A tricky time ahead for Class40 fleet
'Alex looking at the weather Photo: Alex Bennett / Fujifilm - The Artemis Transat' ©
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Class 40 Artemis Transat News
On Day 14 (Saturday), The Artemis Transat race leader, Giovanni Soldini, sailed Telecom Italia into an area of light breeze and was suffering in the north after a massive breakaway following his crossing of the ice gate. Soldini clawed west to fight through the windless zone, but his speeds were down to a 4.3 knot average as Thierry Bouchard with Mistral Loisirs - Pole Sante ELIOR in 2nd and Boris Herrmann on Beluga Racer in 3rd kept the breeze further south and ate into the Italian's lead. By late afternoon, Telecom Italia had found some breeze and was back on the pace, although his margin over the chasing pair had shrunk to 94 miles as the position blackout descended last night. Three days ago, Soldini predicted that the racing after the ice gate would be very tough and this prophecy is becoming a stark reality for the 10 Class40 boats still racing.
During Saturday, Thierry Bouchard and Boris Herrmann ceased their shadow sailing and split. Herrmann took Beluga Racer north after the ice gate, up towards Soldini's territory, while Bouchard made a fast, shallow climb up the face of the North Atlantic overnight and into Sunday. At dawn, Herrmann and Beluga Racer were trailing Mistral Loisirs - Pole Sante ELIOR by 14 miles and the northern option was beginning to look bleak, although the German skipper disagreed when he spoke to the race office shortly before the 1000GMT position poll this morning: 'I think it'll pay-off in a couple of hours, or maybe it has paid-off already,' he said confidently. As the position poll downloaded, it became evident that Herrmann's gamble had put Beluga Racer into profit, leading Mistral Loisirs - Pole Sante ELIOR by 11 miles as Bouchard's speed average plummeted to 2.6 knots. Contacted just after the poll had arrived, Thierry Bouchard had to face the music: 'I chose the southern option to avoid the light wind zone in the north,' he explained, 'and it worked well last night.' The French skipper does not exaggerate as he averaged 5.7 knots at dawn compared to Soldini's 4.2 knots and Herrmann's 2.5 knots in the north. 'But now, things are against me.'
While the competition for 2nd place remains tight, both Mistral Loisirs - Pole Sante ELIOR and Beluga Racer are in peak condition after the heavy winds. Asked whether the damage sustained by Yvan Noblet on Appart' City had triggered concern for his own boat, Bouchard brushed the question aside: 'The boat is great,' he confirmed, 'but I'm getting tired and the stress is building with this tight racing.' Beluga Racer has also escaped unscathed: 'I'm feeling fresh and the boat is good,' Herrmann confirmed, 'although I haven't had time to dry and clean the interior.' There is likely to quite a lot of housework for Herrmann: 'One of the lee-cloths broke and all the gear stowed to windward inside the boat fell down from the high side and I still have a big mess..maybe I should do some stitching as well.' At 1200GMT, Herrmann held a 16 mile lead over Bouchard.
Today, Miranda Merron on 40 Degrees also reported domestic issues: 'I spent a couple of hours inspecting the boat for damage after its battering,' she wrote this morning. 'I didn't find anything major, and some semblance of order has been restored. One of the rubbish bags exploded in the heavy weather, but fortunately there isn't anything too revolting in it.' However, this afternoon, 40 Degrees is 10 miles ahead of Fujifilm and Merron's concerns are focussed on Bennett's green Class40: 'Two weeks since the start, and 'Fuji' is only a handful of miles behind! Must sleep and eat more.' To add to the fatigue and endurance factor, the immediate future will be tactically demanding: 'The weather ahead is looking challenging,' Merron predicts. 'There is a new low forming right now in the path of the fleet, and so it will be light and fickle trying to get through to the other side, and probably a few nasty surprises under some clouds.' The options for the tightly packed fleet also seem to be limited: 'There appears to be no way round it,' she continues. 'So it will be interesting to see who comes out best.'
Last night, Fujifilm was hitting 18 knots boatspeed: 'I've managed to carry the breeze all night, although it's down to around 9 knots now,' said Bennett this morning. Before passing through the ice gate, the headsail furler on Fujifilm disintegrated and although he salvaged the genoa, Bennett is unable to use his main, upwind foresail. Sailing at a TWA of 80?, Fujifilm has flown a Code 0 sail since yesterday afternoon: 'I've got to keep sailing fast without going into the genoa range,' explains Bennett, although repairs are already scheduled on board Fujifilm: 'It's lucky that the broken piece of furler stuck up at the top of the mast has worked it's way down to deck level on the halyard without any help from me, so I don't have to go up the rig,' reports a highly relieved Bennett. 'As soon as the breeze goes light, I'll get busy making the genoa work again.'
Shortly before the fleet arrived at the ice gate, there were two distinct schools of thought concerning the remainder of the race. One line of thought, proposed by Boris Herrmann, suggested that whoever reached the gate first (i.e. Soldini) would disappear over the horizon. The reverse opinion, championed by Alex Bennett, proposed a tight fight all the way to the finish line.
This morning, Herrmann admitted, cautiously, that he may have made a mistake: 'I thought about it afterwards and in the area of the ice gate it was 'rich-get-richer',' he said earlier. 'We had to beat slowly to the ice gate and Soldini could veer off and go away. So, he gained many miles and I thought it would remain like this with him flying away and we would never see him again. But, maybe, Alex Bennett was right and we will all close-up and Miranda and the others will get closer too.'
IMOCA 60 News - A battle for placings.
Akena Verandas and Cervin EnR within sight of each other.
As Arnaud Boissieres reported over sat phone, Akena Verandas and Cervin EnR skippered by Yannick Bestaven are within sight of each other, racing four miles apart. It's worth noting that the two old friends had finished first (Bestaven) and third (Boissieres) of the 2001 Mini Transat, after having carried out a common campaign, notably building two new prototypes together.
There is a humdinger of a battle going on behind Safran... Sam Davies (Roxy) had a 47 mile lead at the final positions tonight has a nail biting finish ahead: 'Well, hopefully this will be my last full day of the race. Although, at this pace I am beginning to have doubts!!!! The last 24 hours have been SO SLOW, in little or no wind all the time. It is really tiring as the wind is changing all the time and I have to spend all my time trimming and changing everything to match the wind. It is SO frustrating to be so near yet so far, and also knowing that if you get stuck a little worse off than the others you could loose 3 places in no time! So that is why I am at 200 % to try and keep this 5th place. And keep my nerves!'
Behind Yannick Bestaven on Cervin ENR holds a 46-mile lead ahead of his great friend and foe Arnaud Boissieres on Akena V?randas. This battle will prevail right through to the finish.
Sunset but no wind for Sam onboard Roxy Photo: Sam Davies / Roxy - The Artemis Transat - . ©
by OC Events
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