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12 November 2007, 10:36 am
Ecover Takes The TJV Lead
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Ecover has moved into the lead of the IMOCA fleet

Transat Jacques Vabre 2007

Groupama 2 is closing in on the 1,000 miles to go mark at the head of the Transat Jacques Vabre ORMA fleet, whilst Ecover has taken the lead amongst the IMOCA monohulls.
Franck CAMMAS (FRA) and his team are closing in on the finishing line in Bahia, Brazil after little over a week at sea. By comparison, Ecover (in the IMOCA fleet) will still have 2,000 miles to sail as will Crèpe Whaou! (Class 50). Pakea Bizkaïa (IMOCA) and Telecom Italia (Class 40) will be 2,600 miles away from the line. (Class 50) is 2,900 miles out, the same for Pindar 40 (Class 40). There are a wide range of interpretations that could be made out of theses numbers. Boat and sail designs are at stake (as regards the evolution of the boats) as well as tactics and weather patterns. These are the numbers for Sunday and they should evolve today...keep an eye on them!

Monohulls - IMOCA and Class 40

It took two perfect gybes to Mike GOLDING (GBR) and Bruno DUBOIS (CAN) on Ecover 3 to take the lead off Safran in the IMOCA class, after seven days at sea as they crossed 50 metres in front of Groupe Bel on Saturday night. Groupe Bel still hot on her heels - only 3.3 miles behind at 16:00.

But the game is far from being over as the next 48 hours are to be crucial for each boat to hold her place in the ranking. The seventh boat in the leading pack is 66 miles away from the leader after 2,000 miles of racing which means the two skippers on Ecover are keeping a close eye on their competitor's tactics. Safran and Gitana Eighty are on the same route as Ecover 3, only 13 and 19 miles away, whilst Foncia and Cheminées Poujoulat sailing along the coast still represent a threat as they approach the Cape Verde Islands. VM Matériaux racked up one place since Sunday morning and is now in fifth.

Looking ahead DUBOIS commented, "We do not really know yet what we are going to do concerning the Cape Verde Island. We go day by day. For now we are trying to be as west as possible. We see that Michel DESJOYAUX is quite dangerous on the beach so is Jean LE CAM which is a bit more west than us. So we have to be careful. Everybody around is quite dangerous so we try to make the best speed out of the boat. There are going to be a tough couple of days to come so everything can change again. We stay concentrated on the racing."

In the middle of the board Generali and Brit'Air are sailing in the tracks of the leaders whilst Roxy and Maisonneuve have been heading west since yesterday getting closer to the Rhumb line.

Aviva is battling hard west of the Canary Islands. Their speed as well as Akenas Veranda 22 miles in front of them dropped dramatically at 12:00 (around 4 knots).

Unexpectedly Sidaction which passed at the west of Madeira (with the wind supposed to be blocked by the islands) in the Class 40 made a nice 20 mile gain over Telecom Italia and was ranked second at 12:00. The Italian leader's averages are dropping as they are approaching the Canary Islands. They sail on the Rhumb line passing west of the Islands where they hope to avoid the calms but as they are trapped in shifting winds they looked with worry at the decisions their hunters are making.

Even if the route between the Islands is the shortest to grab the Trade Winds it could be the most risky because the land blocks the wind but it looks like Atao Audio System and 40 degrees are heading right in the middle of the Archipelago. As Groupe Partouche sticks to her eastern option she is making a huge bet, but from the skippers point of view coming back in the west would have made them lose too much ground. They'd rather follow their convictions and hope for an opportunity.

Multihulls - ORMA and Class 50

Groupama 2 has already felt the effects of the doldrums as they have been sailing all Saturday night under heavy showers and 35 knots of wind. Even thought the skippers of the green trimaran had anticipated the heavy conditions in the area they had a rough time and had to reduce to two reefs in the main and no front sail at an angle of 80 degrees messy seas. Despite this they were happy to avoid the calms and had kept an advance of 289 miles at 4:00.

Groupama 2 skipper, Franck CAMMAS commented, at 12:00 yesterday, "We're still right in the throes of it and we're being forced to slalom between the squalls. There are fairly messy seas and as soon as the wind drops, it's like being in a shaker. However, as soon as the wind fills in, we slip along better. As a result, our escape isn't going to happen straightway!"

The leader of the class should get out of the doldrums zone when his two pursuers will enter it. Gitana 11 and Banque Populaire were separated by only 2 miles (12:00) with Gitana 11 positioned more to the east and showing a slightly better average speed in the last 4 hours that could make a difference.

According to skipper CAMMAS (audio session on Sunday) this position in the east (for Gitana 11) could be favourable to the passage. Estimated Time of Arrival for Groupama is in between Tuesday evening and Wednesday.

Crèpes Whaou! is now sailing on the direct route with an advance of 239 miles on Laiterie de St Malo close to the African coast where the winds are supposed to be steadier and stronger (16:00).

Even thought she is sailing 296 miles away from Crèpes Whaou! Croisières Anne Caseneuve distance on 24 hours is 271 miles (compare to 275 miles for the overall leader). It is worth mentioning it!

Transat Jacques Vabre -
Veronique Teurlay (As Amended By ISAF)
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