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RS Sailing 2021 - LEADERBOARD

Arkéa Ultim Challenge - Brest day 48: Friday's Routers Replay

by Arkéa Ultim Challenge-Brest 23 Feb 09:02 PST 23 February 2024

Every Friday we debrief the last week and look ahead with the routing cells. Both third placed Armel Le Cléac'h and second placed Thomas Coville have been dealing with the Doldrums recently and go into their final week.

They should finish between the middle and the end of next week. We caught up with routers Philippe Legros (Sodebo) and Sébastien Josse (Banque Populaire).

The Last Week

Philippe Legros (Sodebo): "Our week was marked by crossing the doldrums; it took a long time because they were positioned in an unusual place, south of the equator. But then they moved to a more classic moving with us. We had the impression of crossing the characteristic cloud formations of the Doldrums not once but twice, at separate intervals. This slowed us down considerably over a long period of time. But at the same time Maxi Banque Populaire XI made up almost half of its deficit after their stoppage in Rio and their difficult departure from the bay."

Sébastien Josse (Banque Populaire): "Since the start it hasn't been easy weather-wise. It seems like our routing is never easy or straightforward. As soon as we are not in the right system we are losing. Armel has had it tough a lot of the time, even after passing Cape Horn he had winds of 50 knots on the way up. Generally we don't seem to get the same set up for any three or four days. He's had these two damages and the stop so Armel has not been able to do what he wanted to on the passage up the Atlantic. The repair of the rudders was very quick, we were lucky, but it made us miss a depression and a potential favourable downwind period by 24 hours. Instead Armel found himself upwind on the back of the depression. He had to escape to get to the SE'ly trade winds. After the trade winds, he had a doldrums that was wider than usual."

What's to come?

Sébastien Josse: "Now Armel will go upwind again; with his appendage problem, the boat is going slower on these tight angles. It has to be reaching before he can go faster. But everyone is crippled: Sodebo Ultim 3 is not super lively and the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild has not done major speeds along Brazil. Our Maxi Banque Populaire XI is now perhaps the one in the best condition to finish the race but that is at the cost of two stopovers.

But there are no more surprises: Armel will emerge from the doldrums, and go upwind in the northern trade winds; then it will be reaching around the Azores anticyclone to the west. The rest of the route will be west, then north. We will head towards Brest. We do not yet know whether we will have to manage an anticyclone or a depression, but that will not change the course This passing low pressure system will give fairly strong west/northwest winds, or medium if the anticyclone rises to the north. We will refine our arrival program in four or five days, which we estimate for next weekend."

Philippe Legros: "Here we are in well-established trade winds, in conditions favourable to going quick, it's calm, and it feels good, at sea as on land: when Thomas goes to sleep and we don't have a strategy to be recalculated several times a day, this gives us all a bit of breathing space and to plan for the long-term strategy.

We are looking to a westward route on a rather classic pattern, going round the Azores anticylone to pick up a westerly flow to be accelerated towards the finish. The arrival will be at the front of a depression; the actual sailing conditions will depend on the timing, the speed of movement of the system and our ability to go modulate the attack as we want. The opportunity may present itself to cut across the path of the anticyclone a little, but that will depend how fast it is moving east. It will be windy at the finish we don't really know how windy as yet. Making the turn towards the east will allow us to determine what wind speed we get. Certainly it is not as strong as the current storm, but we know that a winter depression can always deepen. We will probably ask Thomas to push the boat a little to have a margin of safety. Our ETA? Always between February 29 and March 1."

How is the sailor?

Philippe Legros: "As the situation has stabilized, Thomas has got some sleep. The regular winds mean that you don't make adjustments every 10 minutes, so he has been recharging his batteries. The boat is in good condition, but tired. It's going to take a bit of luck still to avoid collisions, things like that."

Sébastien Josse: "Armel just wants to finish the adventure, to complete the loop and get on the podium. That wouldn't be bad, and there's a lot of motivation among us all to achieve that."

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