Drag race to São Pedro
There is certainly no dawdling on the way back up towards the equator for the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild. Beam reaching and powered up at an average speed of 32 knots for the past 24 hours, the leaders of the Transat Jacques Vabre are making the most of the optimum conditions currently reigning in the South Atlantic, offshore of Brazil, to show just what their incredible flying machine is capable of. However, Franck Cammas and Charles Caudrelier are keeping a cool head because at such high speeds, they must be permanently concentrated. They also know just how important it is to preserve their steed with 2,500 nautical miles still remaining, especially given the fact that the final sprint is shaping up to be complicated in terms of the weather.

Making an average speed of more than 32 knots over the past 24 hours and nearly 35 over the last 4 in a wind of between 15 and 18 knots… the point of sail accompanying the head of the Transat Jacques Vabre fleet on their way up to the next course mark suits the pioneer of this generation of flying giants to a T: “We’re absolutely smoking along! Even though the sea is flat, at these speeds we’re bouncing around quite a lot. There isn’t as much breeze as all that, but it is at the perfect angle for making fast headway. We’re beam reaching, heading northwards to São Pedro, the next island we have to round”, explained Franck Cammas.

The speed is exhilarating but the skippers of the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild have not lost sight of the fact that they need to take care of their steed after 11 days at sea: “We’re flat out heading northwards! Things have accelerated nicely, but the name of the game is not to go too fast in fact… We’ve set ourselves a limit of 38 / 39 knots on this tack so as to preserve the boat. All she wants to do is accelerate… As such, we’re braking by easing the sails. It’s only on a multihull that you look to slow things down”, joked Charles Caudrelier, before casting his mind to what’s next on the programme: “despite our sizeable lead, the end of the race is forecast to be complicated. It would seem that there’s no wind in the North Atlantic and our rivals may burst back into contention. We need to stay focused right to the wire!”

A four-handed transatlantic

At sea, Franck Cammas and Charles Caudrelier take it in turns night and day, 24/7, in a bid to get the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild firing on all cylinders. Each of them steps up individually as part of a watch rotation, but is able to wake the other for manoeuvres which require all hands on deck, or for making major strategic decisions. On shore, not far from the Gitana Team’s technical base in Lorient, the lives of another duo are following the same rhythm. Though they don’t have to deal with the discomfort of heavy seas or being deprived of a daily shower, Erwan Israël and Stan Honey are enjoying all the other benefits! Thanks to the data at their disposal, they’re constantly on top of what’s happening aboard. Indeed, they have a written messaging system, which is permanently open, enabling highly responsive chats between the weather cell and the boat. 

Stan is American. As such, all the chats are in English. It’s become standard practice aboard the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild and doesn’t bother our sailors in the slightest as they are all at ease with conversing in the language of Shakespeare since their Volvo Ocean Race experiences. In fact, it’s interesting to note that the round the world with stopovers is a race all four of the men have on their CVs: all of them have won it at least once, with Charles securing two wins! Stan and Franck also share one very fine round the world victory, since in 2010 Stan was the navigator on Groupama during their successful Jules Verne Trophy attempt. 

The role of the routing cell is clear: offering the best possible route to the skippers of Gitana 17 by deciphering and anticipating the upcoming weather, as well as trying to elude any obstacles looming ahead of the flying maxi-trimaran. A third man, he too an American, completes the device. Indeed, Chris Bedford is a renowned meteorologist and a familiar face in the America’s Cup arena.

Images from the ocean, day 11 – Double-handed or solo for the Coffee Route?
Positions on Thursday 18 November at 17:00 UTC
  1. Maxi Edmond de Rothschild (F. Cammas / C. Caudrelier) 2,492.9 miles from the finish
  2. Banque Populaire XI (A. Le Cléac’h / K. Escoffier) + 431.6 miles
  3. SVR - Lazartigue (F. Gabart / T. Laperche) + 554.2 miles
  4. Actual (Y. Le Blevec / A. Marchand) + 888.3 miles
  5. Sodebo (T. Coville / T.Rouxel) +  1,383.5 miles
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