Leg 4 Cascais - Marseille: The disconcerting calms of the Alboran Sea
Whilst the MOD 70 fleet is now making headway across the Mediterranean and making every effort to traverse the Alboran Sea, despite the cruel lack of wind to the South of the Spanish coast, the fourth leg between Cascais and Marseille hasn’t been smiling on the men of Gitana Team. Having made up considerable ground on the leading duo in the company of Foncia as they passed through the Strait of Gibraltar, Sébastien Josse and his crew experienced a most unpleasant second night of navigation. Becalmed on a glassy sea, where solely the mist and the ballet of cargo ships livened up the race zone, the crew of the Edmond de Rothschild Group trimaran had to watch, helpless, as their rivals made good their escape without them. The toll was very dear, because early this afternoon, Gitana XV lamented a seventy-five mile deficit in relation to the leader.

Prior to setting off from Cascais, the navigators didn’t disguise their concerns about the little wind on site after their passage through the famous strait. Since last night, the five MOD 70s, for whom the start of the race hadn’t been very quick, experienced further, extensive stalling on the waters of the Mediterranean. Flat calm, mist and chop: a cocktail, which doesn’t sit well with carbon multihulls. The fourth one-design to make it to the Pillars of Hercules, the trimaran fitted out by Baron Benjamin de Rothschild paid a heavy price for its slight deficit in relation to the boat in third place, Foncia. Whilst Michel Desjoyeaux and his men managed to carve out quite a nice passage in the evanescent winds, Sébastien Josse and his crew simply ran out of gas. Gitana XV’s trajectory last night speaks volumes about the effort put in by the six sailors to try to extract themselves from the clutches of the calm conditions. Sadly though, they were in vain…

Contacted by Press HQ at noon, the skipper of Edmond de Rothschild Group explained the current sailing conditions: "We are in shorts, T-shirt, bare feet, cap and sun cream. We have quite a few small dolphins pretty much everywhere and a fair few cargo ships too. It’s a lively area. The sea is superbly flat. The wind is oscillating between 1 and 3 knots with some big variations, so it’s not easy to escape this wasps’ nest. The only solution is patience!” Afterwards, Sébastien Josse briefly and philosophically alluded to the crew’s ‘nightmarish’ night: “Last night created some separation between us… It’s always annoying to see boats, which were within 100 metres of you, just take off and not be able to hitch a ride. That’s a normal reaction to have as we’re here to race. When you choose a position and things power up just beside you, yes, it’s pretty infuriating, but that’s the name of the game in sailing.”

Though the conditions encountered aren’t really favourable to performance, the crew of Edmond de Rothschild Group has benefited from this forced calm spell to perform a DIY session, as Antoine Koch explains: “Florent and David have just repaired the ORC hook, which had been stuck in the mast since the first afternoon of racing. Last night, Florent had gone up the mast earlier on in a bid to repair a mainsail batten casing, but the chop prevented him from completing the task. That later prompted us to make the most of a calm spell to dump the mainsail and replace the casing with a new one.”

The wasps’ nest, as Sébastien Josse called it, is likely to very gradually release the trimarans and the crews can expect the arrival of a salutary SW’ly breeze tomorrow, Sunday, in order to continue on their way towards Marseille with a more favourable point of sail: “We can expect the wind to settle back into position and our speed to power up again. Today we’re going to have our sights on the thermal breezes. It’s warm so it should move in early or midway through the afternoon. Then in 24 hours’ time, the SW’ly wind is set to kick in. However, I think that the boats who have an edge today, will hold onto it right the way to the finish.”

Though the final words from the skipper of Edmond de Rothschild Group are only suggestive of a slim chance of seeing the blue trimaran catch up with the three leaders, Sébastien Josse’s crew are also aware that there is still a long way to go and that the Mediterranean may well have a few more surprises up its sleeve.

Leg 4 – Standing on Saturday 22 September at 1230 UTC

1. Musandam – Oman Sail 659.7 miles from the goal

2. Race for Water 24.3 miles astern of the leader

3. Foncia 29.2 miles astern of the leader

4. Edmond de Rothschild Group 75.2 miles astern of the leader

5. Spindrift Racing 75.6 miles astern of the leader

The crew of the MOD Edmond de Rothschild Group in Leg 4

Sébastien Josse (Skipper), Olivier Douillard, Florent Chastel, David Boileau, Antoine Koch, Thomas Rouxel

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