Waiting game for Transat Jacques Vabre fleet

All of the competitors racing in the 15th edition of the Transat Jacques Vabre fleet are currently stuck in a ridge of high pressure from Madeira to Dunkirk.

As most head south across the Bay of Biscay, the race is on to be the first crew to find an easterly and accelerate away first. Here’s a roundup of the night’s action from each of the fleets.

Ultime: time for a laugh  

For the past thirty hours the five giants of the seas have been struggling to make headway in very light conditions that have tested the sailor’s patience. The end should come in a few hours with an easterly wind that will help them escape towards the Spanish coast. In the meantime, some are choosing to enjoy the time rather than suffer the wait.

For Thomas Coville it’s all about attitude: “If you live in the moment, there are many beautiful things to see. When there’s no wind like this, you either go crazy or you try to have a sense of humour.” 

We caught up with the skipper of Sodebo Ultim 3 early this morning. “It seems that the wind has disappeared from the planet. We’re trying to catch the slightest breeze. We spend hours and hours scanning the water. The slightest breeze is so precious that we do everything to get it. When the boat is making five to six knots, it’s a thrill for everyone.”

Photon on a boat, looking onto the horizon, but can also see a crew member sitting at the nav station in the cabin.
The Ocean Fifty fleet hopes to find wind on the north west corner of Spain. Pic – Transat Jacques Vabre

Ocean Fifty: hunting in the Bay of Biscay

The ridge of high pressure was a chance for the Ocean Fifty fleet to catch the Ultimes – David has caught Goliath.  Koesio continues to hold a slight advantage at the head of the fleet, just 15 miles ahead of Leyton co-skippered by Sam Goodchild.

The British sailor told us, “The fleet is quite spread now – 150 miles east to west – which means it can go either way fairly quickly. But what makes us feel good is we are going at five knots which is more than we have done for a while. We are finally getting some sleep again. The light winds may not be good for racing and sailing but they are good for sleep.”

The Ocean Fiftys still have about 200 miles to sail to Cape Finisterre on the northwest corner of Spain where they hope to find fresher breeze.

Imoca: Leader reeled in

Just forty miles behind the multihulls, the first Imoca boats are facing the same lack of wind. Apivia continues to lead but mile after mile the gap is closing. While Charlie Dalin and Paul Meilhat held a comfortable 35-mile lead last night, very light winds have allowed the American crew, 11th Hour Racing Team – Mālama, to catch up.

This morning, only four miles separate the two 60 footers. The light conditions mean a lot of more manoeuvres, as Charlie Enright said this morning, “Anyone can catch up with anyone.” Fortunately, they should be out of the ridge by tomorrow morning. In the meantime, everyone is trying to find the best possible options and take advantage of the breeze and currents.

Class40: Close contact sport

The 40-footers continue to battle it out as close to the Breton coast as possible. With so little wind, you have to play the currents along the coast to make headway. No boat is breaking away from the fleet at the moment and the rankings are constantly changing. The crews are immersed in the weather data to find the best way of escape.

La Manche #EvidenceNautique tried a northerly option last night, Nicolas Jossier, explains their decision, “We wondered about the passage of Ushant where the data told us there was more wind, more current, but it wasn’t as significant as we expected. So we had to go back on that decision and turn around.” 

This proved costly with the pair losing ground on their rivals. “We didn’t get much sleep with all the manoeuvres and contact with the other boats. We’re going to wait until we get out of the tip of Brittany where we’ll be able to get into a different rhythm. A new part of the race is about to begin!”  

Damage report

The Class40 Randstad-AUSY, skippered by Clara Fortin and Martin Louchart returned to sea at 5am this morning after a brief stop in Roscoff to repair their onboard telecommunication system.

To track the fleet, see: https://www.transatjacquesvabre.org/fr/cartographie

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