Into the sixth day of racing the Transat Jacques Vabre sees new leaders in the IMOCA class and the Ultimes. There is no disputing the fact that Armel Le Cléac’h and Erwan Tabarly have powered to the front of the IMOCA fleet with the new ‘foiling’ Banque Populaire VII, this afternoon at 20 miles ahead of the older PRB, course winners in 2011. But the Ultimes race leadership is more about angles and investment right now.
The leading group of four IMOCAs have broken away and are reaching quickly as they follow the rotation of the new Azores high to make some useful westing.
The IMOCAs is a more conventional, classic routing south. But the race leaders on the 5,400 miles course from Le Havre to Itajaí – the giant Ultime pair Macif and Sodebo Ultim’ – now find themselves working almost due west, crossing the rhumb line, direct course at right angles to it, as they seek to suddenly get west for what looks to be a challenging Doldrums crossing.
The course and angles of the Ultime pair is just now is about setting up for the long term gain, the best, narrowest route through the Doldrums, and for the meantime their match race is forgotten. But, for the record, Macif are computed to be ahead of Sodebo Ultim’, Francois Gabart and Pascal Bidégorry lead for the first time this race.
Class 40 have had it tough. They almost always do. But with 30-40kts today upwind and tight reaching as they battle to escape the last of what should be the last depression of the northern hemisphere, the skippers are low on energy, looking forwards to getting drier and going faster towards the sun. There is no change in the leadership here. It is still Yannick Bestaven and Pierre Brasseur who now hold a 36 miles advantage over Maxime Sorel and Sam Manuard on V and B.
The rate of attrition continues. There have been three more abandonments today. The Ultime Acutal of Yves Le Blévec and Jean-Le Vaillant retired with a rig problem. Adoptunskipper.net the IMOCA 60 of Nico Boidevézi who was sailing with American Ryan Breymaier have a damaged starboard lower running backstay and in Class 40, the new Manuard design Aërendil of Catherine Pourre and Antoine Carpenter who have suffered the double whammy of an engine failure and losing their windvanes.
This Friday afternoon five boats are routing to land for repairs.
Bastide-Otio (Kito de Pavant/Yann Régniau) are in Cascais, Portugal to make repairs to their ORC headsail and their fleet broadband system. O Canada (Eric Holden/Morgen Watson) are heading for Vigo to repair their damaged mast track and had about 120 miles to go, Hugo Boss (Alex Thomson/Guillermo Altadill) are heading to the NW of Spain with a technical issue to be assessed. Jean-Pierre Dick and Fabien Delahaye will stop in Madeira with a structural issue with transverse reinforcing rings at the level of the sail bin on the new St Michel-Virbac. And in Class 40 Creno-Moustache Solidaire (Thibault Hector/Morgan Launay) are heading to La Coruna with damage to a stainless spreader root. On the race rouse Louis Burton and Romain Attanasio on Bureau Vallée in the IMOCA fleet report serious energy and charging problems.
For some who did not really harbour realistic hopes of winning their class in this biennial coffee route race, getting through these first five days will already represent a serious victory of sorts. England’s Sam Davies was back at her at her chipper, IMOCA-racing best early this morning when she reported from Initiatives Coeur which she is sailing with Tanguy De Lamotte.
They lie fifth in the fleet chasing 70 miles behind SMA, Paul Meilhat and Michel Desjoyeaux. In the same fleet, albeit further back, Nandor Fa, also sounded upbeat and positive with his race so far on Spirit of Hungary. And in Class 40 Pip Hare was delighted to learn they are lying eighth on Concise 2, although they have been struggling with electrical and comms issues.