Transat Ecover B to B - Brit Air Distmasted

Brit Air
©Benoit Stichelbaut

Armel Le Cleac'h is heading towards the Cape Verde archipelago after dismasting shortly before lunchtime UTC Wednesday, whilst sailing in the tradewinds again. Pretty much all the fleet in the Transat Ecover BtoB have hit the trades now, with Loick Peyron leading the way and heading due North towards the Canaries at an average of over 13 knots.

The news came yesterday lunchtime: Brit Air had dismasted after escaping the Doldrums and was sailing with eased sheets. 'It occurred around lunchtime French time. I was down below when I heard a big crack. The mast broke and fell on the side of the deck. I'm a bit anxious about the damage it's done to the deck. There was a bit of wind and sea but it wasn't stormy.

I had to try and sort out the mess pretty quickly. I managed to get the mast clear of the boat and it sank fast along with everything else. All I have left is one outrigger so there’s not enough to make up a jury rig.

The Cape Verde islands are about 400 miles away so I'll try and head there. I'm currently under motor at a reduced speed because both the wind and the sea is on the nose. My shore crew is trying to find a solution. We're looking at whether there's enough fuel or whether we can rendez-vous with a ship to refuel or organise a tow.

I don't understand how it happened. I had about 20 knots of breeze, a bit of chop and not too much sail as I'd reduced earlier this morning. 'm disappointed but I'll have to make do with it for now' detailed Armel Le Cléac'h, contacted at the radio session from the Paris Boat Show.

An escapee and some regrouping

At the head of the fleet, Loïck Peyron (Gitana Eighty) is serene, even if life aboard isn‘t all rosy!

'It’s a real joy to be up front! It’s not very comfortable and there's at least three days of this... Gitana Eighty and I have done a good job: it wasn’t an easy doldrums, I didn’t sleep… I'm working hard though under two reefs and staysail. It's wet! The doldrums were pretty active and required a lot of work with each flurry of wind. It's slamming quite a bit. There's water on deck all the time. It's still warm but it's wet so you have to change your clothes quite a lot or sometimes I even helm in the nude… hygiene is important aboard!'

Just forty miles astern, three pursuers are on a mission to make up their deficit, including Marc Guillemot (Safran) who is going to give it his all to stay with the leader:

'It’s him that has the problem! He is within gunshot and I’m 60 miles West of him… He should be keeping a low profile if he’s got any sense the Peyron! Between here and the Canaries, it’s feasible: I’m in good shape and Safran will be able to settle the argument with guns on this point of sail.'

After this leading group which also harbours Yann Eliès (Generali), in a great second place, Mike Golding (Ecover) and Bernard Stamm (Cheminées Poujoulat) seem to have come off the worst from the doldrums! One hundred miles lost in a few hours: it's a heavy sanction.

Was it their technical problems (ballast tanks) which prevented them from keeping up the pace: once again impossible to get through to any of our Anglo-Saxons at today's radio session so hopefully all will be revealed tomorrow. Whatever the case, the duo will be keeping their eyes on their rear view mirrors as Samantha Davies (Roxy), Jean-Baptiste Dejeanty (Maisonneuve), Arnaud Boissières (Akena Vérandas) and Yannick Bestaven (Cervin EnR) are not very far behind now and may well be sailing within sight of each other.

As for Dee Caffari (Aviva), Rich Wilson (Great Americain III) and Derek Hatfield (Spirit of Canada),they’re currently in the process of escaping the Inter-Tropical Zone of Convergence and will then be able to accelerate like the rest of the fleet.

On the menu for the next two or three days: a long tack in the E’ly trades, that is wind on the beam to traverse the Southern edge of the Azores High which is repositioning itself towards Madeira over the weekend. It is at this level that the weather is more uncertain and there may be a bunching up of the fleet prior to the final sprint, which promises a stiff depression early next week.

Transat ECOVER B to B Ranking 14:00 (French time)

1 Gitana Eighty at 2531.10 miles from the finish
2 Generali 41.30 miles behind
3 Safran 41.90 miles behind
4 Groupe Bel 42.40 miles behind
5 Foncia 80.50 miles behind
6 Brit'Air 84.80 miles behind
7 Ecover 114.60 miles behind
8 Cheminées Poujoulat 147.40 miles behind
9 Roxy 205.80 miles behind
10 Maisonneuve 209.60 miles behind
11 Akena Veranda 218.40 miles behind
12 Cervin EnR 219.70 miles behind
13 Aviva 312.40 mles behind
14 Great American III 359.30 milles
NL Spirit of Canada