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The Transat CIC Day 8 - The incoming high pressure zone ramps up stress for final miles

by The Transat CIC 5 May 11:02 PDT 5 May 2024
2024 The Transat CIC © DR

While the IMOCA race leader Yoann Richomme (PAPREC ARKÉA) was still making more than 20 kts this afternoon, a nerve racking slow down is still expected for the final miles to the finish of the Transat CIC solo race from Lorient to New York.

The winner of last Autumn's solo race in the opposite direction, from Martinique to Lorient, Richomme may be on course to do the double on his first time ever sailing into New York, but in the light conditions which are forecast when a high pressure ridge imposes itself across the route into the finish line, anything could happen.

The 40 year old French ace has many times proven a level about his rivals - most recently on that Retour à la Base when he leveraged a small tactical hitch into a significant lead. But this time at 330 miles to the finish he can feel the hot breath of Germany's Boris Herrmann (Malizia Seaexplorer) who is just 16 miles behind (or just over an hour at current speeds) and Britain's Sam Davies (Initiatives Coeur) who is a further 40 miles behind her German rival.

With it being likely that if the shut down does occur overnight it will happen from the front, and the weather modelling is far from clear on this and the foiling IMOCAs will keep moving well in just 10 or 11 knots of breeze, then the international skippers Herrmann and Davies still have a fighting chance of victory, and one might add their names the last non French winners on this race which was started in England in 1960, Ellen MacArthur who won at the age of 23 into Newport in 2000 and Mike Golding who won into Boston in 2004.

When it was last sailed in 2016 it was won by Armel Le Cléac'h in a time of 12 days and 2 hours. This evening the timer is at 7days and 3 hours with the winner expected within 24 hours at the line which us 110 miles offshore of New York.

"There is an anticyclone gradually filling in and is set to and taking up position between the finish line and the head of the fleet, with winds easing gradually" Francis Le Goff, Race Director. "This will prevents the skippers from sailing directly towards New York and will see them needing to gybes to find the best, making angles to the wind which is which is weakening until the finish line".

Winner of La Solitaire du Figaro twice, the annual solo multistage offshore event which is said to be the toughest test of solo offshore racing (as opposed to ocean racing) Richomme is an accomplished meteo strategist. Against him both Davies and Herrmann have done this race before and have probably ten or more times as many solo and crewed IMOCA ocean racing miles as Richomme.

"There is some downwind chess to do with a series of gybes. Yoann is already on his 3rd. The boats will pass each other according to the shifts of the wind, with possible gains especially as the weather really is not well modelled. For sure the podium is not decided even if Yoann has a small advantage", observes Le Goff.

Elsewhere in the IMOCA class Clarisse Crémer (L'Occitaine en Provence) was arriving in the Azores where she will be met by her team to evaluate and make repairs to her damaged bulkhead. And Ollie Heer has been struggling to deal with a power failure on Oliver Heer Ocean Racing. Britain's James Haryada on Gentoo Sailing Team continues his solid performance in 19th despite losing the use of his port foil.

Below 1000 miles

Led by Ambrogio Beccaria on Alla Grande Pirelli, the top Class 40s have now passed below the symbolic 1000 miles to the finish. They are sailing downwind in 35 knots of established wind with gusts to 40 knots, conditions which are not usual according to Francis Le Goff. Making speeds worthy of an IMOCA - 19-21 kts - Beccaria is on fire on his Musa 40.

He said today "This morning we changed season, it is f++king cold, super, super cold and I was very very tired last night. But the boat is going quite fast on its own and so it does not need so, so much attention from me, so I am trying to rest and work out the best scenarios for me to arrive in New York, where I want to be ahead of Ian and Fabien. I like my position I am quite in control, this is how I feel now. I feel there is a lot of current that I don't really know that well, I have a chart but I don't know how precise it is, but yes it is super cold."

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