Speed and piloting in the trade wind
Since yesterday, Charles Caudrelier has been powering along in a sprint for the finish: a long port tack towards Guadeloupe, at high speed in a trade wind that is finally playing ball. However, anxious to have the optimum trajectory to make landfall to the north of the island as well as to leave no way through for his closest rival, the skipper of the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild repositioned himself last night to reduce the lateral separation between himself and François Gabart. A strategic choice it explains the miles conceded over the past few hours by the five-arrow giant. At the 11:00 UTC position report, the Gitana Team sailor had less than 500 miles to go to reach Pointe-à-Pitre and boasted a lead of 88.3 miles over SVR and 172.8 miles over Sodebo Ultim 3, which respectively make up the provisional podium for the 12th edition in the Ultim category.
All too aware that the final phase of the course promises to be complicated with the boat set to make landfall to the north of Guadeloupe under the cover of darkness, Charles Caudrelier is making the most of the downwind conditions to stock up on sleep and energy as the boat slips along at pace. As such, he’s racking up a series of micro-siestas whilst driving the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild at her full potential!
On land too, nothing is being left to chance and the members of Gitana Team are working hard to welcome the flying maxi-trimaran and her skipper back into the fold. Late yesterday, a team took some wind measurements along the course which Charles Caudrelier will adopt to make the bay of Pointe-à-Pitre. And it’s going to be tight! Indeed, the wind is currently strong during daylight hours, but to the great delight of watersports enthusiasts everywhere, the nocturnal breeze drops away to become virtually inexistant, especially to leeward of the island, exactly where the Ultims will have to leave the Basse-Terre mark to starboard.
In the middle of the night (European time) at Tête à l’anglais
This morning, like every morning since last Wednesday’s start of the Route du Rhum – Destination Guadeloupe in Saint Malo, Charles Caudrelier spoke at the official radio link-up. For the firm leader of the Ultims, this is set to be his final morning contact, because at the same time tomorrow, the skipper of the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild will likely be embroiled on the circuit around the island of Guadeloupe!
Extracts from the official radio link-up on Tuesday 15 November with Charles Caudrelier (Maxi Edmond de Rothschild):
“Right now, things are going well. I began to make good speed last night and it’s nice to finally be slipping along! Prior to the passage around the island of Guadeloupe it’s good to have the edge. Last night the boat was great. Conditions were good with ordered seas, so I was able to get some sleep. The more breeze there is, the easier the boat is to pilot, so I was able to rest up and I had an excellent night. Right now, the breeze is easing again and when it eases, it’s not so good as it’s harder to get the boat making headway. Last night was dark and the breeze picked up to 30 knots at times in the squalls. I could have gone faster, the boat eager to make over 40 knots of boat speed, but I preferred to keep it reasonable and not break anything. I have a good lead over François (Gabart) but I’m remaining vigilant. I’d like to hang onto that lead to go around Guadeloupe. What worries me is that François does a Joyon on me, taking his revenge on the last time he was here! On top of that, I’m going to make landfall at the wrong time, in the early part of the evening local time. At that time of day, the breeze won’t yet have dropped away from the coast. Everything’s lined up for a suspenseful finish, the kind that those on land love and those at sea hate. The immediate programme involves making landfall in Guadeloupe as quickly as possible. If I can claw back a few more miles and hang onto this cushion of a lead, that would be good. François is in a better position than me as it’s not out of the question that I’ll have to put in a gybe, but for now things are going pretty well. I’m in good shape. The day will likely be a little light with some squalls on the cards. I’m going to try to get some rest throughout the day as the rounding of Guadeloupe will be long. Concentration and rest will make up today’s schedule. I don’t have enough of a lead to feel completely relaxed.”