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Dick eyes record books as hungry peloton battles behind podium in Transat Jacques Vabre

by Soazig Guého 17 Nov 2017 11:36 PST 17 November 2017

Jean-Pierre Dick and Yann Eliès on St Michel – Virbac are predicted to complete a commanding victory in the Imoca class of the 13th edition of the Transat Jacques Vabre tomorrow (Saturday, November 18) at 21:00 UTC.

It would be a record-breaking victory for Dick, who would become the only person in the history of this bi-annual double-handed race, in any class, to have won four the race four times. Dick, the 52-year-old skipper from Nice, won the Imoca class in 2003, 2005 and 2011.

A 21:00 UTC finish in Salvador de Bahia tomorrow would also mean that Dick and Eliès will set a new record for the Transat Jacques Vabre to Salvador, with Dick beating his own record, of 13 days 09 hours 19 minutes and seconds set with Loïck Peyron on Virbac-Paprec in 2005.

Imoca: Uncomfortable cushions, lucky dice and the sounds of Salvador

ETAs

  • St Michel –Virbac, Saturday, November 18, 21:00 UTC
  • SMA – Sunday, November 19, 12:00
  • Des Voiles et Vous!, Sunday, November 19, 23:30
"When the sound of flying fish fades, we hear the samba schools in Salvador," Pierre Lacaze, co-skipper of Vivo A Beira, said yesterday from the middle of a sticky Doldrums, 1,150 miles from the finish.

But it is Dick and Eliés that will surely hear the sounds of the berimbau* first. St Michel-Virbac is reaching at 17 knots in more easterly trade winds off the coast of Recife in north-east Brazil with 330 miles to Salvador. They still cannot shake the determined SMA, who were still 112 miles behind at 16:00 UTC and waiting for any slip.

As Eliès has repeatedly said, quarter-joking, "we have a cushion it's just not that comfortable." There will be no relaxing until the line is crossed – particularly after Ultime Prince de Bretagne's dismasting on Wednesday just 93 miles from the finish. Dick called that: "the worst accident that could happen to a skipper far from home." The podium places look take but behind Des Voiles et Vous!, Three other Imoca finally emerged from the Doldrums last night and have started to accelerate again: Malizia II, Bastide Otio and Initiatives Cœur. They were positioned east and were the big winners. Generali and Bureau Vallée 2 were the big losers on the west. The tracker reveals 48 hours of derisory speeds of 5 knots and the tell-tall zig-zagging paths of bemused sailors down the centuries in this unknowable passage.

"Obviously we had a strategy and thought east was best, but some were unlucky," Samantha Davies, skipper on Iniatives-Cœur, said "It the biggest changes and distances lost and gained in the fleet I've seen in the Doldrums. Generali and Bureau Vallée really didn't deserve to get dealt those cards.

Many teams, with record race times being predicted in Le Havre, took two days of food out of their boats and left them on the pontoons, and some are cutting it fine now. "We took 14 days of food and it's going to take us a day longer," Davies said. "We took food out, but actually we haven't eaten as much as our daily ration allows."

*A musical Brazilian bow, used especially in the Bahia region to accompany capoeira.

Class40: East is best?

ETA: Leaders, Thursday 23 or Friday 24 November

Anglo-Spanish duo, Phil Sharp and Pablo Santurde on Imerys Clean Energy now have four French duos to contend with at the front of the Class40 fleet.

Teamwork40 is now firmly in the lead group – just 14 miles separate the four boats, with Région Normandie Junior Senior by Evernex only 46 miles behind on the same trajectory as Imerys Clean Energy on the west of the lead group. But the gaps have opened a little over the day with boats to the east, including new leader V&B prospering most.

All five are far to the east of the trapped Imoca, keen not to suffer their fate.

But now extended over more than 6 degrees of latitude (almost 400 miles) the infamous Intertropical Convergence Zone will be complex and long to cross. "We've had average speeds of around 2 knots - as Pablo (Santurde, co-skipper) said yesterday: 'It's like we have been cast adrift into the middle of the ocean,'" Phil Sharp, skipper of Imerys Clean Energy said.

