A third of the way in
With the commemoration of the 1918 armistice this 11 November, Sébastien Josse and Charles Caudrelier are still leading the Transat Jacques Vabre, with the added bonus of being able to enjoy their first day of respite aboard the 70’ trimaran Edmond de Rothschild. After setting sail from Le Havre last Thursday, the duo passed the latitude of the Canaries this afternoon, carried along by the north-easterly tradewind of the northern hemisphere. Having covered nearly 1,800 miles since the start of this 5,400-mile course, the sailors from Gitana Team are just over a third of the way into this transatlantic race to Itajaí this afternoon. As such, if they manage to keep up this pace as far as Brazil, they will be able to complete their journey within twelve days.

“Right now we have 14 knots of breeze and the seas are virtually flat (1.5 metres). This is likely to be the first day of sailing since the start where we haven’t got wet! You can really feel the change in temperature and the sunshine is finally out too; we’re going to have to properly protect ourselves at the helm,” said Sébastien Josse, the author of this little snapshot at noon today.

On the edge

Casting an eye over the speeds racked up by the two 70’ trimarans over the past 48 hours or so, you could be excused for almost forgetting how tough this exercise is for Sébastien Josse, Charles Caudrelier and their adversaries on Oman Air - Musandam. However the capsize of the Multi50 Arkema last night off Lisbon has come as an unfortunate reminder of how tricky it is to pilot a multihull. Aboard Edmond de Rothschild the duo is all too aware of this fact, having buried the bows of their steed deep last night shortly after passing Madeira:Just after the wind shadow created by Madeira, our bows really buried deep for the first time in this transatlantic race. I was at the helm and the boat was sailing under gennaker when a squall hit. As we bore away, the boat buried right down,” commented the skipper of Edmond de Rothschild during a telephone call with his shore crew. Fortunately there weren’t any repercussions for the men or the machine from this spell of freestyling and, most importantly, it didn’t prevent the crew from maintaining the lead over its pursuer.

Continually taking over from one another 24/7 from their HQ in La Rochelle, the duo’s onshore routers, Antoine Koch and Jean-Yves Bernot, were happy with the course adopted by their protégés: “We’re very happy with their trajectory. They managed to slip along a little bit last night and even though they’d lost a few miles at noon both longitudinally and in terms of VMG, the aim was to gain ground to the West, which they’ve achieved. The separation between them and Oman is stable and their position this lunchtime covers them better than yesterday.”

The islands and the wind shadows

This section of the course, which is coloured by the tradewind expressway, does feature a number of pitfalls however. Indeed, the numerous archipelagos dotted along the route taken by the Transat Jacques Vabre fleet, can certainly throw up its fair share of surprises and troubles to leeward of these islands.

“Early yesterday evening they passed downwind of Madeira’s wind shadow. They were quite a way out, around 110 miles or so, but the wind shadow created by the island is massive, as you can see in the satellite images. As a result they had 3 to 4 knots less wind than in the normal tradewind system and that lasted for 1hr30 to 2 hours. Beyond that though, there was a slightly steadier tradewind with some lines of squalls. Right now there’s no moon at all so at night, in the moonless sky, you can’t make out the squalls when you’re all alone on deck so inevitably that can be a bit treacherous,” Antoine Koch points out, before outlining the programme for this Monday 11 November: “They’re currently negotiating the wind shadow from the Canaries, which is why the speeds have dropped considerably. It’s likely that they’ll have a shiftier breeze until midway through the afternoon. In this configuration, we might see Oman closing on them a bit, but they should be able to stretch away again as they’ll make their way out of this disturbed zone earlier. Once that happens the wind will kick back in again! By late afternoon, early evening for them as there will be a slight time difference where they are now, they’ll hit a slightly steadier breeze, which will be in excess of 20 knots once again,” the router concludes. As such Sébastien and Charles are preparing to contend with another bracing night.

At this pace, the 70’ trimarans are set to draw level with the latitude of Cape Verde late tomorrow and could well reach the gateway to the dreaded Doldrums within the next 48 hours.

Ranking on Monday 11 November at 1600 GMT:
  1. Edmond de Rothschild (Josse-Caudrelier) 3,557.4 miles from the goal / 26.2kt average over 2 hours
  2. Oman Air-Musandam (Gavignet-Foxall) 87.8 miles behind the leader / 20.8kt average over 2 hours


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