by Matthew Thomas
It is often said that battle makes you stronger and this morning, the Pip’s are locked in a close battle with ‘Groupe Setin’ for 7th place.
Overnight, they’ve slipped back a position, but this is somewhat academic as the distances are simply calculated via “distance from finish” and in ocean racing, this doesn’t mean much as the weather plays such a huge roll in the overall contest and while you might have a shorter distance to sail, if you’re unable to keep your speed up, others, who are often far away and behind you, but make better overall weather decisions will surely beat you to the finish.
Current weather forecast models are suggesting that there is better wind to the west and looking at the real time tracker, it looks like ‘Groupe Setin’ is making a more westerly course, so it will be interesting to see how his battle continues as, while there might be more wind to the west, there is more distance to sail to the finish and will their move pay off?
Philippa had this to say last night: “Standing on the bow trying to pull the big jib down in 30 plus knots. the water in front of me is black with white caps and the wind is trying to blow them flat, but the sea is a couple of metres high. I have all of my weight helping me try to pull the sail down and its not coming down. the bow is bouncing up and coming down with a slam. I get swept off my feet and all I can think of is where am I going to land. The sail is coming down slowly as it flaps vigorously in the wind. I get air born once more. I have my life jacket on, I am clipped on and my PLB is in my pocket, but it is still nerve racking not knowing were you are going to land. I land back on the deck, but so many things pass through my mind. I slowly, bit by bit, get the sail to the deck. What a relief it is when it is down. I get down on my knees to put sail ties around the sail. Now I am on all fours, but still being thrown around. It is getting dark quickly and the white spray keeps hitting me in the eyes. Then the next wave comes over the deck. I grab onto the guard wires to hold on to while the boat slams again and I get air born. I must get the sail ties on and get off the foredeck. I’m exhausted as I have already moved the water (200L) and the stack 3 times today. We have been reefing in and out to try keep our boat speed up.
The last 4 days have been tough on board Concise 2. We have been through 3 low pressures, one of which was not in the forecast and the wave height has not helped us either. Pip’s driving yesterday was great. We had a cross sea state and we were getting thrown around as we slid over the waves. Pip managed to drive us through this while I sorted out a couple of computer issues. Pip and I have tried to bank sleep when we can and eat as much as we can. But we have not always been successful. Last night once we were through the last low we tacked over and have since been trying to recharge our systems with sleep and food.
The boat is so wet inside and out. You poke your head out of the hatch and get pummelled by freezing water immediately as the boat slams over the waves. It is no easy task sailing ‘Concise 2′ at the moment.
Things are beginning to look up. We are heading South now and hopefully soon we will be sailing down wind and the conditions will be warmer and easier soon.”
Ocean racing, especially double-handed ocean racing like the TJV is all about managing your boat and other resources well. The distances are large and you have to be able to complete the course, which often means pit stops along the way to make repairs, like the duo on the Class40 ‘SNBSM Espoir Compétition’ who are now headed for Madeira with a damaged mast track. They’ll have a mandatory 12 hour stop to make repairs and continue as quickly after that as they can.
Brazillian duo, Eduardo Penido and Renato Araujo on ‘Zetra’ and who are just ahead of Phillippa and Pip have reported that they blew their big headsail during the week and while they are still in heavy weather and don’t need it, are going to have to try to repair it as they know the wind will get lighter as they continue.
Out front and chasing hard on the heels of Class40 leader ‘Le Conservateur’, Maxime Sorel on ‘V and B’ had this to say: “We set the spinnaker tonight, it feels good! We have about 25 knots, there was more and we pushed south at 190° towards Cape Verde. Water was everywhere after these conditions. Now we enjoy the sunshine, get things dry and get rid of any water on board. We are still in our foulies though because there is a big swell. I cannot wait to get shower and in to some clean clothes. Our cockpit is enclosed so I can shower there. Soap up, wash off with fresh water. We have struggled a bit for weather info with no wind vane. But we see what is happening behind the guys in front. We made a good start to the race. Now we need to fix the wand but need to wait for the swell to drop to climb the mast.”
Now close to half way down the course, the two super Ultime tri’s are streaking away at 25 knots. ‘Macif’ is still ahead of ‘Sodebo’, but the slim 13 mile advantage is going to require constant attention and concentration if they want to maintain their lead and you can be guaranteed that Thomas Coville and Jean-Luc Nëlias on ‘Sodebo’ will be pushing just as hard.
In the last 24 hours there have been numerous developments in the IMOCA fleet. Out of the worst weather, they have continued to sustain damage. ‘Hugo Boss’ has been abandoned after Alex Thomson and Guillermo Altadill set off their EPIRB while on their way to La Coruna for a technical stop. Both of them were promptly helicoptered off by the Spanish Coastguard and are safe.
‘Spirit of Hungary’ has been dismasted just north of Madeira and the crew is fine and motoring to Madeira. ‘Bastide Otio’ is now officially out of the race after diverting to Cascais, and Sam Davies and Tanguy de Lamotte on ‘Initiatives-Cœur’ have sustained damage to one of their rudders while sailing in the heavy conditions. The rudder that was damaged was the weather one, which was out of the water at the time and was hit by a big wave. This caused some damage to the rudder cassette, which they had to repair before they were able to gybe south this morning. They have since found a crack running across the transom and are in the process of repairing that.
The only fleet that so far has sustained no damage is the Multi50 trimarans and this morning, it is ‘FenëtréA Prysmian’ that is leading their fleet by a little over 120 miles. Like the Class40’s, the Multi50’s are a strict One Design designed specifically as a proving ground for sailors who want to move up to the Big Leagues and compete at the pinnacle of the multihull world, in the Ultime class.