At 1400hrs GMT yesterday, Kingfisher-Foncia (Gautier/MacArthur) was holding a marginal lead of 17 miles over neighbouring rival Groupama (Cammas/Ravussin).
In the monohull fleet, convergence causes tactics & positions to change, notably SME-Négocéane moving into 3rd place over Casto-Darty-But. Last but not least , One Dream One Mission eat into the middle of the Open 60 fleet.
A breathable gap of 74 miles behind Kingfisher-Foncia, Fujifilm (L. Peyron/Le Mignon) is neck and neck for 3rd place with Belgacom (Nélias/Desjoyeaux). Those nearer the rum line in the East are still seeing large rain-carrying cumulo-nimbus, which continue to disturb their descent to the Ascension islands, looming large on their horizon by the end of tomorrow.
On the other hand, 6th placed Banque Populaire (Roucayrol/Parlier) is notably farthest to the West, in Belgacom's wake, but scorching along at 20 knots. Along with Bonduelle (Le Cam/Caraes), both are hoping for the leaders now to make an error from fatigue, or for some technical failure to fall upon their boat first. Such effects after 3,000 miles of non-stop, ocean racing are unfortunately only too likely. During these upwind conditions, the trimarans will suffer from the accompanying chop of the seas, which will again test the durability of the hulls.
" Belgacom was the first to cross the Equator, and it was the first time for skipper Jean-Luc Nélias as well. They took 9 days and approx. 22 hours.
Negotiating the Cape Verde Islands produced losses and gains for the monohull skippers over the last 24 hours, and in the rankings SME-Négocéane (Sanso/Dumont) has slipped ahead of Casto-Darty-BUT (Moloney/Turner) by 4 miles. Even if it's a fast track downwind in the NE Trades to the Doldrums from there, the regrouping of the fleet has changed tactics for some.
Sill Plein Fruit (Jourdain/Le Cleac'h) holds a solid lead of 90 miles over Voila.fr (Gallay/De Pavant), but veering in from the East are the Italians on Fila (Laurent/Rufini), who are rethinking their moves. "Either we follow the pack and end up filing into 4th or 5th place, or we try something to end up on the podium, or worse, at the back," declared skipper Bruno Laurent.
The skippers themselves analyse every mile won or lost at the two hourly pollings, and have to re-motivate themselves to push harder each time. Australian skipper Nick Moloney (Casto-Darty-But) voiced the concerns of all. "The fleet is converging, it's pretty stressful; we were hoping to sail our own race and attack Sill, but now we're having to cover the others and that takes our focus off the lead."
The effects of fatigue and boat wear & tear is also starting to show as Ecover (Golding/Hutchinson) reported that their genoa fell twice, first due to a snapped halyard, secondly because exhaustion failed one of them to remember a safety turn on the winch. "But we still believe we have a 'joker' in the pack to play, as we could hike a left and cross Voila.fr and Casto, they have more downwind sailing to do" ended Hutchinson.
Nothing seems to bring down the boys on leading Open 50 One Dream One Mission (Bennett/Larsen), who have been debated their next tactics with router Lee Bruce as they eat into the middle of the Open 60 fleet. "Should we gybe to the West or keep a Southerly route? We've decided, but it'll be a risky move…come back tomorrow!"