Since yesterday evening, the six "historic" leaders of the Transat Jacques Vabre made in Class40 have bumped into the vast zone of light winds spread around the Cape Verde archipelago, and on the island of Sal, which the competitors in the 12.19 m long class must leave to starboard before starting the Atlantic crossing towards Martinique.
The result is a spectacular change in the rankings, with a change of leader to the benefit of the Belgian-French duo Gerkens-Hantzperg of the Max 40 Volvo. The six protagonists who have been leading the way to Cape Verde until now, with whom Crédit Mutuel (Lipinski - Pulvé) and the astonishing British duo of Tquila, Brian Thompson and Alister Richardson, have been linked since dawn, are still benefiting from a slight gap in the South, which is going to favor their approach to the archipelago. However, it is now the group elegantly named "2nd Division" by Cédric Chateau (Seafrigo - Sogestran) that we must look for to find real changes in the ranking, as the positions are calculated in relation to the direct route, which runs due west. This morning, 4th place is proudly occupied by Axel Tréhin and Frédéric Denis (Project Rescue Ocean) and 5th place by the amazing girls of La Boulangère Bio, Amélie Grassi and Marie Riou. This shake-up in the rankings should not erase the reality of the placements on the water, with a clear advantage for the most southerly boats. On the other hand, the compression of the head of the fleet is very real, and 17 boats, including Legallais de Pierre-Cazenave-Péré and Kevin Bloch, are within 100 miles of each other.
While the battle is becoming increasingly indecisive on this 11th day of the race, while the halfway point has just been crossed, the Class40 fleet is mourning its first retirement, that of HBF-Reforest'Action of Kito De Pavant and Gwen Gbick. Their bowsprit could not withstand the long downwind slipstream session in the strongest part of the trade winds. The two men are now heading north towards Gibraltar and the Mediterranean. We also note the stop this morning in La Palma in the Canaries of Sabrosa40 Lenzi - Lanternes de Paris to the duo Tanguy Duchatelet - Fabrice Renouard. A temporary technical pit stop.
Which route to the trade winds ?
The problem of the day, and a big one it is, is how to negotiate this mandatory passage to Cape Verde. There are two obvious options: a crossing as close as possible to the island of Sal for the most direct route possible. Or looking for a way out in the South, in a vast turning movement to avoid site effects, staying away from the calms that are spreading beyond the archipelago and getting caught up in a North-East trade wind that we can guess is building up again at the latitude of Guinea-Bissau.
Another theme in the Class40 news is the possible rationing of food and gas oil. Many crews are concerned this morning about the relative slowness of the race since the start in Le Havre. A number of optimists had predicted a 19-day Transat. At the start of the 12th day of racing, and while the actual crossing of the Atlantic has not yet begun, with the prospect of a trade wind that is lazier than ever, it is the question of supplies that is being raised here and there. Food, but also the gas oil needed when the hydro generator and solar panels are not enough to charge the batteries on board, could run out. Consequently, the first restrictions and food rationing are revealed by some crews:
Lamotte Module Creation : Luke Berry
"As for the rations: like all the competitors, we are starting to say that we will be limited in food. So on my side, I took the lead by skipping meals to prepare days 21-21-23? (We have only 20 days of food). Achille on his side has a different approach. He's eating everything now and will see at the end. He wants to be dry and salient for his beach body ready at the finish (lol)!"
Edenred : Emmanuel Le Roch
"This transatlantic race has a special flavor of slow! Every day that passes puts us further away from the finish. The countdown is no longer done ... we are adding days ... already since Portugal after having done the accounts in water, gas and oil, we are tightening our belts. But here, it's a diet cure!"
Redman : Antoine Carpentier
"We started the rationing, we only ate two meals today, it's quiet, we're really hungry! For the moment, we are laughing about it, but in ten days I am not sure that it will still be the case... we have planned only 19 days of food and for those who know me, they know that it is a big problem and the worst is that Pablo shares with me the passion of eating well. The problem of water is not a problem, we had planned two days more than food, who knows why? The last problem is the energy on board! Even if we have solar panels, we have to make one or two engine loads per day! We started to cut the maximum of devices on board to not consume too much, I even cut the power station which allows us to have the wind information, the car pilot, the computer of the board during two hours this afternoon... we steer a lot."
