Charal in control of IMOCA fleet, Italian-Spanish duo top the Class40s

With lighter winds and progressively smoother seas, some respite has been possible for the IMOCA and Class40 fleets on the Transat Jacques Vabre Normandie Le Havre race. The leading IMOCA 60 footers were reaching under gennakers about 200 miles off the Portuguese coast this afternoon with Jéremie Beyou and Franck Cammas on Charal holding a steady lead of around 35 nautical miles over Yoann Richomme and Yann Eliès on Paprec Arkéa.

Ahead they have a 250 miles wide ridge of high pressure and light winds to cross. Today the duos were finally catching up with rest and small repairs and making sure they refuel themselves and restore their energies for an intense, tactical 24 hours or so. When the winds are light and unsettled it is often more demanding physically and mentally on the duos.

Brit Alan Roberts on ninth places L’Occitanie en Provence reported this morning, “We had a few issues in the front, the lazyjacks snapped and the mainsail flakes filled up with water and that cost us time and energy managing that, maybe 15 miles or so. But we got through. It has been tough on board, the motion is violent and the boats slamming hard and so it was hard to have a break or even eat food, so the energy levels really were low. But now I have got some noodles inside me I feel so much better and we are trying to alternate well to get some sleep when the boat is slamming so hard. You come off a wave and it goes down and your heart is in your mouth and then it stays in the same place as it comes up again, it is not very pleasant. We are on the southern option to cross this high pressure. It feels like most are doing the same. Some might tack off and try the northerly route but I think the northerly route being pretty violent. The southerly route is more of a known factor.”

Béyou and Cammas have been setting the pace and today maintaining a course slightly more out to the west of Richomme and Eliès whilst Thomas Ruyant and Morgan Lagravière have been closer to the Portuguese coast.

Cammas, who has won the race four times on ORMA and Ultim multihulls but never on an IMOCA, spoke early this morning, “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. 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.”

Quickest IMOCA of the leading peloton this afternoon was Sam Goodchild and Antoine Koch on For the Planet. They progressively rolled past Goodchild’s compatriots Sam Davies and Jack Bouttell (Initiatives Coeur) to take fifth place and were chasing down Switzerland’s Justine Mettraux and French counterpart, weather routing ace Julien Villion (Teamwork.net)

British co-skipper on Malizia-Seaexplorer Will Harris revealed today that he and Boris Herrmann had come close to needing to pitstop because of their electronics issues which left them hand steering the IMOCA for long periods, “We mostly seem to have sorted our autopilot problems which is good news as we can continue racing without having to stop. We are happy with the way we sailed out of the English Channel but on the Bay of Biscay we really had to pretty much stop the boat as we were left to hand steering as the autopilot had stopped communicating with the sensors, so it was good to fix that. We thought it would be easier round Cape Finisterre which it wasn’t. So now it is good to get some quieter weather. We will get a break now for the next 24 hours. It seems everyone is tempted by the south route, maybe especially after all getting our heads bashed in in the English Channel. So it looks right now that everyone will go the same way. There is the option maybe for Charal to jump out to the west, but right now it looks like everyone is going to try and find some trade winds near the Canaries, perhaps. But it has been a really tough few days at the start and now I think life should get a little easier and we can put up some bigger sails.”

During this afternoon Pip Hare (Medallia) confirmed that she and co-skipper Nick Bubb have started to take their 5 hour start line penalty whilst at the same time trying to repair and reinforce their damaged mainsail.

Following a medical problem with Canadian skipper Scott Shawyer, Be Water Positive confirmed today that they have withdrawn from the race. After returning to their home port, Gosport, where Shawyer received a medical examination. The Canadian skipper is aiming for the 2028 Vendée Globe.

Life slowed down too for the Class40 fleet which saw the leaders 120 miles west of the most SW’ly tip of Portugal, Cabo Saint Vincent. Italian-Spanish do Alberto Bona and Pablo Santurde were back in the lead this afternoon on IBSA, the Manuard designed Mach 40.5 IBSA on which the pair won this year’s race from Les Sables to the Azores and back.

Class 40

Ambrogio Beccaria and Nico Andrieu on Alla Grande Pirelli lost some miles on their rivals last night and this morning after snaring a fishing net. Beccaria recalled this morning, “Life is hard sometimes. We knew it wasn’t going to be a holiday to be here. We had fishing nets in the keel. Then I had a little injury, but nothing serious. It’s never easy sailing. There is no wind, but big waves. We’re trying to avoid the next no-wind zone. The strategy is to catch the wind. That meant leaving the front as late as possible. The boat behind didn’t do too badly either. We will be trying to find a nice route in the high-pressure area, but now it’s complicated finding the route to keep up the pressure. The front is still hanging around, but with little activity. In the last few hours, we slept a lot, as yesterday was really, really hard. When there is no wind, you have to manoeuvre a lot… so we need to get some energy before that today.” Brian Thompson and Alister Richardson are in 14th on Tquila with the young German duo Lennart Burke and Melwin Fink two places and five miles behind them on Sign For Com.

ULTIM

The leading ULTIM, Armel Le Cléac’h and Seb Josse on Banque Populaire XI had a lead of just 40 miles over SVR Lazartigue ( Francois Gabart and Tom Laperche) with about 150 miles to sail to the long 100 miles wide exclusion zone which keeps the fleet offshore of the fishing traps, fishing boats and oil and gas facilities which lie close to the Brazilian coast. For them, now it is a relatively easy downhill run to the Caribbean, though Josse reported from the leading ULTIM, “It’s physical and intense. This is the duel we were expecting. Upwind in 15-17 knots they seemed more at ease. Those conditions don’t favour us. Apart from that we have similar potential. Sailing downwind we found the right way to trim the boat. The adrenaline is keeping us going. A duel like this is not something you get everyday! Sailing at 35-40 knots, you really need to be vigilant. You don’t get much rest. We know each other well enough to know when the other person needs to rest. It may all come down to a gybe. You can easily lose sixty miles. There are a lot of dangers. This is certainly not routine stuff. We can’t go straight to the finish, as there is the exclusion zone.”

In the Ocean Fifty race the leader is still Solidaires en Peloton (Thibault Vauchel-Camus and Quentin Vlamynck) who have extended their margin to nearly 100 miles. Of the six starters Koesio (Erwan Le Riou and Audrey Ogerau) became the third team to retire from the race. They suffered damage to their forward crossbeam.

Beccaria: Life is hard sometimes. We knew it wasn’t going to be a holiday to be here. We had fishing nets in the keel. Then I had a little injury, but nothing serious. It’s never easy sailing. There is no wind, but big waves. We’re trying to avoid the next no-wind zone. The strategy is to catch the wind. That meant leaving the front as late as possible. The boat behind didn’t do too badly either. We will be trying to find a nice route in the high-pressure area, but now it’s complicated finding the route to keep up the pressure. The front is still hanging around, but with little activity. In the last few hours, we slept a lot, as yesterday was really, really hard. When there is no wind, you have to manoeuvre a lot… so we need to get some energy before that today.

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