Weather, a boisterous start to the race
The scene is set! With some 48 hours until the start of the Route du Rhum - Destination Guadeloupe, the weather forecasts are becoming more refined and the general outline of what is to come is gradually taking shape for this 10th edition. And whilst the summer doesn’t seem to want to leave us at the moment, the Route du Rhum is sure to have an autumnal feel. The race start, or the first 72 hours at least, promises to be boisterous and the ninety-one solo sailors will only have a very short amount of time to really get into the thick of things. Indeed, a low centred over the West of Ireland will generate steady conditions, whether that is in the English Channel or further down the course during the negotiation of the Bay of Biscay.
Caught by surprise

No time to take in the scenery then for Sébastien Josse and his rivals… Though the start is set to take place on Sunday at 1400 hours, in a rather manageable south-west to westerly breeze of around fifteen knots, the situation promises to be a lot more bracing in the second half of the night (Sunday to Monday) with a wind of around 30 knots forecast: “On Sunday morning, the south-westerly breeze seems to be well established in the English Channel. As such, it will be an upwind start, in a wind of between 15 and 20 knots. That will pick up considerably and remain upwind for the entire first section that involves exiting the English Channel”, says Antoine Koch, one of Sébastien Josse’s routers.

However, the skipper of Edmond de Rothschild will have to find his bearings very quickly because from the first night’s racing, the playing field is going to become very lively: “the low situated to the west of Ireland is generating a cold front, which the solo sailors will have to negotiate midway through the night. On approaching the front, the wind will pick up sharply, establishing itself at 30 knots. It’s in these conditions that those opting for a southerly course will have to put in a tack to link onto the negotiation of the Bay of Biscay. In addition to the wind, they’ll also have to deal with a sizeable swell with waves of 4 metres forecast” concluded Antoine. “We’re going to hunt down the passage of a front, which we’re likely to hit on Sunday night, between midnight and three in the morning. A front equates to a lot of rain, a lot of wind, big seas and poor visibility… there’s a more comfortable way to start off a 3,500 mile transatlantic,” Sébastien Josse adds.

Full-on piloting in the Bay of Biscay

After the tack on the first night, the solo sailors having opted to favour the southern course, which is likely to be the case for a vast majority of the Route du Rhum fleet, they will begin a long reach down to the Azores. The 400 miles or so that make up the Bay of Biscay crossing will be far from restful, indeed it may well be one of the riskiest sections of this Route du Rhum 2014: “From exiting the English Channel as far as the latitude of Lisbon, we’ll have to negotiate a fairly steady north-westerly wind. At that point we’ll be behind the front, in skies coloured by the stormy conditions ahead. It’s very beautiful, but the large cumulonimbus, which characterise this sky, generate powerful gusts. This combined with the reaching wind and still very big seas, will be one of the trickiest sections to deal with. It’s not ideal for our boats. Reaching is a point of sail, which we relish, as it enables you to go fast, but it’s also a stressful point of sail in a multihull…” admitted the skipper of Edmond de Rothschild.

“The start of the course will be bracing and there will be some tough times for Sébastien and his rivals alike”, admitted Antoine Koch on reading the grib files. A situation that the skipper of Gitana Team had a clear vision of this Friday, whilst already preferring to cast his mind forward to the ‘way out’: “After 72 hours, we’ll kind of be able to breathe a little, once we’re close to the Azores, in the zone of high pressure and easing downwind conditions”.

The big boats have the edge

In view of the latest weather forecasts, the first few days of racing won’t favour the ‘Tom Thumb’ Multi70s of the Ultime class as Sébastien Josse explains: “The race start clearly favours the big boats, particularly on the long starboard tack in the bay, where they’ll be able to lengthen their stride, whilst continuing to carry their sails aloft, whilst aboard our Multi70s, we’ll be focusing more on ‘hunkering down’ rather than attacking. In the crossing of the Bay, it won’t be a surprise to see them making 4 to 5 knots more boat speed than us, which could leave us with a deficit of a good one hundred miles or so as we approach the Azores.”

However, at this stage of the race, there is still a long way to go to reach Pointe-à-Pitre, with over 2,000 miles left to cover, and the position and the intensity of the north-easterly tradewinds will be very important: “For now the tradewinds don’t seem to be very well established, and if things play out like that, the race will remain open!” concluded the router of the racing stable fitted out by Baron Benjamin de Rothschild.

Bernot – Koch: Multi70 Edmond de Rothschild’s routing tandem

Within the Gitana Team, we don’t change a winning team! That’s why, as was the case on the Transat Jacques Vabre, the meteorologist Jean-Yves Bernot, referred to as the ‘magician’, and Antoine Koch, will make up the routing duo for the Multi70 Edmond de Rothschild, where they will take up the role of analysing and assisting the decision-making for Sébastien Josse.

From its HQ in La Rochelle, the duo will keep watch 24/7 to guide the solo sailor on the best possible trajectory, naturally taking into account the weather conditions, as well as adapting to the boat’s potential and the sailor’s physical and mental shape.

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