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Transat Jacques Vabre race - Breaking Away and Breaking Back

by Transat Jacques Vabre on 10 Nov 2013
Michel Desjoyeaux and François Gabart on MACIF Transat Jacques Vabre
Taking an option to get through a front in the early hours of this morning seems to have given the Vendée Globe winning duo Michel Desjoyeaux and François Gabart on MACIF the chance to extend their lead in the IMOCA Open 60 fleet on the Transat Jacques Vabre during the third afternoon of racing, since leaving Le Havre on Thursday.

Gabart and Desjoyeaux, widely held to be pre race favourites, were quickest through much of a difficult Friday night and Saturday to build their margin out to 52 miles. And on the 1000hrs UTC position report this morning MACIF was sailing more directly towards the south with a noticeable speed edge over second placed PRB (Vincent Riou and Jean Le Cam) with Cheminées Poujoulat (Bernard Stamm and Philippe Legros) holding third at just less than four miles behind.

While the MOD70 duo are entering much more favourable conditions, having tacked around Cape Finisterre this morning, relishing the prospect of getting south into the NE’ly Portuguese trade winds to reach at speeds more normal for the high speed 70 foot multihulls, it was the Multi 50s and the IMOCAs which will bear the brunt of the Biscay gale and big seas. But while the MOD70’s escaped the worst of it, Oman Air-Musandam’s skipper Sidney Gavignet still reported that the combination of confused sea conditions and gusty, squally winds added up to some of the worst conditions that he had yet encountered with Oman Air-Musandam.

'The night was really hard; there was a huge seaway so we tried to protect ourselves by hugging the coastline, finally reducing sail to the third reef and the code three jib (the small headsail). The boat was literally taking off and we were not going very fast.' Gavignet said,

'It is very hard to get any sleep; being so close to the coast, the one that is not helming is navigating. We have hardly slept at all. We are tired, but as soon as we get past the Cape, things will improve quite quickly. We will be doing a straight line south and we will be able to get some rest. Our immediate goal is to win back the eight nautical miles that we lost to Edmond de Rothschild overnight. At the moment, we can’t see them; they must be about 10nms ahead of us.'

The poor conditions will last until Sunday for the Multi50s and IMOCA Open 60s as this deep low pressure which has emanated from Newfoundland and is tracking quickly makes life very testing for the Multi50s especially. This is exacerbated by the wind shifts between SW and W with more than 30kts average and much more in the gusts, the crossed seas make it very bouncy and unpleasant for the multihulls.
In the Multi 50 Class it is still Actual (Yves Le Blevec and Kito de Pavant) which holds the overall lead but Maitre Jacques (Loic Fequet and Loic Escoffier) have worked up to second place, some nine miles behind the leaders who won the class in 2011. Key for the Multi 50’s has been their trajectory and timing to deal with the front at the most favourable point, avoiding the worst of the winds and seas.

Roscoff Restart
After their enforced weather halt in Roscoff last night and today the 26 boat Class 40 fleet will restart from 0300hrs early tomorrow morning. Starting in the order of finishing into the Breton haven, GDF SUEZ (Sébastien Rogues and Fabien Delahaye) start just under 20 minutes ahead of the Spanish pair Alex Pella and Pablo Santurde on Tales Santander 2014. They will head into strong NW’ly winds initially with over 30-35kts to start with.
' Across Biscay we will be mostly upwind on starboard in about 20kts of wind but at the start and out to Ushant it looks like it will be windy with big seas, 30+ knots for sure then it will begin to drop away.' Brian Thompson, skipper of Caterham Challenge explained in Roscoff today, ' To start with we will have winds north of NW and so we should be reasonably fast and able to punch through. The race is to get out through the front which is kind of stalled at the moment. The longer it takes you to get through it the lighter the winds will be to the east of it, and so there is a rich get richer scenario, or a bit a of a double whammy for the later starters if you like.'

They said:
Mike Gascoyne, co-skipper Caterham Challenge:
'We were reasonsably happy with the first leg but got some fishing net, perspex and weed around the keel which Brian had to dive to get it off about two hours before we got into Roscoff, so we kind of reckon that cost us two or three boats, but whatever we were happy with the way we sailed the boat. For most of the time we were with the fast pack, so we were happy. It’s just a shame the first leg was not about 5200 miles longer.'

Brian Thompson, skipper, Caterham Challenge:
'Across Biscay we will be mostly upwind on starboard in about 20kts of wind but at the start and out to Ushant it looks like it will be windy with big seas, 30+ knots for sure then it will begin to drop away. To start with we will have winds north of NW and so we should be reasonably fast and able to punch through. The race is to get out through the front which is kind of stalled at the moment. The longer it takes you to get through it the lighter the winds will be to the east of it, and so there is a rich get richer scenario, or a bit a of a double whammy for the later starters if you like.We have about six boats all starting within around 15 minutes of us and in all I think we will be in a ten boat pack or something like that, so it is great, really close racing, we are back in full sprint mode.'

Loïc Fequet , co- skipper of the Multi 50 Master Jacques:
'Through the night we had 25-30kts of wind and some big gusts of over 40kts. The wind has calmed down a little but the seas are very big. We are pleased to get back up to second because we were not happy with the start of our race. The option of our router Jean Yves Bernot to send us to the west was good. We tried to just keep the boat moving at a steady speed through the night. We decided to alter course a bit away from the direct course to Cape Finisterre to avoid the worst of the seas which were on that route. We work on a daily basis with our router. He tells us which way to go and what is happening next.'

Charles Caudrelier , co- skipper of the MOD70 Edmond de Rothschild:
'The conditions were difficult with big seas in the Bay of Biscay. We were making 22 knots average but when there is less sea we’d have been doing 30 knots. It's hard for us and the boat. During the night we tacked around Cape Finisterre it really was a painful night. But we best not complain because it must be tough for those behind. There is now 25-30 knots on starboard tack and the seas are better and so we will reach more normal MOD70 speeds... And in 24 hours we will be in the trade winds, we are leaving the French winter we will have good weather conditions soon. We have had a good fight with Oman Air – Musandam. Until now we have mainly looked after ourselves, you have to be very careful not to take a stupid tumble in these conditions.
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