Banque Populaire, Groupama, Bayer CropScience, Géant and Bonduelle are now sailing in the Alboran Sea while Banque Covefi, Gitana, Sergio Tacchini, Sopra Group and Sodebo are still in the grasp of the Atlantic. In stark contrast to the chasing pack the leaders have been beaten and bruised by intense winds, 46 knots for Groupama and 45 knots for Banque Populaire!
Banque Populaire was leading the merry fleet at the 0400 GMT rankings this morning followed by Groupama, 6.1 miles behind. Bayer CropScience, currently 3rd, lies just 20 miles behind the trimaran of Franck CAMMAS. And though the passage of the Straits of Gibraltar has been pretty full on for the lead trio with 40 to 45 knots, everyone is now in for the quiet zone. The east north-easterly wind requires a good deal of tacking and though the current leader is playing the air along the Spanish coast, its immediate pursuer is tickling the Moroccan shores.
Further back in the rankings, but nonetheless impressive, Sodebo has made a remarkable comeback lying just 20 miles to the stern of Sopra Group, just 200 miles from the morning's leader. Following its dismasting, Belgacom is still motoring 10 miles off the Spanish coast this morning. Foncia is being towed and should finally reach Portugal at the end of the morning. Finally Gitana has made it into Cadiz to repair a broken centreboard hoping to get back into the race in a few hours.
The Straits of Gibraltar have really lived up to their name! "Files promise 25 knot winds over Gibraltar yet it's risen to 40 knots says Lalou Roucayrol on Banque Populaire. It's not been a particularly pleasurable section but the guys aboard have been exemplary. We are proud of this passage as we've been carrying out manoeuvres non-stop and have ended up with 3 to 4 miles on Groupama. It's good to know that we didn't do all that for nothing! ". Quite right Mr Lalou ROUCAYROL as at the early morning ranking, Banque Populaire was indeed the leader of this Challenge Mondial Assistance with 6.1 little miles advance on Groupama. "It's true that we are just a little pack up front and I think that we're going to end up being five or six boats in a pocket handkerchief. I don't know who the others will be for the moment but for our part we're weaving our way through the calm awaiting a more regular wind. But it is there, it's just in front of us!".
And though there was nothing Banque Populaire could do but wait it was sailing at 9 knots at the moment of the positions, Groupama threading its way along at 13 knots… "It's been quite a stressful night with a light zone which lasted 5 to 6 hours conceded Franck Proffit on Groupama. Now we're coming into a more regular flow and we know we're on the right track. But the start of the night was really very hard! That's the magic and the pleasure of multihulls where you can quickly create differences of 20 miles without problem!".
The best example of this is unquestionably Sodebo, who, after stopping for several hours at the Trinité-sur-Mer the day after the start, is now less than 100 miles from the Straits of Gibraltar. Mere double figures : Thomas COVILLE and his 'Sodeboys' had racked up 327 miles delay behind the leader yesterday at the same time, with just 208 miles this morning. A fantastic comeback.
The five chasers trailing the fleet (Banque Covefi, Gitana, Sergio Tacchini, Sopra Group and Sodebo) who didn't pass the Straits of Gibraltar yesterday or last night are currently caught up in terrible calms, the famous effects of the accordion this time playing a jarring tune in their own personal concert.
"As regards performance, the wind has abandoned us and ripped away our chances of seeing Gibraltar before midnight" wrote Marc GUESSARD on Gitana in the middle of the night. "The speedometer at 0, it's been a long time since we've seen that! The night-time battle promises to be harsh and I hope it's not going to be like Trafalgar and that the leading boats aren't going to escape with a weather system that seems to have forgotten us!". Sadly the battle did not pass without injury and Gitana has just limped into Cadiz at the time of writing. As we see it: the entry into the Mediterranean has succeeded in concocting an unpredictable cocktail of extremes…
At 1720 GMT yesterday Belgacom contacted Race Headquarters in Paris to report that it had dismasted in the seas of Cadiz. All are safe and sound. The boats technical team will join the boat at Gibralter to assess the situation. At the time of the dismasting Belgacom was 35 miles from Cadiz and in fourth place.