Heading towards the low
Since the race start on Sunday evening (GMT) from the Big Apple, the fleet competing in the Transat New York - Vendée has endured some tough times. In fact, despite fairly mild weather conditions for the start of this transatlantic sprint, it’s below the water that a number of dreams have been shattered. Yesterday, five of the fourteen competitors had to turn back and seek refuge in Newport, with the majority of them lamenting damage following collisions with a UFO (Unidentified Floating Object). To date, solely StMichel-Virbac has headed back out onto the racetrack, whilst Armel Le Cléac’h signalled his retirement midway through this afternoon. At the helm of Edmond de Rothschild, Sébastien Josse has also had his share of mishaps, though the latest addition to the Gitana fleet remains damage free. The Imoca60 fitted out by Baron Benjamin de Rothschild is in the game, at the head of the fleet since the opening miles of the race. At the 15:00 GMT position report, she was provisionally lying in third place in a fleet headed by Briton Alex Thomson. Faster over the past few hours, the skipper of Hugo Boss is leading the way towards the first low in the transatlantic sprint bound for Les Sables d’Olonne in France.

Setting sail from New York is never easy. The shipping, the current, the fog, the fishing grounds and hence fisheries, as well as the icebergs a little further North, all make for a rather tense atmosphere for those who set off singlehanded. Fortunately, the weather has remained fairly tame since Sunday: “We had a pretty good first night with flat seas albeit with little visibility as there was a lot of fog,” Sébastien Josse explained on Monday at the midday satellite link-up. “We’re gently making headway and we’re about to link onto some transition phases in terms of the weather. That will generate a series of small manoeuvres, the focus of which will be some nicely timed sail changes.”

However, this Tuesday morning had rather a different taste for the skipper: “I haven’t suffered the same misfortune as some of my rivals, who have had to turn back. That said, I have had my fair share of aquatic encounters and one big fish in particular – a shark I think – which got wrapped around the keel. I had to go in reverse to free myself from it. As far as the rest of it goes, the rudders played their role as fuses, but there sure were a lot of things across our route!”

Despite all that, the sailor has managed to keep a few of the fundamentals on track: “The pace is how I imagined it would be… You never get bored on these boats! However, I did manage to get some rest last night, despite a few manoeuvres in a fairly shifty wind. Right now I have been 20 and 25 knots, the wind has lifted (become more favourable) and it should stay like that for around twenty hours or so. After that, we’ll have to time a gybe just right to home in on the low.”

Low pressure straight ahead

The trajectory takes the form of a nice straight line, due East, bound for Europe, but things will become complicated in the coming days. A low, three times as wide as France, is stretch across the path of the fleet. “Within the next 24 hours, we’re likely to be in the teeth of the system, with a gybe required to switch onto port tack for around two days,” he continues. “A secondary low has just joined up with the main low. The latter seems to be deepening and, for now, the grib files are indicating 35-40 knots with fairly heavy seas. However, the wind strength will really depend on when we hit the system. The quicker we get there, the better it will be!”

Even though the weather and the battle with Hugo Boss, Maître Coq and PRB are encouraging the skipper to push hard, he has every intention of keeping a cool head: “Alex (Thomson) and Jérémie (Beyou) have really been on the attack since yesterday and Alex’s lead comes as no surprise. For my part, my primary focus is on the upcoming low. It’s important not to rush things as the skipper that comes out of this low with a boat in tip-top condition will already be in a strong position. This is particularly true given that our arrival in the Bay of Biscay has become more complicated since we set sail. The last few miles won’t be easy, with some ‘nice’ surprises in store.”

More haste less speed is the expression that perfectly sums up the mindset favoured by the skipper of Edmond de Rothschild for this race. However, having covered more than 700 miles over the ground at an average speed of 16.6 knots since the start, Sébastien Josse certainly isn’t dawdling… 

Track the Mono60 Edmond de Rothschild via a position report every 15 minutes from 04:00 to 21:00 GMT: http://gitana-team.geovoile.com/newyorkvendee/2016/tracker/


Transat New York - Vendée, position report on Tuesday 31 May at 15:00 GMT

1-    Alex Thomson - Hugo Boss (UK) 2,423.1 miles from the finish
2-     Jérémie Beyou - Maitre Coq (France) 24.8 miles behind the leader
3-     Sébastien Josse - Edmond de Rothschild (France) 31.3 miles back
4-     Vincent Riou - PRB (France) 46.9 miles back
5-     Paul Meilhat - SMA (France) 64.7 miles back
6-     Tanguy de Lamotte - Initiatives Cœur (France) 109.2 miles back
7-     Kojiro Shiraishi - Spirit of Yukoh (Japon) 156.6 miles back
8-     Fabrice Amedeo - Newrest Matmut (France) 178 miles back
9-     Conrad Colman - 100 % Natural Energy (New Zealand - USA) 568.7 miles back
10-  Jean-Pierre Dick - StMichel-Virbac (France) 571.2 miles back
11-  Yann Eliès - Queguiner-Leucemie Espoir (France) 580.5 miles back
12-  Morgan Lagravière - Safran (France) 580.5 miles back
13-  Pieter Heerema - No Way Back (Holland) 580.5 miles back

Retirement - Armel Le Cléac'h - Banque Populaire VIII

Note that Yann Eliès, Morgan Lagravière and Peter Heerema are still making a pit-stop in Newport.

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