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Thread: The Sleep Deprived Crew Of Gitana Pave The Path

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    The Sleep Deprived Crew Of Gitana Pave The Path

    Gybing ballet offshore of the Iberian peninsula




    The Transat Jacques Vabre fleet is already entering its fourth day at sea this Wednesday. Following a race start punctuated by light airs and very slow progress in the Bay of Biscay, the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild and her Ultime rivals have finally been able to pick up the pace, leaving Cape Finisterre in their wake yesterday, very late in the day. Franck Cammas and Charles Caudrelier snatched back the reins in the transatlantic race shortly after this rounding, overtaking Sodebo in outright speed, and is this lunchtime slipping along at between 25 and 30 knots abeam of Cape St Vincent in Portugal. Together with their weather cell, comprising Erwan Israël, Stan Honey and Chris Bedford, the skippers of Gitana Team are enjoying a great start as they etch out a very fine trajectory in this 2021 edition, which is shaping up to be as complex as it is tactical.





    Night cargo
    The passage around Cape Finisterre is never a formality, a fact that sailors are well aware of. From the proximity of the Spanish coast, to what can be violent weather conditions due to the Venturi effect, as well as the significant shipping which requires the utmost vigilance and permanent monitoring… the north-west tip of the Iberian peninsula has all the ingredients to spice up this race start.

    Yesterday, the headland certainly lived up to expectations. Following on from an interminable Bay of Biscay where the duo on the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild had to traverse a ridge of high pressure and deal with erratic winds in order to make southing by hook or by crook, Charles Caudrelier and Franck Cammas were itching to locate more pressure. The eagerly awaited NE’ly breeze finally joined the mix at midday yesterday, enabling the five Ultimes to finally lengthen their stride and reveal the true potential of their machine.




    The first to latch onto this fresh breeze, the sailors of Gitana Team and the duo on SVR - Lazartigue made the approach on the coast of northern Spain at the head of the pack. Further out to the west, Sodebo and Actual were benefiting from a better angle to catch up with them and trade places in the top trio on rounding Finisterre. From there, powered up at an average speed of over 30 knots thanks to a NE’ly breeze fluctuating between 26 and 29 knots, the giants launched into a gybing ballet. Suffice to say that the third night at sea was but a short one for Franck Cammas and Charles Caudrelier, as was doubtless the case for their adversaries. Aboard the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild though, our duo got quite a fright…




    Maxi-sounds from the oceans – Charles Caudrelier on Wednesday 10 November

    “The analysis of yesterday and last night is pretty good, as we’ve managed to snatch back the lead and get a bit of separation, but when you look at what awaits us further down the track in terms of weather, it’s evident that things are going to be complicated. The Maxi Edmond de Rothschild is doing well, she’s in good condition, as are the sailors. Yesterday, along the TSS Finisterre, things smacked a bit of a Jules Verne Trophy revival, but this time we overtook Sodebo to windward. It was a lively night and we got the fright of our lives with a cargo ship. We were preparing for a manœuvre and a cargo ship passed within 30 m of us. Franck leapt onto the helm and bore away big time and we passed along the side of the cargo ship. It was sheer madness… Up next, it’s as clear as mud in terms of weather strategy, but we know that the wind is set to die off again and we’ll just have to deal with it!”





    TRACKER



    Positions on Wednesday 10 November at 14:00 UTC
    Maxi Edmond de Rothschild (F. Cammas / C. Caudrelier)
    Sodebo (T. Coville / T.Rouxel) + 32 miles
    SVR - Lazartigue (F. Gabart / T. Laperche) + 54.8 miles
    Actual (Y. Le Blevec / A. Marchand) + 60.8 miles
    Banque Populaire XI (A. Le Cléac’h / K. Escoffier) + 84.6 miles

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    Stretching The Lead Aboard Gitana


    © Y.Riou / polaRYSE / GITANA S.A


    Saturday 13th of November, 2021 - With a lead of more than 142 miles over their closest pursuer and 256 miles over the third boat at 2pm, Charles Caudrelier and Franck Cammas have managed to increase their lead at the head of the race before they start tackling one of the dreaded passages in this Transat Jacques Vabre tomorrow; the doldrums! And yet, last night was far from relaxing for our duo aboard the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild as play was interrupted by a DIY mission in the middle of a pitch black night. This latest day at sea, the seventh, will be devoted to getting the five-arrow maxi-trimaran making southing, whilst adjusting her trajectory towards their chosen gateway into the Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone.




