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18 November 2007, 10:39 pm
TJV Fleet Like Ducks In A Row?
Fonica viewed from above
Foncia leads the fleet

Transat Jacques Vabre 2007

The frontrunners of the IMOCA fleet are out of the doldrums and there is now no doubt that the western route was the best option for attacking the crossing.
As a result, the ranking should stay consistent over the next few hours with Foncia leading the fleet by 8 short miles, with VM Matériaux (second) at her west and Cheminées Poujoulat (third) on her heels. Safran is fourth in the east.

There is a new question arising, though: Will all the boats be able to pass the head of Brazil without tacking? At the moment it looks like Michel DESJOYAUX's position is fine, but what about VM Matériaux to the west? We'll have to wait and see. If he had to tack, Jean LE CAM (FRA) would lose his prime spot in second place.

Ecover is back in fifth - with a gap of 91 miles, which should be difficult to close as no real weather opportunities seem likely to pop up in the next few days. The British boat is nevertheless perfectly handling her competitors, all lined up in her wake.
For now the boats are heading in wind coming from the south (likely veering more southeast during the day) and a bumpy sea obliging the skippers to don their wet-weather gear instead of shorts and T-shirts. Add to that the deafening noise of the all-carbon boats hitting the waves, not a pleasant place to be to run the next 1,000 miles to the finish. That said, the newest boats are sailing in conditions they have not encountered since the beginning of the race and it is a new occasion to observe the boats and compare their performances with the others'. At the moment the files do not show much difference in speed. That could be comforting or an occasion to consider how the boats could be improved. It is also interesting to note that older and optimised boats, like VM Matériaux and Cheminées Poujoulat, are well-ranked within this group of new boats.

The second part of the IMOCA fleet should be out of the doldrums by the end of the day. After a night of snakes and ladders (Roxy even bypassing Gitana Eighty in the last 24 hours), it looks like this stretch has not shaken up the second half of the ranking.

Amazingly enough, after 15 days of racing we can predict that the ten first boats in the ranking (and maybe the 11th) could arrive within 24 hours in Bahia starting on Tuesday midday (French time) in Bahia.

There are still two to three days of gybes and head-scratching in the Class 40 fleet as the 30 boats are moving slowly into weakening trade winds towards a doldrums area that does not look too impressive on the files. They are working hard on the file before deciding exactly where to enter the troublesome zone. With a margin of 60 miles, Telecom Italia is leaving her closest pursuers, Chocolats Monbana and ATAO Audio System, in the dust. Dominic VITTET is gaining again on Damien GRIMONT, not only managing not to lose any ground but threatening to overtake the second thanks to a steady speed (certainly due to his sailing angle).

The decisions the leaders will make at the approach to the doldrums will be watched by those behind. If they slow down, it could offer an occasion to their pursuers to try a different route and possibly gain on them.

Multihulls - Class 50

Crèpes Whaou! Is back in motion with Laiterie de St Malo 77 miles behind. Croisières Anne Cazeneuve is still 200 miles behind but is showing the precision of a Swiss watch in managing her race.

Transat Jacques Vabre - www.jacques-vabre.com

Veronique Teurlay (As Amended By ISAF)
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