The rules limit the number of sails aboard to eight, including the storm sail and mainsail. The choice of the other six sails therefore has to be made.

The boats from the latest generation are equipped with three ‘flat’ sails: J0, J2 and J3 (from the biggest to the smallest).

For the three ‘hollow’ sails, everyone has taken a big gennaker aboard, but various choices have been made concerning the final two sails.

There is the traditional solution of going for a small gennaker, a good all-round sail, and a spinnaker.

The second solution, developed for the foilers, involves going for two small gennakers, headsails which allow them to attack a bit more. One of them is fairly flat and measures around 180m2, while the other is hoisted outside of the shrouds and offers around 240m2 of sail.

This second solution enables the skippers to make the most of the potential of the new foils in points of sail from 110° to 140°, but they leave a gap when sailing downwind in VMG mode in less than twenty knots of wind.

Since the start, conditions have favoured the spinnakers, so practically all of the boats with straight daggerboards, like Jean Le Cam’s for example, but also some of the foilers.

First of all in the gull-wing trajectory in the first area of high pressure before Storm Theta, then just after Theta, when the trade winds returned, but especially at the present time, as they make their way around the St. Helena high, which is positioned a long way south.

The spinnaker can also be useful in the Southern Ocean, when areas of high pressure block the route taken by the skippers, forcing them to gybe with the wind astern in light conditions along the edge of the Ice Exclusion Zone.

During the race season and in the period leading up to the start, there was a game of poker being played out, as skippers tried to hide their choice of sails, but we are now  starting to get some good clues.

I am not revealing any secrets when I say that Sam Davies has one, as we can see it in the photos taken aboard the boat. Kevin Escoffier on the other does not have one aboard his boat. I shall let you carry out your own investigation by listening to every word said during the radio link-ups and by examining all the selfies.

Paul Meilhat

© Eloi Stichelbaut / DPPI