In the MOD70 European Tour, following an unexpected outbreak of squalls, localised calms and torrential showers, this afternoon it is computed that less than one mile separated leaders Musandam-Oman Sail from fifth placed Groupe Edmond de Rothschild. With less than 150 miles of the final leg from Marseille to complete to the finish line off Genoa, Italy and the promise of only very light winds at the end, the MOD70 European Tour finale looks set to deliver one final cliffhanger.
The four hour period of unpredictable rain squalls brought big differences in wind direction and forced a small north-south split to develop. Strategies in dealing with the squally showers seem to have Foncia and Race for Water staying close to the direct course and Musandam-Oman Sail, Spindrift racing and Groupe Edmond de Rothschild about 10 miles further to the north.
Short reports from the fleet this afternoon confirm that the five MOD70’s were virtually side by side when the squally period hit. Boats on the same area of water had radically different conditions, one sailing on one hull in a big gust but another, close by, more or less becalmed.
Both Sidney Gavignet, skipper of Musandam-Oman Sail, and Leo Lucet of Spindrift racing reported independently that Groupe Edmond de Rothschild had blown out their gennaker.
'It was really messy' Lucet told Race HQ in a snatched telephone call, 'A great area of unstable weather was the same for Gitana and Oman. Gitana has blown out her gennaker.'
'We were all coming in on a reach with jibs, then a few gennakers appeared. As they set theirs Gitana blew it out. Obviously they don’t have a spare one onboard. The fleet split in two: Gitana; Spindrift and us (Musandam-Oman Sail) believed in going around the cloud by the north, Foncia and Race for Water went straight. We lost sight of each other in the rain. The wind was mad; sometimes we were 100 meters apart on opposite tack with the same course. Finally we got lucky and got out of it; result of that battle? 0,8 miles between first and last boat! Ok, shoot again!' reported Gavignet.
Late morning they had been making more than 20kts of boatspeed reaching under jibs directly towards the north end of Corsica. But now as they emerged from the disturbed weather the north-south divide was at ten miles from Musandam-Oman Sail, Groupe Edmond de Rothschild and Spindrift racing to Race for Water and Foncia in the south, but a more consistent breeze had settled in again according to Lucet: 'Now conditions are more stable and we are on a heading for Giraglia as planned. We have a few gybes to do to get to this next point of passage and will focus on that and the competition. The last part of the leg is going to be complicated with big changes in the wind direction. Right now we are focusing on getting passed Giraglia and keeping an eye on the competition.'
Whether the north-south divide proves conclusive is open to question, but the rivals for the overall MOD70 European Tour title are now split apart. Foncia, who hold six points of advantage are now south of their only challengers, Yann Guichard’s Spindrift racing.
Groupe Edmond de Rothschild had been second as they sailed away from Menorca this morning but a blown gennaker may prove terminal in their quest for move up the leaderboard from fifth to third.
The first half of the 651 miles final leg was swallowed rapidly by the MOD70’s, one final adrenaline pumping downwind leg, racing neck-and-neck on one float for sustained periods at 30kts and more, with all five MOD70’s in touch with each other under a full, harvest moon. 'Under the full moon we were flying on a magic run from Marseilles, under gennaker at an almost constant 30 knots on the one float! Reported Sidney Gavignet, Musandam-Oman Sail skipper this morning. 'Then the fleet was re-grouped under Menorca and Foncia gave us a little ‘Desjoyeauterie’, going from the outside to emerge ahead.'
After this unexpected hurdle - the wide band of unpredictable squalls and rain - the final section of Leg 5 which makes north from La Giraglia off the north of Corsica into the Gulf of Genoa, looks more promising. But forecasters are still anticipating a slow finish in light breezes. Latest ETA is for Tuesday breakfast time.
Leg 5 Standings at 1430hrs (UTC+2hrs):
1 Musandam-Oman Sail OMA (Sidney Gavignet FRA) +181 miles to finish
2 Spindrift racing EUR (Y Guichard FRA) + 0.1 miles to leader
3 Race for Water SUI (S Ravussin, SUI) + 0.1 miles to leader
4 Foncia FRA (M Desjoyeaux, FRA) + 0.4 miles to leader
5 Groupe Edmond de Rothschild FRA (S Josse) + 0.8 miles to leader
MOD70 European Tour website
by Sabina Mollart-Rogerson
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4:48 PM Mon 1 Oct 2012GMT
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