IMOCA skippers who are not participating in The Transat CIC are like us, glued to the map and race updates to analyze and understand the performances of their peers in the class.

Among the IMOCA skippers watching the race unfold in the north Atlantic is the Medallia skipper, Pip Hare, who will be taking part in the New York Vendée-Les Sables d’Olonne race later this month. Speaking from her team base at Poole on the English south coast, where she is preparing her boat for its delivery sail to New York, Hare has been watching the sailors in IMOCAs of similar age to her own that were built in 2015.

She says the outstanding performer – and by some distance – in this group has been Damien Seguin, the Groupe APICIL skipper. He was lying in seventh place this morning, about 112 miles off the lead and in a close battle with Yannick Bestaven’s Maître CoQ in sixth place, and Maxime Sorel’s V and B-Monbana Mayenne in eighth position.

Seguin has been running consistently in the top-10 throughout this contest, well ahead of many newer boats, and has climbed as high as fourth, battling against Sam Davies (currently holding fourth place on Initiatives-Coeur). “Damien has really upped the ante,” said Hare. “He has fallen a little bit behind now, but he has been consistently neck-and-neck with Sam. When they gybed in the centre of the last system, he just fell behind a bit. I was looking at it, thinking ‘well, it’s just the capabilities of the boat,’ and I think there has to be some give at some point to do with the generation of the boat and its design. But he has really sailed an incredible race and, for our generation of boat, Damien is the mark of excellence on the course at the moment, for sure.”

© Jean-Louis Carli

Hare reckons Seguin is setting a benchmark too in terms of his overall professionalism. “He’s an incredibly talented sailor. But what we are seeing from his program and how he runs it, is he’s not at all in a space where he is going to accept a certain level of performance. He will just push, and push, and push,” she said.

As far as the race leader is concerned, the British skipper reckons Richomme is also clearly leading a superbly-run racing team that is giving him the freedom to sail the way he likes. “He’s got an incredibly well-prepared boat and they have really thought about him, and how he operates within the boat, and that has all been embraced as part of the project,”explained Hare. “It means he can perform at a high level without any stress, which makes a big difference.”

She says Dalin is reminding us just how good he is after his lay-off last year, even if Richomme may have the edge in terms of time on the water in their new boats. “Charlie is pretty ‘up there’ as well isn’t he?”added Hare. “We know he has that consistency from his last boat and what he did at the beginning of this cycle, but he hasn’t had the time in his new boat, whereas Yoann is a bit further down the program.”

Finally, Hare picked out Davies who, she said, is once again showing us all her enormous experience and skills as a sailor and navigator, following on from her strong and consistent displays last season in the new Initiatives-Coeur. “They have taken a while to work up her new boat but now, in the final year (of this Vendée Globe cycle), we are seeing what she can do and all her immense amount of experience,”said Hare.

Spread over a distance of about 500 miles west-to-east, the fleet is expected to gradually sail into lighter winds during the latter part of the race, as the boats continue towards New York along the edge of the large exclusion zone protecting mammals to their north. In this section of the race, both the southwest-flowing Labrador Current and the northeast-flowing Gulf Stream will come into play.

The weather routing is not completely clear, with the models still not reconciled for the final stages. So, the last 24 hours might ultimately decide everything because they might have another transition with less wind, so everything could be decided at the end.

Ed Gorman