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8 November 2005, 04:37 am
The Calm Before The Next Storm
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Transat Jaques Vabre 2005

Orange Project, Sill et Veolia, Crepes Whaou! and Artforms are leading each class in the Transat Jaques Vabre, whilst the Multi Open 60 Brossard has abandoned the race with alarming 3cm wide crack along central hull from the mast foot. The boats are starting to position themselves further offshore to face second cold front barring their route south, with the skippers resting in calmer weather to prepare for more violent weather conditions overnight.
Sodebo, Gitana 11 in the multihull fleet, and Artforms and Défi Vendéen in the Open 50 monohull class all making pitstops to repair damages.

IMOCA 60 Update

Although there have not been any significant reports of damage over the first 48 hours of the race, this in itself is a mark of how reliable the Open 60 IMOCA fleet has become when put to the test sailing upwind in typical Autumn gales. Winds last night rose to around 40 knots on the nose, and heavy seas with big waves of up to four metres high. Reports coming in all spoke of a hard night with barely any sleep, but man and material were well preserved.

The heavy breeze abated on Monday morning to give the teams a respite of sorts, although the skippers on the satellite phone reported in that they have spent all morning tacking incessantly on the wind rotations. Early this morning the fleet was more or less aligned on starboard tack heading directly south in a procession entering the Bay of Biscay. However, the approach of a second, worse cold front has lead to each boat picking their moment to make their tack onto port to get some westing into their route and be as far offshore from the Spanish headland when the front hits them. Skandia and Pro-Form were the first to go west, the front-runners remained on their southerly heading until this afternoon.

At the latest position report, all twelve Open 60's had made their final tack onto port. No change in the rankings throughout the day, however, with Roland JOURDAIN (FRA) and Ellen MACARTHUR (GBR) holding their slim five mile lead over Mike GOLDING (GBR) and Dominique WAVRE (SUI) on Ecover, followed by Jean-Pierre DICK (FRA) and Loïck PEYRON (FRA) on Virbac-Paprec the same distance behind again. Bonduelle makes up the pack of new generation boats in fourth. Brian THOMPSON (GBR) and Will OXLEY (AUS) on Skandia currently lead the next group of second generation boats, with Pro-Form, Cheminées and Roxy hard on their heels within an eight mile radius.

Open 50 Class 2 Update

The Open 50 monohull class has had varying experiences following closely behind their bigger counterparts in the IMOCA fleet entering the Bay of Biscay. Défi Vendeen last night had to divert to Brest to repair their torn Solent headsail and has as yet to set off again. On Monday morning the lead boat was still Artforms, with a clear 15 mile lead over close rivals Joe HARRIS (USA) and Josh HALL (GBR) on Gryphon Solo. Skipper Merf OWEN (GBR) was even somewhat surprised at their position, given that their strategy for the start was 'to take it easy in the strong winds' as it was more important for them to get through the heavy weather rather than be in the lead now. However, OWEN and Kip STONE (USA) have had to diverting to Lorient to repair their mainsail.

As the sun rose over Brittany on Monday, the first ORMA 60 trimarans were nearing Ushant with the tide going out, and the leading trimarans, Orange Project, Groupama-2, Foncia and Géant passed between the island and the mainland of Brittany. Banque Populaire on the other hand, opted to stay offshore and pass Ushant to the west. Both strategies seem to be looking good as now the leading boats have each made their tack out to the west, Orange Project still leads from Géant and Groupama-2 to the east of the direct route, but Banque Populaire is already positioned well in the west only 28 miles behind the leader, and could profit from this position in the hours to come.

The trimaran Brossard, skippered by Yvan BOURGNON (SUI) and Charles CAUDRELIER (FRA), has had to abandon their race as the central hull has suffered a large crack level with the mast foot along half the structure. The two French skippers have reduced sail and are making slow progress at five knots boat speed back towards land, as BOURGNON reports, 'The crack happened at around 0300 this morning: the wind and sea were pretty calm and we had just taken out the first reef and tacked to head towards the Brittany coastline. All of a sudden, I heard a massive cracking sound and saw the hull opening over my head on the deck. The crack has extended along half the main hull now… And is three centimetres wide! We're okay, we're going to try to reach Cherbourg or somewhere nearer if we have to stop before then.'

Thomas COVILLE (FRA) and Jacques VINCENT (FRA) on Sodebo had to divert to Cherbourg, arriving at 2300 hours local time on Sunday night, after their main halyard fell down, when the second reefing line 'hook' broke, which is a titanium hook holding the sail at the end of the boom. It was when the second reef was being taken out that this piece failed, leading to the main halyard also breaking. Sodebo set off again at 0230 local time Monday morning after the shore team had replaced the main halyard and titanium fitting.

