Gibraltar : a new start
For this fourth day at sea, the situation has been totally transformed overnight, as the leaders struggled in the Gulf of Cadiz while their competitors were sidestepping the light Spanish winds. As a result, the two Gitanas are back in touch this Friday morning with a few dozen miles to go before another key stage of the London -Alpes Maritimes race: the Straits of Gibraltar.

The Straits of Gibraltar were also supposed to mark the midway point of the race, but this is no longer the case as the race management has taken the decision to shorten the route. Consequently, the trimarans will now head straight for Nice from Gibraltar.

Last night...

There were two possible options after passing the Cape of Saint Vincent, the south-westernmost tip of Portugal: either to aim directly for Gibraltar 180 miles away by going along the Gulf of Cadiz, or to deviate southwards to take further advantage of the northerly flow along the Portuguese coast. The two leaders chose the first option, as did Frédéric Le Peutrec (Gitana 11), while the third-placed boat (Géant) fell south overnight to avoid the calm and Gitana 12 preferred to take a gentle south-easterly curve.
And while Groupama 2 and Banque Populaire IV were stuck in the light winds, Michel Desjoyeaux was going hell for leather, covering 110 miles in twelve hours!

The two Gitanas weren't idle either: Fred Le Peutrec made up 130 miles and Thierry Duprey du Vorsent 140 miles! Well done to them. For while it's true that the weather conditions switched in favour of the pursuers, it was over and above all the route followed that made this impressive comeback possible… Now these five trimarans are going to have to contend with the vagaries of Aeolus going through the Straits of Gibraltar, which are swept by a sustained easterly wind that will strengthen to 30-40 knots between Algerisas and Gibraltar. This midday should be pretty lively!

Frédéric Le Peutrec, skipper of Gitana 11:

“Suddenly, the wind picked up and we knew we had reached Gibraltar! As always, the Straits have a few surprises in store for us. We took one reef and the second's being prepared. We have to get through unscathed because after that there'll be a few opportunities to shine. We've made up a lot of the gap and seeing the leaders sailing alongside each other is motivating us even more. In a way, it's like a new start, the leaders having lost their capital… It's up to us now to invest wisely! On account of the conditions, it's good that we're going straight to Nice, as it's better not to hang around in the Eastern Mediterranean!”

Mayeul Riffet, navigator on Gitana 12, at 08:30:

“We are one hundred miles from the Straits of Gibraltar. We have made up over 150 miles on the leaders during the night and we're going to narrow the gap still further this morning as we're still going at over twenty knots! Basically, we chose Cape Saint Vincent to continue towards the southeast while the other trimarans went by the direct route. We went round the houses a bit but managed to close the gap considerably! We've made a nice line on the map as we've already emerged from the ridge of Cape Finisterre: Groupama 2 took 2 days to get 200 miles ahead of us whereas it only took us a half day to make up 150 miles… not bad eh? We are happy and morale is high, because our position further south is favourable for tackling Gibraltar's easterly winds.  This morning, the breeze is still East/north-easterly at 15 knots, the sun's shining and the sea is very manageable with a swell directly in front of us: we're going to pick up wind in the straits, in the region of 40 knots… for at least four hours and with a very rough sea. We're going to switch from mainsail up and Solent jib to two reefs in the main and a jib for stronger wind! We're going to have to manoeuvre while watching the sea, the current, the shipping lines, the coasts… We will be at the entrance to the narrows at midday. The boat is perfect and we've all been able to rest on Thursday, even if we had to be on deck all day and all last night to string together averages of twenty to thirty knots. We are ready for the Mediterranean, which promises to be tougher than the Atlantic, with headwinds as far as Almeria and light air after that. We need to conserve energy as we're only halfway through! But onboard Gitana 12, we are super-comfortable at sea, and in no unnecessary hurry to arrive at Nice. We prefer to take our time and claim a place on the podium…”


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