A little over 10% of the fleet has now safely arrived at the finish of La Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe. The Ultime boats have had their moment of glory and are now neatly moored up in the marina in Pointe à Pitre. As for the sailors, they are recuperating in their hotels and running through how the race went with journalists.
The race times in this category were exceptional. Following on from the new record set by Loïck Peyron (7 days 15 hours 8 minutes and 32 seconds), all of the other boats crossed the line within 48 hours, with the final boat, Paprec Recyclage coming in after 9 days and 5 hours of racing. These incredible times, comparable to those achieved by the 60-foot Orma trimarans in the 2006 race, are down to weather that favoured high speeds. 85% of their race was carried out downwind, as after just 30 hours of sailing, when they passed Cape Finisterre, the giants in the Route du Rhum Destination Guadeloupe were able to speed along broad reaching. Five of the seven bettered the 2010 winning time of Franck Cammas on Groupama.
The red carpet is now being unrolled on the quayside in Pointe à Pitre for the Multi50s (5 solo sailors are racing in this category). Around lunchtime on Thursday (local time), Erwan Le Roux (FenêtréA-Cardinal) and Lalou Roucayrol (Arkéma Région Aquitaine) will be the first to walk along it. But in what order? As they approach the French West Indies, the conditions remain rather tricky with occasional squalls lying in wait for the sailors.
Then there is the final 50-mile stretch around the island of Guadeloupe, where we already saw two major upsets occur in the Ultime category. Lalou Roucayrol is only 100 miles behind Erwan, who admits that he is not yet competely safe and that there could still be a nasty surprise…
There was a distinct difference in the consistency of the Trade Winds for different sections of the Class40 fleet over the last night. The leaders have had it tough with many squalls and wind shifts, working extremely hard to make best use of the changes in direction and pressure. Indeed the duelling pair at the top of the standings, Alex Pella and Kito de Pavant individually reported doing 20 gybes or more during the night. Pella still leads but had his vital morning nap cut short by the Media Call from Race HQ in Guadeloupe.
“It is all very good. We had a very strange night with a lot of clouds with very variable conditions, maybe I did 20 or 25 gybes, but now I am more downwind. There was a lot of rain. It was a bit of a tough night. I was trying to get some sleep until you called. But it is good to be ahead, it is really good for the motivation and my morale.” Said Pella this morning.
Yannick Bestaven keeps himself in the match having had the best 24-hour run. On the new Tizh 40 which is an evolution of the Tyker 40 which won in 2010 in the hands of Thomas Ruyant, the MiniTransat and 2011 TJV winner Bestaven has made 30 miles back on the leaders and is chasing 20 miles off third placed Thibault Vauchel Camus.
Briton Miranda Merron in eighth this morning was slightly feeling the strain of competition today, wishing she had had more training time on the water, but still happy with her position.
“It is not very windy, 14-15kts but there has been a lot of gybing. That is using up a lot of energy. I am wondering whether to just go in a straight line for a little while. There were times when there was a bit too much wind for the autopilot and I had to bring down the kite. But all is well. I have boats to race around which is good. There have been these clouds and squalls which have affected the guys in front a lot, but we are here, and we will see what happens. “
For Rhum class, today is crucial because a ridge of high pressure has cut the fleet in half! Behind the untouchable Anne Caseneuve (Aneo) the leaders are already at the latitude of the Canaries but the Azores high pressure is now extending from Morocco and speeds have dropped to less than five knots (sometimes even 1 kt) and the high pressure is still sliding south, extending its tentacles by a further 100 miles and that is going to redistribute some of the cards. Wednesday looked like a key day in the Rhum class.
– Race Media