With a north north-easterly 20 knot wind, organised sea and a beautiful starry night above their heads, the leaders of this second edition of the Challenge Mondial Assistance make the most of the conditions.
Bayer CropScience should have been the first to pass the Cap Finisterre (north-westerly point of Spain) from which it was 35 miles away to the north north-west at 0400 GMT. Hot on its heels, Belgacom was 0.3 miles behind followed by Banque Populaire and Groupama, who made a fine comeback to the west of the Bay of Biscay.
A similar situation for Foncia (5th) who was situated 21.8 miles behind the leader in the early hours of the morning. All change however when Groupama shot it into the lead at the 0600 GMT ranking. Sodebo helmed by Thomas Coville left Trinité-sur-Mer at 2130hrs last night after repairing the damage to the solent stay. For its part, Bonduelle had to sail for eight hours without a mainsail following breaking battens.
"It's been a studious night on Bayer CropScience and that feels good after what we had yesterday afternoon",
said Fred Dahirel at the race session. "With the passage of the front and the wind shift, the sea was all over the place and we had to repaint everywhere! Since then we have been completely soaked! You could say that the humid good times roll on Bayer…!"
It has to be said that Bayer CropScience is having a blinder at the moment and its leading position in the seas off the Spanish point confirmed that in the 0400 GMT ranking.
But behind, three protagonists were stepping up the pace : Belgacom was positioned 0.3 miles behind followed by Banque Populaire at 3.1 miles and a Groupama in great shape after taking the westerly option, started coming back into contact with the trio. 8 little miles separated Franck Cammas from Jean Maurel at the end of the night and the descent down the Iberian coast promises to be both fast and intriguing. "We are giving it our all, and trying to recuperate what we lost out on at the start of the course"
, said Mayeul Riffet, team member aboard Banque Populaire. "The wind is around twenty knots to 40° (north-east) and we are gliding along under spinnaker at high speed. We have the impression that we're playing a game of cat and mouse as we are continually coming across lights. We passed within 50 metres of Bayer earlier! And though for the moment we are on a pretty much direct route, we will have to take a westerly at a given moment."
And yes, the ingredients of the ideal gybe take on great importance now, along with the intrinsic performance of the boats when reaching, vigilance is once against in force to know when and where you have to perform these direction changes when sailing downwind. Whatever the case the whole fleet is currently sailing under gennaker and is making sustained gains to the south of the playing field. The Cap Saint-Vincent (south-westerly point of Portugal) was around 400 miles away this morning, a distance that the trimarans can cheerfully swallow up in 24 hours. A gliding section is now assured as far as the final approach to the Straits of Gibraltar.
Sodebo headed back into the race at around 2130 GMT yesterday night from the Trinité-sur-Mer after repairing the titanium piece used to hold the solent stay. Thomas Coville and his men were 243.7 miles behind the leader at 0600 GMT this morning and sailing in a north-westerly 23 knot average flow at the end of the night.As for Bonduelle, Jean Le Cam was forced to drop his mainsail for eight hours to fix some broken battens. Contacted at the end of the night, Jean Le Cam explained, "The wind spun round quickly from the south-west to the north-west and we had a pretty ferocious sea coming at us. We could have gone fast but we couldn't allow ourselves to do that. We stopped dead. It was brutal, followed by a restart that wasn't very good for the mainsail. We had to drop the sail in order to repair it. Now it's been done but we're making the most of the night to rest as we didn't sleep much the first evening!"
At the 0600 GMT ranking things had changed somewhat with Bonduelle 97.2 miles from the leader this morning, first place Groupama and second Banque Populaire with Bayer dropping to third place behind. Foncia's westerly option seems to have paid off with a fine fifth place and Sergio Tacchini is similarly marching up the rankings with ninth place.