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16 November 2007, 10:29 am
Who Will Emerge From The Doldrums First?
Cheminées Poujoulat
Cheminées Poujoulat held the lead briefly overnight

Transat Jacques Vabre 2007

All of the ORMA fleet have now arrived in Salvador de Bahia, leaving the IMOCAs centre of attention in this year's Transat Jacques Vabre and the big question is - who will make it out of the Doldrums first?
All of the ORMA fleet have now arrived in Salvador de Bahia, leaving the IMOCAs centre of attention in this year's Transat Jacques Vabre and the big question is - who will make it out of the Doldrums first?

The Doldrums are now shaking up the IMOCA fleet and putting more pressure on the already exhausted sailors: gales, lightning that hit close to the boats with a deafening crash, and winds that disappeared for about 10 hours. They are taking their toll on their visitors. Finding the right point of entrance could mean giving up the lead - or not. But what is sure is that the first out of this trap will be the first to hit the trade winds motorway to the finish line. But we are not there yet, with some 36 hours still to go before they are out of the danger zone. Stay tuned!

Monohulls - IMOCA and Class 40

The transition zone the leaders of the IMOCA pack entered on Wednesday night has a reputation to maintain and it is antagonizing the monohulls skippers, deposing the leader of the fleet, and then seeing Foncia surge to the front at this morning's 08:00 poll.

Yesterday at 16:00 is was Cheminées Poujoulat who held the lead after sneaking past Ecover 3. Since 11 November, the Ecover 3 skippers had been controlling their eight pursuers, patiently building their lead during four days. But their advance dramatically melted (from 50 miles to less than 10) when they entered the Doldrums and were caught in calms for 10 hours (from 02:00-12:00 on Thursday). In the noon audio session yesterday, they wished their position had been more to the west in order to better control their hunters, who opted for a "medium" westerly route.

That wish seems well founded, with the more westerly Fonica leading, although VM Matériaux, further west still, was just 0.5nm behind (after being back in sixth at 16:00 yesterday) and recording 9.6 knots to Fonica's 8.4. Cheminées Poujoulat and Safran also opted for a more westerly route than Ecover 3 and have been rewarded with third and fourth place respectively in this morning's poll. Out to the east Gitana Eighty has suffered badly overnight and now looks in danger of losing her eighth place to the charging Roxy.

"It is just a bit frustrating and we have a million jobs on the go this afternoon, and we have lost all that lead, so it is not the best of days," said Ecover 3 skipper Mike GOLDING (GBR) yesterday. "We have just been going too slow. It is as simple as that. I think that we have had the wrong sail combination up. And we have put that right and I think we will be alright from here on inwards. I mean we are still further south than them, that's our trump card if you like, possibly, and also further to the east. While that is not a benefit here it could be when we get out of the other side. That is kind of new, but if I could go west at the moment I probably would."

The passage through the Doldrums should take another 14 to 16 hours, and the first one out should definitely gain an advantage over the others.

The boats in the Class 40 are now seeking to optimize their speed heading down south towards the Cape Verde Islands in trade winds. According to Marc EMIG (AST Groupe) in the audio session yesterday, there are no real options to gamble on in term of weather. The second in the ranking yesterday, tried to hold her place in this game, but Chocolat Montbana has since moved up to be the closest challenger to Télécom Italia. As for the IMOCA, the skippers are seeking to stay in the pack not getting too much lateral distance.

This descent should be fast and not only to battle for a better place in the ranking. The northern trade winds that are pushing the skippers and boats down are likely to weaken starting on Sunday and none of the competitors wants to make his sail to Bahia lest any longer.

Multihulls - ORMA and Class 50

Sopra was the last of the ORMA fleet to finsh at 00:25:30 this morning, comingi n fifth, just over 10 hours behind fourth place Brossard and almost a day and a half behind winners Groupama.

Crèpes Whaou ! is still firmly leading the Class 50 fleet in front of Laiterie de St Malo, although the gap has shrunk from 190 miles yesterday to 110 this morning. Croisières Anne Caseneuve is still in third.

Transat Jacques Vabre -

Veronique Teurlay (As Amended By ISAF)
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