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14 November 2001, 10:04 pm
Upwind Tacking Battle To Ascensions
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Gitana

Transat Jacques Vabre

The moment of truth will soon arrive for the leading multihulls in the Transat Jacques Vabre as they close in on the most decisive mark rounding of the race, the Ascension Islands, approximately 400 miles to their Southeast
In theory, the boats more to the East already, Groupama (Cammas/S. Ravussin) and Kingfisher-Foncia (Gautier/MacArthur), hold an advantage over easterly Belgacom & Banque Populaire, with less mileage to run, but the game is not simple, as Ellen explained. "The islands are directly where the wind is coming from and so we have to tack to get there. It¹s such a difficult call to make as going on the other tack to the East you instantly lose ground on the route and may miss a crucial wind shift."

In fact Kingfisher-Foncia tacked first, around midday, followed by Bonduelle (Le Cam/Caraes), then Groupama and Belgacom. Kingfisher-Foncia then tacked back and is controlling Groupama just 28 m to their North. Even in horrendous, upwind boat-bashing conditions, these trimarans are still averaging 15 ­ 17 knots and expect to arrive at the mark tomorrow night. Only the duo of Loick¹s Peyron & Le Mignon on Fujifilm seem to be trying to reach the islands on one tack alone way off to the East, but if so, they are lacking the strong winds they need to pull off such a move.

Certainly learning from the moves taken by those ahead are the two older generation trimarans Gitana IX (Duprey/Denis) and Pindar Systems (Richards/Von Koskull), running straight down the rum line between the Cape Verdes and the African coast. The girls have got the upper hand right now, and skipper Emma Richards is looking ahead. "We feel good about our tactics to position ourselves to the East. We¹ve caught Gitana IX and are 100 miles from La Trinitaine and so were aiming for them now."

Downwind to Doldrums

Monohull Fleet

Sill Plein Fruit (Jourdain/Le Cleac¹h) holds onto an incredible 104 mile lead over nearest rival Voila.fr (Gallay/De Pavant). Kito de Pavant reported a blown spinnaker on Voila.fr, which has since been repaired, and now the hunt is on just 20 miles behind them, with Casto-Darty-BUT (Moloney/Turner), Ecover (Golding/Hutchinson) and SME-Négocéane (Sanso/Dumont) sweating blood & tears to gain vital miles as they battle for third place.

Turner recounted Œhorror stories¹ of being "drawn by a fool¹s gold of wind" into the shadow of the deceptively beautiful island of Fogo at Cape Verde, whilst Sanso & Dumont have slowed up in unexpected NE winds in the East, and have slipped two places in the rankings.

In the Open 50 fleet, Saving (Le Youdec/Bacave) has closed the gap to 16 miles as they battle in light airs off the Senegal coast. Paul Larson on board One Dream One Mission described their Œbox¹ situation. "Our East-West separation from Saving matched our North-South, and each time the wind shifted to the North or East it would favour one side." This morning he reported in that they had "stacked the box in our favour", which means that their East-West separation from Saving had been reduced, and their North-South separation increased. "Such is the life of the hunted," concluded Larson.

Weather

The multihulls continue to navigate upwind in the SE Trade winds, which will be wearing on the boats and skippers alike. The sea is rough and the breeze at 15 ­ 25 knots, which will generate an apparent wind of 40 knots plus.

For the Monohulls, Sill Plein Fruit is ideally positioned to encounter the Doldrums at 6 degrees North, and cross at around 30 degrees West, where it is not so big (200 miles max). The others with have to hope for great calms for the leader or some other mishap to come back on them now. But everything is possible with the weather!


Multihull Positions at 1500hrs GMT ­ DTF (nm)

Postn Boat Latitude Longitude Speed Hdg DTF DFL

1 Foncia 5 43.80' S 20 01.00' W 17.5 177 1830.7
2 Groupama 4 27.76' S 19 43.32' W 16.0 083 1850.2 19.5
3 Belgacom 6 00.36' S 22 02.40' W 14.4 070 1940.2 109.5
4 Bonduelle 3 07.84' S 20 47.92' W 15.5 081 1948.5 117.9
5 Fujifilm 0 31.52' N 15 31.52' W 15.0 110 1978.2 147.6
6 Banque Populaire 5 24.00' S 23 43.64' W 17.1 063 2046.9 216.2

Open 60 Monohull Positions at 1445hrs GMT ­ DTF (nm)

1 Sill Plein Fruit
9 07.96' N 28 41.20' W 10.4 198 1475.4
2 Voilà.fr 10 02.72' N 26 12.76' W 9.7 231 1581.3 105.9
3 Casto - Darty - But
10 36.64' N 26 47.44' W 11.5 198 1598.5 123.1
4 Ecover 11 22.80' N 27 37.60' W 11.3 202 1623.0 147.7
5 Sme Negoceane 9 36.76' N 23 35.08' W 9.6 193 1627.5 152.1

Open 50 Monohull Positions at 1445hrs GMT ­ DTF (nm)

1 One Dream : One Mission
12 42.28' N 22 33.16' W 9.4 239 1822.4
2 Saving 13 28.61' N 23 20.61' W 8.2 193 1838.6 16.2

" Speed & Heading are instantaneous
" Positions are polled every two hours daily between 0430hrs - 2030hrs and can be viewed online at: http://www.jacques-vabre.com - click on 'rankings'

Radio Chat & Quotes

Franck Cammas (Groupama): "Upwind? It¹s twice the mileage, takes three times longer, and it¹s four times more exhausting!!"

Jean-Luc Nélias (Belgacom): "We¹re changing watch every two hours. It¹s pitch black, which gives me a headache, because you have to navigate just with the help of the electronic instruments and your eyes are glued on the different screens the whole time, and you literally see nothing else. What¹s more, you¹re exposed to more than 30 knots of apparent wind when you¹re out on the helm, so between the speed of the wind and that of the boat, it¹s so tiring, it takes every drop of your concentration."

Javier Sanso (SME-Négocéane): "The wind is from the NE, which it¹s not supposed to be! It should be more from the East. We¹re in a transition area where the wind is going from East to NE to East, and the boat¹s going very slowly right now, so may be we¹ll lose places in the rankings. It¹s frustrating to keep your heading and keep the boat speed up. At least I¹m used to the heat, I don¹t care about it! You could cut the air with a knife"

Roland Jourdain (Sill Plein Fruit): "It¹s at times like these when things are too good to be true and something goes wrong ­ I hope not ­ but as we approach the Doldrums I¹m already wishing it was tomorrow night and we were on the other side!"

Robert Wingate (This Time): "We¹re sailing very deep, with 12 knots of true wind and the assymetric spi up, to keep our VMG up but it¹s not good, about 7 knots. We always panic thinking should we have gybed or not, when we see the others in different positions than us. We¹re not totally confident with the tactics. The heat is the worst thing, we¹re dripping with sweat and only find refuge in the cuddy of the cockpit."

Miranda Merron (UUDS): "We have nice spinnaker sailing, and sometimes not nice spinnaker sailing, sometimes sunny, sometimes funny cloud stuff that messes things up, sometimes it¹s awesome, and other times it¹s frustrating. But we¹ve seen lots of wildlife ­ a squid is now permanently laminated to the deck, and two grey birds have joined us, plus a cricket ­ oh and our watermaker made 4 litres in 3 hours ­ not bad!"

Radio chat is held between 0430 ­ 0530hrs French time with the monohull & multihull leaders, and again with the fleet between 1200 ­ 1400hrs FT, which can be downloaded from the web site in Real Audio.
Mary Ambler/News Editor
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