Rounding via the southern route
After a very difficult fifth day at sea where Yann Guichard lost over 150 miles to the leader, along with losing touch with Francis Joyon due to some tenacious calm spells, Gitana 11 is sailing beam onto the wind this afternoon, heading due South, making an average speed of in excess of 20 knots. In this way the trimaran fitted out by Baron Benjamin de Rothschild is aiming to go around a zone without wind, which is settling over the Caribbean arc. Tired but still motivated and focused, the solo sailor is still in with a chance of a podium place with 1,400 miles to go.

Though in Yann Guichard’s very words, Franck Cammas no longer seems to be in danger of having his crown knocked from him by his three pursuers, there is still plenty of opportunity to score a podium place, despite the 270 miles which separate Gitana 11 from third placed Francis Joyon this Saturday afternoon.

Still very wet…
“The seas were pretty big last night and I had to get a bit of rest because yesterday was exhausting for me. As such I’ve eased off the pace a little. This Saturday morning, there were 20 to 25 knots of wind with fairly big seas. Since then though I’ve gybed onto a S’ly course and despite the pervading dampness the conditions are more manageable. I could be in my swimming trunks given the temperature, but I’m wearing the top to my drysuit, the bottoms of my foulies and my boots. Given the weather conditions forecast for the next few days, it’s unlikely to improve!” indicated Yann Guichard this Saturday.
For the past six days, the skipper of Gitana 11 hasn’t been able to allow himself much time to rest and the fatigue is beginning to set in. As regards this topic, the four leading sailors all appear to be in the same situation so every minute of sleep is worth taking now. Thanks to the conditions being more stable for a good stretch of reaching, Yann devoted a good part of last night to sleeping: “For my first solo transatlantic race, it’s similar to how I imagined it would be, but given the complicated weather conditions – I’m thinking especially of the sea here – I could have done with a boat which was ten metres longer! Since leaving Saint Malo, I’ve had to take the helm a great deal because the automatic pilot is finding it hard to keep up. The fact that Gitana 11 is lighter and shorter makes the boat more unstable in the very changeable conditions we’ve had. I think I’ve had to put in more manœuvres than my heavier rivals, who are able to carry more sail area for longer. I’m a bit disappointed at being caught up in the calm conditions yesterday because I’d managed to position myself nicely to the South in relation to Francis, and then I spent ten hours making just three to seven knots while the others were steaming along at over 25 knots. I was a bit down in the dumps yesterday. I’m better now though: we’re powering along!” explained the 36 year old sailor.

Making landfall via the East
Making landfall in the West Indies is shaping up to be a tricky affair for the top four in this ninth edition of the Route du Rhum-La Banque Postale. The presence of Hurricane Tomas to the North of Haiti has resulted in the tradewinds being uncharacteristically snuffed out this autumn. A zone of calm conditions from North to South will settle over Guadeloupe tomorrow and the top four are split in two according to their position on the Atlantic chessboard. Franck Cammas and Thomas Coville will seek to round to the West of this zone in light to moderate downwind conditions, whilst Francis Joyon and Yann Guichard are picking their way to the South to arrive on zone via the East with a S’ly wind.
“Thomas seems to like the cold! Four years ago he went for a N’ly option. It may end up being the right option but I have no regrets as Gitana 11 wasn’t designed for those kinds of conditions” explained the skipper of the elegant blue trimaran, before giving us a few clues about how the end of the race is panning out: “Making landfall in Guadeloupe isn’t quite tied up yet. It could still go either way. If things go to plan, Franck Cammas will win the race masterfully. As far as the rest of it goes, the Atlantic is a bit of a mess at the moment: the systems aren’t organised and there’s an E’ly wave on its way. I can’t continue sailing downwind like Franck or Thomas because behind them the tradewinds will disappear and there will be no wind left for me. As such the idea is to make a bit of headway to the South to get round this E’ly wave. That will involve me being on a reach for 1,000 miles… Francis appears to have chosen the same route. I still have over 1,400 miles to the finish so the race isn’t over yet. Whatever the outcome though, you have to put things into perspective: I’m lucky to be sailing a superb multihull, on one of the finest solo transatlantic races there is… so I certainly can’t complain!”

Ranking for the Ultimate Category on 6th November at 1500 hours GMT
1- Groupama 3 some 886.5 miles from the finish
2- Sodebo 206.4 miles from the leader
3- Idec 260.2 miles astern
4- Gitana 11 some 530.4 miles astern
5- La Boite à Pizza 1,104.9 miles astern
6- Défi Cancale 1,320.7 miles astern
7- Saint-Malo 2015 some 1,351.5 miles astern
Retirement- Côte d'Or II
Retirement- Oman Air Majan

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