The Québec-Saint Malo yacht race can be likened to a golf course… but the wrong way round ! An « approach shot » to start with down the river as far as the Pierced Rock mark, then a long shot to round the island of Saint Peter south of Newfoundland before a big « swing » over the Atlantic, followed by a « putt » in the Irish Sea and the English Channel … in order to reach the final flag at the finish in Saint Malo. A « par-four » course as it were. The Gitana Team got off to a good start in this game. Gitana 11 was part of the « famous five », in the lead at midday on Tuesday. Leaders Franck Cammas (Groupama) and Karine Fauconnier (Sergio Tacchini) are sailing shoulder to shoulder, with a group of three boat hot on their heels including Thomas Coville (Sodebo), Michel Desjoyeaux (Géant) and Fred Le Peutrec (Gitana 11) five miles astern. 36 hours into the race and the first boats have already covered 500 miles at an average speed of almost 14 knots ! Something of a surprise as the weather forecast at the start was no at all favourable. Never the less, a bit of a breeze, albeit unsteady, gave rise to accelerations of more than 25 knots and slow-gos of not quite 3 knots. Unlike the game of golf, however, the boat have to avoid falling into the holes, zones where there is no wind … and keep sliding along the « green » banks of the Saint Lawrence river. The situation is much clearer this morning, Tuesday, as the multihulls are finally free of the river and its pitfalls and are now sailing in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence, less effected to the tidal currents – conditions which leave the field more open to tactical shots. In a southwesterly twenty-knot breeze, they even had to tack to round Magdalen Islands in the middle of the Gulf. At lunchtime today, the first multis were at more than 25 knots of average on a direct course to the Cabot Strait and the archipelago of Saint Pierre & Miquelon which they should be passing tonight.
On Monday evening, on Gitana X, Nicolas Raynaud described sailing on the Saint Lawrence river as « girlie weather » : « not a single wave in sight, not a drop of seaspray on the deck ! We'll have had more than clement conditions for our sail down the Saint Lawrenc to Gaspésie, with the odd sequence of fast sailing, sometimes at speeds of 25 knots and with stretches of calm, where boatspeed came close to standstill... Which is no reason to stand there with our arms crossed. We've lost count of the number of gybes we have done, not to mention a short spell under the Code Zéro to negotiate a longer period of calm than is usually the case. Each of us is managing to get in a homeopathic spell of sleep, pitilessly awoken by the slightest manoeuvre. That's the name of the game.
A game with a slightly bitter taste for us. At the time of writing (17h00 in Québec, 23h00 French time, one mile from the coast of Gaspésie, heading for the next mark, still twenty or so miles ahead), we're sailing with Banque Populaire slightly offset to our leeward. Since the start, we stayed with Sopra Group and Banque Covefi thanks to the one or two good tactical shots on the river – pure speed...
An example last night, we spotted a light go whizzing past us. Faster, lower down, it was really impressive adn this boat was none other than Sodebo, which had come back into the match !
The time to analyse this first part of the race will come when the fleet reaches the Pierced Rock... We've already got our fingers crossed that the guys ahead don't whizz off ahead. On Monday evening, the wind is starting to pick up slightly ahead, blowing southerly as we are pointing our bows to the Rosiers Headland (East of Gaspésie). We roll the gennaker, hoist the Code 0 and finally continue our route under Solent jib. We hope to pass Gaspé before night fall. »
General outlook : Environnement Canada forecast generally light air over the major part of the extra-coastal zones today, Tuesday with a persistent ridge of high pressure. Elsewhere, gentle to moderate south-westerly winds, becoming moderate to strong today as a low moves over to the centre of Québec. A low is forming south of Long Island today and will approach Georges Back on Wednesday morning. For the time being, SE winds should be strengthening at the front of the low pressure system, sometimes reaching gale force tonight and Wednesday over most of the south-westerly sectors. Elsewhere, moderate to strong SE winds will gradually be picking up on Wednesday. By Thursday the low will start moving slowly and moderate to strong east winds are expected north of the low, although the southern sectors should see light to moderate SW winds.
Forecast for the Cabot Strait : Weak winds becoming SW, 10-15 knots this morning, increasing SW, 15-20 knots this afternoon. After midnight, winds turning S, 15 knots, increasing SE, 20-25 knots on Wednesday afternoon. Blankets of fog forming after midnight and on Wednesday. Poor visibility in the fog. Little change in temperature. Outlook for Thursday : moderate to strong SE winds.