    “We’re relaxing a bit this morning. The boat’s slipping along all on her own and we’re making a little more boat speed than the others, which is refreshing and soothing”, admitted Charles Caudrelier this Saturday morning, before going on to describe the rhythm which has punctuated the first few days of racing: “It’s already six days since we set sail and the time has just flown by as we’ve been constantly putting in manoeuvres and working to make headway on the Maxi. We’ve really had our nose to the grindstone the whole time. We’ve had to be constantly on top of the trimming, going fast and thinking about the upcoming strategy. Our routing cell has done a fantastic job and, for now, they haven’t put a foot wrong! That’s enabled us to gradually stretch away from our rivals despite our minor technical glitches.”




    © Y.Riou / polaRYSE / GITANA S.A


    Mechanical failure

    Shortly before midnight, the skipper of the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild contacted their shore crew to inform them about some mechanical failure. It was impossible to start the engine and charge the batteries as required. In fact, when racing, the engine’s propulsive element is locked, but the latter is used to drive the alternators to recharge the batteries and produce the required energy for all the on-board electronics. “Usually, when you start the engine, you have more power…”, Charles Caudrelier immediately explains. What this means is that once the fault is identified, the countdown is on to resolve the issue and avoid the blackout so feared by offshore sailors.

    “We seriously thought that we’d have to make a pit stop… However, the team responded very quickly and nailed the issue as usual! We switched over to energy-saving mode aboard by killing the supply to all the non-essential systems and Franck helmed whilst I took on the role of mechanic down below for two hours. In the end, we got our miracle! Just one of the three screws that was holding the part together had broken and I was able to repair it”, explained the skipper, relieved to have been able to get the situation dealt with so quickly. To conclude then, nobody got hurt, just frightened, and they lost out on a bit of sleep: “Nights like that are always a little exhausting, as they break up the rhythm we’d set up. Neither Franck nor I were able to get any rest for 6 or 7 hours… but fortunately the early hours of the morning went a lot smoother."




    © Y.Riou / polaRYSE / GITANA S.A
    Images from the ocean, day 6 – Slipping along offshore of Cape Verde in the morning

    “The light is fabulous offshore of Cape Verde!” However, the morning snapshot sent by Charles Caudrelier reveals the scars of a lively night aboard the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild. With the problem resolved and behind them, the two sailors have been savouring this moment spent slipping along adding miles to their lead over the past few hours. They’re also casting their minds forward to the next stage of the programme, with the weather once again forecast to be complicated to decipher. “When you’re in front and the first to tackle the doldrums, you’re much more likely to get caught out… but that’s the name of the game!”, concluded Franck Cammas from the cockpit of the five-arrow giant..



    © Charles Caudrelier / GITANA S.A
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    Gitana Stretches Her Lead


    TRACKER


    The Maxi Edmond de Rothschild in the southern hemisphere

    Yesterday morning, the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild was the first to venture into the famous doldrums. Franck Cammas and Charles Caudrelier, firm fixtures at the head of the Transat Jacques Vabre race for the past six days, approached this zone with a comfortable lead over their rivals, albeit it with the trepidation that colours these fluky latitudes. For 24 hours, they had to battle to keep the boat well trimmed so as not to end up becalmed and keep the blue maxi-trimaran making headway to the south and the way out of the intertropical convergence zone. By late morning this Monday, even though the 32-metre giant was yet to post speeds worthy of her true potential again, they did seem to have extricated themselves from the area. As such, her skippers could turn their attention to the next stage of the programme: the passage into the southern hemisphere this evening and the long tack down to the waypoint of Trindade and Martim Vaz offshore of the Brazilian coast.




    First in, first out
    Sailors are all too aware of it and that’s why they fear this passage where you can never take anything for granted! Indeed, the doldrums can often be unfair, as Charles Caudrelier reminded us yesterday. And although it was a lengthy process, spanning nearly 24 hours, it hasn’t caused mayhem at the head of the race. Indeed, the main goal was to be the first to get out and hopefully retain a comfortable lead over their rivals. In this regard, it’s fair to say that the 300-mile cushion that the Cammas - Caudrelier duo boasted over the second boat has shrunk considerably, but they’ve still managed to hold onto a sizeable margin. At 18:00 UTC, it was the crew comprising Armel Le Cléac’h and Kevin Escoffier who had moved up into the second spot some 156.4 miles astern of the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild. Furthermore, the trio of Ultimes in hot pursuit of Gitana 17 didn’t appear to be out of the ITCZ given the instantaneous speeds at the latest position report.

