The Big Blue has the reputation for being capricious. Sailors never find themselves in the same type of conditions throughout any one day. That's just the way the Mediterranean is – a trying context for sailors. To start with, the six-strong fleet raced wind abeam in a light SE breeze as they approached the western part of this closed sea before the breeze veered east on a level with Algiers. Another major wind shift to be expected this afternoon. Perhaps a second chance for Gitana 11 who had trouble with her rudder last night.
« We were out of action for three hours. We lift the central rudder as soon as there is the slightest puff of wind so that we can control the boat correctly but it was not fully deployed. There were moments of calm during which we have to be able to continue making progress, which requires us to have the rudder spade in the water. I don't really know quite what happened, but the hooking line (the system which holds the spade in place)got stuck between the spade and the cap. We couldn't get it free.
It was impossible to helm the boat, too weatherly, unsteerable. We finally got going once again at 07h00 in an 8-knot SW and are making good progress. Hard though as we have lost a lot of ground with all this mess… », Yann Guichard on Gitana 11 this morning.
The wind is likely to remain abeam throughout the day and the trick is to gybe at the right moment to exploit wind shifts to the full. « We put a bit more north in our heading overnight as the wind tends to come in from the open sea first of all. We were well positioned, managing to keep Groupama-2 even overtaking her before nightfall. Our speed is not ridiculous. We are a little tired as a result of this, but everything's okay. »
At the 4h00 check-in point, Gitana 11 was still in the leading pack in company of the four other trimarans as Gitana X had managed to gnaw back a little of the ground lost overnight. But never the less, this unscheduled pitstop did cause Frédéric Le Peutrec to slip down the rankings compared at midday. The wind increased steadily with the sun at its highest before finally weakening at the end of the afternoon and veering east. This radical change will be very important to negotiate as its means that not only will the fleet be battling for first place to latch onto the wind, but get into position to prepare for the strait of Sicily. In any event, by this morning, the fleet had half the course of the IB Group Challenge in the rear-view mirror, 1,300 miles covered in three and a half days.
Rankings – Thursday 12th May at 04h00 (French time) :
1- Géant (Michel Desjoyeaux) 1 299.8 miles to the finish
2- Groupama-2 (Franck Cammas) + 4.4 miles from the leader
3- Banque Populaire (Pascal Bidégorry) + 10.1 miles from the leader
4- Gitana 11 (Frédéric Le Peutrec) + 11.5 miles from the leader
5- Foncia (Armel Le Cléac'h) + 13.3 miles from the leader
6- Gitana X (Thierry Duprey du Vorsent) + 57.4 miles from the leader