09 November 2023 - 13h33

One problem after another



From Brest to Cascais, including Lorient, Vigo and La Coruna… Several IMOCAs and a handful of Class40 boats, who were the worst hit in the severe conditions have headed for shelter to carry out a pit stop. Some have already set sail again, while others are still hard at work trying to get their boat back in shape. The IMOCA, Maitre CoQ V (Bestaven / Pulve), whose mainsail was torn and the brand new Class40 Legallais (Delahaye / Douguet) whose structure was damaged, are heading for port. Most of those that stopped, firmly intend to set sail again and make their way to Martinique.





FIVE IMOCAS CARRYING OUT PIT STOPS


We learnt yesterday evening that Maitre CoQ V had serious problems with her mainsail after the treacherous conditions in the front. For Biotherm (Meilhat / Lobato), who sheltered in Brest, and MACSF (Joschke / Brasseur) who made it to Lorient during the night, it is out of the question for them to continue the race without this sail. To carry out repairs, Yannick Bestaven, the winner of the last Vend?e Globe and his co-skipper, Julien Pulve, decided to continue southwards to Vigo, in NW Spain. “We did think about stopping in Lorient, but to be able to get going again quickly, it seemed better to moor Maitre CoQ V up in Vigo,” explained Jean-Marie Dauris, the team manager. This morning, the IMOCA was about to reach this port to carry out repairs as quickly as possible.

The Swiss pair on Oliver Heer Ocean Racing, who had rigging problems, reached Camaret at around midnight. Six hours later, Oliver Heer and Nils Palmieri set off again almost 500 miles behind the fleet leaders. The conditions for their return to racing are not going to be easy. The pair hope that they will be manageable enough to allow them to weather out the storm and leave the Bay of Biscay behind them.










For two other IMOCAs, Groupe APICIL (Seguin / Bourgues), who suffered a broken boom yesterday and Lazare (Le Turquais / De Navacelle) who suffered an ingress of water on the starboard side after colliding with a UFO, the clock is ticking in Lorient. Both aim to set sail again to be able to complete this Transat Jacques Vabre. “For us, the race aspect is over, but our current challenge is to repair the boat to get back out there and cross the finish line before the closing date on 1st December,” explained Tanguy le Turquais, whose pink boat reached the pontoon at 2200hrs UTC.

“There is a lot of disappointment and frustration, as when the damage occurred, we were doing well. Laurent (Bourgues) and I thought the worst was over, but that wasn’t to be, unfortunately. It’s three in the morning and everyone is busy working here,” Damien Seguin told us. Because of the unstable conditions, he will not set sail again on his Groupe Apicil before Friday.







FOUR CLASS40S CARRYING OUT PIT STOPS


In the South of the Bay of Biscay, the Class40 crews are patching up their boats after the damage they suffered. The damage was particularly severe for the pair on Legallais, who had been well positioned up with the frontrunners sailing along the coast of Portugal. But then, they suddenly slammed into a wave and the violent shock damaged the forward structure of this brand new boat. This morning, Fabien Delahaye and Corentin Douguet decided to head for Cascais, to evaluate the extent of the damage.




Then, there was Curium Life Forward (Lepesqueux / de Hareng), who was also not spared and has now decided to turn back. “An ingress of water aboard. We’re going back to Lorient. Really unlucky,” wrote Marc Lepesqueux, who had only just overcome his electronic problems. “Yet another race in the race,” added the skipper from Normandy, who has had a series of problems. In Lorient, he will see the crew from Le Havre with The Sea Cleaners - Univerre – ENSM (Courbon / Champion), who are doing what they can to fit a new spar to the boat, after she was dismasted on Monday.

For others, it was a matter of a lightning pit stop. The all-women duo on Bleuet de France (Cormouls-Houles / de Fleurian) have done well after a headsail problem and a U-Bolt problem. They popped into the harbour in Cario in Spain to climb the mast and have been back at sea since midnight. The Spaniards on Mussulo (Caldas / Peixoto) set sail again yesterday evening from La Coruna after repairing their broken wind instruments. The crew of Trimcontrol (Le Gallais / Vroon) reached Vigo last night after their bowsprit was broken. At noon today, from Lorient to Cascais, including Vigo, four pairs are carrying out pit stops still in Class40.

We should also mention the hard work and perseverance of the sailors on Qwanza (Marie / Battesti). The two skippers of the oldest boat in the fleet still racing in this class took it in turns at the helm after their autopilot stopped working. They managed to get it up and running again yesterday…





09 November 2023 - 10h56

After the storm, brainstorming time



Yesterday was a remarkable day with a series of incidents. Two boats retired (STAND AS ONE and Primonial) and nine boats are carrying out pit stops (the latest one being the Class40 Legallais). Today is likely to be a more tactical one in the Atlantic. 90% of the fleet of the Transat Jacques Vabre Normandie Le Havre is lining up from the middle of the Bay of Biscay to Madeira and everyone is now thinking about how to deal with the area of high pressure facing them on their route to the South. Downwind sails are already in place for some, but they won’t be picking up the trade winds for a while. On the other hand, for the ULTIMs, the long downwind run towards Martinique has now begun. The duel at the front remains just as exciting with Banque Populaire XI in great form since yesterday.







ULTIM: DUEL IN THE SUN


Finding it tougher to keep up with SVR Lazartigue upwind in light to moderate conditions, and probably annoyed to see them take the lead yesterday rounding Ascension Island, Banque Populaire XI has been pushing hard through the night. The two leaders are now sailing downwind after passing their final course mark and are sailing at more than 35 knots. This morning, Banque Populaire XI took the lead again and is now keeping her rival in check. “We found the right way to trim when we were diving down the Atlantic downwind and now, it’s going well again,” confirmed Sebastien Josse this morning. “The adrenaline is keeping us going after twelve days of racing. It’s not every day that you experience a duel like this one.”






