This Scottish night has brought with it a number of surprises. The first is that the wind that should have taken a right turn held on desperately to its north-easterly, right on the noses of the fleet.
The second surprise was that the leading quartet have opened up a lead on Sébastien Josse's VMI who was 37.8 miles behind the leader at 0700 BST and positioned considerably further west.
And as Vincent RIOU (PRB) said at the morning session: "Bar a "coup de Trafalgar", I don't see how they ( VMI and Team 888) can come back now!"
. The third surprise is doubtless still to come. The passage to the Shetlands is proving more delicate as the wind is weak and rounding the heights of the Scottish land mass may reveal hidden windless zones. The leading duo are already thinking about it and the passage may well see some fluctuations in speed where certain boats are blocked and others escape. The calms of Saint-Kilda remains in everyone's minds and nobody wants to see their little friends slipping past while they're stopped. Suspense guaranteed.
The fleet will be on the approach to the Shetlands at around 1200 hours today in weak winds. With the leaders so grouped together the leader may well be at a distinct disadvantage as he shows all the others the routes to take and not to take. The wind shadow resulting from the effects of the land will also come into play…
For the moment, the fleet are crossing and re-crossing each others paths some 50 miles from the mark to be rounded. « The night was quite calm said Vincent Riou (PRB). We're tacking and for the moment we can't see anyone but I'm sure that once the sun is higher we'll be able to see our friends with the binoculars. We're sailing in 8/10 knots of wind and we are waiting for a cleaner wind shift to kick in. VMI and Team 888 have taken lots of risks (wedging themselves in the west in relation to a north-eastern passage mark). The Shetlands will be pretty tricky and to approach downwind of the islands may well be risky. We'll really have to be careful. The passage marks like this are always a little bit stressful and there may be some nasty surprises in store ».
Vincent sums up the situation of the moment perfectly. Using maximum speed and tactics the orange, silver and white PRB is 1.4 miles ahead of the red cigar of Sill and 1.9 miles in front of Bobst Group Armor Lux.
Roland JOURDAIN on Sill sounded like he had just come back from a run having just rushed back from the foredeck. We have Bernard (STAMM) in our sights. It was a quiet night. We have 10 knots of wind on a fairly flat sea. It's feels good to be gliding along and our solent is suffering less. The night are short and pleasant and there was even a slice of moon last night… the angle of it is quite funny. Basically after the Shetlands the further we turn right the more the wind passes round to the south… » he puffs... In short, the fleet will have to take on the North Sea with wind on the nose; upwind just for a change!
During the night Ecover has made a great comeback but VMI and Team 888 are set to lose ground once again in the hours to come. It doesn't look like the chasing group will benefit from conditions which enable them to get back in contact. Today may well isolate the leading quartet in the general ranking this evening.
The phrase of the morning remains nonetheless with Jean Le Cam on Sill who peered out from his duvet while Roland Jourdain was speaking to race headquarters this morning saying : "It can't get any better than this, can it?"