by Hélène Tzara
Transat Jacques Vabre transatlantic race from Le Havre to Puerto Limon, is at the end of day 12. Multi 50 leader Yves Le Blevec and Sam Manuard, onboard Actual, passed their milestone at the edge of the Caribbean when they took their right turn, skirting St Barts against a beautiful sunrise this morning and headed SE towards Barbados where they turn to point to Costa Rica.
Actual - Transat Jacques Vabre 2011
With 150 miles to go at 1600hrs this Monday afternoon, Jean-Pierre Dick and Jérémie Beyou on Virbac Paprec 3 have a lead of just over 60 miles ahead of Hugo Boss as they anticipate passing into the Caribbean later this evening or overnight. The Caribbean trade winds are forecast to start off brisk before becoming less organised and well defined, but with over 190 miles of margin, the chasing pack are still not posing any threat to the leading two boats.
Sébastien Col - Transat Jacques Vabre 2011
Macif, François Gabart and Seb Col, are leading the chase in third place with all of the IMOCA Open 60 fleet now lined up on their SW’ly trajectory towards the gap into the Caribbean. Kito de Pavant and Yann Reginiau on Groupe Bel gybed just after midday as did Mike Golding and Bruno Dubois on Gamesa. The duo which broke to the south last Friday have not made any significant gains on the pack for their moves, though both duos were hoping their leverage to the east, sailing a more open angle towards the gap may allow them to redress the balance a little. De Pavant commented on the afternoon’s radio vacs:
'I’m not sure we’ve lost or gained much. At the very least I do not think we’ve lost anything. We risked ending up with Mirabaud and Safran. We have a good angle allowing us to get south a bit now. And a few degrees of difference in the trade winds can make a big difference and suddenly you get good leverage.'
And Golding sounded content that they had given the option a go, gambling to gain on the leaders rather than pace themselves against the pack, but in the end last night their efforts were not helped when they suffered a gennaker furler malfunction: 'We have suffered for our decision to go to the south round that area of light wind and are paying the price for it know, but otherwise everything is fine onboard, we had a bit of a drama last night with one of our furling drums and ended up with our Code 3 [gennaker] and having to drop it without it being furled. We spent two hours half flying and half trawling our Code 3. There are a few little setbacks, otherwise everything is fine onboard.'
Though in Class 40 there is still a big lead for Aquarelle.com, over 140 miles, the advance of Hannah Jenner and Jesse Naimark-Rowse on 40 Degrees and Norway’s Ruune Aasberg some 400 miles to the north of their rivals is looking good for the meantime as the duo rise to a solid third and fourth respectively, some 34 miles apart. They are on the northern edge of the Azores High with a breeze which will progressively lift them and allow them to get south well. They have 130 miles to gain to be a serious threat to second placed ERDF Des Pieds et Des Mains.
Kito de Pavant, skipper Groupe Bel:
'It goes pretty OK we are in the process of getting across to join the course taken by our northern friends. We will see how we cross them tonight or tomorrow morning when we will see what plays out really from our option. I'm not sure we’ve lost or gained much. At the very least I do not think we’ve lost anything. We risked ending up with Mirabaud and Safran. We have a good angle allowing us to get south a bit now. And a few degrees of difference in the trade winds can make a big difference and suddenly you get good leverage. We would like the cow's ears grow a bit to protect us from the sun: I will take my watch soon, which is not so pleasant as the sun is very warm in the morning. But there is some wind which cools down the temperature a bit. And below there are sometimes when you cannot find the fan....
I take a quiet coffee, we sleep a lot, both myself and Yann because we gave a lot early in the race and we have a sleep deficit that we try to recover but we are still a bit tired.'
Christopher Pratt, co-skipper Banque Populaire:
'We were sailing within sight of Macif yesterday, but then separated apart yesterday when they gybed. But the battle is on to the finish. Everything is wet on board. At the helm it is completely soaked, so even in hot weather we have our foulies on. We always have someone out on deck. I’m starting to get a rash from damp around cuffs. I am not really tired. I have not really even considered it. My body is now used to rhythm. Armel is in charge of strategy. For the moment maybe it’s not exactly what we were hoping for approaching the French West Indies. We need to stay up there with the others and then in final stretch there will be opportunities I am sure.'
