Bye Bye Lisbon!
The start of the second offshore leg of the Route des Princes set sail from the River Tagus this Sunday at 1300 GMT. The four MOD70s set off on the 990-mile sprint to Dùn Laoghaire (Dublin) after a quick looped circuit between Praça do Comercio and the Belem Tower further upstream; a six-mile course enabling the Portuguese spectators to admire the fleet of trimarans one last time and for the sailors to establish the initial hierarchy. It was in second position that the trimaran fitted out by Baron Benjamin de Rothschild left the Portuguese capital in its wake.

Everyone is in agreement that the Lisbon stopover was a great success for the crews given the beauty of the site and its atypical race zone. Early this afternoon, twenty-four hours after the Multi50s, the 70-foot one-designs and the maxi-trimaran Prince de Bretagne entered the Tagus, bound for Ireland. During the windward leg, Spindrift Racing managed to come out on top in the frenzy of tacks and gybes dictated by the current and the numerous oscillations along the river. However, the crew of Edmond de Rothschild didn’t let up and managed to tail the leader, just a few boat lengths down. A little over two hours after the start, Yann Guichard and his men pocketed the first bonus point of the course, offshore of Cascais (the 2nd being at the Fastnet), followed some forty seconds later by Gitana XV!

For this second offshore leg, Sébastien Josse has shaken up his players’ list a little. Indeed, as initially planned, Antoine Koch is replacing Olivier Douillard on this sprint to Dublin. Navigator aboard Edmond de Rothschild last year, Antoine is taking up the role of helmsman-trimmer this season, though he may well give Charles Caudrelier a helping hand in this leg, which promises to be tactical. Yesterday, whilst Sébastien Josse’s crew won the Lisbon inshores hands down, Antoine was already mulling over the Atlantic chessboard: “On this course, we have three major weather zones. The first is the one prior to the depression, along the length of Portugal and Spain. Then comes our negotiation or rounding of the depression and finally, the last section from the Fastnet to Dublin, which is very uncertain right now, but is likely to be wide open in terms of strategy,” Antoine explained, before going on to discuss these weather zones in more detail:

As far as Finisterre

Prior to the depression, which awaits us in the Bay of Biscay, there’s a small ridge of high pressure over Spain, which is generating fine weather, the likes of which we’ve had in Lisbon for some days. The wind forecasts are a little lighter than yesterday for the first few hours of racing. It’s pretty unstable along the coast and we’ll have to play around with the local phenomena. The depression that will influence proceedings for us is an occluded front, which means it is no longer making headway. However, when this kind of situation arises, generally the fronts continue to move forward and roll themselves up around the depression. During our first night of racing, prior to really feeling the influence of the depression, we’re going to cross tacks with the first front.”

Rounding to the East of the depression

“On Monday morning, we should be at the latitude of Cape Finisterre and that’s where things will start to get tough. From that point, the wind will lift and it will build very quickly. This will result in a fairly clear, brutal change of atmosphere as we’ll be sailing into seas, which will be hitting us nose on. This depression is picking up a relatively big swell: between 2.5 and 3.5 metres. It’s not huge, but given that the depression isn’t making any headway, we’ll end up with a NW’ly swell and a S’ly wind. That translates as sailing downwind into head seas… We’re sure to be jumping off the waves, which could really dish up treacherous conditions. As such we’ll have to be careful, as it’ll be easy to break gear. According to the latest forecasts, we’ll be on starboard tack downwind, under gennaker, with the wind set to increase, but not by more than 25 - 30 knots in my view. However, we can expect to have violent squalls with 40 knots ahead of the squalls and 5 knots off the back of them. It’s exactly the kind of local phenomena you’d expect near an occluded front. There will be 10 hours of really tough times in the big seas and strong winds. We’re going to have to protect the boat and the men, whilst also making sure we’re on top of our game with a lot of manœuvres, as the crew who are first to escape this section will be pretty well set up for the next stage. That certainly doesn’t mean that it’s job done at that point though. These 10 hours are a critical passage in this second leg. The aim, in order to have the best possible angle after the depression, is to get as close to its centre as possible, without falling into it, because there’s no wind there at all if that happens. In terms of the weather, it’s a very tricky section as it’s tough to pinpoint the centres of these depressions with any degree of accuracy. From 1600 hours local time, thing’s begin to ease off, but whilst yesterday’s forecasts were showing one tack before switching onto a direct course to the Fastnet, today’s forecasts are a little more pessimistic and seem to indicate that we’ll have to really zigzag our way forward before we switch tack.”

Uncertainty over the final 200 miles

“The end of the course between southern Ireland and Dublin remains hard to predict. For the time being, the models are giving us light airs, but according to the wind angle, we could still go pretty quick over the last 200 miles.”

This lunchtime, prior to casting off, the skipper of Edmond de Rothschild believed that we could reckon on an ETA of Wednesday morning.

Ranking for the Route des Princes (after the Lisbon inshore races)
  1. Musandam – Oman Air (Sidney Gavignet) / 54 points
  2. Edmond de Rothschild (Sébastien Josse) / 52 points
  3. Spindrift Racing (Yann Guichard) / 52 points
  4. Virbac Paprec 70 (Jean-Pierre Dick) / 38 points
  The crew of Edmond de Rothschild in offshore 2 (Lisbon – Dublin)

Sébastien Josse (skipper)
Charles Caudrelier / Thomas Rouxel / Antoine Koch / Jean-Christophe Mourniac / Florent Chastel 

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