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13 November 2007, 02:05 pm
2007 TJV Proving Exhausting & Demanding
Class 40 ATAO
Class 40 ATAO

Transat Jacques Vabre 2007

This Transat Jacques Vabre is a really demanding race which, at the moment, it is not about boat damage or huge low-pressure systems threatening the fleet.
This edition of the race requires constant manoeuvring on deck to adjust or change the sails to catch the slightest puff or shift of wind. The competition has forced the crews to spend much more time than usual making decisions at the chart table for a race that is considered slow, not only from the point of view of the sailors that have been sailing multihulls for years. As a consequence, onboard some of the boats they are starting to ration their food for the remaining days at sea. Don't misunderstand, they are not starving yet! But as part of a strategy to minimize weight, the crews only took with them the necessary food for a crossing that, for many of them, will take a bit longer than forecasted. This is one more thing to manage along with repairs, pushing the boat at the right place at the right time…

Monohulls - IMOCA and Class 40

Who chose the best option in the IMOCA Class at the approach of the Cape Verde Islands? The question should be partially answered in the next 72 hours for the seven front runners, after they have dealt with the Cape Verde Islands passage. They are actually spread across 250 lateral miles between the Rhumb Line and the African coast. Ecover 3 increased her lead by 36 miles at 16:00 yesterday (against 25 miles at 12:00) over Safran who was back in second in front of third place Groupe Bel. By 12:00 today Ecover was still just over 35 miles ahead, but Gitana Eighty was up into second, with Groupe Bel third and Safran fourth. Mike GOLDING (GBR) and Bruno DUBOIS (CAN) have been dealing with a massive oil leak in the engine since Sunday but it seems that the problem, if not totally solved, is under control.

Despite Ecover's leading position, GOLDING was remaining cautious, "I think it is looking a little dangerous and [VM Materiaux] is potentially the biggest threat at the moment. But we've got a plan and we're sticking to our plan. He's made his decision and we've made ours and we've just got to run with it and see which one plays out. … It's looking very likely we're pass to the southeast of the Cape Verde islands and start lining up to the Doldrums. … I think the Doldrums are looking really bad actually and picking the point where you cross will make a big difference. We're in the midst of that right now."

The boats at the extremes: Foncia in sixth and Cheminées Poujoulat in seventh (in the east) as well as VM Materiaux in fifth (in the west), are gambling on wind shifts that could pull them to the front.

At the moment it looks like VM Matériaux could be the biggest threat but the wind has to shift to prove it! As mentioned by Loïck PEYRON (FRA) on Gitana Eighty at 12:00 yesterday, "The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. Each of us could fancy the position of the other."

The next step after the Cape Verde Island is to make the right decision on when to gybe to enter the Doldrums. After that it will be a speed race to the finish line. Roxy is in tenth, 230 miles away from Ecover and Aviva in 13th. After losing ground falling into no-wind holes at their passage through the Canary Islands (plus Madeira for Aviva), the skippers are focusing on making gains on the boat in front of them, the objective being to push hard (when there's wind) and pass their competitors one by one.

ATAO Audio system seemed to have taken the lead in the Class 40s at the 16:00 polling but a few boats, including Telecom Italia back in the lead at 8:00 (not polled at 12:00), were not positioned at 16:00. However, the wind charts are showing that more pressure is supposed to build in the east in the next few hours and will give the advantage to the crews that headed east. The boats the most to the west were flashed by radar at 1 or 2 knots at 16:00. That side of the course was not so good to make gains. It looks like Clarke Offshore Racing ran extra mileage for minimal return.

On Novedia Set Environnement, the eastern option taken on Saturday did not pay until three days ago when the winds finally provided the necessary fuel. Pushing as hard as they could, Tanguy DE LAMOTTE and Nick BUBB racked up 100 miles in 36 hours. Fujifilm had to pull out of the race, citing an alternator failure that would have knocked out all electronic systems for the remaining 3,000 miles.

Multihulls - ORMA and Class 50

The last two days in gales and nasty sea left the crews on the three leading trimarans exhausted, with little sleep as they had to cautiously manage their sail configurations while cruising in pitch black nights. The conditions are improving gradually for Groupama 2, which should be totally out of the Doldrums today. They are sailing on the Rhumb Line (direct route) to Bahia and should reach 20-25 knots of consistent easterly winds (the trade winds) with less than 1,000 miles to run to the finish.

In their lookout for those same winds, Gitana 11 (305 miles behind Groupama) chose to "cut the route," heading more south and more east than Groupama 2. With this decision the skippers on Gitana 2 were seeking not only to hit the trade winds faster but also to sail the boat at a wind angle they dearly enjoy, and which should result in an even bigger lead over Banque Populaire.

Steve RAVUSSIN (SUI), on Groupama 2, was now looking forward to a less strenuous couple of days, "We think we're out of the doldrums. We're not 100% sure, we may still have to negotiate one or two more squalls but that's all… It will be more stable, less stressful and we'll be able to rest better".

Sopra and and Brossard are now more that 500 miles behind Groupama 2, Sopra sailing 536 miles behind Banque Populaire. The ETA for Groupama's arrival in Bahia is Wednesday afternoon.

It was a cruel Sunday for the Class 50. Laiterie de St Malo lost ground on Crèpes Whaou! while Croisères Anne Caseneuve was coming back at her. All these disappointments due to the imprecision of the weather forecasts. There are now some 1,000 miles between Crèpes Whaou! and DZ, last in the fleet.

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