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TJVNLH, D+18 : The slalom of sargasso !

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It's an exercise that must inspire the skiers involved in the Transat Jacques Vabre, Class40 category. Aurélien Ducroz (Crosscall), Mathieu Crépel (Everial) and of course the world champion Ivica Kostelic (Croatia Full of Life) know what zigzagging means. In this case, and in the heart of the Atlantic, it is the more or less extensive, more or less thick patches of sargassum, these highly toxic marine plants, which force the sailors to slalom to avoid these slimy masses which cling to their riders and keel, slowing down their progress considerably. No one escapes them and the duos multiply their efforts to get rid of them, either with the help of poles, or with the help of ropes, or with the help of backtracking, which penalizes them in terms of gains on the road.

It is in this context and under an overwhelming tropical heat by less than 10 degrees of latitude North, that the jousts continue. In the wake of Redman (Carpentier - Santurde), who is still as successful as ever in his choices of route and his ability to go fast whatever the wind, there are still a dozen or so who are playing their chances of victory or a podium place with gusto. While the leader crossed the 1,000-mile mark this morning, 12 boats, from Volvo, 2nd (Gerckens - Hantzperg) to the remarkable Clak40 Emile Henry - Happyvore of Nicolas D'Estais and Erwan Le Draoulec, 13th, are within 70 miles. And while the frontrunners are managing to make headway westwards in a semblance of trade winds , this time it is the whole rear guard, still held by the duo Guiguen - Pinson (Terre Exotique) in Cape Verde, which is suffering from the total collapse of the north-easterly flow.

If Antoine Carpentier and Pablo Santurde (Redman), vigilant on their meager food reserves, are now counting on a finish in the next 5 days, the road will still be long for the second half of the pack.

Zoom on : Clown Hop

He planned to sail on a brand new Class40, a scow40 on Bertrand's design, freshly delivered by his South African builder. The lawyer from Le Havre, treasurer of the Ligue de Voiles de Normandie Renaud Courbon had to change his mind, find and prepare a second-hand Class40 to set off, together with the rookie of the Normandy sailing world Guillaume Pirouelle on his second Transat Jacques Vabre. The Pogo S3 on which they were able to set their sights dates from 2013 and has none of the assets of the latest generation Class40s that the duo from Le Havre dreamed of. However, the examination of their race reveals a very honorable course, far from the depths of the ranking to which they were promised. 18th this morning, Clown Hop, named after the association supported by the two companions, which works to give meaning to life by recreating a social link with the elderly and disabled, using the character of the clown, is evolving 180 miles from the leader Redman, at the heels of another Norman of the race, Calliste Antoine associated with Ivica Kostelic (Croatia Full of Life).

Quotes of the day :

Anne Beaugé - Milai

"Difficult to steer with the vmg, a rather flat boat, without visual reference at night. The pilot is on call every evening for longer and longer. Good day on board Milai, relay at the helm every hour in the heat of the day, naps moist but deep. On board we each have an advent calendar, chocolate for Masa, Haribo for me. They are gifts from a friend, Yuka. They help us to count the days of the race and to give us a boost when it's hard to get out of the lethargy of a nap. Masa's chocolates are melted. Milai is running pretty well, we haven't got the whip out yet..."

Calliste Antoine - Croatia full of life

"A lot of sargassum, 4 backward steps in the day to remove it from the keel, at most 6 times hands in the water in 1 hour to remove those on the rudders, in short the horror! We're going to be short of food (we had more or less 21-22 days at the start), water is fine but with the overwhelming heat we're drinking a lot.

Cedric Chateau - Seafrigo Sogestran

"Well, in the end, our placement a little further south than the Class40 tribe paid off. We did a great operation which allows us to come close to the podium of the general classification but very provisional! Indeed, let's not forget that Martinique is quite far and that many things can still happen. On board, everything is going well, we are careful not to sargasso too much when we enter a zone of banks of .... Sargasso. And yesterday, there were some areas where every 10 minutes we had to go backwards. Weary..."

Olivier Magré - E.Leclerc -Ville-La-Grand

"End of the poetic/philosophical part! Nature is beautiful but we would like to have a trade wind worthy of the name... today, 7 to 10 knots of wind... so much to say that the ranking point this evening will hurt the heart... Well, the positive side is that in theory, it should remain light tonight but it will come back tomorrow and the day after, and that from Friday or Saturday, we will finally set course for Martinique for good and the wind should be there!

Antoine Carpentier - Redman

"Long day under the blazing sun, slaloming between the sargassum. The fleet is regrouping in the South, which is not to our displeasure, it's easier to control everyone when everyone is sailing together and not one group to the North and one group to the South. We're not going on a direct tack at the finish. The wind has eased a little, the heat in the boat is just crazy during the day... we sweat a lot without doing anything... Impossible to sleep during the day so we occupy ourselves as we can. As far as food is concerned, we have 8 meals left each, for 5 and a half days of race! It is going to be hot on Sunday, we risk to be really very very hungry at the time of our arrival. For those who will come to see us, think of taking us a sandwich please! In addition to the ty punch of course..."

Stan Thuret - Everial

Gybes are like omelets. 

To make a good omelet, you need a hot pan.

In this respect, we are well served. 

The ocean is at 29, the cabin at 35.

Then you have to butter it well. 

It must be smooth and fluid.

It must not stick.

A well-rounded egg, well stirred. 

A well-rounded spinnaker, well bunched.

And then that's the fun part.

Do I mix the new listening right away? 

Do I leave a little time on one side to replenish the albumin? 

Do I try to turn the pan with the stick? 

Do I free the bastaque with a wooden spatula to loosen the edges? 

How long do I wait to flip? 

What do I do if it comes out like a soft-boiled egg?"

Thomas Bulcke - Free dom

"For the last 2 days we have been gliding along in what looks like a timid trade wind. We have wind between 10-13 knots at 50 and 80 so NE. We are closely following the wind rotations to try to always be on the closest edge, knowing that like the leading pack, our route will be through the South. Not easy this exercise. Sometimes we have the impression to make the great move and to gybe at the right moment and 30 minutes later the wind turns again and we say to ourselves that we would have been better not to gybe. It must be said that the gybes are really painful especially at night. We have less things to gybe and the ballast tanks are often empty! It's the heat and the heaviness inside the boat that make us swim after 5 minutes of gybing. Next time I'll bring a fan. I dream of a fresh salad with 1 Litre of frozen beer, with my feet in the sand. Martinique is coming!"

Julia Virat- UP SAILING Unis pour la planète

"It seems that the first ones are already celebrating their arrival... congratulations to them! As for us, the outcome is still far away. But we passed Cape Verde the day before yesterday and that's good for our morale: it's now the last stretch. Well, right, I mean! We are now living with the heat (a bit overwhelming during the day), the flying fish and the sargassum.

For the moment, the conditions allow us to hold with our only remaining spinnaker (the big one, which is a light wind spinnaker). We have not exceeded 25 knots downwind since the other one (the heavy spinnaker for the breeze) has completely torn. That's good. This is a factor we will have to deal with until the finish... We might as well say that we take great care of the big spinnaker because without it, the road would become even longer! The sun is rising in the sky, it will be time to spread cream and continue to steer, steer, steer."

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