A southerly 26 knot breeze meant that these flying machines could reach off the line at speeds of over 30 knots with two reefs and staysail set, spray exploding off the hulls. The tacking battle through the English Channel now ensues...
Leading the IMOCA 60 fleet by a small five mile margin at the 121400 GMT position report yesterdsay, Sill et Veolia has been sticking to the direct route through the English channel, followed closely in her wake by Ecover in second, with Roxy and Galileo picking up their trail only ten miles behind. Third to fifth placed Virbac-Paprec, Bonduelle, Pro-Form, along with seventh placed Cheminées Poujoulat have opted to stay more in the middle of the English Channel, but will converge on Sill's track about 50 miles north of Ushant. UUDS is sticking closest to the Brittany coastline inshore and has picked back up to sixth in the rankings. Skandia and Mare Verticale on the other hand, in eighth and twelfth respectively, are the most northerly boats. These latter two, along with Roxy, were the last to tack off to starboard. With only 20 miles separating the top ten, the gaps are still negligible in the fleet, and the average boat speed has risen back up to twelve knots as they dive south in the Westerly wind shift.
The fleet reported a particularly rough night and 'winds of up to 41 knots' as clocked by Kito DE PAVANT (FRA) on Bonduelle. The yellow boat suffered broken mainsail battens and took a hit in the rankings as they battled in the difficult seas to replace them. Similarly, Brazilian skipper, Walter ANTUNES, sent a message in overnight saying that the main halyard had already broken, as well as the battens. 'We have replaced all of them, but one of our daggerboards is stuck. No risk, just hard to be competitive with both daggerboards down.' Australian Will OXLEY on Skandia was able to make light of a rather bizarre floating obstruction which slowed them this morning. 'Found 20m of 150mm diameter rope wrapped around keel twice!! Backed down and eventually got hold of an end and unwrapped it. Now we are back up to speed but with some work to do!' No one else had time to communicate with the race office, too busy managing the demands of the conditions on deck.
After the passage of the front on the approach to Ushant this morning, the south westerly blow has dropped from 45 knots to 20 knots and rotated to the west. Opportunity knocks in this transition and the monohulls are one by one able to make their first tack of the race onto starboard to get as much southing into their route as they can entering the Bay of Biscay before they encounter a deeper low pressure system this afternoon. This is the calm before the next storm.
Amongst the seven boats in the Open 50 fleet, the two Anglo-American teams in first and second, Artforms and Gryphon Solo, are the furthest apart they have ever been since the start - which is only half a dozen miles! They are, however, separated by eight degrees of latitude as Joe HARRIS (USA) and Josh HALLON (GBR) Gryphon Solo had not yet tacked off onto starboard at the position report but Kip STONE (USA) and Merfyn OWEN (GBR) on Artforms are the most inshore boat of the whole monohull fleet. These two have broken away from the rest of class 2, now 20 miles ahead of third placed Vedettes de Bréhat. Top 50, Adecco and Polarity Solo are making slower progress in the adverse weather but are all still very much in the race.
The wind come return from the south west force 6 to 8 overnight with the arrival of two cold fronts which will fuse as they pass over the tip of Brittany.
Expected to be off Ushant at sunrise today, the Open 60 multihulls should benefit from this calmer westerly breeze to gain ground to the south inside the Bay of Biscay, before the arrival of an active and fast-moving system which will see the wind swing back to the southwest and build to 30 knots on Monday night.
Yvan BOURGNON (Brossard): 'I'm not complaining, these are tough conditions but ideal considering that we'll certainly have wind all the way to the Canaries. If there's anything I can't stand more it's not having any wind at all.'
Fred LE PEUTREC (Gitana XI): 'The forecast is strong but clear and as we'd expect in November. The first 48 hours will be tough, more from the sea state, but our boats are proven and we're ready. Of course these boats are highly technical and things might break…so it's down to us to manage the set up and to do as much as possible in the hope that this will bring us victory in Bahia!'
Thomas COVILLE (Sodebo): 'A good sailor never wishes to sail in bad weather, but we'll really be able to see what our boat can do compared to the others in these tough conditions. [Sodebo is the widest in the fleet and the best performing in heavy weather] We'll need to be careful though…saying that these are the kind of conditions I love, we'll see whether they will turn out to be a good or bad omen for us.'
Kito DE PAVANT (Bonduelle): 'We saw up to 41 knots last night between 0300 and 0700. We had quite a few problems with setting the ORC and broken mainsail battens. So we've taken an initial hit in the rankings because we battled twice for half an hour to repair this in very difficult conditions. This will be a transition day because the front may be more violent than the one we experienced last night.'
Walter ANTUNES (Galileo): 'We had quite an eventful night. Broken batten, broken main halyard. We have replaced all of them, but one of our daggerboards is stuck. No risk, just hard to be competitive with both daggerboards down. We hope to solve this problem and other small ones to proceed to Brazil.'
Will OXLEY (Skandia): 'Last night Skandia felt like a bashful girl at the beach not knowing how far to disrobe! She started with one reef and solent then two reefs then reefed solent, then staysail then third reef in the main. By the end we were touching 40 knots with driving spray. Modesty has now reasserted herself and we are back to a proper dressed lady with full main and solent. And so we await the next front for the disrobing to begin again.'