“I’ve had my first flying fish”, said the skipper of Edmond de Rothschild early this afternoon. The visit by this flying fish is an unmistakeable sign: the seven Ultimes are already sailing in the famous north-easterly tradewinds, synonymous with downwind conditions and high speeds. Thanks to this air flow, albeit less powerful than usual (between 15 and 20 knots), Sébastien Josse and his rivals have been making headway towards Guadeloupe since yesterday, the day before yesterday for some of the ‘lucky’ ones.
The ability to slip along downwind is something that is relished by solo sailors, though it requires a great many adjustments. Indeed, in sailing, as in life, it’s all about balance! Staying far enough north so as not to distance oneself too far from the direct route, but sufficiently far South to benefit from a well-established tradewind; such is the stylistic composition the sailors in the Ultime class are currently focusing on. “The overall strategy is fairly simple, as the tradewind route is dotted with more shifty zones, you have to be on your toes constantly to ensure you’re sailing at the best angle in the best wind strength. The Ultimes are tangential to the Azores High, which is just to the north of them. When you approach the high pressure, there is less wind and that’s what we’re trying to avoid at all costs. However, the gybes towards the south-west to hunt down the pressure are fairly disadvantageous in terms of distance covered. As a result, we’re trying to put in as few as possible,” explained Antoine Koch, from Gitana Team’s routing cell. At this little game of trajectories, Sébastien Josse has sailed a blinder and made up ground on the head of the fleet. His speeds over the past 24 hours testify to this: indeed the Multi70 Edmond de Rothschild was the fastest of the Ultimes having devoured 538 miles at an average speed of 22.4 knots.
Edmond de Rothschild reduces the deficit
The nights go by and every one is different in the Route du Rhum – Destination Guadeloupe… Overnight on Wednesday, Sébastien Josse endured a tough phase, during which he battled hard to extract himself from a zone of light airs, thus letting his direct rivals steal a march on him whilst conceding precious miles to his pursuers. Last night, the solo sailor fully exploited the potential of his Multi70 and had made up ground on the head of the fleet as Antoine Koch explained this morning: “Despite some rainy squalls under which there was little wind, Sébastien managed to slip along seamlessly the whole night. The excellent heading associated with a good speed enabled him to snatch back nearly 70 miles in relation to the leader and around thirty miles from Lionel. It’s quite a move.”
Late morning, Prince de Bretagne appeared to encounter some problems, but the damage doesn’t seem to have been serious as the red multihull has since powered up again. However, the incident played into Sébastien Josse’s hands and he is back to within 40 miles of his transom. In the end, the 120 miles, which yesterday separated the Multi70 Edmond de Rothschild from third placed Prince de Bretagne, are a third of what they were, so the race is very much on as the fleet make for Pointe-à-Pitre.
Ranking on 7 November at 1600 GMT
- Banque Populaire VII (Loïck Peyron) – 1,260.4 miles from the goal
- Spindrift 2 (Yann Guichard) – 129.5 miles back
- Prince de Bretagne (Lionel Lemonchois) – 282.6 miles back
- Edmond de Rothschild (Sébastien Josse) – 321.8 miles back
- Musandam Oman Sail (Sidney Gavignet) – 408 miles back
- Idec Sport (Francis Joyon) – 434 miles back
- Paprec recyclage (Yann Elies) – 571.8 miles back
Abd – Sodebo Ultim’