Biscay Express
The headlands just flew by last night in the English Channel and the same was true of the Chenal du Four and Raz de Sein markers this morning! This observation from Antoine Koch, router to Sébastien Josse and Charles Caudrelier in the Transat Jacques Vabre, illustrates the rate at which the series of tactical passages have been ticked off by the 70’ trimarans over the past 24 hours. Better positioned than its adversary as the front rolled through this morning, Edmond de Rothschild managed to get a slight edge on Oman Air-Musandam (Gavignet-Foxall) as they rounded the tip of Brittany. With the wind building to 25/30 knots it’s now time for an express crossing of the Bay of Biscay. It’s action stations then for the first piloting duel and the crews will have to make some refined choices in order to carve out a nice diagonal wake towards Cape Finisterre in the 4 to 5-metre waves coming at them side on!

After a virtually sleepless night negotiating the strong currents in the English Channel and the Channel Islands, Sébastien and Charles have already managed to pull off their first tactical blinder. By hunting down a veering wind forecast this morning to the north-west of Brittany, the trimaran Edmond de Rothschild managed to cross ahead of its rival before achieving a peak speed of 32 knots in the Chenal du Four! And though there lead of just a few miles remains minimal in relation to the distance still to go, concluding this first round in style is a real confidence boost, especially as they launch into another tricky section.

In good voice, bright and focused, the skipper explained this morning that each of them had twice managed to doze off for 30 minutes overnight. “We forced ourselves to get some sleep with a view to the next stage of the race. It’s going to be a long day with some boisterous conditions awaiting us in Biscay. We’re going to need to get some rest despite the sea state so that we’re in good shape for rounding the north-west tip of Spain. It’s a very close-run match with Oman, which isn’t surprising. That’s the principle behind our one-design boats. Charles and I are on top of our game though and determined not to let our guard down!”

The Multi70s ahead of the storm

Sébastien Josse spoke of driving rain, very low cloud and a “cold wind beginning to sting” as the Bay of Biscay opened out in front of the bows of the two large trimarans this morning. In their wake, the bulk of the fleet is still battling its way through the English Channel. With a big gale forecast for Saturday, the Class 40s will be sheltering in Roscoff this evening, whilst the Imocas and Multi50s ready themselves for some difficult hours in a bay swept by the storm.

For Edmond de Rothschild and Oman Air-Musandam, the timing is somewhat different. “The westerly breeze is veering round to the north-west at noon, building to 25-30 knots in the process,” explains Antoine Koch. “The crossing to Cape Finisterre will be carried out today in heavy seas, before landfall is made tonight off La Coruña, where the breeze will switch round to the south-west. At that point we’ll have to put in another series of effective tacks so as to quickly make headway south.”

Revving hard

As a result the two pairs of sailors will be spending the day riveted to the helm, their hands on the sheets and their eyes on the look-out in lumpy seas. Though there aren’t any major tactical choices to be made, the senses will be on the alert as they continue to listen out for this exhilarating, spirited boat. Using all their powers of precision and anticipation, each wave and each wind shift will have to be utilised to gain ground towards the goal whilst keeping safe. “It’s a tough ask because in this fairly strong breeze, we also have to take it in turns to get some rest,” Antoine Koch explains knowingly, having sailed with Gitana Team for the past three years aboard the trimarans fitted out by Baron Benjamin de Rothschild. “We’re going to need to save our energy for our arrival off the Spanish coast, where there will be a series of manoeuvres to be performed in a tricky zone.”

Ranking on Friday 8 November at 1300 GMT:
  1. Edmond de Rothschild (Josse-Caudrelier) 5,095 miles from the goal / 21.20kt average over 2 hours
  2. Oman Air-Musandam (Gavignet-Foxall) 8.18 miles behind the leader / 19.50kt average over 2 hours


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