Sébastien JOSSE and BT are out of the Artemis Transat, with Vincent RIOU taking over the lead as the fleet closes in on the ice gate.
The big news this morning was naturally the retirement of Sébastien JOSSE (FRA), plagued by a broken mainsail headcar, and unable to climb up the mast given the sea state - the race certainly loses one of its great animators, yet the BT skipper managed to remain positive about the incident.
"Of course pulling out at that stage is a big disappointment, but you know these things can happen. We've seen the boat was capable of being ahead of the best of the IMOCA fleet, that means our optimization process was based on the right choices. I'm going back towards Brittany under sails, and those miles will count for my Vendée qualifier - I'm not wasting my time! Moreover, we've done all our preparation in five weeks, and compared to the other teams who have been working for two to three years, if we would've won this race, somehow it would've been a hold-up,"
A rather magnanimous thing to underline, a statement which proves there isn't a hint of bitterness in JOSSE's perception of the situation. Now it's time to head home towards Lorient, end of the story - and don't count on JOSSE to make a big drama out of this.
Another retirement also followed on Sunday evening, with Spain's Unai BASURKO deciding to pull out of the race after languishing in light airs at the back of the fleet.
At the front, the leaders still have 200 miles to go to the ice gate while the finish line is 1,120 miles away. Vincent RIOU (FRA) and PRB took over at the front following BT's retirement and have maintained that position overnight. PRB is progressing upwind at around 10 knots of speed this morning after RIOU tacked yesterday at 22:00 and gained south. Loick PEYRON (FRA) onboard Gitana Eighty lies second and managed to reduce the gap by three miles at the last polling, whilst third place Armel LE CLÉAC'H (FRA) on Brit Air Brit Air gained 6 miles on the leader. Diving as expected to join the leading pack, Generali is now 89 miles away from PRB in terms of distance to the finish.
The news of BT's retirement was commentated throughout the fleet on Sunday, which was already a busy time for everyone, with the skippers trying to analyze what had been happening in the dark during the 36-hours positions blackout. The most obvious move was PEYRON's tack, favoured by a wind shift to the west at about 22:00 UTC on Friday.
"I had planned to tack, but of course I waited for the blackout",
said Gitana Eighty's skipper on Sunday morning, "I think it was a good move in terms of saving some manoeuvres and efforts in the long run."
Still a bit stuck in the north and impatiently awaiting stronger winds, fourth placed Yann ELIES (FRA) aboard Generali pointed out an interesting fact on Sunday morning. "The thing to remember is that Loick and myself are already qualified for the Vendée Globe, which isn't Armel and Vincent's case. It's still a long way upwind towards Boston after the ice gate, and we will be more comfortable pushing our boats since we don't have the same pressure regarding our presence in this winter's big event - that is an important factor I think. As far as I'm personally concerned, I'm still stuck up there, but there is a chance for me to dive at some point later during the coming night, so we'll see. For the moment, I don't Know why light airs stick to me like that,"
concluded a very cheerful and well-rested ELIES. "I had a good sleep this morning, because one of the advantages of sailing upwind is that the pilot is as fast as the helmsman, so I might as well take naps."
Class 40 Battle
Amongst the Class 40 fleet, Giovanni SOLDINI (ITA) onboard Telecom Italia still leads, with his advantage standing at 47 miles at the latest poll.
As the 36 hour blackout lifted at 06:00 UTC on Sunday morning, the middle of the fleet was becoming claustrophobic with six yachts grouped within 9 miles in terms of distance to finish: a spread that increased by just 2 miles over the course of the day. "There's really nothing in it,"
confirmed Alex BENNETT on Fujifilm on Sunday morning. In the afternoon, Bennett was in seventh place, and had moved up to sixth by this morning. "It's amazing how tight it is and this is as tight as offshore sailboat racing is ever going to get," he continued. "It's really neck-and-neck and there's everything to play for. I really think it's anybody's race."
Behind SOLDINI, the northerly duo of Thierry BOUCHARD (FRA) on Mistral Loisirs - Pole Santé ELIOR and Yvan NOBLET (FRA) on Appart' City have moved into second and third place respectively.
Artemis Transat - www.theartemistransat.com