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Raw emotions on the Route du Rhum-La Banque Postale
Heartache, contentment and grim determination are just three of the raw emotions surfacing once again over a long third day of the classic 3542 miles transatlantic Route du Rhum-La Banque Postale from Saint-Malo to Point a Pitre, Guadeloupe.
Sidney Gavignet on Air Oman Majan was awaiting rescue this evening, 200 miles north east of the Azores after sustaining substantial damage to the leeward front beam of his trimaran. Oman Air Majan was sailing in 20 knots of wind, upwind and the conditions were not extreme.
Sidney has activated his distress beacon and is currently in the main hull, he is in his survival suit and is not injured. There is no water in the main hull and it remains watertight. A ship is reported to be approaching the area to try and take Gavignet off the stricken tri.
For Christine Monlouis in the Rhum class, there was shock and huge disappointment in very early hours this morning when her 16 metre aluminium Un Monde Bleu Toute en Vert was hit by a fishing boat and the impact dismasted the skipper from Désirade, Guadeloupe.
Race record holder and 2006 winner Lionel Lemonchois seemed to think his race was over when the mainsail headboard car lashing on his Multi 50 Prince de Bretagne failed last night and he could not retrieve it. The erstwhile class leader had already turned for the Spanish coast after one effort to retrieve it. But the news came just after midday today that he had managed to climb the 25 metre mast and had re-set his mainsail, setting off in pursuit of class leader, three times class winning Franck-Yves Escoffier.
And there was quiet satisfaction for Franck Cammas on the big green miles eating machine, Groupama 3, as he extended his overall lead to nearly 250 miles. Groupama 3 had covered 472 miles in the 24 hours to 1600hrs this afternoon. Cammas was making easy miles today but was preparing himself for a more testing conditions ahead.
His nearest challengers now are Francis Joyon (Idec) and Yann Guichard (Gitana XI) but the second and third placed giants are enjoying a stimulating duel, with only two miles between them in terms of distance to Guadeloupe, the two very different designs racing at similar speeds.
In the north Thomas Coville on Sodebo is having his patience tested as he crosses the north side of the Azores high pressure system, but knows his race is far from over and is breaking free into more favourable wind strength and direction.
In the IMOCA Open 60 class Armel Le Cléac'h has held a solid lead for more than 36 hours now, although Roland Jourdain (Veolia Environnement) had pulled back to within three miles of Le Cléac'h with Christopher Pratt still holding a great pace and rhythm on DCNS 1000.
But, having paid their taxes in miles lost for their southerly routing, Arnaud Boissières (Akéna Verandas) and Michel Desjoyeaux (Foncia) have found themselves in a faster, downwind conditions, working round the south east of the high pressure system which has ruled strategic choices.
During the night Kito de Pavant (Groupe Bel) and a sleeping Marc Guillemot (Safran) missed each other by a matter of 50 metres, de Pavant woken by his radar alarm unable to hail his sleeping friend and rival, who this time last year was his main sparring rival in the Transat Jacques Vabre.
Guillemot revealed that the problem which has compromised the speed of his IMOCA world championship winning Safran has been the locking hook which holds the head of his key solent genoa, but he hopes to make a repair imminently.
The twosome enjoying the comforts of the southern routing couldn't help but chuckle today at their rivals in the north, all so tightly grouped together, upwind.
Their routing had caused them some pain as they passed to the eastern fringe of the high, slowing overnight, with their deficit growing to over 170 miles, but their faster sailing through today has seen them claw back 40 miles.
In the Class 40 fleet it is still Thomas Ruyant on Destination Dunkerque who is leading by just 1.8 miles over Sam Manuard on Vecteur Plus and Bernard Stamm in third place has a deficit of 6.3 miles on the leader.
Pete Goss reported in to the radio vacs today from DMS. (listen to audio on line). He admitted that he has taken some time to get into the rhythm of solo racing after his 13 years hiatus, but is thoroughly enjoying the challenge. Richard Tolkien on ICAP Orca lies 26th, 30 miles ahead of Goss.
Kiwi Conrad Colman is 22nd whilst there was massive disappointment for Norway's Rune Aasberg on Solo. After four years of hard build up to be in the race, he has been suffering severe Pilot problems and was heading north east towards France or England.
