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Finistère Atlantique: A suspenseful conclusion to the race

by Gitana Team 6 Jul 09:43 PDT
Maxi Edmond de Rothschild © Yann Riou / polaRYSE / GITANA SA

The top duo in the Finistère Atlantique - Challenge Action Enfance are treating us to a thrilling conclusion to the race.

Currently battling it out at the latitude of Cape Finisterre, both crews were brought up on a diet of one-design competitions as past Figaro sailors, which means that racing with daggers drawn is very much part of their DNA.

Despite radically different options yesterday after the Azores passage, the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild opting for a N'ly option whilst Banque Populaire XI favoured the east, the two giants are now side by side again for less than 600 miles from the finish. At the 17:00 UTC position report, Charles Caudrelier's men had snatched back control of the fleet, just 5.5 miles ahead of their closest rival.

Oceanic match racing

Charles Caudrelier was in no doubt during his video conference: "You must be relishing the match back on land!" Indeed, it's fair to say that the mano a mano offered up by the crews on the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild and Banque Populaire is proving to be extremely entertaining, given how uncertain the outcome is and how thrilling a race it is to follow. Each of them is clearly intent on crossing the finish line with no regrets and the sailors are giving their absolute all in the tacking frenzy that is punctuating the last few miles to the finish line.

"We chose a N'ly option yesterday, as the route along the length of Portugal seemed too boisterous and unrealistic, whilst Banque Populaire went for an E'ly option. That took us away from the direct route, but that's the option we wanted to take and we stuck to our guns. They clearly had other ideas. They're in the process of coming up to the north again now and we may reconverge over the course of today."

Franck Cammas was right! Late yesterday, after more than 48 very intense hours sailing within sight of one another, the two giants split apart. However, this separation was short-lived.

"In some ways, they're our worst enemy right now, even though we have lots of friends aboard Banque Populaire," mused Charles Caudrelier. "Our option to the north wasn't as fruitful as expected, but we're very close again now and it's game on once more! They're sailing very well and forcing us to bring our A game. We're delighted at how much we're learning in this race."

Intensity and fatigue

After five days of intense racing, the fatigue is beginning to set in among the sailors given how demanding conditions are in this race climax.

Questioned by Yann Riou in the early hours, Franck Cammas provided some insight into the night watch that had just come to an end: "There's quite a lot of clouds and instability in the air so it's hard to trim the boat and it's also difficult to go as fast as the routing is predicting. You really have to be on top of things, though it's easier to handle that in crewed format rather than single or double-handed. We can't see a lot right now. There's no moon at the moment and you can't see a lot at night, so sometimes it's better to sail the boat under autopilot, which doesn't need vision as it relies on its sensors, so that works better."

A few hours afterwards, around late morning, Charles Caudrelier echoed this sentiment: "We spent the night tacking in 18-20 knots of breeze and heavy seas. Conditions are very variable, it's lively and the watches require a great deal of concentration."

Arrival in Concarneau tomorrow evening, Thursday

Over the next 24hrs we'll continue on a beat with an average breeze of around 18 knots. We'll attempt to get around and close on the zone of high pressure to our left and our north before linking onto a straight tack towards Brittany in the hope that the wind will shift round to the north as planned. It's set to be a close run match all the way to the wire!" explained Franck Cammas. We've got the picture. With less than 600 miles to go, it's still anyone's game. However, there is one thing which everyone seems to agree on: the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild and Banque Populaire XI will be back in the bay of Port la Forêt, where the outcome of the first edition of the Finistère Atlantique - Challenge Action Enfance will be decided, by tomorrow evening, Thursday 7 July. For greater precision about the time, we must wait a little longer yet...

Positions at the ranking of 17:00 UTC:

    1. Maxi Edmond de Rothschild at 584,5 nm of the finish
    2. Banque Populaire XI at 5.5 nm of the leader
    3. Sodebo Ultim 3 at 170 nm of the leader
    4. Actual Leader at 259,6 nm of the leader

The Finistère Atlantique Challenge Action Enfance

3,163-mile course across the North Atlantic
Concarneau, the Glénan archipelago, Madeira, Lanzarote (Canaries), Santa Maria (Azores), Concarneau (Brittany)

Crew on the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild

  • Charles Caudrelier, skipper
  • Franck Cammas, helm, navigator
  • Morgan Lagravière, helm, trimmer
  • David Boileau, trimmer, bowman
  • Erwan Israël, helm, trimmer
  • Yann Riou, media crew, helm

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