• 2017 Transat Jacques Vabre

    Ignoring the forecasts, the Ultime have already entered the Doldrums without stopping, the two leaders jumped from one squall to the next and are already feeling the south-easterly breeze that will mark their exit from this usually dreaded stretch. Behind them, Multi50 and Imoca are trying to get round the area of ​​weak winds between the Canaries and Cape Verde. It is an unusually quiet time on the Route du Café this morning. Finally, the fastest in the fleet this morning were the Class40s – and the gliding downwind conditions will become ever smoother for them throughout the day too.

    Ultime: Furl, unfurl

    Since the beginning of the night Sodebo Ultim’ and Maxi Edmond de Rothschild have been in sail change mode. High mainsail, large gennaker at the bow ready to deploy, J2 in reserve, the crews juggling between the sails so that they do not park up. “You have to make tracks quickly from each squall,” Thomas Coville, the Sodebo Ultim’’ skipper said. “We’ve got a lot of sail up when it's soft, so you have to be very careful. For the moment, we’ve haven’t parked up. We’re beginning to feel a little lapping breeze from South, there’s no big storm, it feels like the exit (from the Doldrums).” According to Coville, by noon they should have started sailing in the new south-east wind. There is nothing between the boats now as the Sébastien Josse-Thomas Rouxel duo have been averaging a knot more over the last 36 hours. There are 1,300 miles of reaching to decide the winner. But whoever it is it will easily be a new race record.

    Imoca: St-Michel Virbac masterful

    Jean-Perre Dick’s steady voice on the phone this morning could not hide the truth. “The conditions are a bit frightening for racing, but physically it’s getting nicer,” he said. “We’ve taken off the oilies and fleece layers and the sea is calm.” In the wake of the leader, the gap with SMA and Des Voiles et Vous! has stabilised. The Imocas will not be back in a normal trade wind until tonight, but then their averages should be back to 20 knots. If those further behind – like Britain’s Sam Davies, in sixth, 145 miles behind, are going to make any moves it will need to be soon because there may not be so many opportunities from here to Salvador de Bahia to turn the ranking upside down. But the Doldrums, the real ones, are 2-3 days ahead of the bows and could yet become more active and play their part.

    On this score, note the more easterly route, being tried by Bastide Otio (Kito Pavant- Yannick Bestaven) a little behind, unlike Des Voiles et Vous! Which is in the process of realigning behind the two leaders.


    Multi50: FenêtréA-Mix Buffet escapes from the west

    Erwan Le Roux and Vincent Riou are clearly benefitting from their westerly route and this morning lie 60 miles ahead of Lalou Roucayrol and Alex Pella on Arkema. “We committed from the beginning in this position,” Riou said. “We knew that there would be a wind hole to cross between the Canaries and Cape Verde. We’re happy with our positioning.” This transition looks like a truce for the Multi50s, who have been sailing almost underwater since Le Havre and can finally glide in tune with the elements. This is also the first time since yesterday that they have found a real speed advantage over the Imocas (although remember, there is no overall ranking in this race). Behind, La French Tech Rennes Saint-Malo has overtaken Ciela Village, who handicapped by many technical problems (autopilots, smashed computer screen and ripped off helm seat), have diverted to make a stop at Mindelo in the Cape Verde archipelago.

    Class40: 6 days to the Canary Islands

    The Class40 are relentless. A fact confirmed this morning by Maxime Sorel on V and B, the new 24-hour record holder: “the road from Le Havre has not really been a pleasure cruise,” he said. “It’s taken its toll on the boats and the skippers.” And though more pleasant conditions are forecast, that will just mean everyone will recover strength – so, the pace is not going to relax anytime soon. The front of the fleet is still in 20 knots of north-easterly wind with the lead of Phil Sharp and Pablo Santurde (Imerys Clean Energy) now cut to under 10 miles by V and B.

    Note: the arrival of Carac in Funchal, where Louis Duc will have his injured knee treated. And Enel Green Power in Cascais (Lisbon) to fix a starboard rudder. It looks like they will need to take the boat out of the water. At the back, Gustave Roussy has taken up a westerly route.
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