A long, industrious, testing 24 hours for both of the leading Ultime skippers in the 2010 Route du Rhum-La Banque Postale sees Thomas Coville start to come back at the so far completely dominant Groupama 3 of Franck Cammas.
Coville has pushing as hard as he dares on the giant red tri Sodebo, reporting to today's lunchtime radio vacation that he had been regularly making 33-34 knots, and has posted the highest 24 hours run yet of this edition of the race, making 519 miles as his northerly routing now sees him in stronger and more consistent wind than Cammas.
If Coville had the pedal pressed to the floor, Franck Cammas
was spending much of time trying to knit together the best pressure he could find and stay away from the squally clouds which had slowed him, sucking away the breeze. His need to be constantly vigilant was certainly draining the Groupama 3 skipper, but much more it was the regular sail configuration changes and manoeuvres on the powerful multi, usually sailed by a crew of ten, which was sapping his strength.
Sodebo's surge has clawed back 40 miles on Groupama 3 since yesterday evening, and 86 in 24 hours. Cammas lead is scaled back to 260 miles with about 1340 miles to go to the finish in Guadeloupe. Present speeds suggest there is about three days left for them to race, but the weather files also suggest a sting in the tail, in the form of a big zone of light winds to traverse. Both skippers have pointed out that it is not over yet, and Coville's gains are set to continue, but for how long?
Francis Joyon hangs in nicely in third on Idec, matching nearly exactly Sodebo's VMG, but the solo round the world record ace has managed to pull nearly 50 miles clear on Yann Guichard on Gitana XI. The race record tri has strayed further south and has been stricken by light, squally winds, speeds dropping to single figures for much of the time. Guichard's deficit to Groupama 3 is now 453 miles.
In the IMOCA Class it is the 2006 class winning Roland Jourdain (Veolia Environnement) who jumped free of the pack this morning with his optimal routing through the front, earning the first shot at the brisk 20 knots NE'ly breezes which should arc this leading group on a fast course all the way down to the French West Indies. While it was the most northerly path which paid for this IMOCA vanguard, those on the lower, southerly line of this main back and slightly back suddenly struggled. Spare a thought for
Christopher Pratt on DCNS 1000. After an impressive opening to his first solo IMOCA Open 60 ocean race, he erred only a little too far south and was punished by losing the best part of 100 miles in a character-building 24 hours. Meantime the Jackal, Armel Le Cléac'h (Brit Air) lurks poised in second, and third and fourth placed PRB and Virbac-Paprec 3 - new VPLP/Verdier designs of Vincent Riou and J-P Dick pace each other only 3 miles apart on the water.
Marc Guillmot (Safran) did not have to look for his troubles. An unidentified floating object kicked up the leeward rudder on Safran spinning him into a broach. As he was knocked flat, the IMOCA world champion - frantically pumping his primary coffee grinder winch - could only watch as a key gennaker broke its ties and slipped out of the cockpit. It took Guillemot 45 minutes to tidy up the resulting yard sale and get himself on his way.
And 165 miles SE of the Azores, Michel Desjoyeaux looks poised to pass Arnaud Boissières, closing to within three miles of Akena Vérandas on his new Foncia. But the Professor and Cali have still been losing miles to the leaders, 100 between 2000hrs Thursday night and 1600hrs, now 249 miles behind.
Long time leader Thomas Ruyant (Destination Dunkerque) may lead the Class 40 fleet by 17 miles, but the MiniTransat winner was ready to light the afterburners as he emerged first through the front and into the fast downwind conditions. Ruyant was counting down to the second he could really push on and try and earn more miles on second placed Sam Manuard on Vector Plus.
Kiwi Conrad Colman has been by far the quickest boat in the fleet, forcing his way into the Top 10, ninth now on the chartered Owen-Clarke 40 Degrees, continuing his impressive ascent from 22nd.
A temporary repair to the steering mechanism linked to his pilot unfortunately has not held for Swiss skipper Bernard Stamm and he is on course to get down to the Azores to make a proper repair. If Stamm can have the right part waiting on the dock he reckons it would be a half hour pit-stop. If not it might be longer. But Stamm has light winds ready to encroach on him.
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