Down the coast of Portugal
Racing is every bit as intense this morning as it was yesterday for the six boats entered in the IB Group Challenge. As the fleet closes in on the coast of Portugal in a SW breeze decreasing to around 10-12 knots. Franck Cammas was in the lead in the small hours of this morning, he will probably not be holding onto his leadership position for that much longer. The Desjoyeaux-Bidégorry-Le Peutrec threesome should be the first bunch of boats to be first to make it to the Cape of Saint Vincent by the end of this afternoon.

The advantage gained by Franck Cammas in his shore-hugging option was short-lived. As the wind shifted from S to SW, following the passage of a violent stormy front, the pack is starting to distance Cammas. The choice to put some west into the heading after Cape Finisterre has turned out to be the right option. Michel Desjoyeaux and Pascal Bidégorry have come off best, with Frédéric Le Peutrec not far behind. The low pressure system west of the Iberian peninsula has not moved a great deal over the last 24 hours. The best thing to do was to head out in search of the shift in wind direction on the open sea, rather than to wait for the wind to come. With the exception of Groupama-2, that was precisely the option taken by the whole fleet. This morning, Groupama-2 is highly likely to find herself way down the line. She will have to sail much closer to the wind which will slow the trimaran down, forcing her to head out away from the coast, thereby losing a great deal of ground. The first place certainly, but she should be able to make it back to fourth if everything goes well, failing which sixth. A heavy price to pay ! But all in all the boats are sailing at close quarters. At the end of the day, not perhaps such a significant loss.

A lively night for the Gitana Team, an active stormy front giving rise to lightning, thunder, heavy rainfall and brisk changes in wind direction with violent gusts. Enough to keep the guys on board busy up on deck.  « Before the sun went down, the storm passed overhead. It was impressive to see the shades of black and grey mixed up with tones of white all at the same time. Heavy dense rain, lightning and thunder to boot. Quite a festival and tough context for effective decision making. Wind, lots of wind, then suddenly no wind at all. Apart from a brief spell with a 15 knot wind, there was basically no wind at all. UP went the Code 0, one change of tack followed another, plenty to keep us busy. » Nicolas Raynaud, Gitana X par e-mail.

The gaps between the boats were very small one and a half days into the race. The entry into the Mediterranean is going to be important. That is the event to watch out for tonight. « We are still in the match and the gaps between the boats are not that great even though Géant took a fifty mile advantage last night in spite of our being quite close. We had a tough time pulling through the squalls. We got stuck under a cloud. But the whole fleet will be together around Gibraltar. This morning we have a 10 knot SW and are sailing at 80° to the wind making 17-20 knots on fine seas. Not ideal conditions for the boat but she is certainly much better than last year. We are in the pace and managing our sleep pretty well. The breeze should drop off as we approach the Cape of Saint Vincent in a five knot wind as we enter the Bay of Cadix, where we will be downwind in light air. Tough going off Gibraltar ! » Erwan Le Roux, on Gitana X this Tuesday morning.

Rankings on Tuesday 10th May at 4h00 (French time) :

1-Groupama-2 (Franck Cammas)  1 944.4 m to the finish

2-Banque Populaire (Pascal Bidégorry) + 2.4 miles

3-Géant (Michel Desjoyeaux) + 3.2 miles

4-Gitana 11 (Frédéric Le Peutrec) + 26.8 miles

5-Gitana X (Thierry Duprey du Vorsent) + 55,8 miles

6-Foncia (Armel Le Cléac'h) + 59 miles

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