The unbearable lightness of air
Weather forecasting is not an exact science, especially when it comes to predicting sailing conditions in the Mediterranean. The situation this Saturday morning illustrates this perfectly; with the two Gitanas stuck in patches of calm, as are the three leaders, who are now within reach. Patience is the order of the day, therefore, with no option but to sit it out patiently on board.

After periods of acceleration at over thirty knots, now come crawls of less than five knots! It's enough to once again confirm the contrasts that characterise multihull sailing but also the significant difference between a relatively predictable Atlantic weather-wise and a generally hard-to-call Mediterranean. Consequently, the five leading trimarans are becalmed in light air, which is fortunately head to wind because even though the route is longer having to effect a series of gybes, at least the slightest gust is converted into progress: five knots upwind makes at least eight knots of speed, whereas five knots of stern wind barely generates three knots in velocity… That's the law of apparent wind!
With the finish 600 miles away, anything is still possible, especially as the gaps between the leading trio (Groupama 2, Banque Populaire IV and Géant) and the two Gitanas is still fairly limited, 25 miles in the case of 11 and 50 miles for her sister vessel. As an indication of how rapidly such leads can evaporate, the Gitana Team has clawed back 10 and 30 miles in 24 hours… Now they need to take advantage of every gust, changing tack as much as possible in the face of an unstable and variable breeze and tuning into the future to try to understand what the weather holds. The road to Nice is long and the paths for getting there fastest are far from marked out!

Frédéric Le Peutrec onboard Gitana 11 at 08:30 this Saturday 13 May:

“We're at a standstill this morning. There's no wind at all, not a sausage! And what's more, the sea's a bit choppy… It's been dead like this for half an hour. Normally, we would have light air with headwinds as far as the Balearics and then gradually less and less breeze as we move up towards Nice! It's going to be a long haul… At least until Tuesday afternoon. But everyone's in the same boat, so to speak.  With these conditions, we go where we can: with so little wind, there's no point trying any of our options and so for the moment, we're forced to stay as close as possible to the direct route, like the others. This really is the side of the Mediterranean which I hate as we've no opportunities… We sailed well last night with a few brief flurries of wind and we're not very far behind the leaders. It wasn't too windy going through the Straits of Gibraltar, but we still had to sail with two reefs in the main and the staysail up along the Moroccan coast, where there was less sea and less current. We still changed tack nine times with up to 32 knots of wind, so it was good not to damage anything! The weather info indicates that we should be doing 20 knots but that's not the case at all… What's more, a weakening wind is forecast, and when it's already zero, there can't be a lot on the way… You can summon up the wind now, we're ready! We need to get nearer to the coast to pick up the day's thermals, but not overly so as there's no wind at all close to the shores. In short then, it's all a bit complicated. The routing has us changing tack twenty times between Ibiza and Majorca! So the picture's really not clear at all and our options are limited at  the right moment. On the positive side, at least we can take it easy, but a very hot day is forecast. Basically, a Zen attitude is required…”

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