The Ouessant dead zone
With 36 hours gone of the race from London to Nice, the six trimarans are exiting the Channel in single file, with the leaders at the point of passing Contentin having made their break courtesy of tidal currents and a ridge of high pressure that passed by Ouessant. In the light air, the two Gitanas found the going tough.

The interest of an ocean race like this opening event in the Cafe Ambassador Multi Cup between London and Alpes Maritimes is nicely encapsulated by this second day at sea. A matter of a few dozen miles apart, the weather situations are not the same and the gaps with a day gone as fluctuating as wildly as petrol prices during an oil crisis… On its approach to the Contentin peninsula, the two Gitanas opted for a southerly course, a move which has not paid dividends: ten miles behind the leaders on passing the Cape of La Hague, Frédéric Le Peutrec and Thierry Duprey du Vorsent failed to get the benefit of the favourable tide and were forced to move away from the coast. Consequently, their deficit swiftly grew to twenty-five miles and was further exacerbated by nocturnal patches of ocean calm off the Breton coast.

Profiting from the outgoing tide and a sustained breeze, the two leaders (Banque Populaire IV and Groupama 2) were able to slip away via the west and rapidly exit the windless trap of Ouessant. Two hours later, the situation around Finistère Island had already changed! The noose had closed again around the necks of the two Gitanas, with Géant having just managed to catch the last gusts coming from the northwest. So this Wednesday morning, with the two leaders going hell for leather towards Cape Finisterre, their three direct pursuers are still stuck in the ocean off Brittany… And the situation is even worse for the youngsters of Sopra Group, who are embedded in a windless hole back by Perros Guirec!
The yo-yo effect: the south-easterly wind is more favourable for the leaders and the gaps are going to increase as the hours pass… before, one would normally expect, being suddenly reduced on hitting Cape Finisterre, with the breeze likely to be at its strongest (20-25 knots) in the middle of the Gulf of Gascony but very weak around the north-westernmost tip of Spain (5-8 knots) this Wednesday evening. Logically then, the fleet should become more grouped together at the Iberian Peninsula. The key is to be patient, hang on in there and maintain morale…

Nicolas Raynaud onboard Gitana 12

“Whereas on land, most people often have the impression that the day's weather never seems to be as forecast, it has to be admitted that at sea in our regions, the reverse is frequently the case. If you equip yourself with the resources to obtain the right info and if you know how to analyse it, the accuracy could even be sometimes described as uncanny. Consequently, we knew we were going to enter, then have to cross, a high-pressure ridge on Wednesday located near the tip of Brittany, a scenario which did indeed unfold and is still unfolding point by point. On Tuesday evening, a cold but splendid night with the lights of the coastline reflecting on the water, the wind dropped as forecast from 15 to 5 knots, after having switched from west to northwest. It was then with gennakers flying and our Gitana 11 pals sticking to our transom that we crossed the Chenal du Fromveur between Ouessant and Molène, renowned for being one of the most treacherous spots on the planet. But beneath almost a full moon, we had therefore earned the right to a bit of “girlie weather”, as we waited for the slightest little extra knot of speed. For of course, we knew perfectly well that our rivals ahead were forging ahead, with a gap that was likely to increase still further! In such a situation, as is often the case, we needed to be in front! How did we end up falling behind yesterday? An overly long leg toward the ocean before the Cotentin peninsula and a speed deficit due initially to our lack of knowledge of the boat were quite simply enough to do for us. When the south-westerly wind rose, it was actually the first time we'd been sailing in such conditions. Let me assure you, we've got the hang of her now. After having been stuck for too long at an upper limit of 16-17 knots, we were able to reach the essential 18-knot mark! After a splendid sunrise in the Iroise sea, with an unfortunately gentle sea scarcely wrinkled by a few saving ripples, we're at least going to shed our oilskins for the first time. That's perhaps the only positive aspect of this morning, which is going to be entirely devoted to catching the new wind which, as you know, is on the other side of this windless zone!”

Fred Guilmin onboard Gitana 11

“I'm writing this message to you as the sun rises portside. The weather's fine but there's a lack of wind. We're still ruminating on our error at the start of the course when we headed due south in the Channel, creating too much of an east-west gap with our rivals. We paid for it by arriving at La Hague too late, but there's still a long way to go and we're especially thinking about the new weather situation, which is not straightforward either. For the sake of suspense, I'm not going to reveal our plans to you. In any case, the Gitana team is sailing within sight of each other, the boat is in good nick and everything's functioning correctly. Thanks again to the technical team: they've done a super job. Talk to you tomorrow morning.”  

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