An action-packed day ahead for the Transat Jacques Vabre expresso machines, the fleet is now in between the Canaries and Cape Verde.
If yesterday the option was to head West, today it seems that the NE Trade winds are filling in over to the East of the course off the N. African coastline. The low pressure system sitting over to the West may oblige the leading multihulls to head upwind to get back on route these two weather systems could shuffle the pack before reaching the next obstacle the Doldrums.
The older generation but proven Kingfisher-Foncia (Gautier/MacArthur) is holding a tenuous lead still of 8 miles over the brand new Belgacom (Nélias/Desjoyeaux). "We are going upwind now in a South Easterly breeze, trying to get back to the East but it¹s hard going," Ellen explained. She noted that they carried out penalty this morning, which cost them 25 miles. These top two in the West are marginally off the pace in terms of boat speed compared to the two multihulls furthest in the East. One is Groupama (Cammas/S. Ravussin), which made a lightning quick pit-stop at Santa Cruz of 1 hour to replace the starboard rudder and is already back in 3rd place, up to speed in a good 15 knot Northeasterly breeze.
Still dominating the 60 footers just South of Madeira is the clean machine, Ecover (Golding/Hutchinson). The British skippers have guarded their backs well but they are looking over both shoulders. Over to their West is Swiss skipper, Bernard Stamm (Bobst Group-Armor Lux), back in second place, 28 miles behind. To the East is Italian monohull Fila (Laurent/Rufini), who are one degree further South, and all is not rosy for the days to come with upwind conditions ahead for them, as Marcus Hutchinson explained. "We are now more on the direct route but Bernard is a new threat to us, as we want to cross the Doldrums right over to the West but the wind is going to be right on the nose in the next 24 hrs."
In fifth place is the Brit-Aussie duo of Moloney & Turner, whose sails and spirits are somewhat deflated. They found a hole in their spinnaker, but once repaired & rehoisted, it then blew out as Casto-Darty-But sailed under a big squall. Other Brits having their own competition further down the fleet are Richard Tolkien (& Wingate) in This Time and Miranda Merron in Un Univers de Service (& Brulé). Richard commented "Yesterday UUDS gybed to the West, we thought a lot about whether to follow them but decided not to. Now about 2 degrees separates us, we¹re on the same latitude but we¹re further South."
The other Brit-Aussie pairing of Alex Bennett & Paul Larsen (One Dream One Mission) are passing Madeira to the East, and being followed at a distance of 64 miles by Saving (Le Youdec/Bacave). Alex is counting on his router to pull them through: "We're still working on tactics with Lee Bruce to avoid the parking lot coming up to our south and think we'll be able to pop our nose through a break. The only thing to do is keep moving - nothing eats away your lead like having to stop dead!"
The depression sitting off the South West of the Canaries isn¹t going anywhere. The system will generate Southeasterly winds between 5-15 knots to the West of the Canaries quite far from the direct route for the multihulls. On the other hand, the monohull fleet, for those most in the West, will benefit from this system. To the East of the Canaries the wind is less stabilized. It should come more or less from the Northeast. There is no gradient between the Canaries & Cape Verde so it is hard to predict the wind perhaps from the Northeast nearer to the African coastline.
Multihull Positions at 1500hrs GMT DTF (nm)
Postn Boat Latitude Longitude Speed Hdg DTF DFL
1 Foncia 25 03.08' N 19 20.24' W 17.2 186 3458.4
2 Belgacom 25 03.84' N 19 15.00' W 15.5 189 3466.2 7.8
3 Groupama 26 45.88' N 16 17.60' W 15.7 185 3565.3 106.9
Open 60 Monohull Positions at 1445hrs GMT DTF (nm)
1 Ecover 31 18.08' N 20 41.32' W 13.6 208 2877.6
2 Bobst Group Armor Lux
32 17.40' N 21 50.28' W 16.7 212 2905.4 27.8
3 Sill Plein Fruit
31 54.44' N 19 34.80' W 10.7 197 2932.4 54.8
Open 50 Monohull Positions at 1445hrs GMT DTF (nm)
1 One Dream : One Mission
32 00.40' N 14 45.04' W 7.9 215 3044.1
2 Saving 33 39.54' N 15 07.08' W 9.3 187 3107.8 63.6