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The big squeeze in IMOCA, new leader in Class 40

Transat CIC IMOCA race leader Yoann Richomme (Paprec Arkéa) has seen his margin shrink very slightly as he sprints towards New York, at under 1000 miles to the finish line. Now with the cetacean exclusion zone coming into play to their north the strategic options for the moment are becoming more limited. And in Class 40 since early this morning Italy’s Ambrogio Beccaria (Alla Grand Pirelli) is now leading.

As the IMOCA pacemakers pass the longitude of Cap Race on Newfoundland Island and the Cape Race lighthouse – the Transatlantic Beacon which received the distress call from the Titanic – there will at least be the feeling of reaching the first part of the home strait for the IMOCA peloton and certainly being closer to land even if Newfoundland is 250 miles to the north. And the leaders will pass the spot where the Titanic sank today. Back in mid 19th century a newsboat was kept out there to telegraph first news of liners and ships heading into New York.

In the brisk NE’ly wind it’s a speed race for now while the wind holds in, but the pressure gradient is slackening all the time, the isobars opening and a slower finish is on the cards. Richomme still has three rivals within 70 miles, Charlie Dalin (MACIF Santé et Prévoyance) has pulled in to be 44 miles behind, Sam Davies (Initiatives Coeur) is third at just under 20 miles behind Dalin. The Brit has Germany’s Boris Herrmann (Malizia Seaexplorer) virtually alongside and both are 63 miles behind the leader.

Sam Davies said yesterday of her tussle with Boris, reflecting exactly what the German said “It’s very motivating to be side by side, to have the same objective, it helps us both to catch up.”

All three are very slightly south of Richomme’s line which – in what appears to be a lifting NE’ly breeze - will give them slightly more time on the favoured, more direct course whilst Richomme will be forced to gybe first in about six hours time. The fundamental principle is spending most time heading more directly towards the finish.

Yann Eliès, one of the race’s assistant directors said this morning “Having a versatile boat is good for Yoann.” And he underlines again that Dalin has been the victim of technical problems which forced him to slow down for a few hours yesterday around midday to find a solution.

“Since then he seems to have returned to relatively stable speeds and his deficit is nothing bad.” Eliès confirm.

Francis Le Goff the Race Director explains the meteo,  “They will remain in a northerly flow but it is not constant in strength or direction. It is possible that there are little holes and less wind here and there and they have to get used to it because it's the program for more than 200 miles. And all this is not well modeled, it can vary suddenly from 12 to 17 knots. They will undoubtedly be going through sails.”

Le Goff adds. “For Monday, it is a little more uncertain, it is not yet clear even if the tendency is to maintain similar conditions. A lot can still happen before the finish, no lead is safe”

SPRINTING IN CLASS40. Acceleration before a big question mark

In the Class40s they will continue to truck along all day long. “The depression is very stable, the flow from the North, North-East still as strong as is the sea,” specifies Francis Le Goff. They still have several hours to go. Then next is a period of fast surfing like the IMOCAs yesterday with a slightly flatter sea, good angles and the opportunity to accelerate.” That should be good for the Italian leader on Alla Grande Pirelli, who reported this morning,

“It is very, very nice. It is very sweet to have this sensation of being first for one of the first times on this race. Wonderful. But there is still a long way, and even right now to get out of this depression is going to be hard work with a lot of manoeuvres but for the moment I am very, very happy.”  Said Ambrogio this morning after having stolen first from Ian Lipinski (Crédit Mutuel) who is 5 miles away and ahead of Fabien Delahaye LEGALLAIS, 3rd) and Nicolas d'Estais (Café Joyeux , 4th).