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11 November 2003, 12:00 am
Leaders Round Cape Verde
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www.alexthompsonracing.com

Transat Jacques-Vabre
France - Brazil

Groupama leads the top 4 boats past the Cape Verde Islands to the East; Sergio Tacchini loses second to Géant; backmarkers take radical routes to find their own breeze.
Multihull Open 60's

The multihulls up in front are all on the Easterly side of the rhumb line and the top four passing through Cape Verde Islands to the East as well. Now there is more of a procession forming as Groupama (Cammas/Proffit) consolidates her lead, but finds Géant (Desjoyeaux/Jan) behind her now in second place 86m in her rear. Sergio Tacchini (Fauconnier/Foxall) dropped a couple of knots in boatspeed on her direct southerly route and has dropped to third too. Fourth placed Belgacom (Nélias/L.Peyron) is rearing up, clocking the fastest speed at 24 knots in the trades positioned furthest in the West than the top three.

After falling into a nasty wind hole yesterday Foncia (Gautier/MacArthur) is now struggling in 11th place 673m behind the top boat and not yet in the full force of the trades. Interesting will be to follow Banque Populaire (Roucayrol/Bidegorry) right over at 18W just scraping down the African coast, and on the other side of the field Biscuits La Trinitaine (Guillemot/Guessard) right over at 26 W in 5th place. The trimarans set back from the leaders by a good 150m are having to think of something radical to get back in touch with the leaders and are looking for some unique wind flow elsewhere on the course.


Monohull Open 60's

Virbac stays ahead, but Sill has been eating into their lead, and pulling ahead of Ecover, little by little. Team Cowes try to take advantage of more Westerly position to sail at a hotter angle in the trades and catch PRB.

Virbac is now at the latitude of the Cape Verde Islands as they cross the halfway mark of the Transat Jacques Vabre and settle into the next 1,860m of sailing in the NE, then SE trades with a fairly whopping 159m lead at this stage. All is not lost for the skippers chasing Jean-Pierre Dick and Nicolas Abiven are mentally driven to win, and are waiting in the wings for something to befall the leading boat or for the winds of fortune to change in their favour, and as we have already seen, anything can still happen, especially as the new generation Open 60's are being tried and tested on the race course.

Alex THOMSON & Roland JOURDAIN on Sill had a bad day yesterday but overnight hit the full force of the trade winds and gained back the lost miles on both nearest rivals and fully aim to extend their lead over Ecover in the next two days as they are positioned 180m to the west and a fraction further south on the inside track. Thomson explains: "It's going to become much harder for Ecover to gain when we get closer together. Ideally I want us to be on the same longitude as them, and ahead, then we'll be in the same weather and we can control our lead better. We know where we want to cross the Doldrums, and think it will be an easy passage through, which will suit us. After that, Ecover will be in a strong position with another upwind phase, but then it will be full-on reaching to the finish, which is where this boat is dynamite. Virbac is controlling the race, but with the changes we've already witnessed in the last 10 days, really they could still get into trouble. They've made good calls on two of the obstacles so far, the final one is still to come and things could still change…"

Brian THOMPSON on Ecover gets out his motivational speech as the two British skippers focus on the task ahead: "We're back in the race for second place with Sill, they are only 35 miles ahead. They have a good wind angle for the Doldrums, better than our wind angle, but it's close racing again. Two hundred miles is a good lead for Virbac and it's not going to be easy to overtake those miles, but we are certainly going to try. Our first deal is to try and get back into 2nd, see if we can do that by the Doldrums, but one step at a time."

Sam DAVIES on Team Cowes (Moloney/Davies) talks about the big obstacle for the second half of the race: "Sailing past the halfway mark is just part of the race - the next real milestone for us is going through the Doldrums - its a very tricky place which potentially can really win for you or lose. We are still making as much west as we can as Meeno [weather router] has a pretty good idea of where he wants us to cross but keeping the option flexible as well. It's really hard knowing the right place to go into the Doldrums because they are still 2 days away and the weather charts are very changeable." Team Cowes are still clinging to the coat tails of PRB (Riou/Beyou) in 4th position and 37m ahead, and could nose their bow ahead in latitude from their Westerly position just as Sill has done on Ecover.

Monohull Open 50's

In the Open 50 fleet, Hellomoto is still maintaining her lead of 41m over Storagetek (Guillemot/Salnelle) and is pulling away from third placed boat Défi Vendéen 108m in her wake as they continue down the direct route. Storagetek is actually lower in latitude but much further over to the East as the top two boats pass below 32N.

Weather Forecast

The Doldrums will not be an obstacle for the fleet as whoever enters first should come out the other side in the same place, but more interesting for those who enter on the same latitude. Between 25 and 30 West the zone is evenly spread and in general the Doldrums are slightly lower in latitude because of the well established trades on both sides. It is wiser to be working on your strategy to get into the South East trades where an easterly position would be favourable as the wind angles will be better. The days to come: The SE trades are well established and spread to 10S so will accompany the boats nearly all the way to the finish.

Full positions are available on the event website at the address below.
Mary Ambler
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