around, after leaving St. Barts were the Azores and next are the ones at FERET LAND to finish – and that’s it – my reason for having survived, so far….

Meanwhile, all is well after an uneventful day on CURRENCY House Kilcullen -though I did practice my trumpet again. The wind keeps honking at 30 knots plus and we keep surfing over, under and through - the majestic Atlantic rolling waves - maintained so well by the Atlantic Residents Association.

Through Night and Day

Through Wind and Storm

Through Hail and Fog

Remember the Great Secret “

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