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Groupama Race: The calm after the storm

by Nic Douglass 21 Jun 00:50 PDT 19-25 June 2022
Axians Untouchable lead on IRC in the Groupama Race © Nic Douglass @sailorgirlHQ

The trade winds have settled in New Caledonia and the fleet have continued to enjoy the calmer conditions. The majority of the fleet are now around the North of the Island and heading upwind for home along the East coast.

Damage throughout the fleet

The unanimous view from the crews is that the first night was daunting, and there have been numerous breakages reported throughout the fleet.

"We're smiling," said Jeronimo Souza aboard IFP Patrimoine-Muleque.

"The sea is beautiful, there is a great sun," reported Vincent Trinquet, on Motorboat II.

"The morale is back after a hectic night," Rémi Carpetier explained on behalf of the crew of Xanax.

"We had a very difficult night but we were left with magnificent conditions! This milder sea allows the crew to rest as much as possible," shared Arnaud Rabatel, the skipper of Blue.

For many, most of yesterday involved makeshift repairs. Guilty Pleasures Speed Marine, for example, suffered damage to her pulpit but still hopes to find a system to mount her jibs. This hasn't stopped the team from continuing in the race, "today we did a lot of surfing above 15 knots, it's great," said Alexandre Rouys the skipper.

Leading the multihull race, on Line Honours and Multi 2000 handicap, Rushour sent their respects to their fellow competitors and discussed their race strategy when we spoke to Beccy Maloney onboard early last night:

"We've got a 17-knot south-easterly, pushing us along at the moment at 15 knots. After the start we went out to sea as soon as we could, and we have stayed at least 20 miles offshore most of the time. We had very tall and rough seas when we went through the Havannah Passage, we were relieved when we got through the pass, but all is going well. We have been trying to keep track of Antipodes in the monohull fleet, and of course we are trying to keep track of our very fierce competition Oceans Tribute, and Kaolo in relation to us. On handicap, any of us could win it. And we are very much enjoying having such fantastic fellow competitors. We wish all of our fellow competitors a safe continuing race."

Regardless of night one's tough conditions, there have been no retirements from the race, and the 21-boat-fleet progressed well in the magnificent sailing conditions for day three, with 10-15 knots from the south-east and bright sunshine.

Further back, off Hienghène, the monohulls continued to fight for the overall IRC lead, seen as the main category for the New Caledonia Groupama Race.

The boats that chose a route further out to sea advanced further on those inshore, with greater pressure out wide. Thus, Poulpito MLS FCD, which was one of the closest to the coast this morning and leading theSydney 38's, saw the greatest loss in positions.

Passing halfway, the race has restarted!

Last spinnaker tacks before a scheduled descent against the wind, the majority of the 21 crews pointing halfway. After more than 24 hours along the east coast, the frontrunners are now heading south. At the front, the 3 leaders in real time have passed the two GPS points marking the northern turning marks of the course and are beginning their return to Noumea.

As the fleet turned the corner to head upwind, Rushour was 15 nautical miles advanced on Antipodes, this has now closed to 10nm to Antipodes and 13 to Oceans Tribute. The race is on again now that the "world's largest windward leeward" is onto the windward section of the course.

The start of the night was more complicated for the monohulls, as the fleet had to cross a windless zone north of Balabio Island.

The biggest winner of the second night bounced back from being the biggest lossr on night one.

Axians Untouchable were in the lead at the start of night one, however, after being stuck in a hole for nearly an hour they fell from the top of the IRC leaderboard. With the wind coming from behind, the fleet condensed, providing an advantage to the smaller boats, including Axians Untouchable, who are now back on top of the podium for overall IRC.

Even though the second night was more calm in regards to weather, it was not an easy night for BCI Brer Fox, Team Groupama, or Oceans Tribute who found themselves continually gybing to make the most of the tricky conditions.

We were able to talk with Guy Chester, skipper of Oceans Tribute this morning as they rounded the northernmost part of the 654 nautical mile New Caledonia Groupama Race track:

"We have just rounded the northern exclusion zone and the two northern virtual marks, and we are now facing our windward route back to Noumea. We estimate two days from here, we are hard on the wind in 15 knots of breeze heading south. Our plan is to do one long leg out to sea, and at lunch time we will head back in shore, and tack up the coast from about 30 miles out. We are very much enjoying it, the last 24 hours, there have been very many sail changes to get the boat in the best mode. We have had 25 knots through to calm today, and we are very much enjoying it, but it has been hard work for the crew doing all of the sail changes. We can see Antipodes about 8nm ahead of us, but obviously they should be a better boat to windward so they should take a bit out of us, and as far as we know we have Kalolo behind us. Rushour have rushed away, we lost Rushour and we do expect her to take line honours by many, many hours."

Tosot Climatization Ketal, IRC leader at the start of the night, tried to get a little more wind to the west of its competitors, an option that did not pay off. This is the first visible mistake for the Yann Rigal / Josh Tucker pair from New Zealand, who have been sailing their Sunfast 3200 beautifully.

On a fun note, Tosot Climitisation Ketal, saw a Whale Shark early this morning, so while they may have been unlucky with breeze, they were definitely lucky with nature!

Coming into the third (and for some the final) night

We expect the first finish to be after 1000 hours local time tomorrow, Wednesday 22 June, 2022.

Andrew McCole from Rushour spoke to us just a few hours ago: "The plan for the night; we have just taken a little bit of a dig inshore, we were in nice solid pressure with pretty good breeze. Nice and sunny conditions, and so we are heading into the evening getting ourselves prepared for another bit of a dig out to sea in the south-easterly. Looking at probably heading out about forty or fifty miles, we will see what conditions look like, and make a decision on when to tack back towards the middle of the Island. Hopefully we will get lucky and we might be able to lay the passage entrance from there. I think we are all feeling pretty good. We've had a fair night sleep last night, there were a few fatigued people yesterday with a little bit of seasickness, but the sea state has calmed down around the top of the Exclusion Zone. Sailing upwind today has been a little more comfortable. We are pretty happy with our position on the race course, we are pretty happy to be leading, and we are just hoping that we can hold onto our lead and not have that big Santa Cruz 72 catch us before we get to Noumea. There is not a lot we can do because the boat that they are sailing should be faster in these conditions, just because of their waterline length. All we can do is keep ourselves in between them and the mark, and keep an eye on them. They are still outside of visual range, so we are hopeful that we will have enough of a buffer already, and that we should be able to hopefully get there in first place."

Current positions

IRC - Axians Untouchable, BCI Brer Fox, Tosot Climatisation Ketal, Dove-Defi Filles, Eye Candy
ORC - Eye Candy, Guilty Pleasure Speed Marine, Polpito MLS FCD, Wings, Blue
Multi 2000 - Rushour, Kalolo, Oceans Tribute
Line Honours - Rushour, Antipodes, Oceans Tribute, Kalolo, Clock Work

Tracking is available here

Day Three Update (English)

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