The wind is set to strengthen for the frontrunners today, while 600 miles further back, Sodebo Ultim 3 and Actual Ultim 3, which have just rounded Ascension Island, are having their own little race. Still managing to stay closer to the leaders (140 miles), Maxi Edmond de Rothschild can still hope to catch up, particularly if the two frontrunners do not continue to get 100% out of their boats.

The 2500 miles left to race will not offer them much rest with lots of manoeuvres along the edge of the Brazilian exclusion zone and the entry into the trade winds in the Northern Hemisphere is scheduled for tomorrow: “When I see how many gybes we need along the coast of Brazil, it’s certainly not going to be a straight line. It may come down to each manoeuvre and each little squall,” said Armel Le Cl?ac’h’s co-skipper, who is determined to push hard. The ETA is still for 12th November and the outcome may be decided in Fort de France Bay…



IMOCA: GOING SOUTH TO PRESERVE THE BOATS?


“It was quite rough with cross seas. Quite hard. We had a gust of 43 knots in the first front. The worst was when we were coming out of the front with the wind shift. The important thing was getting away from the cross seas. We’ve been patching things up and have a quite a few little jobs to do. But we’re pleased with our position for the moment. We’re taking care of the boat, but sometimes that simply can’t be done.” Franck Cammas knows what he is talking about, but could not hide the extreme character of the front that the flying IMOCAs passed through. It takes an experience like his and Jeremie Beyou’s to be able to sail quickly without breaking anything, in order to find yourself at the front of the fleet with a lead of 25 miles. Now is the time to make their first major choices. After 48 hours in rough seas, it is time to sit behind the nav desk, as these monohulls are not allowed to have routers. As a determined Thomas Ruyant on For People in third place confirmed, “The start of a transatlantic race is never easy, but the weather in this one is particularly complicated, with the models constantly changing.”







Everyone is going to have to decide today whether to move off to the West to get away from the calms off Cape Saint Vincent or attempt to find the narrow route through along the coast of Portugal, which is very uncertain. This decision must also take into account the material aspects, as Franck Cammas noted: “It’s looking a bit tricky to the south with only a narrow way through, but we don’t want to have to deal with all the fronts, so we’re looking at a compromise. We don’t want to damage the boat, so we’re thinking about that now.”











It is likely that the final choice will be something of a compromise. Move slightly off to the West, but this is going to involve careful driving to make the most of what is possible to get down to the South. Paprec Ark?a is in an interesting middle position, so we can look forward to an interesting match between the three leaders, while the chasing pack led by Teamwork some fifty miles behind, can still grab opportunities given the unpredictable weather patterns.

At the rear of the fleet, some like Singchain Team Haikou and the others who will be setting sail again after pit stops in various Atlantic ports, will continue to experience some nasty weather…









OCEAN FIFTY: MADEIRA OR MOROCCO?

The Ocean Fifty boats are in a completely different zone. After setting sail from Lorient 24 hours earlier than the IMOCAs, the 50-foot trimarans have just crossed the ridge of high pressure at the latitude of Gibraltar and can start to think about their trip down towards the trade winds. “It will involved going a bit West to keep Viabilis in check and get in the right position for the Canaries, where the wind will come around to the right,” explained Thibault Vauchel-Camus on Solidaires en Peloton, still leading the fleet this morning. It is only once past Madeira, halfway between the Portuguese island and the Canaries that the trade winds will really blow for the Ocean Fifty boats, even if the leader noted, “We already have peak winds of more than thirty knots and are up on one float. We’ll spend a lot of time at the helm, but we have to make sure we don’t get over-tired,” added Thibault, who is just getting over the Bay of Biscay crossing.








While Koesio is in for a pit stop in La Coruna, but intends to set sail again on Friday, it is going to be interesting to follow the progress of Realites, in third place 125 miles behind the leader. On the way out of the ridge of high pressure, Fabrice Cahierc and Aymeric Chappellier, off to the East, may be tempted to try an option along the coat of Morocco; where winds are likely to be stronger. This will require a lot of gybes and they will have to watch out for all the fishing boats, some of which are not lit, while attempting to get though via the East of the Canaries.



CLASS 40: TWO GROUPS OF THREE OUT IN FRONT


Still split into two groups, with the first sailing off Lisbon, the Class40 fleet is finally able to breathe a little. There has been some damage, but the leaders have already switched to their downwind sails and sailing in a northerly air stream trying to keep the speeds up, as an area of light winds is forecast today. “We’re trying to get around a first ridge of high pressure. We’re going to have to deal with an area of variable light winds to reach the ridge, which is blocking the entry into the trade winds,” explained Nicolas D’Estais, second on Cafe Joyeux. In fact, the area of high pressure is moving South and will be staying with the 40-foot boats for some time. It looks complicated, just as for the leading IMOCAs with very little possibility of moving off to the West at the latitude where the leading Class40s are sailing, particularly as they must aim for Porto Santo (Madere) which they have to leave to starboard.

The lateral separation between the two groups at the front is quite large. More than 40 miles separate the leader Amarris from the two Italian-French crews that sailed close to the Cape St. Vincent TSS and are sailing parallel off to the East. The next 36 hours will be in race mode with the leaders expected to reach Porto Santo and pickup better winds as they approach the trade winds. “We are still in short race mode,” confirmed Nicolas d’Estais. “With Leo (Debiesse), we didn’t have time to settle in and we haven’t yet had stable conditions to switch to ocean racing mode.”