Out of the cold
Although the temperatures are far from reaching recent temperatures back home in France over the last few days, at last Fred Le Peutrec can take advantage of easier-going conditions than he has had over the past week or so. With 700 miles to go before the finish, this morning, Gitana 11 came out of a ridge of high pressure and picked up speed, and is now riding on a low pressure system.

So the fourth perturbation is on its way. This time though, the climatic conditions are a little closer to those generally expected in the month of June, with sea temperature now above 10°C  thanks to the Gulf Stream. Air temperature is not far off 15° around lunch time, with a breeze gradually veering SE during the day, strengthening to 15-20 knots, and visibility has improved compared to that at the start in Plymouth eight days ago (already !) when the weather was particularly dismal.

Just like his competitors, Fred has had to contend with bitter cold conditions, transforming the slightest breeze into a Siberian blizzard. When winds increased to more than 45 knots, when he had to sail close to the waters where icebergs abound, when he had to manoeuvre up on the foredeck with waves crashing down on him, the skipper of Gitana 11 suffered and was extremely tired. After a week with an average of 3-4 hours' sleep a day, in stretches of half an hour, the body is put under pressure. Not to mention the shaken moral and the stress of the damaged Solent jib which not only handicap the trimaran's in terms of pure speed, but which also change the face of the race for Fred. Now that the banks of Newfoundland are astern Gitana 11,  Fred Le Peutrec can look forward to finishing the race in less arduous conditions. A new low pressure system is coming his way and will be upon him by midday today. However the trimaran will be able to pass north of the system, giving beam winds and easier sailing under gennaker and un-reefed mainsail. Further, he will have the sheer pleasure of helming a boat which will be flying along at speeds of close on 25 knots ! This should propel him along the coast of Maine before hitting another short-lived zone of light air on Wednesday morning, which will finally be veering SW, followed by head winds down to Halifax in Nova Scotia. The situation is not quite so clear for the end of the race but in any event, the bad weather is over and done with. Finishing this course on a northern approach, with one or two passages between ridges of high pressure and minimum low pressure zones, Gitana 11 still might find it possible to gain ground and come back on Philippe Monnet and Lalou Roucayrol. Never the less, the trimaran's Solent jib is out of action, having been ripped to shreds, and will penalise the boat in light air head to wind. In the meantime, Fred has been able to gain strength overnight in the ridge of high pressure and will be able to put his foot down in the three days to come. He should be crossing the Boston finishing line this Friday.

The major problems which the monohulls had on Monday, have fortunately turned out not to have caused any harm for the skippers. Olivier de Kersauson motor trimaran in making way towards the dis-masted PRB, and Bernard Stamm, who has had to abandon his capsized yacht, is now on a fishing patrol vessel by the name of Jean Charcot. Lastly, Michel Desjoyeaux (Géant) is expected into Boston this evening and all being well should win his first English transat, ahead of Thomas Coville (Sodebo) and Franck Cammas (Groupama), the gaps between the three boats having remained fairly stable for the past couple of days. A tough fight is on however for fourth place with three trimarans fighting tooth and nail : Alain Gautier (Foncia), Karine Fauconnier (Sergio Tacchini) and Giovanni Soldini (TIM-Projetto Italia) which are within thirty miles of each other.

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