The Whitsun Bank Holiday weekend was marked by suspense in the IB Group Challenge. Firstly, fleet leader Groupama-2 broke her crossbeam just before Malta, then Banque Populaire made the most of a stern wind after the island to increase her lead to 130 miles and then finally, there was a neck and neck battle between Gitana 11 and Géant throughout the day and night of Saturday, both boats continually changing tack. On Sunday, a tactical divergence of opinion arose. Frédéric Le Peutrec headed off west towards Tunisia whereas Michel Desjoyeaux opted to hug the coast of Sicily. The moderate NW wind turned gradually W then SW and the African option turned out to be the one that paid off. To the extent that not only did Gitana 11 gain more than 60 miles compared to Géant, but in addition, Banque Populaire's lead was a meagre 8 miles in the small hours of this Bank Holiday Monday…
As for Thierry Duprey du Vorsent, he made extremely good use of the wind shifts in the Strait of Sicily to head out west and round a windless zone where Géant was imprisoned. Gitana X was just forty miles behind Desjoyeaux-Le Cléac'h after having conceded as many as 150 miles ! Bravo…
Stretching out before the fleet is a two hundred mile long run downwind along the coast of Sardinia and Corsica in a relatively light southerly breeze. Gennakers up, thermal breezes to be managed close to the coast and the effects of the nearby relief. Not easy conditions to negotiate, rather the sort of situations where it is easy to get caught out ! Perfect conditions for the tail enders to start catching up and for the cards to be reshuffled. Moreover, finishing in the Ligurian Sea is far from being easy with yet another easterly breeze (wind abeam) of less than 10 knots… not easy on the nerves all these continual changes. By tomorrow morning, the five trimarans may well end up finishing in Nice within three hours of each other !
Thierry Duprey du Vorsent – Gitana X :
« Things went well overnight and I hope that it will pay off even more ! We are sailing in an easterly 8-10 knot wind which should be veering SE and strengthen to 12-15 knots throughout the day. This should be enough to bring us as far as the Bouches de Bonifacio.
We opted to go west to avoid a stretch of windless zones between Sicily and Sardinia. We also wanted to stand out from Foncia to try and overtake her by the west. It seemed to work as she is still not free of the wind hole… Just like Géant ! Now we have to handle the new S-SE flow which should be with us along the islands. The crew is highly motivated and a place in the top three is quite possible… »
Frédéric Le Peutrec – Gitana 11 :
« We're really tired but really happy. I've got folks snoring around me ! We had a buffer zone effect overnight but at the moment we've got 11 knots SE. As we are coming back in with the wind, we should be able to gain ground on Banque Populaire. This new breeze should be with us to the north of Sardinia. We pulled off something cool in heading for Tunisia. We headed west to latch onto a W then SW wind rounding the calm zones which had captured Géant and to a lesser degree Banque Populaire. At one moment, we even thought we would pass in front of Pascal Bidégorry as he was stopped dead when we had 18 knots ! This morning , Géant and Foncia are still in the windhole. A nice stunt to pull off – a source of pleasure. »
Rankings – Monday 16th May 04h00 (French time) :
1- Banque Populaire (Pascal Bidégorry) 288 miles to the finish
2- Gitana 11 (Frédéric Le Peutrec) + 8.5 miles
3- Géant (Michel Desjoyeaux) + 71.2 miles
4- Foncia (Armel Le Cléac'h) + 76 miles
5- Gitana X (Thierry Duprey du Vorsent) + 115 miles
Abandon- Groupama-2 (Franck Cammas)