    “It’s never really the exit”, explained Franck Cammas with a touch of irony at midday, the skipper especially eager to latch onto the SE’ly trade wind and rediscover a steadier rhythm at the head of the race! “There are still a few clouds rolling over us, killing the wind, but things are gradually sorting themselves out… We need to be patient for a little while longer! Up next, we’re lined up for 2 days of beating / reaching towards Trindade with a few headsail changes, but in principle there are no major options on the cards. The route looks fairly simple, but we need to be quick and hence highly focused. These are the kind of conditions Charles and I like and they really suit the boat”, concluded the skipper from Aix-en-Provence.

    Shortly before 19:00 UTC, the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild entered the southern hemisphere! And so another race commence with 4,533 miles still left to cover to make the Antilles Arc and the bay of Fort-de-France.

    Positions on Monday 15 November at 19:00 UTC
    1. Maxi Edmond de Rothschild (F. Cammas / C. Caudrelier) 3,895 miles to the finish
    2. Banque Populaire XI (A. Le Cléac’h / K. Escoffier) + 290.7 miles
    3. SVR - Lazartigue (F. Gabart / T. Laperche) + 379.1 miles
    4. Actual (Y. Le Blevec / A. Marchand) + 498.7 miles
    5. Sodebo (T. Coville / T.Rouxel) + 954.4 miles
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    Drag Race To São Pedro

    Drag race to São Pedro



    There is certainly no dawdling on the way back up towards the equator for the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild. Beam reaching and powered up at an average speed of 32 knots for the past 24 hours, the leaders of the Transat Jacques Vabre are making the most of the optimum conditions currently reigning in the South Atlantic, offshore of Brazil, to show just what their incredible flying machine is capable of. However, Franck Cammas and Charles Caudrelier are keeping a cool head because at such high speeds, they must be permanently concentrated. They also know just how important it is to preserve their steed with 2,500 nautical miles still remaining, especially given the fact that the final sprint is shaping up to be complicated in terms of the weather.






    Making an average speed of more than 32 knots over the past 24 hours and nearly 35 over the last 4 in a wind of between 15 and 18 knots… the point of sail accompanying the head of the Transat Jacques Vabre fleet on their way up to the next course mark suits the pioneer of this generation of flying giants to a T: “We’re absolutely smoking along! Even though the sea is flat, at these speeds we’re bouncing around quite a lot. There isn’t as much breeze as all that, but it is at the perfect angle for making fast headway. We’re beam reaching, heading northwards to São Pedro, the next island we have to round”, explained Franck Cammas.






    The speed is exhilarating but the skippers of the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild have not lost sight of the fact that they need to take care of their steed after 11 days at sea: “We’re flat out heading northwards! Things have accelerated nicely, but the name of the game is not to go too fast in fact… We’ve set ourselves a limit of 38 / 39 knots on this tack so as to preserve the boat. All she wants to do is accelerate… As such, we’re braking by easing the sails. It’s only on a multihull that you look to slow things down”, joked Charles Caudrelier, before casting his mind to what’s next on the programme: “despite our sizeable lead, the end of the race is forecast to be complicated. It would seem that there’s no wind in the North Atlantic and our rivals may burst back into contention. We need to stay focused right to the wire!”




    A four-handed transatlantic
    At sea, Franck Cammas and Charles Caudrelier take it in turns night and day, 24/7, in a bid to get the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild firing on all cylinders. Each of them steps up individually as part of a watch rotation, but is able to wake the other for manoeuvres which require all hands on deck, or for making major strategic decisions. On shore, not far from the Gitana Team’s technical base in Lorient, the lives of another duo are following the same rhythm. Though they don’t have to deal with the discomfort of heavy seas or being deprived of a daily shower, Erwan Israël and Stan Honey are enjoying all the other benefits! Thanks to the data at their disposal, they’re constantly on top of what’s happening aboard. Indeed, they have a written messaging system, which is permanently open, enabling highly responsive chats between the weather cell and the boat.

    Stan is American. As such, all the chats are in English. It’s become standard practice aboard the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild and doesn’t bother our sailors in the slightest as they are all at ease with conversing in the language of Shakespeare since their Volvo Ocean Race experiences. In fact, it’s interesting to note that the round the world with stopovers is a race all four of the men have on their CVs: all of them have won it at least once, with Charles securing two wins! Stan and Franck also share one very fine round the world victory, since in 2010 Stan was the navigator on Groupama during their successful Jules Verne Trophy attempt.

    The role of the routing cell is clear: offering the best possible route to the skippers of Gitana 17 by deciphering and anticipating the upcoming weather, as well as trying to elude any obstacles looming ahead of the flying maxi-trimaran. A third man, he too an American, completes the device. Indeed, Chris Bedford is a renowned meteorologist and a familiar face in the America’s Cup arena.

