Keeping up the pace
Midway between Madeira and the Azores, Yann Guichard is continuing on his S’ly course in the company of Francis Joyon, who is just two miles away from him now. The two solo sailors are making a series of heading changes to avoid entering the zones of high pressure where the breeze is dying away. Part of the top three since this morning, Gitana 11 was still in third place in the 1500 GMT ranking.

The first part of this fourth day at sea will reassure Yann Guichard! Even though the trimaran fitted out by Baron Benjamin de Rothschild is still losing ground on the leader, she has been able to make up the majority of her deficit in relation to Francis Joyon’s steed. In fact, the 48 mile lead Idec boasted at 1500 GMT yesterday is non existent twenty-four hours later, with Gitana 11 now just two miles astern of the red giant. The two competitors favouring the N’ly option, namely Thomas Coville and Sidney Gavignet, have dropped back considerably in the ranking as forecast with the two solo sailors having to sail into a SW’ly wind whilst the ‘southerners’ are slipping along in the NE’ly tradewinds. Unfortunately for Yann Guichard, up till now this breeze was steadier up ahead and Franck Cammas made the most of it to really get some distance between him and his pursuers, with a 251 mile lead at the latest ranking. However, the separation has been yo-yo-ing since this Wednesday afternoon, with the wind easing off temporarily only to punch back harder later.

Back in the top trio since the start of the day, Yann Guichard wasn’t really setting great store by this comeback and remained fairly lucid about how events will pan out: “our S’ly position with Francis is today more comfortable than it is for the ‘northerners’, who have headwinds and big seas. However, it’s far from over and today’s ranking doesn’t really mean much. It’s going to be three or four days before we get a clearer picture of the hierarchy in this Route du Rhum. This is especially true given the large amount of uncertainties about the end of the course, offshore of the Caribbean!”

“All’s well aboard Gitana 11: I’m sailing downwind with good conditions, albeit very shifty. It’s not as easy as all that because the breeze is fluctuating a great deal in terms of strength and direction! We’re slipping along nicely though, so it’s rather pleasant… I didn’t see Francis Joyon this morning, even though we crossed tacks within four miles of each other. It was daybreak at the time and the visibility wasn’t good. We may see each other when next we cross paths as I’m slowly making ground up on him. It’s good to be staying in contact. When there are two of us on the water, it’s better than being out on a limb on your own” commented Yann Guichard, the skipper of Gitana 11 at midday, during the daily radio link-up with Race HQ in Paris. Questioned about what shape he was in after three days of racing, the skipper of the Gitana Team told us a bit about his daily life and discussed the demands on a trimaran like Gitana 11: “It’s a pretty demanding boat to helm. I have to stay on the look-out and the rest phases are never very far from the helming stations. I have alarms pretty much everywhere, which tell me if the wind is increasing a bit too much. At that point you have to react quickly! For now the rhythm’s good: I slept for two hours in total last night. Right now I’m making nearly twenty knots of boat speed, but the wind quickly passes from ten to eighteen knots…”.

The most difficult thing about this section of the course is to find the right compromise between speed and heading: too close to the high pressure and the speed drops off sharply; too far away from the zone of high pressure and the trajectory lengthens the course towards the West Indies. This current weather situation is set to last another good day, which means you have to be vigilant at all times to benefit from the variations in these unstable tradewinds. However, in the 75 hours since leaving Saint Malo, the trimaran in the colours of the Edmond de Rothschild Group has devoured over 1,000 miles VMG, which equates to nearly a third of the Route du Rhum-La Banque Postale course. As such, for all the solo sailors in the ‘Ultimate’ class, there are still a great deal of opportunities to be snapped up, especially if the Atlantic changes face over the coming days. Landfall in the Caribbean arc promises to be fairly complicated so it’ll be essential to remain on top of the latest developments.

Ranking for the Ultimate Category on 3rd November at 1500 GMT
1- Groupama 3 some 2,258 miles from the finish
2- Idec 249 miles behind the leader
3- Gitana 11 some 251 miles astern
4- Sodebo 306 miles astern
5- Oman Air Majan 326 miles astern
6- La Boite à Pizza 554 miles astern
7- Défi Cancale 705 miles astern
8- Saint-Malo 2015 some 714 miles astern
Retirement - Côte d'Or II

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