Already at Cape Finisterre
The queen of the solo transatlantic races has not been gentle with its ninety-one pretenders to victory. Indeed the weather conditions encountered by the Route du Rhum Destination Guadeloupe fleet over these first 24 hours of racing have been in line with the forecasts gleaned prior to the boats leaving Saint Malo. This equates to the negotiation of a very active front a few hours after the start, with 30 to 35 knots of breeze combined with steep and difficult seas. Aboard the Multi70 Edmond de Rothschild, Sébastien Josse has played his game well, skilfully managing this first phase of the course. Fourth in the 1500 GMT ranking, the sailor was still in contact with the large multihulls in the Ultime class, despite the seas still being rather unfavourable for speed and the 21-metre waterline of the trimaran fitted out by Baron Benjamin de Rothschild.
The boisterous start of this 2014 edition has left its mark on the Route du Rhum fleet, with some eleven retirements and as many pit stops. In the Ultime class, the premature end of the adventure for Thomas Coville has left a gaping void. In essence, the skipper of Sodebo Ultim' was the victim of a collision with a cargo ship last night, not far from Ushant's TSS (Traffic Separation System). His misfortune sadly testifies to the difficulty of the task at hand in these zones with heavy shipping, which sailors seldom relish. Indeed, on top of the boisterous weather conditions, the solo sailors had to spend the whole of last night slaloming their way through the cargo ships and fishing boats amidst a series of squalls and hence poor visibility.
Focus on the ranking
Aboard Banque Populaire VII, which is none other than the former Groupama 3, which won the Route du Rhum 2010, Loïck Peyron has negotiated the start of the competition to perfection. Rapidly taking up the reins of the race, the sailor from La Baule on France's Atlantic coast had increased his bonus this afternoon, amassing a 48-mile lead over the current skipper in second place, Prince de Bretagne. Positioned further to the East than his adversaries and hence further away from the direct route on which the distance to the goal calculations are based, Sébastien Josse has yielded the second place he held this morning and conceded a few miles to the head of the fleet. At the 1500 GMT ranking, the skipper of Edmond de Rothschild was lying in fourth place some 55 miles shy of the leader.
The upcoming weather
After a few hours of relative' respite, with sheets slightly cracked off in the Bay of Biscay, the Ultimes are likely to have another bracing night offshore of Cape Finisterre and the Iberian peninsula: “For now, Sébastien is sailing in a slightly diverging system, on the back end of the front that rolled over the fleet last night, so the wind is a little lighter, but most significantly it's shifty in both strength and direction. This is making things a little complicated, as it's important to find the right sail configuration. However, over the course of the afternoon, he will enter an active stormy section at the back of the low. From that point, the wind will pick up a notch again, establishing itself at around 25 - 30 knots as it veers, which means he'll hit a north-westerly wind. However, it won't be until after rounding Cape Finisterre, that the head of the fleet will hit the lively part of the active storm system. The grib files are indicating 30 to 35 knots, gusting to 40 for a dozen hours or so. It's also at that stage that the seas will be heavier, with 5-metre waves on the programme,” explained Antoine Koch this Monday lunchtime.
We get the picture then, tonight is not the night when Sébastien Josse will be able to recuperate under the cuddy. This is particularly true given the reaching conditions (wind on the beam), which though not lacking appeal in terms of speed, are also a source of stress for the solo sailors. Ready for this scenario - namely 48 to 72 intense hours - the skipper of Edmond de Rothschild is tackling the upcoming miles with a clear head and great determination.
Ranking on 3 November at 1500 GMT
- Banque Populaire VII (Loïck Peyron) - 3,159.2 miles from the goal
- Prince de Bretagne (Lionel Lemonchois) - 48 miles behind the leader
- Spindrift 2 (Yann Guichard) - 50 miles back
- Edmond de Rothschild (Sébastien Josse) - 55 miles behind the leader
- Paprec recyclage (Yann Elies) - 55.6 miles back
- Musandam Oman Sail (Sidney Gavignet) - 62.2 miles back
- Idec Sport (Francis Joyon) - 85.7 miles back
Abd - Sodebo Ultim'