Bunched finale in the light airs of the Bay of Biscay
After setting sail from America’s eastern seaboard a week ago, the top trio in the Transat New York Vendée are now approaching the gateway to the Bay of Biscay. This afternoon, the Mono60 Edmond de Rothschild is some 600 nautical miles from Les Sables d’Olonne and Sébastien Josse is lying in 2nd place in a fleet now led by Maître Coq. However, the last few miles between now and the finish promise to be long. In fact, following on from the past few stormy days that the sailors have had to endure, the setting is going to be transformed off Cape Finisterre. The reason for this is a ridge of high pressure, which is lying in ambush across the path of Edmond de Rothschild and its rivals. As such, the final sprint for the finish is shaping up to be very tense, with the front runners likely to make their entrance into Port Olona on Tuesday evening or early Wednesday.

Upset at the front of the fleet

A firm leader for four days, Alex Thomson gave up the top spot at the start of the weekend. Indeed, after leading the way since 31 May, the Briton could do nothing to prevent the return of his two rivals. Positioned further to the North than them, he lost ground over the course of the day on Friday, before being slowed considerably the following night, his lead quickly melting away. In fact, it’s worth noting that Alex Thomson had a lead of up to 102 miles in relation to Sébastien Josse on 2 June. In a video sent from on-board, the skipper explained that the weather conditions encountered forced him to ease off the pace in a bid to preserve his gear… doubtless we’ll have to wait until Hugo Boss is tied to the dock in Port Olona before the full picture is revealed. 

With regards to life aboard, the solo sailor made no secret of his satisfaction at finally being able to make headway on a soothed boat: “since this morning, the scenario involves a little more slipping along, the boat is slamming less and straightaway it’s a different ball game!” It’s worth remembering that for the past 48 hours or so, the skipper of Edmond de Rothschild and his rivals have been sailing under the influence of a deep and active low, obliged to negotiate strong winds and heavy seas. Boisterous conditions then, which at high speed made life on-board “inhuman”: “When we’re in the high speed range of our boats, they ricochet across the water and it’s really uncomfortable. They bury into the waves so you hang on so as not to be thrown forward; the same is true when the pace picks up. The upshot of that is that you eat less, you are less well hydrated and finally you get little sleep… it’s lucky the lows don’t last a week as I don’t know how you would come out the other side!” Sébastien Josse noted with humour.

War of nerves 

However, this Sunday marks a relative ‘day of rest’ aboard the Imoca60s. For now, conditions are favouring the sailors’ physical recovery, though this may be short-lived as the light airs forecast are sure to see hostilities commence again… psychological ones this time! “The wind is fairly shifty on the water and that will be the case throughout the day. The satellite images are showing small cloudy fronts circling around us. There’s not a lot we can do to avoid them, so we’re going to have to contend with them the best we can. We’re likely to take it in turns to be favoured, but it’s annoying when you get caught in a light patch and you see your playmate continuing to make headway just a few miles away. That’s the name of the game though, so you just have to learn to accept it! Added to that, it’s only just begun,” Sébastien Josse confirmed. “We’re going to have a complicated finish on the French coast. There’s a ridge of high pressure barring our way from Cape Finisterre to Brest! We’re going to have to traverse it, but there won’t be any wind. This ridge has been lingering since the start, but we had hoped the situation would improve during our crossing. Unfortunately, things have not played out like that and it’s still here! It’s sure to be a bit of a lottery on the water and it will come as no surprise if there are big differences in speed between the competitors according to the phases. In these conditions, the ranking certainly isn’t set in stone and that’s not about to change any time soon! We’re going to need a bit of luck on our side to extricate ourselves and be first to come out the other side,” concluded the skipper of the monohull fitted out by Baron Benjamin de Rothschild.  

Transat New York - Vendée, position report on Sunday 5 May at 14:30 GMT

1-    Jérémie Beyou - Maitre Coq (France) 585.9 miles from the finish
2-     Sébastien Josse - Edmond de Rothschild (France) 13.8 miles behind the leader
3-     Alex Thomson - Hugo Boss (UK) 56.7 miles back
4-     Paul Meilhat - SMA (France) 379.3 miles back
5-     Tanguy de Lamotte - Initiatives Cœur (France) 498.8 miles back
6-     Kojiro Shiraishi - Spirit of Yukoh (Japan) 513.5 miles back
7-     Vincent Riou - PRB (France) 591.3 miles back
8-     Fabrice Amedeo - Newrest Matmut (France) 644.6 miles back
9-     Jean-Pierre Dick - St Michel-Virbac (France) 1,365 miles back
10-  Yann Eliès - Queguiner-Leucemie Espoir (France) 1,417.1 miles back
11-  Morgan Lagravière - Safran (France) 1,418.8 miles back
12-  Conrad Colman - 100 % Natural Energy (New Zealand - USA) 1,592.5 miles back
13-  Pieter Heerema - No Way Back (Holland) 1,649.1 miles back

Retired - Armel Le Cléac'h - Banque Populaire VIII

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