Franck Cammas (Groupama):
“It has not been going too badly. I have had a fair bit to do last night and so this morning it has been going better. I had to do a lot of gybes with the wind at 15-20 knots, and each time it takes five to eight minutes to get the gennaker round. You have to take it steady with the arms.
Just now I grind by hand, the pedals are really for hoisting. The last time was at Finisterre to set a reef.
The idea of the bicycle is good, it is especially effective on certain things. And so at the moment I have all plenty of energy, and that is good. It is all good at the moment, it is quite straightforward and there are not surprises and that is especially down to the weather.
Hardest was the first night on the Bay of Biscay when there was lots of sail changes, big seas but this boat is very stable and it goes easily. I manage to eat well, to sleep for the chances that I get, but that is never easy on this kind of boat and really you can never get more than 20 minutes. But it is certainly better than the 60 feet tries of four years ago.
This option is good. But I need to be ready for this front. I'll set myself up and know what sails I'll need, but the wind will change quickly. And so I won't be able to attack too much and meantime I'll go a bit carefully and make sure I have some sleep before.
Yann Guichard (Gitana):
I am downwind with good, but unsettled conditions. We are moving quickly and that is good. I looked for Francis at the time we crossed but it was dark. I have caught up well with Idec. I am working hard and never far from the helm. I rest when I can. I manage that with the alarms, but they are never big periods.
When you see Sodebo and Oman in the north you can't draw too much from the rankings. We'll see in a few days when we get nearer to the finish.
Armel Le Cléac'h (Brit Air):
It's all good but we have been on the wind for a bit too long!
The wind was west but is backing to the SW. We'll make a long tack with a cold front to come before we get to change. We have still got a bit to do.
I am happy with my course. I know when to use the shifts. Skirting the high is never easy because the breezes are unstable and shift a lot. It was important to steer. But here we are with our group working west, while our friends in the south will be in shorts and t-shirts. I check myself to manage my sleep well because when you are in front its important to modulate your rhythm, not to get too tired and maintain your reflexes on top form and not slump into deficit.
Christopher Pratt (DCNS 1000):
It is always cool to be up in the game. I had Virbac Paprec in sight at sunrise and that has made it possible to have a measure, and if I can stay with him then it will be good. It is good to have a hare in front too. But we have been on the wind for three days and everything is soaked. There are many things damp. We are still in with S-SW winds. There will be about another day of this before there should be a chance to reach. Sometimes the southern option looks more desirable. But the goal is to get there before the others and I hope that the fight goes on right to Pointe-a-Pitre with boats in sight the whole way!
Roland Jourdain (Veolia Environnement):
“It goes OK, but with these conditions there is little respite. I have just done a little lamination. I can't do a Transat without a crack. I took the advantage of good weather to do that and so I have been busy.
The weather is not an exact science. Yesterday's tack was not entirely by design.
But two days ago I went west and lost ground.
At the moment it is each to their strategy with regard to the anticyclone.
It is too far ahead to see what will happen, there is so much more weather still to play out.”
Franck-Yves Escoffier (Crêpes-Whaou!):
“The boat is like new, the skipper is like new. I have had a shower and I feel good. It is going well. The choice of Lionel was good. It is a pity because he was going well.”
“I really pushed myself at the start of the race, and the boat. I reckon it is possible to arrive in Point-a-Pitre in less than 11 days.”
Lalou Roucayrol (Région Aquitane - Port Médoc):
“The race has really just started with 8-10 days more in front of us, so Lionel has time to get back into it. I don't worry for him, there is still plenty of miles to go. I took the northern option because it fits best for my boat, which is good on the breeze and the breeze is coming soon..”
Thomas Ruyant (Destination Dunkerque):
“This is a great race, boats from different designers but very close in speed. The crux is getting around the anticyclone. You work the sides, trying to tack as little as possible to stay in front of the others. It is not a situation I would have chosen from the beginning. I would prefer to be in the trade winds, but here we are, I chose this option. I don't have any of the others in visual. The sea is flatter a bit. I eat well, I rest, it's cool, these are my conditions.”
Samuel Manuard (Vector Plus):
I make the westerly tack to get the better winds earlier. I make my choice. For the moment the conditions are easy, there are 15 knots with an easy sea that does not slam too much. I'm under pilot. That lets me get some rest because the remainder of the race will be complicated. It will be busy and while it close just now, it is important to push to widen the gaps.”