“ I’ve managed to get a few miles on the fleet, but Vincent is still clinging on. It’s going to be a complicated race until the end – it is tough”
Approaching the end of the sixth day at sea, The Transat bakerly from Plymouth to New York is still led by the Ultime Macif, skippered by Francois Gabart. A brand new 100ft trimaran, Macif is lightweight and built for speed.
Averaging 5-6 knots faster in the lighter weather than Thomas Coville on the heavier Sodebo, this morning Gabart leads by 165 miles with just over 1,000 miles to New York – the flat and fast conditions on the western side of the Azores High playing to Macif’s strengths.
Yves Le Blevec aboard the third Ultime, Team Actual, now more than 300 miles behind Macif, is taking his first solo race in the class in his stride, enjoying watching the intense battle to the Big Apple unfurl ahead of him.
Today the Ultimes continue on their ascent to New York, with the leader expected to arrive early on Wednesday 11th May.
Tailing the Ultime fleet in the south are the Multi50s French Tech Rennes St Malo skippered by Gilles Lamiré and Vers un Monde Sans Sida sailed by Erik Nigon. Benefitting from less hostile conditions in the south, Lamiré now leads the Multi50s by 100 miles, taking the initiative from Lalou Roucayrol on Arkema.
Further north, Roucayrol and the majority of the monohull fleet are sailing a very different race – the skippers in the south in shorts and T-shirts and zipping across the ocean, while those in the north are still being thrown around in the aftermath of the depression that swept the fleet on Friday and Saturday.
Now that the storm-force winds have abated, it is the sea-state that is the problem. “These last 48 hours have been painful, extremely painful,” said Roucayrol who is fighting to stay in contention. “There has not been so much wind, but the sea-state is really holding us up. We have to slow down.
“I have no problems on board, but I can only just about eat and I’ve had little sleep. Gilles (Lamiré) and I have different strategies and we making our own way to New York. Gilles is on a calmer express highway today, but the games goes on and there’s more weather to come. It will be a complicated race right to the end.”
The Multi50 fleet is expected to arrive in New York around the 13th and 14th May.
In the IMOCA 60 Class, Armel Le Cléac’h (Banque Populaire) has extended his lead on the five-boat fleet, now 40 miles ahead of chasing Vincent Riou on PRB. Le Cleac’h and Riou are continuing to sail on a southwesterly heading parallel with, and about 200 miles south of, the southern limit of the official Ice Exclusion Zone.
“This edition of the race is all about weather transitions,” Le Cléac’h explained via email as he too tackled the light winds that have followed the depression. “We had a pretty tricky passage where the wind swung round from the southeast to northwest in the space of two miles. The sea-state was chaotic. We went from starboard tack under gennaker to port tack under staysail. That is physical on these boats. The wind has been quite unstable.
“I’ve managed to get a few miles on the fleet, but Vincent is still clinging on. It’s going to be a complicated race until the end – it is tough,” added Le Cleac’h. The first IMOCA 60 is expected in New York on 14th May.
In the Class40s, Armel Tripon (Black Pepper) has decided to put into Horta in the Azores following damage aboard his boat. As the worst of the low pressure hit, Tripon took a dramatic dive south, fleeing the storm. The skipper has spent the last 24 hours trying to rectify what he had hoped would be minor issues - aerial problems, a torn sail and power charging issues - but has today decided he needs to stop.
At the front of the Class40 fleet, the battle still rages between Isabelle Joschke (Generali-Horizon Mixité), Thibaut Vauchel-Camus (Solidaires un Peloton–ARSEP) and British skipper Phil Sharp (Imerys).
While Sharp is the nominal leader, the British skipper still has to carry out a six hour stop-go time penalty that will put him out of the running for a time, leaving Joschke and Vauchel-Camus to fight for the top spot. Talking from the boat this morning, Vauchel-Camus joked that there is no shortage of salt on board right now!
The first Class40 should arrive in New York on the 19th May.