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9 November 2007, 11:01 am
How To Hook The Trade Winds First...
Safran still leads the IMOCA fleet

Transat Jacques Vabre 2007

The ORMA TJV fleet are now level with the Canaries, heading for the trade winds with Groupama in the lead, whilst Safran remains ahead in the IMOCA fleet as they approach Madeira.
The analysis of the weather information has proved to be a real challenge, but it appears that none of the skippers took the opportunity to make gains trying a western option in a stubborn low-pressure system, still centred in the Azores. The boats off Cape St. Vincent and beneath will benefit from more pressure in upcoming days than the boats located between Cape Finisterre and Cape St Vincent, which have been battling light winds since the Spanish Cape. The mood was quite down onboard some of the boats at the rear, but they were using the time to rest, make necessary repairs and dry off. The crews were also scrutinizing the weather data and changing sails to try to move the boats and make the smallest possible gain. The aim is to grab miles in the south without being caught in the winds shifting southeast, as they would push the competitors too far west. At the one-third marker, the race is still up in the air. But the boats beneath Cape St Vincent will increase the mile difference.

Monohulls - IMOCA and Class 40

The first IMOCAs should be able to follow the tracks of the ORMA and sail along the African coast, leaving Madeira to the west. The first three boats - Safran is still leading five days after leaving Le Havre, Foncia and Gitana Eighty are within 27 miles of each other (16:00 ranking). Behind them another pack of three boats Groupe Bel, Cheminées Poujoulat and Ecover 3 (VM Materiaux's position was not known at 16:00) are sailing within 17 miles of each other, with Groupe Bel 60 miles from Safran.

Mike GOLDING (GBR) on Ecover commented, "It's very tactical at the moment and the weather forecast is complicated and not always correct. Right now it's pretty straightforward. We have two sails going upwind or footing slightly it's quite easy at the moment. But during the last 24 hours it's quite been a lot of sail changes. We've been through spinnakers and gennaker and now we're on gennaker.

"It's only just south of east but it's more south of east than the forecast so it's making us worried in case we're on the wrong side of the ridge. But we'll wait to see what the morning … to decide how hard to push."

In seventh place, Generali is increasing the mile gap, leaving her competitors 100 miles behind and more. Sam DAVIES (GBR) and Jeanne GRÉGOIRE (FRA) on Roxy are still holding their lead on the previous generation of boats, even "showing off" a bit in front of Brit'air, now 43 miles behind them.

Aviva is steadily holding in tenth place but is situated the most westerly of the fleet, where southeast winds can make their life even more difficult.

In fact, the boats between Cape Finisterre and Cape St Vincent (tail end of the IMOCA fleet and Class 40) are in almost no wind and the situation is tricky out there. The skippers are heading south in east-shifting, southeast winds. Such a shift could put the skippers to the west of the fleet in big trouble as it will likely push them too far west (when they want to go south) towards the low.

The 40-footers are level with Lisbon. Their speeds are absolutely discouraging: 4.4-5.8 knots, the fastest is 7.5 knots (at 16:00) for the boats in the middle of the group, already 91 miles behind the leader. Telecom Italia seems to make no mistakes and even nibbled miles on a few old IMOCAS. But she was not fast enough to escape the light winds in the area and her pursuers are nipping at her heels.

The second (Mistral Loisirs - Elior) only 12 miles away at 16:00. Taking the easterly option to try and grab some wind was definitely not a good move, whereas the boats heading more to the west moved up a few places in the ranking.

The situation will be changing little over the next 36 hours or so, and the boats should not reach Madeira for at least three days.

Multihulls - ORMA and Class 50

Groupama has been holding the lead since yesterday in front of Banque Populaire and Gitana 11. Franck CAMMAS (FRA) and S. RAVUSSIN (SUI) on Groupama preferred to negotiate their way south through the Canary Islands, while BIDEGORRY (FRA) and Y. RAVUSSIN (SUI) on Banque Populaire chose to rely on the Venturi effect between the African Coasts and the Spanish Islands. Banque Populaire gybed to gain some tracks west but had nevertheless lost ground consistently to Groupama (the blue trimaran was sailing 64 miles behind the leader at 16:00, not showing a higher speed).

Sopra and Brossard are now more that 200 miles behind Groupama in their descent to the Canary Islands. Their speed dropped dramatically.

Gitana 11 made a pit stop in Las Palmas to change her foil and a gennaker before she went back in the race at 17:15. The operation took less that two hours and looks more like a Formula One pit shop.

There were 384.3 miles separating Crèpes Whaou ! and Victorinox in the Class 50 fleet, not to mention half of the Imoca boats the red catamaran passed in the last few days. It is now sailing even with Ecover.

The two closest followers, Laiterie de St Malo and Croisières Anne Caseneuve, are respectively 169 and 199 miles behind him.

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