Slipping southward
After a fabulous start and a smooth first section in terms of weather for rounding the Cap Fréhel mark in second position, Yann Guichard got into the thick of the action last night with a powerful NW’ly airflow and above all very difficult seas. The skipper of Gitana 11 opted to pass as close as possible to the island of Ushant, so as to dive down to the SW, towards Cape Finisterre, which he is likely to reach from Monday afternoon.

The decision was taken well before the start with Sylvain Mondon, namely to round the tip of Brittany as quickly as possible so as to dive down towards Spain to slip under the Azores High, which is in the process of shifting across towards France. However, the solo sailors from the ‘ultimate’ class don’t all share the same view of the upcoming situation, with a depression passing to the North of the archipelago. Clearly Sidney Gavignet has opted for a route to the North of the high pressure, while the leader at noon, Thomas Coville, is holding onto a medium position, which could translate as a hesitation between the two courses, whilst Franck Cammas, Francis Joyon and Yann Guichard decided to sail along the Portuguese coast to hook onto the E’ly tradewinds.

“I haven’t had much of a chance to rest since the start, between the manœuvres along the North coast of Brittany and the situation served up by the Bay of Biscay. The most annoying thing about the Bay isn’t the wind but the sea state. Last night the waves reached four metres and were very close together. In conditions such as these, I had no choice but to ease off the pace as, with each wave, Gitana 11 was flying up into the air and then ploughing into the next one. It’s a bit frustrating when you see the competitors ahead getting away… However, we’re not even 24 hours into the race yet: you have to preserve the boat above all else. There’s still a long way to go to get to Pointe-à-Pitre! As regards positioning, I’m satisfied as we’re exactly where Sylvain Mondon and I decided to be prior to the start. As such things are going perfectly to schedule and in line with our initial plan” indicated Yann Guichard this Monday morning. Aboard the maxi-trimaran Idec, a 30 metre giant measuring 7 metres longer than Gitana 11, Francis Joyon, who was sailing quite close to Yann last night, also described seas which were difficult to negotiate: “we’re being accompanied by such a big swell that it’s hard to believe”.

An improvement from this evening
The separation this Monday afternoon between the leaders of the maxi-multihulls may seem considerable, but in part it is only the result of the lateral separation of around fifty miles between Sodeb’O and Gitana 11 and around thirty miles in relation to Groupama 3. Forced to ease off the pace, when the seas were big last night and through until this Monday lunchtime, the trimaran fitted out by Baron Benjamin de Rothschild could begin to sail at the same speed as her closest rival, at over 22 knots. Logically, the swell will smooth out as the fleet approaches Cape Finisterre, which will enable Yann Guichard to accelerate considerably. However, the skipper of the Gitana Team knows all too well that he mustn’t dally as the winds will die down off the Spanish headland tonight. Already, the speed differential is substantial between those favouring the North and the ‘Southerners’ who this lunchtime were indicating that there were no more than around ten knots of breeze, whilst the solo sailors closer to the Iberian coast still had over twenty knots of breeze.

Ranking for the Ultimate Category on 1st November at 1200 hours
1. Sodebo
2. Oman Air Majan 29.8 miles astern
3. Idec 55.3 miles
4. Groupama 3 some 57.9 miles
5. Gitana 11 some 74.6 miles
6. La Boite à Pizza 124.6 miles
7. Défi Cancale 159.2 miles
8. Côte d'Or II some 161.6 miles
9. Saint-Malo 2015 some 171 miles astern

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