Hammering home the message
Lionel Lemonchois aboard Gitana 11 is strengthening his lead over Pascal Bidegorry and Michel Desjoyeaux, his two nearest rivals. Having crossed a front overnight complete with thirty-knot winds and rough seas, high-pressure conditions are now gaining the upper hand and the sailing is becoming less stressful. As for Thierry Duprey du Vorsent on Gitana 12, he finds himself in a battle with Antoine Koch and Claude Thélier, who are almost in view…

With just five days' racing behind us, the final third of the course is already beckoning and the pace set by Lionel Lemonchois, the undisputed leader on this eighth Route du Rhum – La Banque Postale for the last three days, shows no sign of flagging. Almost 570 miles in 24 hours at an average speed of 23.7 knots: the Gitana 11 skipper is forcing his rivals to maintain a high tempo in order to stay in contention, and not all have been able to do so. With the advantage of the position of leader, combined with a more stable weather pattern than his more distant pursuers (Gautier, Koch, Duprey du Vorsent, Thelier) or those who opted for a more northerly course (Coville, Cammas), the native of Normandy hammered home a clear message last night by gleaning a few more miles and piling further pressure on his opponents. The name of the game now is to preserve a sufficiently large “buffer zone” so as to be able to start glancing in the rear-view mirror without endangering boat or sailor.

In effect, the weather situation brightened up gradually after the passage through the front last night, generating a northerly wind of thirty knots in which Lionel Lemonchois did not hesitate to hoist mainsail and gennaker despite rough and chaotic seas. With each passing mile (and still at an average of over 22 knots!), the conditions improved both in terms of temperature and the state of the sea: the leaders are now on the southern edge of the Bermuda anticyclone, amidst a breeze of around twenty knots gradually becoming north-easterly. As a result, a gybe will be required, probably this Friday evening, in order to get back on the direct route towards Guadeloupe. This promises to be a crucial moment in terms of dealing effectively with the islands without having to perform too many manoeuvres, and it is likely that after this manoeuvre which will see all the trimarans converge on the same course, the gaps recorded this morning will be even greater at nightfall.

Among his pursuers, Thierry Duprey du Vorsent is continuing on his way while gradually nudging the speedometer upwards and is feeling increasingly at ease in the highly specialised solo trimaran discipline. Gitana 12 is also in perfect shape and negotiated the Azores junction very effectively on Thursday. In touch with Claude Thélier and only a few miles behind Antoine Koch, he is not yet benefiting from the livelier conditions being experienced by the leaders but should pass the front during the day. Then, he too will be able to count the flying fish, glide on a smoother sea alongside the area of high pressure and reflect on the best time to gybe in the direction of Pointe-à-Pitre. And if Lionel Lemonchois is expected in the Antilles on Monday evening, then Thierry Duprey du Vorsent should cross the finish line a little less than a day and a half behind him. Laurent Bourgnon's record (12d 08h 41' 06'') is going to be literally blown out of the water, as almost the entire fleet of Orma trimarans should reach Guadeloupe in less than ten days… Incredible!

Thierry Duprey du Vorsent (Gitana 12) at 04:00 UT:
Fortunately, I had a little siesta at the start of the night because things were stirred up by a succession of squalls with four to ten knots of wind, fluctuating between the northeast and the southeast! Not easy to keep track of, and all accompanied by lightning, thunder and rain… It's actually the first time it's rained since the start at Saint-Malo... another first for this eighth Route du Rhum! I also had a surprise in the middle of the night when I saw Claude Thélier arrive, having re-gybed and align himself with Gitana 12… I'm going to grab a bite to eat and have another little kip, as Friday promises a northerly wind of twenty to twenty-five knots and I'll need to be on deck to keep things ticking over…”

Lionel Lemonchois (Gitana 11) at 06:30 UT:
“Things are going rather well: I'm going around the anticyclone and I need to organise a gybe, I don't know exactly when but probably during Friday. Then it's full steam ahead for Guadeloupe! Gitana 11 is functioning perfectly and not showing any sign of fatigue. Having said that, things got a bit hairy on Thursday when there was plenty of wind and I took a few risks in the evening with gennaker and mainsail up… I'm doing things a bit more calmly now. But in any case, these speeds and weather conditions running mainly downwind are really quite incredible! As things stand, I've pretty much let my rivals know that they're not going to catch me, but I've just taken a reef a few hours ago to calm things down and start to control the progress… and I also need to rest a bit! I'm finding it hard to get real sleep: this feeling of sleeping while still being conscious is really strange. But now, we're heading into more clement weather conditions which should allow me to recharge my batteries a little. On this Friday morning, there are still rough seas and the same thirty-knot northerly wind from yesterday. With the wind gradually turning, it's important not to go too fast...
Yesterday, the water was even hot, which was fantastic! boots off for the past 48 hours and put on just a thermal vest at night and some sandals. These are not exactly tropical temperatures but it's still very nice! Regarding food, I've been eating quite varied dishes since the start and I've just switched to meals cooked by Mont d'Arbois after the energy cakes and freeze-dried foods of the opening The air and water temperatures are starting to be very pleasant: I've had my days…”

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