With the Equator still 24 hours on the horizon, Spindrift 2 is more than a day behind the Jules Verne Trophy holder. But if the last five days have been particularly difficult on board and unproductive in terms of their overall goal, the weather situation is now clearing up ahead of the bows of the black and gold trimaran.
Eight days ago, as they rounded Cape Horn, Spindrift 2 was more than 500 miles ahead of Banque Populaire V. Today, the day before New Year's Eve, the black and gold trimaran is nearly 800 miles behind. It is a balance sheet that is simply the result of unfavourable weather systems in an area where, four years earlier, the holder of the Jules Verne Trophy managed an extremely fast ascent of the South Atlantic: 7 days 4 hours 27 minutes…While two years before that, the record breakers on Groupama 3 registered 9d 16h 35'. That is almost exactly the time that Dona Bertarelli, Yann Guichard and their 12 teammates need to match to reach the Equator on the night of December 31.
From the Le Maire Strait, the average speed dropped to less than 15 knots. Then on Christmas Eve, the mast started showing a depression in its lower part and the crew had to repair it. They had to slow down just as conditions were enabling a quicker escape from the miasma of weather systems off Argentina. It was a few lost hours that cost them dear. And when the speeds went back up off the Uruguayan and then the Brazilian coast, they had to tack against a north-easterly breeze until they reached the latitude of Salvador de Bahia.
It was only on the 38th day at sea that Spindrift 2 began to be able to express its potential in an easterly trade wind of around 20 knots. The deficit is unlikely to stop growing until tomorrow night because Banque Populaire V was very fast until they crossed the Equator. This is especially so, because the trimaran skippered by Yann Guichard is still slightly handicapped on starboard tacks since the lower part of the port foil is damaged following an impact.
The situation may seem bleak with only seven days to cross the longitude of the Créac'h lighthouse at Ushant, but everything will depend on the Azores. The Jules Verne Trophy holder had to make a big circle round to avoid this area of high pressure, deviating from its route by heading towards the West Indies and finishing on the coast of Ireland. It was a detour that took 7d 10h 58' between the Equator and Ushant.
Though it is still too early to anticipate the behaviour of the Azores High, it is, however, clear that the Doldrums (the area of light Equatorial winds), located around 1° 30 South is not very active, while, by contrast, the North Atlantic trade winds are quite strong, with over 20 knots from east. The first few days of the new year are thus promising to be very fast and the succession of depressions sweeping Europe for two weeks is not about to disintegrate: everything will therefore depend on this transition zone between the sustained easterly wind at the level of Cape Verde and a powerful Westerly wind at the latitude of the Azores.
Spindrift 2 can therefore fight back after crossing the Equator and enjoy the redistribution of weather cards at the start of the year. Aside from the port foil, the black and gold trimaran is still at full potential, particularly for the final push and the crew can bring to bear all its strengths: an unwavering motivation, a keen sense of competition and the certainty that the record will not be decided for a little while yet.
Day 39 – 16h00 GMT
750.9 nm behind the current record holder Banque Populaire V
Distance covered from the start: 23,328.5 milles
Average speed over 24 hours: 20.6 knots
Distance over 24 hours: 494.3 nm