Sunday's big news is the retirement by British sailor Mike GOLDING (Ecover)! For some days, it has been apparent that his monohull have been experiencing technical issues: "This is not a decision I take easily. I am not given to giving up in the face of adversity but this is about what I consider good seamanship. There is too much at stake to put the boat through unnecessary miles in this condition. The primary goal of doing this Transat Ecover BtoB race was to qualify for the Vendee Globe, and to get racing miles under our keel in a competitive mode. As soon as we finished the Transat Jacques Vabre we had a discussion with the ECOVER 3 technical team and we decided I would do it only if the boat was in competitive shape, which it definitely was at the start. Due to these problems we are no longer competitive. Minor issues can become much bigger problems on the Bay of Biscay in December. From here on it would only be a trial of my ability to keep the boat together, in no way learning more about the things we need to do for the future... The forthcoming 600-odd miles will be a challenge in their own right and it is not going be an easy five days in this kind of mode".
GOLDING intends to make for the Canaries to resolve his problems which cannot be fixed singlehanded...
Indeed, the solo sailors are no longer making headway at 100% of their potential, except perhaps DESJOYEAUX (Foncia) who may well be able to put the pressure on the leader PEYRON (Gitana Eighty) over the next few days, the latter remaining handicapped by his lack of mast wand. The leader is currently managing to maintain his advance but he'll have to keep a careful eye on DE PAVANT (Groupe Bel) !
"It's a cushy Sunday!" comment DE PAVANT. "Some good conditions with 20-25 knots of E'ly wind, two reefs in the mainsail and staysail. I'm making 17 knots of boatspeed… I've had some problems with my reefing lines but as the wind is easing this evening or overnight it should be okay. After that we will end up with a SW'ly wind all the way to the finish! Being second is good news but nobody is racing at 100%! I've checked my keel for the same problems as Safran's but all is well. We should finish on either Thursday or Friday."
Whilst the solo sailors battle through the easing tradewinds, the storm has kicked in over the finish zone of Brittany, with gusts at over 60 knots! Making fairly good headway towards the goal, Yann ELIÈS (FRA) on Generali finally unveiled the causes of his performance, which has dipped below the theoretical potential of his monohull of late: "It was an active night on deck. In the squalls I had anything from 0 to 20 knots so it wasn't a very prolific night in terms of making headway and I lost a bit of ground. I have tried to anticipate the high pressure zone and make some westing but in the middle of the night there were squalls and I had to battle to get out of their clutches. Before the Doldrums my genoa was keen to split in two and then it did just that inside the doldrums. I tried repairing it whilst I was in there. The Solent is in pretty much the same state and it's not possible to make repairs whilst the winds are so fickle. As a result I'm currently sailing under small jib, forced to bear away in the high winds in order to roll it in and limit the damage. The wind has kicked back in now, we have 14/15 knots of boatspeed and 17/20 knots of wind. It's a bit wet and we're looking forward to turning right. I am fairly sure I'll make it to the finish. I am an "Eliès"..."
As for DESJOYEAUX, the tone was more striking and the atmosphere calmer: "There have been copious amounts of rain and we've had a few passages of squalls, which involve a lot of work. Now we're in the North you can feel it getting colder and the fleeces are out. Conditions now look to be stabilising with 26/27 knots of wind but the high pressure trap still lies ahead. There may be a little way through perhaps but we have to wait for the new grib files to confirm that. I'm downloading 4 files a day so that takes a bit of work!..."
In short, the weather conditions will considerably improve over the next few hours for the whole fleet, but the slower progress at the front of the pack should see the chasing group squeezing up with them, Yannick BESTAVEN (FRA) on Cervin EnR leading the revolt after a great performance since the start. Britain's Dee CAFFARI (Aviva) was back on the warpath again too, delighted to have completed her rather extensive job list at Sunday's radio session. "Conditions are much improved aboard. The sun is shining, the winds have eased and the seas have calmed down. Best of all though - I've completed my job's list and the two holes I had in my mainsail have now been repaired. This afternoon I'm fixing the lashing on my headsail and then that's that. I'm now happy sailing along and concentrating on making headway."
No real initiatives are likely to be dealt out at the moment, the fleet on virtually an identical trajectory, making northing. However, with the Azores High ahead of the fleet, that may well all change. The wind is progressively shifting round to the South, which will enable the sailors to shorten the course by heading towards the goal. After this high pressure 'lull', the objective remains to quickly catch onto the depression which will sweep across the Azores archipelago from Monday onwards and leave the fleet in downwind conditions... They'll have to hurry though because behind the front, the breeze will shift around to the East in the Bay of Biscay, enabling the frontrunners to extend their lead at the end... Amongst these leaders, it is DESJOYEAUX and DE PAVANT who are best kitted up to rock the supremacy of PEYRON, acquired back at the Doldrums!
Transat Ecover-BtoB - www.transatbtob.com