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7 November 2007, 07:01 pm
How To Hook The Trade Winds First...
Onboard Groupama
Onboard Groupama

Transat Jacques Vabre 2007

Passing Cape Finisterre in 35-40 knots of wind was as stressful as it was enjoyable for the Transat Jacques Vabre fleet.
If breakage on the boats is always on their minds, the skippers nevertheless appreciated the bumpy rides and reach of the waves that pushed the boats up to 30 knots. We haven't heard of major breakages, but ripped sails or spinnaker might have caused extra work onboard today. After nice surfs on big waves and 25/30 knots of wind pushing them south, the front runners should meet lighter winds shifting from north - northeast to southeast on the way down. Even if not clinically precise, the wind charts the crews are receiving onboard are showing two possible options: sail along the African coast or to put to the west along the route to catch the winds generated by a low-pressure system in the Azores that seems to be moving towards the Canary Islands. That is the question all the skippers approaching Madere Island have had to deal with in their descent.

At 16:00 the boats were still heading south looking to catch up with the trade winds. At the rear of the fleet the questioning is not the same. The wind is going to drop dramatically, chipping away at the miles separating the two parts of the fleet. Tomorrow should start to show the results of these decisions.

Monohulls - IMOCA and Class 40

At 16:00 the chart was still showing the IMOCA fleet heading south, with some putting a bit more to the east in their route. They should enter a transition zone overnight with unsteady winds to deal with along the African coast. No point saying they kept silent about what choices they would make regarding their passage through the Canaries.

Marc GUILLEMOT and Charles CAUDRELIER on Safran continue to hold the lead, just over 20 miles ahead of Foncia. Gitana Eighty is just over 50 miles off the lead in third, with VM Matériaux right behind. Ecover maintains fifth place, 62.5 miles away from the leader, whereas the Roxy girls are steadily maintaining their position (at 100.9 miles from Safran).

"It is all light up ahead," said Mike GOLDING (GBR) onboard Ecover. "The big choices are going to come probably at the Canaries. We are all headed to pass inside Madeira which in itself is a little unusual. Because you are already off the rhumb line, but it is then where you transit the Canaries and it shows going inside through or around to the west which is more normal and then what you do on the African coast. Our routing currently had us scraping the shore off Africa. But, will you actually do that? It is a fairly big call."

In the 40-footer fleet, apart from Telecom Italia, which has been dominant since the start, the ranking has been moving fast in the last 24 hours. After being soundly dominated by the foreign entries, it seems the Frenchies are getting back some strength after making some good weather decisions. But we would have expected Dominic VITTET (Atao Audio System) or Damien GRIMONT (Chocolats Monbana) to have ranked since the start where they stand now. Fujifilm (23rd) lost 21 places after being second yesterday at noon and Offshore Clark Racing, which was occupying third, is now 13th. 40 degrees ranks tenth at 16:00 today only 65 miles behind Telecom Italia. On Pindar 40, Jo and Alexia, after sailing blind (they were not receiving any weather information onboard), had to drop down the mainsail for repairs.

The speeds are starting to drop at the rear of the fleet with some of the boats ghosting around in 5 knots of wind.

Multihulls - ORMA and Class 50

Brossard took the lead of the ORMA fleet between yesterday (ranked at fourth at 12:00) and this morning. Putting more to the west in her descent toward Spain seeking for more winds (as did Gitana 11) finally paid off after three days of racing. However, the rough conditions encountered passing Cap Finisterre took their toll. Banque Populaire has a leak (not too serious) in one of the floaters but the crew is not considering stopping. Gitana 11, which announced they had lost a foil in the first night of sailing, is heading toward the coast for the quickest possible repair.

Sopra, the oldest trimaran entry in the race, is now 109.9 miles behind Brossard, whereas the four leaders are within 18.3 miles of each other.

Avocet 50 (Class 50) announced she was retiring from the race due to a problem in her daggerboard and is routing to the Corogne. It was no surprise when Crèpes Whaou ! broke away from her competitors and is even showing off with nine IMOCA at her rear. Even if F.Y. ESCOFFIER dominates the situation, Laiterie de St Malo keeps the pace, showing the same speed at 16:00, but 70 miles behind the leader.

Transat Jacques Vabre - www.jacques-vabre.com
Veronique Teurlay (As Amended By ISAF)
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