By Matthew Thomas
French co-skippers François Gabart and Pascal Bidégorry on the new 30m Ultime Trimaran ‘MACIF’ crossed the finish line in Itajaí, Brazil as first Ultime, to take line honours in the 5400 miles Transat Jacques Vabre double handed Transatlantic race.
The elapsed time for Gabart, 32, and Bidégorry, 47, is 12 days 17hrs 29min 27sec sailing at an average speed of 17.68 knots for the theoretical course of 5400nm. This new boat, a VPLP design, which was only launched in August, actually sailed 6340nm on the water at a real average speed of 20.75 knots.
This morning, our ‘Two Pips’ about 340nm from the Cape Verde islands and the western most boat in the pack of four Class 40’s heading to towards the islands. Still lying in 8th position, it looks like the wind will lighten for the rest of the group over the next 48 hours and that their western most position should keep them in the stronger breeze. Obviously, this should allow them to start to claw back many of the miles they lost during their sojourn crossing the High Pressure Ridge during the last few days.
Leading the Class40’s, ‘Le Conservateur’ has just entered the doldrums and slowed, allowing the chasing boats, ‘V and B’ and ‘Carac Advanced Energies’ to start to claw back some of the miles that Yannick Bestaven and Pierre Brasseur had accumulated.
‘FenënétreA Prysmian’ has just passed Recife and for the first time in this race is now ahead of the IMOCA leader ‘PRB’ and with a 447nm lead on second placed ‘Arkema’ looks like they will be leading the Multi50’s into Italjai.
Vincent Riou and Sébastien Col on ‘PRB’ have a 38nm lead on 2nd placed ‘Banque Populaire VIII’ as they pass Recife, with ‘Queguiner – Leucemie Espoir’ chasing them in a close 3rd place.
Before the start of the race, everyone was looking at the new foil assisted IMOCA boats and predicting how fast they would be. Of course, so far, of the five foilers entered, 4 have had structural problems and are out, but ‘Banque Poulaire VIII’, which was built to very similar specifications has been in the leader pack the entire way. What is interesting, is that they have now seemed to have a significant advantage on this course, they have been very fast in the ideal conditions.
Designed specifically for the Around the World race later next year, where big air reaching is the predominant weather, the foilers should be able to show that they have a clear advantage. It will, however, be interesting to see if any of the currently conventional boats, like ‘PRB’ opt to install foils after this race in preparation for the next series of races.
TJV Day 14
Moved up to 7th.
With both of the Ultime trimarans now in Italjai, the ‘Two Pips’ are closing the Cape Verde islands with ‘Groupe Setin’ just ahead and SNBSM ‘Espoir Compétition’ hunting them from behind.
It’s been a frustrating time for our two ladies after their move to the west didn’t pay off. As Pip Hare posted:
“I didn’t want to write yesterday. it was a dark day and I had no inclination of sharing it with anyone in the outside world. We made a bad tactical decision many days ago and yesterday we really paid the price for this bad thinking. Not only have we had to endure two days of wallowing with no wind and all of the torture that goes with that, but we have had to watch the rest of the fleet in slow time catching up and then over taking us while we were powerless to do anything about it. The pain has been a bit like having a plaster ripped off real slowly one hair at a time.
“In our wind hole we have chased every prospect of wind, every tiny zephyr we have hunted down and sailed in what ever direction it might take us, just anywhere but here. Each time a new waft of breeze has come our way we have sincerely believed it was our ticket out of hell, the boat has leapt forward often at 10 knots, ‘this is it’ we have said, ‘here we come Brazil’ only to be dumped back in to nothing some half an hour later and wallowing again.
“One of the reasons I have often cited for the attraction of short handed sailing is that the fewer people there are on the boat the fewer options there are to apportion blame. Your own effort directly brings you reward and your own mistakes must be taken on the chin. In the mini fleet we had no outside comms, when I sailed into a wind hole there it was only my imagination that made me conjour up the conditions the rest of the fleet were experiencing, but as we have outside comms available on this race I can see for real just as anyone else watching the tracker the cost of mistakes. The race now truly is in two halves, the first four boats through this high pressure are gone. We have no chance of catching them, ‘La Conservatour’ the lead boat is the rich man that just keeps getting richer, they have sailed and outstanding race and are streaking ahead.
“Pips and I have been dealing with the conditions as best as we can, always hand steering the boat, changing sails even for the tiniest glimmer of hope, eating, sleeping, just getting on with it. Di’s fruit cake has been offering us words of wisdom and consolation in the dark hours of the night – last night’s quote was ‘In sport integrity is everything’.
“We still have the back half of the fleet to fight with. Overnight tonight we fell from 6th to 8th place and the two boats ahead of us are eating up the miles while we wallow. We are moving today, we have 3-5 knots of wind from the East and are ghosting our way south to try and find anything better. I can’t say the last couple of days have been enjoyable, I have been choking down and enormous urge to throw all of my toys out of the pram and just not play anymore. I endlessly replay the tactical decisions made, when and why. Every mental time frame I have put on how much longer we will be wallowing has been broken, then I make endless mental calculations of how far back we are falling on the fleet every hour we are struggling to move. At one stage the ETA to Itajai on the GPS said 55 days. When the breeze comes it will be relief I don’t think I need to spend anymore time beating myself up.
“Despite all that the dolphins did try to come and cheer us up…..”
Thankfully, they’re now back in the breeze and I’m sure their spirits have lifted as they now have built their lead on ‘SNBSM Espoir Compétition’ to 50nm and are slowly clawing back miles on ‘Group Setin’.
Current weather forecast suggest that they will stay in the 10 – 12 kt wind band for at least 40 hours, so they’ll be having some good sailing, be able to get some rest and start to plan their strategy for crossing the doldrums.
Still leading, ‘Le Conservateur’ is now in the middle of the doldrums and has lost nearly 100nm of their 300nm lead to ‘Carac Advanced Energies’ and ‘V and B’ who are just starting to see their breeze drop off as they match race each other, only 3nm apart.
Now off Salvador, a port known to many South Africans, having played host to the South Atlantic race numerous times, Multi50 ‘FenëtréA Prysmian’ is slowly pulling away from ‘PRB’ which is leading the IMOCA ‘Pack of Three’ followed by ‘Banque Populaire VIII’ who is trailing ‘PRB’ by 33nm in the 11 knot breeze.
They will be keeping a constant lookout for fishing boats which often fish in the area, especially as they close the coast just of Rio de Janeiro. Get tangled up with one of them or hook up one of their nets and their lead will vaporise!