3rd week of racing
After the series of gybes undertaken along the edge of the ice zone, Gitana 17 is the first to hang a left for the climb up to South Africa, where they’re expected in the bay of Cape Town for the second course mark. The sailors, who have already been welcomed by this dramatic backdrop of Table Mountain on several occasions in the Volvo Ocean Race, this time make landfall after a memorable tack at 40 knots on flat seas and at sunset. Dazzling! To validate this second chunk of the Brest Atlantiques, the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild has to round Robben Island but the exercise doesn’t prove that easy as the wind is still very unstable, erratic even. It’s a passage that is orchestrated to perfection once again by Marcel van Triest. The men breathe in the aromas of land and leave the lights of Cape Town at the head of the fleet.
Meantime Macif, which is positioned 90 miles astern, makes a brief pit stop and Actual Leader makes the most of the opportunity to sneak through into second place. Sodebo, which lost a piece of her starboard float following a collision in the middle of the South Atlantic, also makes a stop. Following more detailed investigations by her shore crew, the foil is found to be damaged too and their retirement beckons. There are just three trimarans left on the racetrack in the Brest Atlantiques as they begin the final act, which kicks off with a passage along a fabulous, if rather unfamiliar zone for offshore racers, along the coast of Namibia.
“It’s nice. You begin to search for weather stations in Namibia in a bid to decipher the effects of the different sites,” explains Marcel van Triest. Nevertheless, coastal navigation is somewhat stressful for the men with the presence of numerous whales, shoals of fish of all kinds and several dozen fishing vessels. One night, the crew of Gitana 17 has a big scare as it crosses the path of a shoal of fish. These are painful times where they really believe the Brest Atlantiques might be over for them… however, the boat is fine and their circumnavigation of the Saint Helena High can continue. The latter has returned to her usual spot, forcing the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild to exploit a corridor of breeze along the African coast so as to hunt down the northern limit of the zone of high pressure in what is still a very light trade wind. Time drags… as Macif shifts over to the west at 90 degrees to the direct route. “It’s an option that we never even considered,” explains the router for Gitana Team. On board, the sailors take care of the boat, which still bears the scars of the boisterous passage across the South Atlantic, each of them doing some DIY to enable the machine to attack the finish in the best possible condition.
3,097.8 miles covered
Maximum speed: 33.7 knots
7 days in the lead
Ranking of the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild, on Tuesday 26 November at 11:00 UTC
1st / MAXI EDMOND DE ROTHSCHILD (Franck Cammas / Charles Caudrelier / Yann Riou) - Distance to the goal: 3,328.3 miles – Average speed over the past 24 hours: 16.7 knots