The last 24 hours
Whilst the thirteen solo sailors still out on the racetrack tackle their 9th day at sea, the outcome of the Transat New York - Vendée is imminent for the front runners, who are expected to make landfall around midday tomorrow. However, now more than ever, access into Les Sables d'Olonne's famous channel is proving to be a tough challenge with the last few miles reminiscent of a long, hard road for the top trio made up of Sébastien Josse, Jérémie Beyou and Alex Thomson. Indeed, though the summer weather currently reigning over the Atlantic seaboard is a welcome treat for a good many of us, for the sailors it is synonymous with a ridge of high pressure and erratic winds that are thwarting their approach on the French coast. At 15:00 GMT, the Mono60 Edmond de Rothschild was positioned some 182.8 miles from the finish in 2nd place on the provisional podium and some 16 miles shy of the leader, Maître CoQ. Third, 37.4 miles from the top spot, Hugo Boss, positioned further North, has not had its final say either. As such, the light airs final is certainly living up to expectations and conditions are such that sensitive souls might want to avert their eyes
The Transat New York - Vendée is not short of contrasts! After a race start on 29 May in thick fog off Ambrose Light, the competing solo sailors had to free themselves from the American seaboard and climb north-eastwards so as to hook onto a low that had dropped straight down from Newfoundland. This particularly active and extensive system, that measured no less than 1,500km wide, propelled the head of the fleet at high speed towards Europe atop its foils. However, the picture wouldn't have been complete without the last few miles, close-hauled in the light airs that are currently shaping play in the Bay of Biscay. In fact, since yesterday, the rhythm has changed and the head of the fleet have been slowed dramatically.
Just 150 miles have been covered over the past 24 hours, at an average speed of 6.2 knots evidence, if it were needed, of the slow-motion action colouring the end of the race for the three star players in this Transat New York - Vendée!“The situation is playing out as expected it's very light. Last night, the wind dropped to between 2 and 3 knots with a slight residual swell, which did nothing to help us make headway in the right direction. Such conditions wear you down, though at least we don't have the stress of breakage, which is something that is omnipresent in the rough weather for example. Right now, we just have to accept things as they present themselves. You have to constantly be on top of the trimming so that the boat continues to slip along and above all doesn't come to a standstill. The slightest wind shift is ours for the taking!” admitted the skipper of Edmond de Rothschild.
With less than 200 miles to the finish it is still anyone's game and impossible to say who will be first across the line. Though Maître CoQ currently has a comfortable lead, Alex Thomson, positioned further to the North, is still a threat and should not be forgotten despite a 37-mile deficit. Indeed, as ever, theory is one thing and putting it into practice is something else entirely.
Familiar with these bunched finishes and this playing field, Sébastien Josse isn't letting the situation get the better of him, instead focusing on getting the most recent addition to the Gitana fleet making headway: “I managed to get some good rest last night with several siestas to enable me to really go on the attack in the closing miles. On the approach to the coast, the shipping is becoming more intense and it's advisable to keep a good watch. The weather is certainly not set in stone and the models haven't been very reliable of late. With regards the main trend, the wind is set to swing round to the left (ENE currently, with the breeze set to move round to the North for the finish). However, when, exactly where and above all how strong will this breeze be? It's very difficult to be certain of anything in that regard. The only thing for it is to get the boat making headway as we know how.”
The verdict will be announced tomorrow offshore of Les Sables d'Olonne, seemingly in the afternoon if we are to believe the latest ETAs.
These 3,100 miles of singlehanded racing were intended to be a final dress rehearsal before the main event of the racing season, this autumn's Vendée Globe, and that is exactly what it has been: “Whatever the result in this race, we've already learned some positive lessons. For Gitana Team, this transatlantic race is the 2nd solo race and these miles spent breaking in our steed have unquestionably been very precious. We're very fortunate to be able to do some full-scale training and learn about the real wear and tear and the fatigue, which are very different to what you experience in sea trials without the pressure of securing a good result and your playmates battling alongside you,” noted Sébastien Josse.
Transat New York - Vendée, position report on Tuesday 7 June at 15:00 GMT
1- Jérémie Beyou - Maitre Coq (France) 166.8 miles from the finish
2- Sébastien Josse - Edmond de Rothschild (France) 16 miles behind the leader
3- Alex Thomson - Hugo Boss (UK) 37.4 miles back
4- Paul Meilhat - SMA (France) 157.9 miles back
5- Tanguy de Lamotte - Initiatives Cœur (France) 296.6 miles back
6- Vincent Riou - PRB (France) 307.3 miles back
7- Kojiro Shiraishi - Spirit of Yukoh (Japan) 318.8 miles back
8- Fabrice Amedeo - Newrest Matmut (France) 448.3 miles back
9- Jean-Pierre Dick - St Michel-Virbac (France) 1,102.9 miles back
10- Yann Eliès - Queguiner-Leucemie Espoir (France) 1,124.8 miles back
11- Morgan Lagravière - Safran (France) 1,127 miles back
12- Conrad Colman - 100% Natural Energy (New Zealand-Zealand - USA) 1,432.9 miles back
13- Pieter Heerema - No Way Back (Holland) 1,479.6 miles back
Retirement - Armel Le Cléac'h - Banque Populaire VIII