At the gateway to the Bay of Biscay
Leading the fleet in the Transat Saint-Barth - Port-la-Forêt, Sébastien Josse is continuing to go it alone. Positioned 450 miles from the coast of Finistere at 18:00 GMT, the skipper of the Mono60 Edmond de Rothschild is having a boisterous journey to complete his transatlantic race, with a weather scenario that only the Bay of Biscay holds the secret to! In the wake of the Mono60 Edmond de Rothschild, the fleet of Imocas has not been spared, as much as a result of the damage as the weather conditions, which yesterday afternoon knocked out one of the most serious contenders in this race; Paul Meilhat, the skipper of SMA. With a Bay of Biscay left to traverse, the latest Gitana and her skipper are expected into Brittany’s Vallée des Fous late tomorrow, Wednesday 16 December.
A night in the storm

The grib files had announced it: a particularly active low was set to serve as a launch pad towards Europe for the fleet of the Transat Saint-Barth - Port-la-Forêt. The latter proved that the forecasters were right! Positioned at the front of this system of low pressure, Sébastien Josse told us about his night at the heart of the storm: “It’s been lively but I had prepared for it. As forecast, the wind punched back in throughout the day to reach 40-45 knots. This spell of strong wind lasted nearly 6 hours and I got hit by the maximum amount of south-westerly wind at around 04:00 hours in the morning. However, there were a number of squalls and I recorded 58 knots in one of them… You don’t see figures like that very often. The seas were impressive. Under the cover of darkness, it’s hard to say exactly, but I think there was a good 5-metre swell; it was breaking. In these conditions, it’s out of the question to sleep; you’re constantly on the look-out, the sheet in your hand under your cuddy, feeling the boat drop back down onto the waves and ready to act if you land badly. On the positive side, we were sailing downwind, which is a lot more comfortable than in the same conditions upwind and also reaching,” admitted the skipper of Edmond de Rothschild, before adding: “Now, that it’s all behind me, I can safely say that it was very good training! I’m delighted to have seen how the boat behaves in this configuration. It’s not often – outside racing – that you get to test the boat in these particularly boisterous conditions. When there’s over 45 knots outside and heavy seas to boot, you don’t go out.” Suffice to say that these few hours spent in rough weather are valuable, rich lessons and that’s exactly what the solo sailor was after when signing up for the return transatlantic sprint.

Sparing a thought for Paul Meilhat and the whole SMA team

Yesterday afternoon, as he was passing fairly close to the island of Sao Miguel in the Azores archipelago, Paul Meilhat – hot on Sébastien Josse’s heels for the first few hours of racing – suffered an accident. Seriously injured on the hip, the skipper of SMA requested assistance. Given the boisterous weather conditions reigning over the zone at the time, the solo sailor still had to wait inside his monohull for many long hours before he could be transferred onto a rib and airlifted by helicopter this Tuesday afternoon. It’s an adventure that Sébastien Josse was following remotely: “Yesterday evening, Cyril (Dardashti) informed me what had happened to Paul… I’m really reassured and happy for him that he’s finally been taken in hand and I hope that things now go as smoothly as possible for him. Naturally I was watching what the weather was doing in his area and I knew that he was going to have even more wind than I had at the front of the same system. Our boats, and above all in the conditions encountered over the past few hours, are very demanding and it’s clear that you can very quickly and easily hurt yourself. That’s always on the back of my mind whenever I’m moving around the boat.”

“Even though we do our best to avoid all our technical issues, we know full well that this element is part and parcel of our sport. However, as soon as it impacts on a human level, we find it very hard to accept and that gets to us. Inevitably then, we imagine ourselves in the position of SMA and Paul Meilhat’s team and we were all worried for him yesterday. The news received this afternoon is reassuring, as he’s finally been airlifted by helicopter. The whole of Gitana team joins me in wishing him a good recovery,” said a relieved Cyril Dardahsti, Director of the offshore racing stable fitted out by Baron Benjamin de Rothschild.

Ranking on 15 December – 18:00 GMT
  1. Sébastien Josse (Edmond de Rothschild) - 450.8 miles from the finish
  2. Fabrice Amedeo (Newrest-Matmut) – 702.6 miles astern
  3. Thomas Ruyant (Le Souffle du Nord)  - 837.8 miles astern
  4. Morgan Lagravière (Safran)- 897 miles astern
  5. Eric Holden (O Canada) – 899.8 miles astern
  6. Enda O’Coineen (Kilcullen Voyager) – 939.4 miles astern 

Gitana is placing at your disposal a cartography that is dedicated to following this transatlantic race: The positions of Edmond de Rothschild and its six rivals will be updated every hour. However, a position blackout will be observed between 22:00 and 04:00 GMT to let the strategic play have free rein! 

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