Route du Rhum leader Loick Peyron reported this morning that he had just enjoyed his first hot meal after two and a half days of the race, a 'cassoulet' bean stew on the moonlit 'terrasse' of his giant Maxi Solo Banque Populaire VII. But as he stripped out his overall lead to nearly 150 miles this afternoon, the legendary French allrounder is increasingly leaving his opposition struggling with their soup course.
Some current routings even suggest the leading margin of Peyron – whose best Route du Rhum finish from six attempts over 28 years is fifth – may extend to 200 miles by late this evening.
After passing Madeira last night, conditions have eased off significantly for the leading Ultime class skippers who are dicing with the lighter airs generated by the Azores high pressure which now centred to their north and northwest.
Their balancing act, such as it is, is to avoid sailing too far north and being swallowed into the sticky lighter winds whilst also trying not to venture too far to the south, where the breeze is stronger but more miles are inherently added to the distance to sail as it becomes the less direct, longer route.
As they point their bows more directly towards Guadeloupe and the finish line, some 2400 miles ahead, if the balance of this equation is their only worry then the magnificent seven Ultime soloists might spare a thought or two for the other skippers of the four other classes.
Most are about to suffer another spanking from an Atlantic low pressure system which will bring very strong, gusty winds – forecast to be worst off the notorious Cape Finisterre, off Spain's NW corner.
It has not been a good day for some of the pre-race favourites. Sebastien Rogues, Class 40's outstanding skipper these past two years, has had to abandon his quest to add the Route du Rhum title to his list of honours. A mainsail rip this morning made the decision for the GDF SUEZ skipper, compounding concerns about a failing spreader fitting which supports his rig, and wind instrument issues. He is heading to Spain.
As per the pre-race tipsters' beliefs Rogues had lead the race for the first couple of days. So also did Yves Le Blevec in the Multi50 class on Actual. He was also expected to be a top contender. Wind instrument and electrical problems have required Le Blevec to pit-stop into Cascais.
But what should have been a fast, simple fix became a double stop. He set off again this late morning only to have to return back again and at 1630hrs this afternoon was reported to be making ready to leave the Portuguese marina for the second time.
He was more than 360 miles away from a close duel between Class leader Lalou Roucayrol (Arkema Region Aquitaine) who is 15 miles ahead of Erwan Le Roux (FenetreA-Cardinal).
The IMOCA Open 60 Class sees the leaders closing progressively to the Azores with 40 miles separating leader Francois Gabart (Macif) from third placed Marc Guillemot (Safran). Tanguy de Lamotte rejoined the race on his Initiatives Coeur on Tuesday evening.
Eight skippers have now abandoned in Class 40 and 31 were left actively racing today. The leaders left Cape Finisterre behind this morning and are into more manageable conditions, time to recover energies and focus on strategies for the immediate future. Kito de Pavant (Otio-Bastivo Medical) leads Thibault Vauchel-Camus (Solidaires en Peloton) by nine miles but Yannnick Bestaven (Le Conservateur) has made a spectacular rise to third 20 miles off the lead whilst Spain's Alex Pella holds on to fourth.
– Race Media