Day 12 of the Transat AG2R La Mondiale and the situation is looking good for the nine crews who chose the road south. As expected, the Safran-Guy Cotten duo have found the consistent trade winds since Thursday that could carry them on one tack to the finish line in St Barts in the Caribbean. At 1200hrs (French time) on Friday, Gwénolé Gahinet and Paul Meilhat were in eighth place, 195 miles behind the leader, Interface Concept (Le Cam-Mahé).
On Sunday, passing La Palma in the Canaries marked the first turning point of this 12th edition of the Transat AG2R La Mondiale. By choosing to dive south to seek the trade winds - the wind in the intertropical regions blows from east to west in the northern hemisphere and from west to east in the southern hemisphere – those competitors significantly lengthened their route to St Barts and were in slow motion for almost 24 hours. But good things come to those who wait and Gahinet and Meilhat have finally been rewarded. At 1200hrs the crews to the south were making four knots more than their rivals in the north. The gap to the leaders should therefore reduce with every passing hour.
One hundred miles (185 km) north of the Cape Verde Islands, the Figaro Safran-Guy Cotten reset its route to the Caribbean. 'We made a few gybes and we are pleased with our position relative to most of our competitors, the closest are La Cornouaille and Skipper Macif and we are watching them closely,' Gahinet said this morning. The converasation with the skipper of Safran-Guy Cotten was succinct and full of the noise of the boat tumbling around on the Atlantic. 'Currently we’ve got 26 knots of wind and big seas, it’s getting really challenging,' Gahinet said. 'Last night, the wind was still a bit unstable and it’s not easy to helm in these conditions, we constantly had to take turns. This is the beginning of a real sprint. The conditions are great because it’s downwind and we are staying dry and sailing in shorts and a T-shirt.' Under spinnaker and mainsail (more than 120 m² of sail), the Figaro Safran-Guy Cotten is gliding along at over 12 knots.
After starting the week with only a little wind, Meilhat and Gahinet got some rest for this last drive to St Barts. 'We'll go around the anticyclone quite naturally by doing 100% of the road to St Barts on the same starboard tack,' Meilhat said on the official race radio interview. 'We are still very focused because everything will turn on small moves and the right settings, there’s everything to play for now,' Gahinet added. 'We are very pleased that our choice is paying off, I guess the situation is less comfortable in the north. The routing gives us an arrival of Sunday, April 27 in St Barts.'
The road to the finish line is still a long one, with 2,100 miles (3,880 km) left to go before they reach the turquoise waters of Gustavia harbour in St Barts. Among the crews in the south, the serious contenders for victory, the battle is just beginning.