Safran, Cheminées Poujoulat and Foncia lead B to B

Ecover B to B race positions on 18:00hrs 30 November 2007 - image BtoB
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In an established fifteen to twenty knot E-NE tradewind, the fleet in the Transat Ecover-BtoB are making an average of ten knots of boatspeed towards the equator. The fifteen solo sailors are looking forward to the wind clocking round to the East, which will enable them to get away from the Brazilian coast on a single tack.

The tone is set, as Yann Eliès (Generali) indicated at this afternoon’s radio session, live from the Paris Boat Show: 'we are in race mode. It’s not a delivery!' This was highlighted by the fact that the leaders are sailing withinsight of each other and the distances still remain fairly minimal after 24 hours at sea.

In fact, the night has seen a wealth of slightly varied choices of route, such as that of American Rich Wilson (Great American III) or the British skipper Dee Caffari (Aviva) who set out from Bahia yesterday three hours after the start and preferred to tack fairly early on. The option hasn‘t born fruit since both these monohulls have had to battle their way offshore again in order to distance themselves from the Brazilian coast. The rest of the fleet is remaining more ‘conservative’ by tacking in the middle of the Brazilian night to ensure that the tradewinds are no longer disrupted by the shore.

Sharing this gameplan, the lead group is right into the thick of the action , racing as they would a Solitaire du Figaro. 'I am in sight of Loïck Peyron upwind of me, Marc Guillemot is ahead of me, Bernard Stamm downwind and Armel Le Cléac’h just behind…' specifid Michel Desjoyeaux (Foncia) at 1500 hours.

It has to be said that the monohulls are not sailing in very difficult conditions other than fairly messy seas. 'It's slamming, it's shaking, it's wet and it's hot. It's not the most favourable point of sail for these boats but we’re still making 10 knots of boatspeed! gushed Kito de Pavant (Groupe Bel).

Sailing very close to the wind with 15 to 20 knots of NE to E’ly, the competitors worrying about whether they were going to get stuck on the coast or if the wind was going to clock round far enough for them to avoid this very tiring manoeuvre under this sticky heat. 'At the moment, we’re heading North in chaotic seas and a moderate breeze. I’m under full main and solent and it's working quite well.

My only worry is Brazil: if we have to tack again the climb up to the equator will be a bit longer, but I can't complain. Logically, the tradewinds will become increasingly favourable and we may be able to pass broadside of it…rdquo; analysed Bernard Stamm (Cheminées Poujoulat). As for the leader Marc Guillemot (Safran), the atmosphere onboard was rather serene since his boat has proven to be fast on this rather disagreeable point of sail: 'There's not a lot we can do, other than remain on our guard for the slight shifts in the wind, which aren’t as regular as all that: it is oscillating between 15 and 20 knots and hasn't yet clocked round to the East.'

Line dancing

The new prototypes are logically at the head of the fleet but Cheminées Poujoulat is keeping up with the pace in second and Akena Vérandas has cleverly negotiated this initial part of the course. The top eight players in the Transat Ecover-BtoB are sailing within a tight bunch and there’s not really any options to be had until the doldrums, still some 700 miles away… This will be all the more the case if one of the solo sailors takes the initiative (change of headsail, tack change), ad it is imitated by all the competitors who are in their sights!

The next few hours will therefore likely see the monohulls forced to shift offshore once again and the differential between the leaders at the point where the wind shifts could really open up. However, we can expect the sailors to play at the ‘little train’ for the time being, that is to say line-up one after the other with little separation in order to make good headway: 'measuring ourselves’ as Loïck Peyron (Gitana Eighty) observed.

With little initiative, few weather changes and little modification to the hierarchy: tomorrow is likely to be very much like today but some little gaps may be created after two days at sea and this will be very important at the point where the fleet enter the doldrums at the end of the weekend!

Transat Ecover B to B Ranking 18:00 (French time)

1 Safran 3918.70 miles from the fiish
2 Cheminées Poujoulat 2.60 miles behind
3 Foncia 4.70 miles behind
4 Gitana Eighty 6.40 miles behind
5 Brit'Air 6.50 miles behind
6 Ecover 9.20 miles behind
7 Generali 10.20 miles behind
8 Spirit of Canada 7.90 miles behind
9 Maisonneuve 29.50 miles behind
10 Great American III 47.20 miles behind
11 Akena Veranda 52.20 miles behind
12 Roxy 53.10 miles behind
13 Cervin EnR 2.70 miles behind
14 Aviva 79.40 miles behind
NL Groupe Bel