With three days to the finish of the Transat AG2R La Mondiale in St Barts, the Figaro Safran-Guy Cotten is keeping up the pressure in second place. At 1300hrs (French time), just 8.9 miles separated Gwénolé Gahinet and Paul Meilhat from the leader Skipper Macif. After 19 days of a great racing, the confident young crew of Safran-Guy Cotten are dreaming of a victory and know it will go down the finish. How the thriller ends should be known by Monday evening.
'We will not give up,' Gahinet said on Friday morning. 'We just had a great night. We sailed on the same tack and that suited our strategy. We haven’t slept as well as that since the start. So, yes, we are in good shape to keep attacking until the end.' The tone was clear, calm and focused, it was not the voice of the rookie of the Figaro Bénéteau circuit that spoke this morning, but rather that of a hardened competitor and skipper of the Figaro Safran-Guy Cotten. With the end in sight, the duo will make every effort to be first at the finish line off the port of Gustavia in St Barts.
As the night passed the trade winds weakened over the Atlantic, but with 15-20 knots of wind, the Figaro Safran-Guy Cotten was still gliding along at nine knots. With 640 miles to the finish, the four leading boats are engaged in an intense battle. At the moment Fabien Delahaye and Yoann Richomme on Skipper Macif, are leading by just 8.9 miles and slightly to the north of Safran-Guy Cotten, followed by Generali (Lunven- Péron) and La Cornouaille (Jourdain-Le Pape). 'We are in a better position than Skipper Macif,' Gahinet said. 'I think they will have to readjust a bit and gybe. That’s going to be a thorny dilemma for them. For us? We positioned ourselves to the south on a tack and we will make a decision based on what they do. We managed to take some miles from them after we passed La Palma, so we are confident in terms of speed. Mentally, that’s an advantage.'
Arriving in the Caribbean can be full of surprises but the weather files seem to be pretty clear on what is coming. 'The routing we have done takes us to windward of la Désirade and Barbuda which will allow us to avoid the wind shadow of the islands,' Gahinet said. 'The wind will continue to ease off a bit but in theory there are no traps. So we just have to focus on the speed and smooth running of the boat. It is close to the perfect scenario. I am savouring every moment of this transat, it's still a bit chilly at night, sometimes it's wet, but the sun is really strong,' Gahinet added admitting he is looking forward to getting back on land and enjoying a few local specialties. But before the fritters and the famous ti-punch, there are still three days of racing before the winner of the 12th edition of the Transat AG2R La Mondiale will be decided. The game is on.
Between two training sessions on Safran in La Trinité-sur-Mer, Marc Guillemot is avidly following Safran-Guy Cotten’s Figaro race. 'Paul and Gwénolé have had a magnificent race,' Guillemot said. 'We are seeing a great contest at the front. I found their small shift in latitude compared to Skipper Macif very interesting. The race is not over and we shouldn’t underestimate anyone at this stage. But whatever happens, being on the podium will be beautiful and the crew that crosses the line first in St Barts will deserve their victory.'