In the ocean off the Balearics this Sunday, we are witnessing the first and probably the last major throw of the dice. For since the start of the race in London last Monday, the weather conditions have given the sailors few opportunities to make their navigational talents count. A small tactical coup off the English coast or a slight advantage obtained in the Bay of Cadiz, and that has been thatl! But now, as the end of the race draws near, the reduction of the route has thrown the contest wide open by giving the vessels a free choice on how to pass the Balearics. And consequently, the pursuers of the leading duo have thrown caution to the wind as they seek to obtain some advantage before the arrival in the Bay of Nice. This especially applies to the two Gitanas which endured a slightly less sustained wind than the two leaders overnight, particularly Eleven who, in the early hours of the morning, saw Twelve pass within a few lengths!
There remains a primarily windless zone to be crossed to the north of the archipelago and the Gitanas appear to have chosen to head east to go around it. Whatever happens, the first trimarans are not expected in Alpes Maritimes before Monday afternoon at the earliest, as the end of the 2,075-mile route promises to be laborious in the extreme… In any case, the options taken by these three groups can no longer be changed: once they've set out on a particular course (to the west, the centre or the east), there is no possibility of going back on their decision, especially with the light air forecast for this Sunday afternoon. The results of their choices will therefore only become clear on Monday morning, after what promises to be a highly stressful night for the sailors.
Thierry Duprey du Vorsent onboard Gitana 12, Sunday at 08:30:
“We're 35 miles southwest of Majorca. The choices available are very different… But we've gained ground overnight courtesy of successive changes of tack accompanied by a 17-20-knot north-easterly wind on short choppy seas and a superb full moon! During the night, I saw a small red light approaching our starboard side… Our batteries were low due to not having been able to run the motor because the central hull was still above the water, so we hadn't lit the lights. I turned them on and was amazed to see that we'd passed Gitana 11 six lengths behind… Incredible!
This morning, we've still got a good east to northeast breeze and it's time to make a few choices: we're probably going to pass between Minorca and Majorca as in a few hours, a high-pressure bubble's going to form to the north of the archipelago. We're going to try to pass as far as possible to the east of this windless zone. Then, there shouldn't be too much wind along the French coast: it's not going to be easy to negotiate… But we won't get a chance to pass the leaders if we stay way back behind them like this. This is the first time we can start to take off our thermals and oilskins; we'll need to get the sun tan lotion out this afternoon! It's likely to be a red-hot afternoon…”