A thousand nautical miles, one fifth of the course in the Transat Jacques Vabre, but the last 20% is reeled in just two days! The going in the South Atlantic is much more comfortable altogether once past Ascension Island forcing the fleet to sail close-hauled against steady trade winds and short seas. Faster now too! A 450-mile day is not unusual. That could increase to covering as much as 500 or even 520 miles in 24 hours. A nice long line to plot on the chart! Boat speeds averaged more than 23 knots today, so the going was easier today. Crew's attention is still intensely focussed on sailing the boat fast. The sun is out, temperatures are much warmest, a steady SE/E breeze is blowing at around 18-20 knots and seas consistent. Nothing like the last three days spent pile-driving through wild seas.
Conditions described above apply to Gitana X. After having stopped twice in Porto and then in Lanzarote, Thierry Duprey du Vorsent and Erwan Le Roux only shook their steed free of the Doldrums on Thursday and since then have been plunging south towards Ascension Island. And that is the most unpleasant part of the 5 190 mile long course which should come to an end for the tandem on Saturday. But they have not been contacted by telephone over the last couple of hours. Same goes for Frédéric Le Peutrec and Yann Guichard. Race HQ in Bahia have not been able to get in touch with them recently either.
But it is easy to imagine that the pair on the « Eleven » is busy pushing its racing machine as hard as they can, mainsail and gennaker flying high. Not only is Gitana 11 sailing fast, she is also trying to gain to windward as an offensive move on the leader. They should be able to snatch back a few tens of miles by gybing north on Saturday around midday as the trade winds gradually start to turn east. Perhaps the last chance for a real offensive move before the landfall in Brazil. If this strategy does come off, Frédéric and Yann could represent a much more serious threat in the last few miles, where the wind could become lighter, change direction, or cease blowing altogether. If they manage to come within 30 miles of Banque Populaire by midday on Saturday, they could even stand a chance of winning. Finishing at night time in Bahia's All Saints' could then be critical – the climate changes dramatically. Factors such as wind angle could upset the hierarchy altogether at the very last minute. Patience, patience… a day and a half from now
Rankings – Friday 18th November 2005 at 16h00 :
1-Banque Populaire : 952 ½ miles from the finish
2-Gitana 11 : 1 027.9 miles from the finish
3-Géant : 1 094.9 miles from the finish
4-Gitana X : 1 904.1 miles from the finish