After three days and a few hours of racing, the top five 60 footers in this 2008 transatlantic race are squeezed into less than thirteen miles and aren't giving an inch. Amongst those skippers favouring the north - slightly above the great circle route - are Michel Desjoyeaux and Yann Eliès, whilst Sébastien Josse and Vincent Riou are positioned further south. Meantime Loïck Peyron has opted to go it alone in the middle of the fleet; this positioning enabling him to be one of the fastest of the leading group at the 1400 UT ranking.
Renowned for the large Atlantic lows which sweep across the fleet during the event, The Artemis Transat is this year showing another side to its nature, as the solo sailors do battle with irregular, easing winds in particular: “It's quite amazing how incredibly localised the conditions are that we're encountering. Within the space of just a few miles, the wind variations are very different, which largely explain the speed differentials of the boats" explained Loïck Peyron, before going on to say: “We should still be downwind for another 24 hours but we're going to have to traverse a light depression zone. It's not easy to find the right place to slip along there!” This tricky passage, which will bring about a considerable reduction in pace over the coming hours is on everyone's minds, and the subject fuelled a number of discussions at midday. “One thing for sure at the moment is that the situation ahead is complicated…” A real meteorological brain-teaser in view then, which inspired this morning's pearl of wisdom from the skipper of Gitana Eighty: “It's going to be a casino! There are little blue disks (synonymous with a total lack of wind) pretty much everywhere… we're going to have to be on top of our game and be very responsive so as not to get caught by the calms" detailed the sailor from La Baule.
As the fleet wait for the wind to drop out, Loïck Peyron has been benefiting from more ordered seas and a suitable air flow to recharge the batteries and rack up a few precious minutes of sleep. “I am using my automatic pilot a lot, which, even though I'm not sleeping much, does enable me to get a fair amount of rest." Lucidity and energy are both going to be useful over the next 48 hours to better negotiate the first really tricky passage of The Artemis Transat 2008.
The Ice Gate
For safety reasons and given the numerous icebergs which have been pinpointed around and to the south of Newfoundland, the organisation has opted to add a gate to the course, referred to as an ice gate. Situated a long way south, it lies between 40° north and 47.50° west. The solo sailors will have to pass through this gate via at least one point.
Given that the great circle route (the direct course) takes the sailors level with the banks of Newfoundland, just off Cape Race, the position of this gate is very important in terms of the routing strategy worked out by the solo sailors.
Ranking of the top five Imocas at 1400 UT
1. Foncia (Michel Desjoyeaux) 2,053 miles from the finish
2. Generali (Yann Eliès) 7.9 miles from the leader
3. BT (Sébastien Josse) 9.4 miles back
4. Gitana Eighty (Loïck Peyron) 12 miles back
5. PRB (Vincent Riou) 12.7 miles back