The top two multihulls in the Transat Jacques Vabre, Belgacom (Nélias/Desjoyeaux) and Kingfisher-Foncia (Gautier/MacArthur) are off the coast of Senegal, heading SW off the direct route.
They are gybing in the established NE Trade winds in a race to find the best passage through the Doldrums, which they will encounter at around 8 degrees North.
"We¹re focusing on where we will pass the Equator and the roulette game in the Doldrums, which is about to begin," stated Nélias. "We are racing against the weather more than the competition right now! We must bear the fact that our lead will probably decrease in a few hours but then hopefully stretch out again on the other side." The one trimaran within their reach is third placed Bonduelle (Le Cam/Caraes), who lies 59 miles behind and to the East on the direct route. By taking the opposite gamble they may get their chance to pull up to the front again.
" Bertrand de Broc and Pascal Bidegorry announced that they are abandoning the race. Banque Covefi is still in port at Cascais in Portugal. Although the battery problem was quickly solved, their battens arrived very late last night, and this morning the boat was still not ready. As their stop has extended past the 72 hour limit, even if they had left Portugal, Banque Covefi would be offficially out of the race rankings.
Previous fleet leaders Ecover (Golding/Hutchinson) and Bobst Group-Armor Lux (Stamm/Riou) are now paying dearly for their Westerly position and are desperately wallowing in 4th & 5th place, some 80 miles behind between two weather systems. The NE Trade winds came in but not past 22 degrees west. New leaders Sill Plein Fruit (Jourdain/Le Cleac¹h), Voila.fr (Gallay/De Pavant) and Casto-Darty-BUT (Moloney/Turner) are currently surfing South at 15 knots in a steady 20 knot NE breeze under full main and filling gennakers.
However, the new triumvirate will be watching closely the Italian boat Fila (Laurent/Rufini) and Spanish/French duo Sanso & Dumont on SME-Négocéane. They have both avoided the complex weather patterns to the West, and may be further from the rum line, off to the East, but are keeping pace Southwards. Further back, This Time (Tolkien/Wingate) and Un Univers de Service (Merron/Brulé) crossed paths in view of each other over night and are enjoying an equally competitive match.
Leading Open 50 One Dream One Mission is now directly South of the Canaries, with nearest rival Saving (Le Youdec/Bacave) coming out of the islands to the North West just 37 miles behind but nearer to the rum line. Interestingly, after 6 days of racing, Renaud Le Youdec spoke today of settling down into a transatlantic pace, whereas Alex sounded as if he was still on a sprint round the Fastnet and back. "We hit a brick wall of endurance today, after only sleeping for 15 minutes each passing through the Canaries, which just shows how hard we¹re pushing." With 2 more weeks to go, will the Brit/Aussie duo take care to fall in to a sustainable rhythm, or carry on in top gear and burn out?
" Tredici (Accati/Stefani) stopped in Funchal to repair their broken boom, and Setrabio (Denamiel/Amblard) also put in an unexpected stop, both leaving at 1100hrs and back on route, 322 miles behind the leader.
Alain Gautier summed up the conditions & options facing the multihull leaders today. "Either you place yourself in the West and be sure to find wind but lengthen the mileage and then face head winds from the SE on the other side. Or you cut through to the East but the band of light airs is thicker and you never know what the Doldrums will serve up!"
For the monohulls, the favourable NE Trade winds which Sill Plein Fruit and followers caught first will fill in for the rest of the fleet today, and should carry them all the way to the Doldrums, which they will reach at around 5 degrees North.
Multihull Positions at 1300hrs GMT DTF (nm)
Postn Boat Latitude Longitude Speed Hdg DTF DFL
1 Belgacom 11 46.92' N 22 50.44' W 19.2 242 2752.9
2 Foncia 12 18.68' N 22 30.64' W 19.7 248 2775.3 22.4
3 Bonduelle 14 00.52' N 19 16.12' W 17.4 230 2811.5 58.6
Open 60 Monohull Positions at 1240hrs GMT DTF (nm)
1 Sill Plein Fruit
24 44.96' N 20 54.40' W 10.6 185 2506.1
2 Voilà.fr 24 58.92' N 20 12.72' W 7.9 163 2536.0 29.9
3 Casto - Darty - But
25 16.16' N 19 33.44' W 7.9 166 2566.7 60.6
Open 50 Monohull Positions at 1240hrs GMT DTF (nm)
1 One Dream : One Mission
26 20.20' N 16 44.64' W 10.8 195 2691.7
2 Saving 27 44.80' N 17 28.80' W 8.7 185 2734.6 42.9