by Matthew Thomas
As dawn broke on the their eighth day at sea, Madeira was roughly 100nm to the WSW of Philippa and Pips as they continue to duel with 8th placed ‘Groupe Setin’ in Class 40.
Looking at the tracker and overlaying the predicted weather, it looks like the ‘Two Pips’ have decided that the best wind lies to the east, while the duo on ‘Groupe Setin’ are still sailing south west parallel to the rhumb line course. Initially, their strategy looked like they will let ‘Groupe Setin’ pass them, but, according to the weather files, this advantage will quickly change as the lighter air moves east and fills in around them, letting the ‘Two Pips’ slip past as the wind builds from the west.
Needless to say, this will be a nerve wracking time for both teams as they wait for the wind to either fill in or die, depending on where they are. They’ll constantly be wondering whether their decisions are good ones and can easily get sucked into doubting themselves and then taking action to try to rectify what they think was a poor decision, only to find themselves in even less wind. GRIB files are always based on complex analysis of observed weather information and are a prediction, a forecast, but by no means an absolute.
While not absolute, they do however give a good general indication of what is going on and you have to make decisions based on the available data, which at best is incomplete and does not allow for ‘local’ conditions. Many a sailor has forgotten this and not bothered to look at the indications around the boat, like clouds and wave direction and has solely relied on the downloaded weather, only to find that they’re sailing in something completely different.
Many of the Class40 teams are sailing together for the first time as well as in their first major offshore race, so looking across the fleet, they are doing very well, have had a few incidents, but nothing serious and are all working hard to better their positions each hour as they start the process of drying out their boats and getting into the rhythm of Trade Wind sailing before they get to their next hurdle, the Doldrums.
Of the original 42 starters, the fleet is now down to 25 still racing. ‘Ciela Village’ is planning a technical stop in the Cape Verdes, to repair a Gennicker that has been damaged. This diversion has allowed ‘FenêtréA Pryysmian’ to slip away and start to build an impressive lead in the Multi50 class.
Out at the head of the fleet, with around 2,300nm to go, ‘Macif’ is narrowly leading ‘Sodebo Ultim’ by a very slim 5nm. In the IMOCA class, it has pretty much become a three boat race with the new, foil assisted ‘Banque Populaire VIII’ 34nm ahead of second placed ‘PRB’ and 50nm ahead of ‘Queguiner – Leucemie Espoir’. ‘Banque Populaire VIII’ is one of the five brand new foil assisted IMOCA yachts and the only one still racing after the rest suffered various structural issues along the way.
The Class40’s are still being led by Yannick Besthaven and Pierre Brasseur on ‘Le Conservateur’ who have managed to build a 62nm lead on ‘V and B’ and a 76nm lead on 3rd placed ‘ Solidaires en Peleton ARSEP’.