Leading in the slog to Cape Town
The sailors in the Brest Atlantiques were kind of looking forward to the Rio de Janeiro Cape Town section. Indeed, over the 14,000 miles of the course, the 3,200 miles between Brazil and South Africa was theoretically synonymous with smooth, fast sessions of slipping along downwind… but the weather has decided not to play ball. In fact, the duo on Edmond de Rothschild, like their three rivals, are having to deal with a secondary, rather cantankerous front making good its escape from the South American continent. For the past 48 hours, the fleet has been confronting windy conditions and above all difficult head seas that certainly aren’t conducive to an excess of speed. It is within this context that Franck Cammas and Charles Caudrelier are leading the way this morning and at the 07:00 UTC ranking, they were 102.4 miles ahead of Macif and 87 more miles ahead of Sodebo Ultim.
From the hunters to the hunted

The first to have to make a technical pit stop in Salvador on the 8th day of racing, the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild naturally lost her lead in the process. However, two days on, as a consequence of two key events in the race, the 32-metre giant in the colours of Edmond de Rothschild group was back in first place once more. The first of these was Macif stopping off in Rio de Janeiro to have the rudder on her central hull replaced, which ended up taking longer than planned and enabled our two sailors to cancel out the time taken on their own pit stop carried out a few miles earlier. The second was Sodebo retracing her steps after not being able to lengthen her stride enough due to the sea state. By backtracking in this way, she was then able to get back in line with her rivals who had opted to take on the North face of the depression. In this way, the race started afresh for everyone.

“It’s the circumstances of our rivals that have enabled us to move back up to the head of the fleet”, noted the skipper of Edmond de Rothschild. However, it’s also the damage suffered by the daggerboard on the latest addition to the Gitana fleet that enabled their rivals to take control… Either way, the whole fleet has started from scratch again in the Brest Atlantiques after nearly 6,000 miles covered since the start!

Change of atmosphere

Though the passage at the foot of the Corcovado, the famous Christ the Redeemer statue that dominates the bay of Rio de Janeiro, heralded a new start in the Brest Atlantiques, it also marked the start of a change of rhythm. Indeed, it’s upwind that the four giants began their crossing to South Africa. The days spent making an average speed of over 30 knots soon became a distant memory, with the speedos dipping to around 23 to 28 knots, or a distance of around 600 miles covered in two days...

Similarly, the foulies and fleece base layers were back out on the deck of the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild, where temperatures had dropped dramatically whilst the humidity was climbing in an inversely proportional manner. “We have 48 hours of upwind sailing in difficult winds and seas. It’s not great! Right now, there’s not really a window to make fast headway to Cape Town. We’re being subjected to a NE’ly wind, which isn’t enabling us to make very fast headway and crucially it’s generating very unpleasant head seas for the men and the boats,” admitted Franck Cammas yesterday, when contacted by the Maison de la Bretagne in Paris for the weekly link-up with the race.

In these conditions, the watchword and the main priority were naturally the preservation of the gear, which is inevitably being given a rough ride in the head seas – around 3 metres – and the wave-hopping rodeo ride our skipper described.

However, at the 07:00 UTC ranking, the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild’s speed was once again flirting with 30 knots, and the heading of 134° was an indicator that conditions were more manageable. For all that, as confirmed by Marcel van Triest, the weather router for our pair of skippers, this windy and chaotic passage is not yet in the wake of the latest Gitana. The strong wind and heavy seas are set to last for a good part of the weekend before conditions calm down considerably as they approach the high pressure. “Up next, the Saint Helena High remains ahead of us, so at the appropriate time we’ll have to see whether we can pass beneath it or if we have to wait till it evacuates and we can pass over the top”, concluded Franck Cammas.

Ranking on 16 November 2019 at 07:00 UTC

1. MAXI EDMOND DE ROTHSCHILD (Franck Cammas / Charles Caudrelier / Yann Riou) - distance to the goal: 8,123.6 miles - average speed over the past 30 mins: 30.9 knots

2.MACIF (François Gabart / Gwenolé Gahinet / Jérémie Eloy)– 102.4 miles behind the leader - average speed over the past 30 mins: 25.5 knots

3. SODEBO ULTIM 3 (Thomas Coville / Jean-Luc Nelias / Martin Keruzoré) -  189.5 miles behind the leader - average speed over the past 30 mins: 23.2 knots

4. ACTUAL LEADER (Yves Le Blevec / Alex Pella / Ronan Gladu) -  291.2 miles behind the leader - average speed over the past 30 mins: 21.2 knots 

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