The Imoca monohull Cervin ENR skippered by Yannick Bestaven has just set out from Port aux Basques, to the south of Newfoundland. He has repaired his port rudder bearing, damaged after hitting a whale. He is 120 miles from Saint-Pierre and Miquelon.
Finally after six days of racing, the fleet of the 7th Transat Quebec Saint Malo are making headway this Saturday off the last banks of Newfoundland.
In the wake of the 50 foot multihulls, the bulk of the Class 40 troops are this Saturday negotiating a passage between the islands of Saint-Pierre and Miquelon. In downwind conditions and the return of thick fog, the crews are one by one making their entry into the grand oceanic spaces.
Still leading the way and retaining the vast majority of its lead amassed in the waters of Saint Lawrence Bay, Crêpes Whaou! battles onwards. 'We’ve got good visibility again and the sun has put in an appearance, says skipper Franck-Yves Escoffier. The boat is slipping along nicely at 16-18 knots. We’re peaking at 20-21 knots at times which is great. We’re tacking downwind. A low is building above us to the north of the Atlantic, and we’re going to play with the lift. We hope to be able to drop down with it as far as Saint Malo. It won’t be stormy so all the better for us. We’ll hit 25 knots max. and then we can make 400 mile days…'
Off Cape Race to the SE of Newfoundland, the crew of Laiterie de Saint Malo are also feeling chirpier. Victorien Erussard and his team, who left Saint Pierre and Miquelon behind them shortly before midnight, have picked up the pace and are relishing the speed after a slow start to the race. This Saturday afternoon, after covering 1,100 miles, four 50 foot multihulls have now made it into the Atlantic. Solely Délirium, Hervé de Carlan is still making headway in the waters of the Cabot Strait.
In the FICO monohull camp and following the pitstop of the 60 foot IMOCA Cervin ENR (Yannick Bestaven) on the south coast of Newfoundland, An Ocean of Smiles is making headway through Saint-Pierre and Miquelon. Christophe Bullens’ crew are sailing alongside the Class 40s, the latter also passing through the French archipelago this Saturday.
For the 40 footers still making headway in contact regatta mode enveloped in thick fog, yet another restart would seem to be the order of the day. In the downwind conditions which are enabling everyone to finally open their sails, tactical coups are par for the course. At the 1300 UT ranking, the unshakable Giovanni Soldini is still leading the dance aboard Télécom Italia. A little separation is in evidence to the south of the banks of Newfoundland, with shifty winds in terms of strength in line with the coast, which closes off the vast Saint Lawrence Bay to the north.
Five miles astern, the trio aboard Pogo Structures isn’t dropping their guard in conditions which are ripe for upsets in the ranking, as skipper and French sailing legend Halvard Mabire bears witness: 'We’re going great guns in 15 knots of breeze under spinnaker, making around 12/13 knots. A seal has just come to investigate us. Intriguingly the weather scenario is such that it keeps seeming to favour those who are behind so we should see a new start at Saint Pierre. The conditions are really, really strange. I think the fog is making us all a bit crazy. It’s a bit of a shame we have to round this mark between the islands which we’re not even going to see! When you’ve been enveloped in fog and it suddenly lifts, it’s fabulous. It’s like you can suddenly see again! It feels like we’ve been working flat out since the start but there’s always some coup to be had. It’s great racing, though at this rate we’re going to break the slowness record. For now we’re concentrating on getting out of this zone and out into the Atlantic.'
The Norman is being tailed by Mistral Loisirs (Oliver Krauss) and Novedia Group (Tanguy De Lamotte), who together make up the top four. For these leaders, the ocean beckons just a few miles away and with it the grand crossing. Roll on Sunday! Quotes from the Boats: Giovanni Soldini (Telecom Italia):
'It is difficult to see anything as we are immersed in a thick fog and we are half a mile from land. In addition the seas are flat and we’re making headway at just one knot of boat speed, which isn’t a very pleasant feeling. We will be much more comfortable once we reach the ocean. For the moment our objective is to traverse the channel and round the mark. ' Benoit Parnaudeau (Prevoir Vie):
'We were sailing with Halvard Mabire and Olivier Krauss but then we broke the mainsail halyard so we lost a few miles whilst we tried to make repairs. In the fog we can’t see a thing. We’re doing okay as we have around 10 knots of wind and are making 8 kts VMG. As we can’t even see past the end of the boat there’s one person on deck the whole time, the other half in half out and the third sleeps, so we’ll keep going like that. There’s a SW’ly breeze which isn’t very strong but at least it’s there and we can slip along with it, just to the north of the high pressure. I think the fleet will bunch together again off Miquelon for a new start but we’re a little disappointed because, unless the fog lifts, we won’t see anything of the islands.' Class 40 President, Jacques Fournier (L'Esprit Large Talmont St Hilaire):
'lt is 2300 UT but it’s daylight through the fog. Our position is 47°11 N and 56°30 W, 20 miles to the south of Newfoundland heading due west towards Saint Pierre and Miquelon which we should pass in around 13 hours, that is 1500 hours on Saturday 26th. We have a change of scene now with flat seas and pure speed has become our obsession. With a light 10 knots of breeze the boat is slipping along at over 7 knots. The helmsman is concentrated on his instruments and the rest of the crew are maintaining a chapel like silence so as not to disturb him and benefiting from these moments to rest. It’s the first time since the start that we’ve been able to appreciate this calm aboard. Solely the noise of the boat slipping along is perceptible and the cotton wool enveloping us makes this a rather magical moment. We can make out the other boats around us with the position reports every 3 hours but the night will be long without contact as we await the 0500 ranking which will reveal how successful we’ve been or not. Those of you on land can follow our developments with more precision. Bravo to technical advances but bravo too to the mystery which surrounds our sport. ' Christophe Bullens (An Ocean of Smiles):
'Ocean racing sometimes has some nasty surprises in store: Cervin ENR lost a rudder bearing and we’ve lost a pacesetter. I hope he’ll be able to set out again quickly without too much damage (it’s the Vendée Globe in 3 months so we have our fingers crossed for you Yannick). We’ve selected a more S’ly course since Percé, on the hunt for a wind shift which has really taken a while in coming. Now though we can go into overdrive and we’re making over 14 knots, full and by. We should round Saint Pierre on Saturday morning (local time). The crew is extremely motivated for our entry into the Atlantic. Our ballast tank and rib issues have been made secure, but we still have to scoop out one to two buckets an hour in the central pod.' Loïc Escoffier (Laiterie de Saint Malo):
'I’m eagerly awaiting the white horses! With the Iles of Saint Pierre and Miquelon behind us, I wanted to share my thoughts with you as I saw this piece of rock emerge out of the fog. It’s a fabulous landscape and I’ll take lots of memories of it with me. If I’d lived at the time of the old Newfoundland, I’d have really enjoyed being a Captain of one of its fishing vessels. Aboard, all is well! Superb atmosphere but frustration with this little passage which has not favoured us once again, instead my father (Franck-Yves) abandoning me in cowardly fashion. However we