The front five were making 12 knots at 16:00 UTC but they are far from out of it yet, as the Imoca skippers discovered, with the Doldrums extending south faster than they could sail out of them. For the skippers it's almost like the Route du Café has re-started here. "The problem is that it's going to be a very short transat," Aymeric Chappellier, skipper of Aïna Enfance et Avenir, said. "The ranking on exit (of the Doldrums) will be similar to the final ranking and it feels hard that the whole transat will decided by the Doldrums." Behind the Club of Five, the fleet is very scattered. Colombre XL and Le Lion d'or will enter the Doldrums tomorrow.

Phil Sharp, skipper, Imerys Clean Energy (Class40) interview here

Multi50: One boat left

ETA: La French Tech Rennes St-Malo, Sunday, November 19, 13:00 UTC

Réauté Chocolat finished third at 08:19:22 (UTC), 11 days, 19 hours 44 minutes and 22 seconds after leaving Le Havre, Normandy, France and 1 day 0 hours 30 minutes and 3 seconds behind the winner, Arkema.

French Tech Rennes St-Malo is expected to be the fourth and last of the six Multi50 that started to cross the line on Sunday.

Pit Stop At 19:30 UTC last night, Catherine Pourre and Benoit Hochart left the port of Mindelo (Cape Verde) where they had stopped during the day to repair the damaged starboard rudder on their Class40, Eärendil. They are currently in 10th position, 490 miles from leader V and B.

Rankings at 16h06:

Class40
1 - V and B
2 - Aïna Enfance & Avenir
3 - TeamWork40

Multi50
1 - Arkema
2 - FenêtréA - Mix Buffet
3 - Réauté Chocolat

Imoca
1 - St Michel - Virbac
2 - SMA
3 - "DES VOILES ET VOUS!"

Ultim
1 - Sodebo Ultim'
2 - Maxi Edmond de Rothschild

www.transatjacquesvabre.org

The notorious crossing (from Phil Sharp Racing)

After 11 days of racing, Class 40 Imerys Clean Energy continues to be at the forefront of the Transat Jacques Vabre, and is engaged in an intense competition with Aïna, V&B, and now joined by two pursuers, TeamWork40 and Normandy Region SJE.

Skipper of Imerys Clean Energy, Phil Sharp comments: "Our race through the tropics this week couldn't have been more of a contrast to our windy, wet, and fast assault down the North Atlantic. Just a few days ago we were sailing in the sort of conditions you dream about for an ocean escape: 15 knots, downwind, spinnaker up, t-shirt sailing, but sadly this is no longer the case. Since entering the dreaded doldrums we have been in horrendously fickle wind. Trickling further south, we've had average speeds of around 2 knots - as Pablo said yesterday: It's like we have been cast adrift into the middle of the ocean...

"Yesterday was the hardest day of the race so far, pushing us right to the limits of our psychological stability. At one stage we averaged 1.5 knots over 3 hours, whilst boats to the east were sailing between 4 and 7.5 knots. We were then hit by a large squall with 35 knots of wind, the boat took off and we covered our previous 3 hour distance in just 20 minutes! The centre of the large squall passed right over us, with strong flashes of blinding lightening and rain so hard it was like someone pouring constant buckets of water over you. Half an hour later, we were back to 1.5 knots..."

The stamina and focus required to sail in these extreme conditions has been reportedly "fatiguing", but the duo are well adjusted to a natural routine that feels "more like home every day", says Phil. Unable to escape from the blistering sun and ever threatening pressures of competition, Pablo and Phil have been able to momentarily break from their testing reality through the distraction of local life.

"Imerys Clean Energy has attracted some amazing nature so far with huge shoals of flying fish rocketing past. Seemingly attracted to light, Pablo advised against wearing my head-torch too much having once been smacked in the face at night. I found this somewhat hard to believe until I became the next victim...

"Yesterday we had an unforgettable experience with a very special visit from two stunningly colourful Dorados, perhaps using the boat to get some much needed shade... With the beauty of their purple fins and bright yellow tails it's a reminder of how lucky we are to be out here, even if we are madly trying to get to that finish line first!", Phil commented.

As the fleet slowly head south towards the equator, the impact of the doldrums has become evident with a delayed ETA for next Friday.

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