Performance of the day : Gain of 5 places this morning for Freedom. Thibaut Lefevere and Thomas Bulck are in 32nd position after having covered 300 miles in the last 24 hours, at an average of over 12 knots. A performance comparable to that of the sisters Julia and Jeanne Courtois (Saint James - Biscuiterie de l'Abbaye) who have jumped three places in the general ranking. We also note Serenis Consulting (Galfione - Péron) back to the 23rd place.
Quotes of the day :
Everial : Stan Thuret
"50 miles from the Sahara. Just in front of Dhakla. And there comes out of nowhere a boat. A boat rather. A very frail canoe of 7m maybe. With a motor. 3 African fishermen on board. They get as close as they can to my wind. The 147 surfs at 15 knots in 3m waves. The two boats approach each other respectfully. I wake Mathieu from his nap. We are on the deck in Cotten oilskins. And they also have the same foulies. The 3 shaken fishermen then raise their arms in sign of greeting and encouragement. One returns to them of more beautiful this dash. We have a smile on our face and so do they."
Avanade : Maxime Cauwe
"Todo well aboard Avanade and even more since Jules managed to get the emergency autopilot going again. We can finally spend more time on the adjustments, go on more structured watches where you do nav, adjustment etc. ... rather than being riveted to your helm seat. One more complicated day of knitting in light airs before we put the blinker to the right and go for the big ride to Martinique!"
Exploring Tech for good : Enguerrand Granoux
"We decided to fight. So we alternated 1 hour at the helm, 1 hour sleeping or at least trying to, always dressed if ever we had to go help the one outside quickly! The night was sportive! 20/25 nds at 130 of wind, the boat was going in impressive accelerations, the whole with the full moon! Incredible show! The game was to compare the boat speed on the pos report every hour (position and speed of the fleet every hour)! Victor perfectly mastered his subject with a nice average speed of 13.5 knots over one hour in the middle of the night! Not easy but we managed to hold until sunrise! At this moment the wind continues to rise, we say to ourselves that it is the moment to pass under small Spi. We had hardly the time to finish our maneuver and to put away that the wind falls, neither one nor two, we change again of sail for a bigger spinnaker! We blow finally and we take off our oilskins to breathe a little! Error! We see the display going from 15 nds to 25/30nds in 2 minutes! We say to ourselves that it is going to pass, we take the helm and we take advantage, the boat by in overspeed on every wave it is super impressive, a first point has 20nds a second in 21.8nds, new record validated by Enguerrand! We wonder if the boat will hold, if the bowsprit will not explode! But everything resists well, we really have confidence in the boat!"
Milai : Anna Beaugé
"Strange weather on the sea planet! Approaching the tropical depression, the wind observed has not much to do with either of the forecasts, so we are moving forward at a snail's pace, each length covered being a good gain to take. The fleet is settling down a bit, there is the accordion effect of the different weather systems, we saw the leading pack stop for an hour or two, and we always look in the mirror, those who are shooting behind. Close to the African fish zone, dolphins made their reappearance: they are small, almost all grey and some spotted. The weather is very mild, gray, rather humid, during the day; the light is very whitish, the sky is complex, some scattered rain..."
Seafrigo - Sogestran : Cédric Chateau
"After 24 hours of magic, full steam ahead towards the island of Sal with averages above the average of our comrades, Seafrigo-Sogestran is back in the "league 2" scrum. The atmosphere on board was one of concentration today to avoid going off course, which could lead to damage. We really pulled on the boat and it held up well to the hellish pace we imposed on it. It is thus a little burned that we join our comrades of the 2nd group (the group of the leaders being a little detached). We'll have to stay lucid because the rest of the scenario is going to play with our nerves on a very open water tactically. The result of the races in 24/36 hours."
Calliste Antoine: Croatia Full of Life
"Lighter day for wind and speed, we slept a lot. Inceeritud of the night, without engine for energy and with a speed too low for the generator it will be complicated (7,5knts of speed to have juice. We made the food point today, it's limited for the routing at 23 days of race. Otherwise, we've caught up with the fleet in front but the fleet behind us has also come back, it feels like the second start in Cape Verde."
Olivier Magré : E.Leclerc - Ville-La-Grand:
"48H very active with this good wind, so we took advantage of it! (409nm over 24 hours! that's a lot of miles! Now we're back to an old enemy, the calm! It's getting quite calm, especially during the night tomorrow until Friday morning. I still dare to hope that the files will improve but there is often little room for that unfortunately."