Transat Quebec Saint Malo - Cervin ENR hits whale

Crêpes Whaou! (Photo: Jean-Christophe L’Espagnol)
After hitting a whale Cervin ENR has made it to Port aux Basques, to the south-west of Newfoundland. Crêpes Whaou! is extending its lead over the rest of the fleet and is now 215 miles ahead of Laiterie de Saint Malo Amongst the Class 40s, Télécom Italia and Novedia Group are vying for pole position off Cap Ray.

Approaching Newfoundland, the bulk of the troops in the 7th Quebec Saint Malo are making headway on a beat in the waters of the Cabot Strait. Within the Class 40 fleet the battle is raging off Cap Ray, to the SW of the islands and its famous banks. The 17 crews are still tightly bunched, changing tack in a steady SW'ly breeze and a localized fog, as they make towards the passage between the islands of Saint-Pierre and Miquelon. Meantime amongst the 50 foot multihulls, Crêpes Whaou! is continuing to make good its escape into the open ocean and has been slipping across the Atlantic all alone for the past 24 hours…

One thing for sure is that the quest for the open water has been no picnic in this 2008 edition of the Transat Quebec Saint Malo. Over the last few miles of the Saint Lawrence Bay though, on the approach to the Saint-Pierre and Miquelon gateway, the crews are beginning to smell the sea. After yesterday's calm conditions, the wind god finally deigned to provide the fleet with a SW'ly breeze, which has enabled them all to open their sails, albeit it slightly, and accelerate across short, lumpy waters, bound for the entrance to the ocean. For the time being though, the majority of the crews are still in regatta mode in the bay.

Class 40: in sight of each other despite the fog, still in contact and within sight of each other, nothing, not even the fog, seems to be able to separate the Class 40s. At the 1300 UT ranking this Friday, the top 10 boats in this category are still making headway within an 8 mile zone. Télécom Italia (Giovanni Soldini) remains a familiar leader whilst backrunner Groupe Sefico (Philippe Vallée) is 60 miles astern after 5 days' racing.

The wind is back on the race zone though and the persistent calms of yesterday are but a distant memory. The atmosphere today then is coloured by a SW'ly air flow which, if the forecasts are correct, is set to continue to back. This will be welcome news for the group led by the Italians who will be able to continue to benefit from their S'ly separation.

Novedia Group are right back in the action in second and skipper Tanguy De Lamotte and his dream team are closely shadowing the frontrunner just 0.3 miles astern! Naval architect and crew aboard the Class 40, Sam Manuard explains: 'Hello land, this is the heeled planet! We are close-hauled in very choppy seas. We're being shaken about a bit and it's slamming! We're in contact with Gio (Giovanni Soldini), which is very exciting. Halvard (Mabire) is not far behind. We're waiting for the wind to hang a right so we can round the SW tip of Newfoundland. It'll be great if it kicks in over the next few hours! All's well aboard and we're mega motivated!'

So here we have the ambiance en route to Saint-Pierre and Miquelon. The front of the pack are likely to bundle through the 3 mile strait between the two islands at around 0700 UT tomorrow…

Amongst the largest monohulls, the day remains marked by the misfortune of the 60 foot IMOCA Cervin ENR, which hit a whale at around 2100 UT last night. Yannick Bestaven and his crew are lamenting a ripped out rudder bearing, which has led to considerable water ingress. The monohull made Port aux Basques on the SW tip of Newfoundland this afternoon with the aim of performing makeshift repairs as soon as possible.

In the meanwhile the local monohull 'Port de Québec' skippered by Georges Leblanc, rounded the Percé mark at 2355 UT last night (yesterday afternoon in Gaspésie). It is currently making headway to the NW of the Iles de la Madeleine. In the Fico class, it is now the 60 footer An Ocean of Smiles skippered by Christophe Bullens which is leading the way. At the 1300 UT ranking this Friday, it was in the middle of the Cabot Strait between Nova Scotia and Newfoundland

Quotes from the Boats:
Miranda Merron (40 Degrees): ' We're just changing sails from the solent. It's been quite a bumpy night, not very nice. Now it's grey but it's fine and much calmer. We can see two boats – Appart' City and Calais I think. I'd have preferred to be a bit further to the right of the race course but it's fantastic racing in the 40s. All the boats are good and the positions keep changing. We've been so lucky to have such amazing racing from the start. Everyone's happy here and I think we've all enjoyed drying out after last night, which was a bit rough. We all liked the Saint Lawrence and the scenery was spectacular. It feels very different with 4 people aboard and enough gear for a whole transatlantic race. Today there's not much wind but we're keeping moving. The light wind has been good for us actually. Right now we're going to try and stay on the right side of the fleet before we climb onto the Atlantic rollercoaster!'

Franck-Yves Escoffier (Crêpes Whaou!): 'We're still under the influence of the banks of Newfoundland in a thick fog. We're now making headway across the Atlantic swell and in a 13 knot breeze. We have our eyes fixed on the radar to control the cargo ships and vessels crossing our path. Our passage at Saint-Pierre and Miquelon has been majestic. We benefited from great visibility, the likes of which you must get just 60 days a year at these latitudes. When we got between the islands we found a real reception committee with boats from the sailing school, fishermen and ribs… It even crossed my mind to stop but we'd have never got going again! Right now we're benefiting from very pleasant conditions to slip along with: we're making 12 knots of boat speed in 12-13 knots of breeze. It's a great reward after a difficult to negotiate Saint Lawrence. We have a faster boat so it's not surprising we have got away from the fleet but amongst the 40 footers, where the boats are more homogenous in terms of speed, they're much more bunched up…'

Victorien Erussard (Laiterie de Saint-Malo): 'Ow… that hurts, that really hurts! I can tell you that I do indeed have nerves and the rest of the guys do too! For the past 24 hours we've been tacking in very light winds. Last night was very testing as we hit a terrible, big zone of light airs. Average speed: 3 knots and not on the right heading. What's particularly harrowing is that we were compelled to traverse this windless zone to reach Saint-Pierre and Miquelon. To top it all off, according to the grib files we were the only ones in the entire fleet to suffer in this way. The 'red baron' slipped through of course and has extended his lead over us. As for the other, 'grrrrrrr'…! Well, they're set to make gains on us in a nice breeze on a direct course. We don't deserve this! We've had our nose to the grindstone the whole time. In ten hours' time we should hit a few knots of wind which should get us past the banks of Newfoundland. Act 2 and the Atlantic crossing is forecast to have downwind conditions with 15 to 20 knots of breeze – a just reward after a very special opening to the Quebec Saint Malo.'

Yannick Bestaven (Cervin ENR): 'Late afternoon yesterday we were off Cap Breton, Nova Scotia when we hit something violently. It would appear to be a whale as the rudder was quite marked but it didn't bring the boat to a complete standstill. The rudder isn't broken though the rudder bearing has been ripped away. There is considerable water ingress in the aft sail locker. It occurred at about 2100 UT. We plugged the hole with a piece of plastic, sikaflex and a few bits and pieces we had lying about to limit the infiltration. We headed towards the NE and made headway throughout the night under reduced sail. We've just arrived at Port aux Basques, Newfoundland, which is a pretty little fishing port but