As time goes by, no two days are alike. By Saturday morning, Gitana X was just 75 miles behind Banque Covefi and 150 miles from Sopra Group, neither of which are making that much headway whereas Marc Guillemot and his crew are flying along at 20 knots. The gap should decrease to a hair's breadth today. Up front, the leaders managed to break away using a more favourable breeze and any one of five trimarans currently has the potential to win - Sergio Tacchini, Groupama, TIM-Progetto Italia, Sodebo, Géant - Foncia and Banque Populaire have also been distanced. As soon as the fleet hit the Altnaitc Ocean, off the Grand Banks of Newfoundland, the die were more or less cast for this part of the passage as the wind always comes in form the front here. The Azores High is very north at the moment and had blocked the way through for the rest of the fleet, including Gitana X, who had to effect a series of gybes to pull free. Yves Parlier has suffered even more at the hands of this High as he is now more than 650 miles behind the leader and had to tack head to wind along the coast of Newfoundland !
In spite of having to swallow this bitter pill, morale is never the less high on Gitana X where they have settled into a more steady rhythm. Crew can now appreciate the 18-knot westerly breeze and a small amount of sunshine after several days in the fog. Nicolas Raynaud and Marc Guillemot look back over the past three days.
Thursday 15th July : “already… only”
« The notion of time at sea is fragile. One day fades into another and it is easy to lose track of time. You have to use your memory, pinch yourself from time to time and keep a careful eye out on the computer screen to realise that at the time of writing, we are into day five of the race. I've just checked, of course – it is indeed Thursday 15th July, 17h00 UT and we still have our gennaker up in a real peasouper.
And I would emphasise the « already » into day five, rather than « only » !
However, we have to admit that not a lot is happening from a shore-based point of view. Altogether, the time spent manoeuvring since the start - hoist the gennak, code 0, bring down the sail, change tack, gybe, roll-unroll the Solent – all in all, does not total more than 5 hours !! The rest of the time is perhaps vague from the outside looking in. We push the helm a few inches from one side to the other, ease out or harden sheets a couple of inches, budge sail bags a little and that's it really. The rest of the time is spent thinking, eating a quick meal on the hoof (for a very good reason !)and snatching small precious minutes of sleep here and there.
Even the relationship between night and day, which is meant to guide our daily lives is shaken rather than just stirred. Both day and night, Gitana X lives at the same pace. As if proof were needed, the other night (or the night before that, I'm not exactly sure) we were at more than 25 knots in total darkness in thick fog. Negotiating your way through the passage between the island of Miquelon and Saint-Pierre, a passage which is only five miles long, we had to hoist the gennaker. Naturally, everyone was up on deck… The sort of thing you only see when you're racing and which contributes to your losing sense of time which really has little or no meaning out here. Our only true marker in time comes from our opponents. As the hours pass and the rankings change, we have to recognise that for the time being we're going to need more and more time to catch up with the others… » Nicolas
Friday 16th July - sea & surfing
« At long last,on Gitana X, after having spent three days "guddling along" we're finally out of the high which had been pinning us down. Since the middle of the night, we've been on the "North Face" along the 1020 isobar and the one which had been giving us so much grief since Newfoundland is now giving us the chance to get some surfing done, in westerly 20-knot winds. When we contacted the shore this morning, we learnt that Gitana 11 was in difficulty mid-Atlantic, but that luckily the crew are fine. It's getting increasingly difficult to cross the Atlantic these days without colliding with something – a whale or an unidentified floating object lost overboard form a cargo vessel – such as a container, for example. The last single-handed transatlantic confirms this as on the same day in the Irish Sea, four different boats ran into something. We're really not that far off in describing the sea as a giant garbage can.
On Gitana X, life is well organised based on the gybes, meals, sleep. Well, it's not the sort of organisation where everything is worked out strictly in advance, pinned up on the notice-board, neatly ordered etc but it works. Luc Poupon is glued to the chart table and spend a lot of time on the web in search of weather info. Nicolas Raynaud juggles with his camera, cooking pasta and helming, while Zolive (Olivier Wroczynski) is there for every manoeuvre and keeps an eagle eye out on the helm. Thierry Duprey and Erwan Le Roux take turns at the helm and spring into action up on deck whilst I keep a severe and critical look out on everything which is happening. Easy-peasy….
Our position in the race does nothing to detract from our determination and excellent team spirit which is what it's all about. Oh yes, I nearly forgot, we're under gennaker and main at 21 to 28 knots on a superb sea in wonderful sunshine... » Marco
Saturday 17th July – Gliding across the Atlantic
« Black night with no moon. Gennaker and mainsail up, Gitana X continues her course, with just under 900 miles to go to the Fastnet. Brilliant fun at the helm. Gliding along at more than 20 knots. In fact we'd relish a little more wind for even more sensational sailing out here. But it looks as though that's not on the cards. If it continues this way, this Québec Saint-Malo will be summed up as a long run downwind in medium wind.
Not a squall in sight, no need to reef the main, the ORC jib has stayed in its bag, no real seaspray to write home about !! I'm hoping to tempt the weather gods into proving me wrong. A little bit of salt would spice things up and be our only real chance of catching up on our opponents. For the time being, we're sailing calmly along at night, a privilege in its own right. And so we are making the most of it. Come what may ... » Nicolas