En route for Malta
The six strong fleet of trimarans racing the IB Group Challenge are close-hauled in a 20-knot wind, the leaders currently nearing Malta the tail-enders in the Gulf of Tunis. It looks as though a steady wind is going to blow for the next few hours at least, so not much chance of the rankings changing for the time being.

Friday 13th will remain engraved in the minds of the Gitana Team as a thoroughly rotten day. Gitana X broek her gennaker halyard forcing her to stop for repairs, thereby losing 150 miles overnight. Gitana 11 fell into a windless zone and watched powerless as two competitors having made a coast-hugging option pulled away taking an 80 miles lead. All of this could  be anecdotal if a couple of tactical options were available this weekend. But the situation is unlikely to change over the weekend as there is a slow-moving easterly minimum low pressure system over Tunisia. This generates an easterly flow over Bizerte, south-easterly over Sicily and southerly over Malta.
Basically, the whole fleet will be head to wind as it makes its way along the island, favouring the starboard tack to produce a nice curved path to round this last race mark before Nice. There are still some 700 miles to go to the finish and the detailed weather situation is only clear for Saturday. Thereafter, the trimarans will have to start making their way up the coast of Sardinia and Corsica leaving these islands to their west. A few final tactical moves are still possible. 

Although there is little chance of change this weekend in terms of the distance between the boats anyway, there are still a fair number of miles left to the finish. Frédéric Le Peutrec and Michel Desjoyeaux are still battling it out for third. Gitana 11 has opted to sail closer in to Sicily whilst Géant has opted to stick to Tunisia. However, both should be passing Malta within a couple of miles of each other ! In spite of Gitana X having lost ground on the leaders the positive attitude has been adopted. The crew can be proud of having got off to a good start, the winter's optimisation apparently having paid off.

Frédéric Le Peutrec (Gitana 11) at 6h30 this morning :

« We're head to wind in a 20 knot wind ! Lively up on deck. Géant should be flying a bit more canvas up front but as the wind is likely to drop slightly as we approach Malta, we may be able to take an inside line. Not much happened overnight but that applied to the whole fleet. That is why the boats up front have not increased their lead. They will no doubt hang onto their advantage a short while longer. This wind should be with us until Tuesday and we will no doubt round the island in the afternoon. The Med is not easy to race at all. Yesterday was hard. Really warm with light air. Tomorrow is not likely to be easy either as fickle winds are forecast. We will probably lose a little ground on the leaders today and make up for that tomorrow. Not easy. »

Nicolas Raynaud (Gitana X ) at 7h00 this morning :

« We spent a pleasant night changing tack. The wind picked up a little to the extent that we had to take a reef in the main upwind. The boat sailed well and we are 60 miles from Cape Bon. Looks like we're in for some fine weather today with a healthy easterly breeze. All is well on board. There is always someone up on deck and there is a good atmosphere. Morale is high as we still have Foncia, Gitana 11 and Géant to play with. We continue to learn things about the boat sails. Head to wind Gitana X holds here course well and she is extremely pleasant to sail. She is not so good in choppy seas but apart from that we are holding our own compared with the rest of the fleet. »

Rankings – Saturday 14th May at 04h00 (French time) :

1- Groupama-2 (Franck Cammas)  656.7 miles to the finish
2- Banque Populaire (Pascal Bidégorry) + 16.7 miles
3- Géant (Michel Desjoyeaux)   + 128.3 miles
4- Gitana 11 (Frédéric Le Peutrec)  + 138 miles
5- Foncia (Armel Le Cléac'h)  + 155.4 miles
6- Gitana X (Thierry Duprey du Vorsent) + 215.4 miles

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