    Positions on Thursday 18 November at 17:00 UTC
    Maxi Edmond de Rothschild (F. Cammas / C. Caudrelier) 2,492.9 miles from the finish
    Banque Populaire XI (A. Le Cléac’h / K. Escoffier) + 431.6 miles
    SVR - Lazartigue (F. Gabart / T. Laperche) + 554.2 miles
    Actual (Y. Le Blevec / A. Marchand) + 888.3 miles
    Sodebo (T. Coville / T.Rouxel) + 1,383.5 miles
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    Lining Up For Final Approach

    A second doldrums to finish




    Last night, the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild slipped under the 1,000 miles to go mark with her sights firmly on the finish line. Franck Cammas and Charles Caudrelier are still dominating play in the Ultime category, leading the fleet for the 12th consecutive day out of the fourteen that so far make up this 2021 edition of the Transat Jacques Vabre. However, the two skippers know that the last few hours separating them from Fort-de-France will feel like the longest. This is particularly true now as they have been embroiled in the doldrums again since this morning. Indeed, the intertropical convergence zone is stretching out its fingers a long way out to the west, immediately causing the head of the fleet to stall. Naturally this scenario favours Gitana 17’s pursuers, who will likely be able to squeeze back together with the five-arrow giant over this final section of the course. In the meantime, at the latest position report, the men of Gitana Team have been holding onto a lead of 400 miles or so over the Le Cléac’h - Escoffier duo and 500 over the crew on the latest addition to the Ultime fleet, SVR - Lazartigue.





    A Sunday in the doldrums, chapter 2
    One week ago to the day, on Sunday 14 November, the five-arrow giant was the first to venture into the intertropical convergence zone. What ensued was twenty-four hours of sailing in light airs, grappling with the unknowns that characterise this passage and the stress it never fails to drum up among the sailors obliged to traverse it. One week on, history is repeating itself because since this morning, the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild has once again been sailing in the doldrums with the immediate stalling effect predicted for the end of the race. However, this second doldrums passage is less classic than the first and a long way out to the west and should have a different physiognomy: “For now, this latest doldrums passage looks easier to negotiate than it was in the outward leg. However, the next 24 hours will be important for us and pretty intense in terms of our observation of the satellite images so we can react quickly if a particular cell were to develop very quickly and cause the situation to deteriorate. There are still some lines of squalls possible on the way to Martinique,” warned Erwan Israël.


    In light of this situation and despite the obvious desire to make landfall on flower island as quickly as possible, the atmosphere aboard remains studious on the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild: “The end is nigh, but we need to stay focused on the boat in order to continue getting the best out of her. The latest forecasts are not indicating any major upsets ahead in terms of the weather, just light airs, but we are in the doldrums and by its very definition, we know that nothing can be taken for granted here and the unexpected cannot be ruled out”, admitted Franck Cammas.





    Stalling at the front of the pack for the ‘sprint’ finale
    “We are the first to enter the zone of light winds. Meantime, our pursuers will be able to hang onto a steadier breeze for longer so logically they’ll be able to catch up with us towards the end. The scenario favours them, but that’s racing for you. After passing São Pedro we were clearly better off than them. In relation to the wind, they had a less favourable angle than us for the long tack towards the no-go zone along the north coast of Brazil and had to launch into their series of gybes further south than Franck and Charles, which meant they had to manoeuvre more…” explained the router from his HQ in Lorient.

    The suggested pattern of light airs for the end of the race seems to be playing out then. However, for the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild’s weather cell, it’s still too early to give a precise and reliable ETA: “according to the latest weather model (GFS, CEP or Arpege) there may be a 24-hour discrepancy ranging between the morning of 23 and the night of the 24 November…”

    In this way, it will all depend on what breeze the flying maxi-trimarans manage to latch onto upon exiting their second doldrums. If the trade wind plays ball a little, a finish on the morning of 23 is possible in the bay of Fort-de-France. However, if this is not the case, we’ll have to wait a few more hours to celebrate the 2021 winners of the Transat Jacques Vabre in the Ultime category. Will they be the first across the finish line? Right now, it’s hard to know.




    Positions on Sunday 21 November at 10:00 UTC
    1. Maxi Edmond de Rothschild (F. Cammas / C. Caudrelier) 841.7 miles from the finish
    2. Banque Populaire XI (A. Le Cléac’h / K. Escoffier) + 418.9 miles
    3. SVR - Lazartigue (F. Gabart / T. Laperche) + 507.1 miles
    4. Actual (Y. Le Blevec / A. Marchand) + 1,039.4 miles
    5. Sodebo (T. Coville / T.Rouxel) + 1,198.1 miles
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