Karine Fauconnier (Sergio Tacchini) has just rounded the Fastnet Lighthouse in the lead, 70 miles ahead of the trio of followers - Géant, Groupama and Sodebo. Gitana X has managed to pull out in front of Banque Covefi thanks to the return of the wind in the south and her choice of course along 52° north. After having spent several days sailing in conditions which were nowhere near as favourable as for her opponents (medium beam wind), Marc Guillemot's crew has latched onto much better weather pattern, with a 12-knot cross wind. Once the leaders had been lost after the passage of Newfoundland, Gitana X had never been able to catch up over the Atlantic as the best wind was always at the front of the fleet. The 500 mile gap acquired in four days has little chance of being reduced particularly as the first boats will have the wind on their side to finish their race.
So at around 07h30 (French time) on Sunday morning, Sergio Tacchini rounded the Fastnet rock at the southern tip of Ireland, the last race mark before the finish. She is well ahead of her closest opponents who are practically within spitting distance of each other. Classically, the final sprint to Saint Malo should not worry Karine Fauconnier and her crew in spite of the fact that they can expect to run into one or two windless zones along the way. However, the finishing order of the following boats is much less certain as Michel Desjoyeaux, Franck Cammas and Thomas Coville (the first three in The Transat) are neck and neck 70 miles from the leader. It is expected that this group, trailing the leader by around four hours, will reach the Irish coast towards the end of the morning. Which of the three will be first after the Fastnet ? It is impossible to give any realistic prognosis for the time being for these first arrivals expected into Saint Malo sometime during daylight hours tomorrow, Monday.
What is certain however, is that the finish is going to be very exciting indeed as the weather is very uncertain to say the least. This morning in Saint Malo, there was incessant rain and a 15 knot breeze, whilst at Ushant there was brilliant sunshine and a five knot wind…
Life on board Gitana X – sent by e-mail last night
« It's very cold out here once again. For helming, we've dug out our lovely fluorescent orange gloves again which we bought from "La Tulipe", the Québec version of the "Snow and Rock" shop, very « in » in Louise Basin where the trimarans were docked; They look very snazzy in our uniformly grey universe. The sun decided to put in a very timid but magnificent appearance today – amazing, does the world of good. An almost autumnal atmosphere in which we manoeuvre, one gybe after another, lowering and raising the foils due to an anemometer which keeps going up and down like a yoyo. Our routine the last three days came to a brisk end at the end of the afternoon with a wind which shifted from west-south-west to south. It was high time – we were starting to run out of ideas of how to keep the kids busy. You know what it's like. They're twiddling their thumbs in the galley, just won't keep out from under your feet, eat any old rubbish and at night time there's just no way to get them to sleep! The « old boys » (Luc, Olivier, Nicolas), don't give us any gip. They keep themselves to themselves huddled around the computer screen. Between a couple of analyses of weather files, they tell stories of the “war” which the youngsters (Thierry and Erwan) listen to politely, with a smile on their faces. Luckily, we had to lower and roll the gennaker, unroll the Solent, move sails about up on deck and so on. Kept the kids occupied and gave them a bit of exercise. Did ‘em the world of good, particularly as a few hours later as night began to fall, they had to do the same thing but the other way round. Dialy family life on board Gitana X. » Nicolas, one of the « old boys ».
As for Gitana 11
the trimaran is making good speed as she continues her route towards the tip of Brittany where she is expected on Tuesday. Jean Le Houérou, Gitana Team Technical Manager has decided that it would be best for the repairs to be done at the CDK yard in Port-la-Forêt (south Finistère) where she was built three years ago. A new technical challenge for the Gitana Team which has to be ready for the start of the next Grand Prix in the ORMA 2004 season at the end of August at Fécamp, in Normandy.