Brest Atlantiques, four weeks to complete a big Atlantic circuit - Act 2
The Brest Atlantiques rounds off this morning for the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild after 29 days at sea and over 17,000 miles over the ground. The Franck Cammas / Charles Caudrelier duo, together with their media man Yann Riou, will cross the finish line this Wednesday morning at the entrance to Brest Harbour. We take the opportunity to review the last four fantastic weeks of racing.
2nd week of racing
In the early hours of Tuesday 12 November, Cleon Peterson's warriors make their entrance into the Bay of All Saints! It's strange to celebrate the first week of racing with a pit stop! But the timeout is necessary and the shore crew on site have it perfectly under control. “We weighed up the pros and cons with Marcel van Triest! What the stoppage cost in terms of miles, how much of the racetrack is still to be covered as we've only done a quarter of the course, the upcoming weather and of course safety. Having looked into all that, we believe that the best compromise is to make this stop so the boat can get back out there and race at her full potential”, explained the skipper of Edmond de Rothschild.
After just a dozen hours or so dockside, Charles Caudrelier and Franck Cammas head back out onto the racetrack. Back in the role of the hunter, they are in third place and have conceded over 160 miles to their rivals. It's a tough moment in the race for the two sailors, who have put in such a lot of work over the first week to get in front, but the two men leave Bahia brimming with energy and with a Maxi firing on all cylinders again. Indeed, the shore crew has been able to repair the lower section of the damaged daggerboard by replacing the appendage's elevator in record time.
However, the renewed momentum and euphoria of returning to the fray is quickly brought to a crushing halt offshore of the Brazilian coast where the Cammas / Caudrelier duo find themselves having to negotiate a windless transition zone that is longer than forecast. Off Porto Seguro, the two sailors can only look on helplessly as their rivals make good their escape and in the space of a day they lament a deficit of over 400 miles! However sailing is a sport synonymous with patience and on the grand scale of such machines, 400 miles is in no way damning, especially when they are combined with a sequence of other events in the race.
Macif's stoppage has been on the cards for several days, but whilst the team is envisaging a 3-4 hour stop in Rio de Janeiro to replace her central rudder, ultimately François Gabart and Gwenolé Gahinet are in the pits for over 20 hours. During this time, as she's on a course to the south-west with a good lead, the crew of Sodebo Ultim announce that they're “turning back to preserve the boat as a meaty depression is deepening to their south”.
With Gitana 17 rounding the Cagarras Islands in 3rd position a few hours earlier, there's a real mustering of the troops at the foot of the Corcovado, with Christ the Redeemer looking down on them all in the bay of Rio. After covering 6,000 miles, it's game on once more and it's back at the head of the fleet that the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild sets a course for South Africa and the next passage point of Cape Town from the evening of 14 November. “It is the circumstances of our adversaries that have enabled us to move back into the lead”, noted Franck Cammas.
The 3,200 miles between Brazil and South Africa were set to serve up a fine and rapid session of slipping along downwind the weather has other ideas. The Edmond de Rothschild duo, like their three rivals, has to contend with a rather cantankerous secondary front that has escaped from the South American continent, as the sailor from Aix-en-Provence admits: “We have 48hrs of close-hauled sailing in difficult wind and sea conditions. It's not great! Right now, there's not really a window for making fast headway towards Cape Town. We're having to endure this NE'ly wind, which is hampering our progress and above all generating seas that we're having to punch into which is very unpleasant for the men and the boats.”
However, it is in these tough and windy conditions that the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild will show her true potential. Slipping better through the water than her rivals thanks to her ability to fly, the Verdier design is able to maintain high average speeds whilst the others have no other option than to stall.
Unfortunately for the sailors of Gitana Team, the weather scenario in the South Atlantic, with the Saint Helena High positioned a long way south and a fairly high ice exclusion zone, will not enable her to make good her escape and really transform the advantage offered to them by their machine. Indeed, on rounding the high pressure, whilst Gitana 17 has to link together the gybes as soon as she gets past Gough Island, her rivals are able to trace a relatively straight-line course and thus make up a large part of their deficit. Prior to attacking the climb up to Cape Town and leaving the roaring forties where they've been making headway over recent days, the Brest Atlantiques fleet is grouped into less than 300 miles!
It's worth noting at this point that on 18 November, Sodebo Ultim suffers major damage to her starboard float after colliding with a UFO and pulls out her float rudder. Still in the race, Thomas Coville and Jean-Luc Nélias will have to stop off in Cape Town to assess the damage in more detail.
3,323.4 miles covered
Maximum speed: 36 knots
5 day in the lead
Ranking of the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild, on Tuesday 19 November at 11:00 UTC
1st / MAXI EDMOND DE ROTHSCHILD (Franck Cammas / Charles Caudrelier / Yann Riou) Distance to the goal: 6,452.5 miles - Average speed over the past 24 hours: 20.6 knots