As the Route du Rhum Destination Guadeloupe fleet launches into its seventh day of racing the Multi70 Edmond de Rothschild is positioned some 1,200 miles from Pointe-à-Pitre, where the finish will be judged. On the approach to butterfly island', the strategy will likely be different, but for the time being, Sébastien Josse is making every effort to sail his own race, carving out a course without worrying too much about what his adversaries are up to around him. Indeed the aim is to be fully focused on getting the trimaran fitted out by Baron Benjamin de Rothschild making headway. At 1500 GMT, the skipper of Gitana Team was still lying in fourth place, 379 miles shy of Banque Populaire VII, the maxi trimaran helmed by Loïck Peyron who, unless something rather exceptional occurs, is logically set to take the overall crown in this 10th edition.
Sailing his own race
Though the two large, leading multihulls gybed yesterday evening and are now on a direct course towards Guadeloupe, for their pursuers there are still a few bends on the track to negotiate. Indeed, Sébastien Josse and the other four sailors that make up the Ultime class must once again put in a series of manœuvres in order to make ground towards the goal. This gybing waltz along the tradewind route is set to continue until tomorrow: «If they want to hold onto the pressure and get the very best from their boat, they'll have to gybe in order to remain in a relatively stable vein of wind. In theory it's simple, but on water it involves a great deal of work, especially given the fact that the squalls, which have gatecrashed their course, certainly aren't making things any easier,» explained the router of the Multi70 Edmond de Rothschild. «Sébastien can often appear slower than Lionel or his pursuers, but globally, they don't sail in the same way. He's not quite as quick but most importantly he is able to sail lower in terms of heading. With regards VMG (velocity made good), he is pretty similar to Prince de Bretagne and better than his rivals. That perfectly reflects Sébastien's sailing method. He like it when things slip along and he is able to helm the boat gently.»
When irregularities rhyme with activity
From the point of view of the deficits, it's a bit of a status quo this Saturday afternoon. Indeed, at the 1500 GMT position report, Sébastien Josse was still fourth, some 32 miles astern of third placed Lionel Lemonchois, and has an 80-mile lead in relation to fifth placed Sidney Gavignet. As such the current situation on the leaderboard is somewhat reminiscent of yesterday's ranking at the same time.
That said, for the solo sailors in the Ultime class it's certainly not a question of them twiddling their thumbs. Indeed, the weather conditions in this final third of the race are definitely making things rather lively on the decks of the trimarans, as Antoine Koch explains: «The tradewind is a little disturbed, with squalls wandering along the course. This is bringing about a shifty wind, which varies a great deal in strength and direction too at times, especially under the squalls. This may only amount to a few knots but on-board, in terms of trimming and steering, it makes a big difference when you are carrying all the sail aloft (note that the Ultimes are on a run carrying full main and gennaker). With 15 knots of wind, things are cool. Already when it's up to 18 you have to be on your guard because in the gusts, the trimarans begin to fly a hull. With 22, it's a whole different ball game. The tension goes up a notch In the gusts, the boat accelerates hard and bolts away. At that point the trimming is pretty constant in order to control the machine's power.»
These irregular tradewinds are adding a significant amount of stress as well as fatigue to the sailors' lot, and we can but imagine that they have already racked up quite a substantial sleep deficit.
According to the latest forecasts by the routers of the Multi70 Edmond de Rothschild Jean-Yves Bernot and Antoine Koch the ETA (estimated time of arrival) seems to be confirmed as overnight on Monday and into Tuesday. Obviously the exact timing will depend on the circumnavigation of the island. This final hurdle is not a trifling matter, especially if it has to be negotiated under the cover of darkness. To be continued.
Position report on 8 November at 1500 GMT
- Banque Populaire VII (Loïck Peyron) 757.6 miles from the goal
- Spindrift 2 (Yann Guichard) 185.5 miles behind the leader
- Prince de Bretagne (Lionel Lemonchois) 347.6 miles back
- Edmond de Rothschild (Sébastien Josse) 379.1 miles back
- Musandam Oman Sail (Sidney Gavignet) 459.1 miles back
- Idec Sport (Francis Joyon) 508 miles back
- Paprec recyclage (Yann Elies) 658 miles back
Abd Sodebo Ultim'