Yves Le Blevec, skipper, Actual:
'We had a magnificent sunrise over St Barts. The trade winds will be less favourable ahead and we have to be careful to avoid wind shadow of islands. Wherever Maître Jacques is, nothing changes in the way we are sailing. We are pushing the boat hard in any case. Physically we are OK, but we are starting to feel some tiredness particularly when trying to keep balance aboard the boat. It was like a lake as we passed St Barts with 15-knot wind and 15 knots of boat speed'
Mike Golding (GBR) skipper Gamesa (GBR):
'We have suffered for our decision to go to the south round that area of light wind and paying the price for it know, but otherwise everything is fine onboard, we had a bit of a drama last night with one of our furling drums and ended up with our Code 3 [gennaker] and having to drop it without it being furled. We spent two hours half flying and half trawling our Code 3. There are a few little setbacks, otherwise everything is fine onboard.'
In terms of that choice to go South, were you feeling that you couldn't race directly against Macif and Banque Populaire?
'The new boats are very quick, really it was more a question of looking at where Virbac Paprec and Hugo Boss were and saying well, you can follow, which means you just maintain your distance which is what everyone has done, or you can potentially look to get some leverage which could pay dividends and allow you to close up on them. I was probably looking more forward in the fleet, rather than around me.'
How's the mood and motivation onboard?
'Everything is good, we are both very tired, it was pretty hard work getting the sail back onboard, we are just about to wool it to get it back up again. Both of us had a recovery sleep, had time to get ourselves sorted out. Very pleasant, beautiful sunny day, 20-25 knots of breeze, fast downwind sailing, pretty pleasant, can't really complain at that. I hear the weather in England is pretty good at the moment, but it isn't the Caribbean!'
Tell us about the rhythm and routine now - you say you are on the edge a lot, how much do you star and how do you pace each other?
'We were steering a lot yesterday with the kite because the pilot can manage it, but the pilot is completely fearless so the pilot will put the helm up when it really needs to come down. So the boat goes from charging along at 20-25 knots to floating along at 10 knots. It's quite disconcerting, quite nerve-racking. So it’s actually better to steer the boat to get a more consistent performance. We had to steer by hand quite a lot yesterday. But today we are on a Code Sail so the performance is more steady, the pilot is handling it really well and following the wind, every little shift it tracks which is what a helmsman would do. The pilot is relentless at it, which makes it quite powerful tool for these sorts of conditions.
In terms of the options down to the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico, you have to take the same lay line as the boats to your West.
'We may go all the way across to the West, or not. You only have so many tools in your bag, and one of the tools you have is leverage. While we don't want to use all our leverage, as we get down there, we could get headed, and be able to make it in there. We won't do all our leverage in one hit. '
Bureau Vallée - Transat Jacques Vabre 2011
The Caribbean is a long stretch in itself with plenty of opportunities?
'The routing in the Caribbean looks a bit benign, what I mean is that there is a fairly consistent weather pattern across the Caribbean, which sort of defines the routing. The options are considerably less than they have been in the Atlantic over the last couple of weeks, which is a shame as it means less opportunity, but a race like this is never over until it is over and every sailor in the fleet here will have done a race where there is a clear leader, but at the end there is a massive turn around as there is no wind in the final approach and the boats behind charge in. The race isn't over yet and the three guys at the front, particularly Bureau Vallée, Virbac Paprec 3 and Hugo Boss have all taken some gambles to be where they are and have done well at it and good for them!'
Standings at 1700hrs CET on Monday, November 14th, 2011
1 - Virbac Paprec 3 (Jean-Pierre Dick - Jérémie Beyou) : 1160.8 miles to finish
2 - Hugo Boss (Alex Thomson - Guillermo Altadill) : 63.8 miles to leader
3 - Macif (François Gabart - Sébastien Col) : 237.4 miles to leader
1 - Actual (Yves Le Blevec - Samuel Manuard) : 1680.2 miles to finish
2 - Maitre Jacques (Loïc Fequet - Loïc Escoffier) : 200.4 miles to leader
1 - Aquarelle.com (Yannick Bestaven - Eric Drouglazet) : 2356.5 miles to finish
2 - ERDF Des Pieds et des Mains (Damien Seguin - Yoann Richomme) : 137 miles to leader
3 - 40 degrees (Hannah Jenner - Jesse Naiwark) : 249.9 miles to leader
For more rankings click here.
Michèle Paret - Transat Jacques Vabre 2011
Transat Jacques website