Positioning game in the tradewinds
It will soon be three days since the fleet competing in this ninth Route du Rhum – La Banque Postale left Saint Malo. In the match between the Ultimate class, the maxi-trimaran fitted out by Baron Benjamin de Rothschild is continuing to round to the South of the Azores High. Since yesterday Yann Guichard has been slipping along downwind in a NE’ly breeze of around fifteen knots and the strategy in place aboard Gitana 11 over the past few days is beginning to bear fruit.

As each ranking comes in and after three nights at sea, the options taken by each skipper from the NW tip of Brittany are revealing an initial scenario. At this stage in the race, the advantage has gone to those on a S’ly option, a course choice selected by the majority of the solo sailors in the Ultimate Class. At the front of the fleet, Groupama 3, who is constantly racking up an average speed in excess of 20 knots, has shown her pursuers a clean pair of heels. Behind her though, the race is very much living up to expectations and it’s a really close-fought battle between those to the North – Sodeb’O and Majan – and those to the South – Idec and Gitana 11. At the first ranking this Wednesday morning, the advantage had gone back to those on a tradewind course. Indeed Francis Joyon has made it into the top 3, while Yann Guichard has positioned himself between him and Sydney Gavignet in 4th position. The skipper of Gitana Team should be able to improve on this position over the course of the day given the differences in VMG (Velocity Made Good) observed. At 0300 hours GMT, Gitana 11 was making the best compromise with a speed of 18.9 knots compared with 10.6 for Thomas Coville, 5.7 for Oman and also 15.5 and 17.5 knots respectively for Idec and Groupama.

Sylvain Mondon, Gitana Team’s onshore router, is following this Route du Rhum with the usual commitment at all times. With his eyes fixed on his computer day and night to view the weather forecasts for the Atlantic, Sylvain is compiling, analysing and proposing information for Gitana 11 to trace the best possible trajectory, together with help from Billy Besson. This morning he explained Yann Guichard’s intermediate position to us, as he is now sailing at a latitude between Idec and Groupama: “Midway through yesterday, the wind was beginning to ease again. In fact the zone of high pressure was expanding again, which wasn’t exactly forecast in the grib files. In this way we decided to set a course to the SE so as to distance ourselves from the high pressure and get back into a steadier breeze. Idec took the same option but didn’t push his boat as hard as Gitana 11… Last night the wind was again showing signs of dying back so we upped the pace again as we weren’t keen to fall into overly light winds.” These two position shifts, made over the course of Tuesday, were important as they’re today enabling Gitana 11 to benefit from a better angle to the wind than her closest rival.

After over 60 hours at sea and no less than 800 miles made good, the maxi-trimaran fitted out by Baran Benjamin de Rothschild is into her stride. As the days go by, Yann Guichard is dividing his time between trimming, piloting the boat, discussions with his shore crew as well as managing his life as a solo sailor: “Everything’s going very smoothly aboard Gitana 11. I’m into my stride and the days are passing by without me really realising. I’m having an absolute ball, especially since we began to slip along in the tradewinds. I’m managing to eat well. I tucked into the freeze-dried dishes yesterday and my chunks of sleep are becoming a bit more organised, propped up on my pouffe in the companionway to the cockpit. I’m lucky to be able to concentrate on getting the boat making headway as Sylvain Mondon and Billy Besson are racking their brains for me on shore, even though the big decisions are the subject of more collective discussions” explained the skipper of Gitana 11.

Aboard the blue and yellow maxi-trimaran, today’s aim will be to make headway as fast as possible whilst retaining a good angle for tackling the next stage of the course. The future is shaping up to be highly uncertain, especially towards the end of the week.

Ranking for the Ultimate Category on 3rd November at 0400 hours
1- Groupama 3 some 2493.1 miles from the finish
2- Sodebo 210.9 miles behind the leader
3- Idec 211.6 miles astern
4- Gitana 11 some 236.6 miles astern
5- Oman Air Majan 248.2 miles astern
6- La Boite à Pizza 468.9 miles astern
7- Défi Cancale 544.5 miles astern
8- Saint-Malo 2015 some 570.4 miles astern
Retirement - Côte d'Or II

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