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17 November 2009, 10:31 am
Safran Leads at Halfway Stage of Transat Jacque Vabre
Safran leads at halfway stage
Safran leads at halfway stage

Transat Jacques Vabre 2009

As Safran lead across their theoretical half way point of this Transat Jacques Vabre from Le Havre to Costa Rica and life has become considerably easier.
For the IMOCA Open 60 crews and the remaining Multi50 duos, the days of sunshine and trade winds sailing may be pleasant but the pace is still intense right down the fleets, seeking every small gain, trimming more accurately and hand steering as long as possible.

Marc Guillemot and Charles Caudrelier top the IMOCA Open 60 standings by just 23.3 miles this morning, with Kito de Pavant and Francois Gabart on Groupe Bel gaining ten miles since the same time yesterday morning. A third of their lead devoured, Guillemot remarked yesterday that his preference is normally to do the hunting rather than be hunted.

The two leading sister-ships are very evenly matched now, whilst Mike Golding, the British skipper sounded mildly irritated this morning that, try as hard as they can, the two French boats have gained consistently over the last two days. In fact they have been breaking into slightly stronger breeze progressively and both Golding and Sanso acknowledged this morning that they may be losing a little time through manoeuvres - sail changes, mainly - due to their lack of time together as a duo. Golding and Sanso have lost 34 miles over 48 hours.

Conditions are still not perfect, settled tradewinds. The unstable 12-20 knots breeze swings around in direction and rises and falls in strength, sailing under spinnaker may be pleasant but it is also tiring.

Completing the ninth day at sea today the biggest threat to the leaders might be Michel Desjoyeaux and Jérémie Beyou on Foncia. Desjoyeaux noted that three hours of solid spinnaker trimming had worn out Beyou. They are now up to fourth place, accounting for Veolia Environnment who are now 45 miles behind and slowed too close to the cente of the high pressure, but Foncia are still 355 miles in arrears of the leader Safran. Having made just 14 miles on Safran since the same time a couple of days ago, then the leading trio can feel safe for the moment.

From Crêpes Whaou this morning's report might as well be a holiday postcard. Life is good at the front of the Multi50 fleet, it is sunny, they move easily through the water, have the luxury of a relatively conservative approach thanks to their lead of nearly 750 miles, but behind just forty miles is the difference between Guyader Pour Urgence Climatique and Region Aquitaine Port Medoc.

Mike Golding, (GBR) Mike Golding Yacht Racing: "Our night was fast, but obviously not fast enough. We seem to be progressively losing a few miles. We can't pinpoint why, we have tried all sorts of things, but I think probably they are in a bit more breeze, they are just that bit further ahead into better pressure, and they will extend for another couple of scheds, then maybe we will start to make a little gain back, some compression again."

Javier Sanso (ESP) Mike Golding Yacht Racing: "Things are going good, it could be a little bit better, but I think with the instruments (they have none) and a little bit slow in the manoeuvres, so lacking a little specific knowledge because of time on the boat, sometimes I think we lose a little bit of time there, we are a bit slow on the other two, but I think we are going to manage to cover that in the near future."

Michel Desjoyeaux, (FRA) Foncia: "It's a little warm, everything you do is a sweat. We are not unhappy with the placing and we worked well through the night. We have changed course and sails just a little during the night. The winds remain very variable, it is difficult to find the best set up, adjustments and courses. The wind's about 15-20 knots and it's dropped a bit. But when I see the speeds of everyone I think it's dropped for most of us. It'll be a little slower from here, but it'll be less wet. We will start to get some trade winds and move away from the high, and we should get 15-20 knots to the Antilles, and we should be under spinnaker to there. The guys at the front are far ahead now, so we don't think too much about it. Before the gybe, we could still believe in it, but now we are on the same course then it will be difficult."
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