In the 50 foot multihull class, the gaps are already significant since the leader, Crêpes Whaou ! is a good 30 miles ahead of Acanthe Ingénierie, in turn 34 miles ahead of third placed Gifi.

Weather Forecast By Louis BODIN

For the monohulls then multihulls the wind will establish itself from the south southwest (around 200). It will build first for the monohulls to between 25-30 knots then 35-45 knots at the end of Monday. The seas will become big, running a southwest swell, with waves of six to eight metres. For the multihulls the breeze will begin with between 15-25 knots then 25-35 knots this afternoon, and 35-45 knots overnight.

The monohulls should cross the cold front during the day based on current boat speeds. Before this moment the south southwest will remain between 35-45 knots. The strongest gusts will come then, reaching up to 50 knots. When the front passes, the southwest swell and sea running from the north west will generate big seas. Then a 30-40 knot north west breeze will prevail, dropping to 25-35 knots later. The multihulls will not be far behind in the same conditions. They should also cross the front during the day.

The north westerly 20-30 knot wind will establish itself over the whole fleet. Both mono and multihulls will be able to sail on the direct route at high speed. For the multihulls, by now ahead of the monohulls, the wind will turn gradually to the north along the Portuguese coast. The Azores High will remain in its place, thankfully, over the Azores. This will generate following winds from the north, then north east south of Portugal. These trade winds will be well established between 20-25 knots until at least Friday.

Quotes From The Boats...

Ellen MACARTHUR (Sill &Veolia): 'We're on our third sail change of the day, both of us are pretty tired and haven't had much sleep but that's normal. It feels like I've been sailing with Bilou for ages, we're getting on together really well, it's no more or less tiring than being on a multihull.'

Mike GOLDING (Ecover): 'It's been a bouncy first 24 hours but we're settling into the rhythm. Dominique is steering through some difficult waves, but we're working hard and doing well. In fact I got a bit dehydrated as it's been hard work and I wasn't drinking enough. We'll have a busy night ahead with fairly strong winds, we're heading west into the front that's coming in. I hope by tomorrow this time we'll be on our way south. The Trade winds are strong so when the breeze turns to the right after the front we'll get Ecover's big sails out and go fast.'

Jean-Pierre DICK (Virbac-Paprec): 'We had a lot of wind last night, 40 knots or so, we had to be very careful, it was really hard work and Loick and I have hardly slept. We're on our fourth tack this morning..'

Miranda MERRON (Roxy): 'The first night was exactly what one doesn't want for a race start, the wind steadily rising to 42 knots, the boat slamming hard. Nothing like settling gently into a transatlantic race! The past 24 hours have been better, a very starry night, 15 knots (much more civilized than the 40 knots we had before), a more comfortable sea state, even if it is a bit bouncy. Much easier to drink my tea. There is another low approaching, and we are in for a wet and wild night of upwind slamming.'

Merfyn OWEN (Artforms): 'Our start strategy was to take it easy in the strong winds, we've been very cautious with the sails, although we're both working hard, it's been steady going. To be in the lead is great, it wasn't important for us to be ahead now, it's more important to get across this front with no breakages.'

Franck CAMMAS (Groupama): 'It's a little uncomfortable, there's quite a sea running. Last night we were all tacking furiously on the wind shifts in the same patch of water. This morning, we crossed behind Steve [RAVUSSIN - Orange Project]. Right now we've got one reef in the main, 18 - 20 knots steady breeze and it's fairly rough out here.'

Steve RAVUSSIN (Orange): 'We've done so many manoeuvres, it was some night! Today, we're resting as much as we can, eating well too, so we can be on the attack tonight. We're very happy with our progress last night. Yvan did a good job on the helm. After a pretty arduous start because we weren't carrying the right sail combination, we got going and came back to lead the fleet level with Casquets. The staysail, it's a bit much! We unfurled it before Cherbourg and we were going really well afterwards. We're not relying much on the autopilots when the sea is this big. You need to be at the helm constantly, especially at night, to keep the boat speed up in these conditions.'

Hugues DESTREMAU (Géant): 'We're heading into the next low pressure system which should give us plenty to do. On board a multi in these conditions, it's pretty horrible, you are on the receiving end of every wave and the spray is quite violent when it hits you on deck. Whoever's helming does what he can to soften the blows on the boat, but it's not fun!'

For all the news on the Transat Jacques Vabre CLICK HERE.

Mary Ambler (As Amended By ISAF). Image, Sill et Veolia:© Yann Zedda
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