Sébastien Josse achieving 90% of the polars* of a double-handed configuration
Before setting off from the corsair city, Sébastien Josse admitted that the first three days would be decisive for the rest of the race. Indeed, given the weather conditions forecast, the solo sailor had the following plan in mind: “This race start clearly favours the big boats, particularly on the long starboard tack across the Bay of Biscay, where they’ll be able to lengthen their stride whilst keeping their sails aloft, while aboard our Multi70s, we’ll be more geared towards ‘hunkering down’ rather than attacking. I wouldn’t be surprised if we lament a deficit of a good hundred miles or so as we approach the Azores. However, the next stage doesn’t look as easy with a fairly light tradewind. As such it will be important to preserve the boat over the first few days so as to be able to fully exploit her potential as we head across to the West Indies.”
However, the skipper of Edmond de Rothschild has done better than that, rounding off the first section of the race in a manner that some of his rivals have described as impressive. Aside from Loïck Peyron, who has led the fleet with panache since the first night and today boasts a lead of over 120 miles in relation to his closest pursuer, Sébastien Josse is in contact with all the large multihulls in his category. It’s a position that Antoine Koch, one of the routers for the Multi70 Edmond de Rothschild, is able to back up with figures: “Since the start, Sébastien has been achieving 90 or even 95% of the polars* recorded in the Transat Jacques Vabre. This is very good as he and Charles (Caudrelier) were particularly quick in that race last year.”
* Correspond with the boat’s performances according to the strength and angle of the wind
In the space of 24 hours, the atmosphere and setting has completely changed for the fleet of Ultimes. Late yesterday morning, Sébastien Josse was still referring to stormy skies with winds oscillating between 30 and 40 knots and above all a strong north-westerly swell of 5 metres, which was making life more than a little chaotic for the solo sailors. Last night though, on the approach to Madeira, the seas became more organised and the wind dropped away sharply as it veered; it is now blowing in from the North.
Antoine Koch gives us his analysis of this transition zone, which the pretenders in this star category are currently having to negotiate: “The Azores High is being attacked by a cold front associated with a big low passing to its north. This phenomenon is tending to undermine the anticyclone and as a result the zone of high pressure is stretching further eastwards than usual and hence is slightly blocking the passage towards the tradewinds.” Forecast to affect the fleet from mid-morning this Wednesday, in the end this zone of light airs began to influence Edmond de Rothschild and her adversaries last night: “Sébastien is in a northerly breeze of around a dozen knots. However, it is fairly unstable in terms of strength and direction. Due to being positioned further south, Banque Populaire will come off a lot better than her pursuers as she will be able to continue to make headway at 25 knots, whilst astern they’ll be making between 10 and 15 knots. As such, aside from the leader, the Ultimes will experience a general reduction in pace throughout the day and especially over the course of the afternoon.”
The 1200 noon position report reflected the router’s words. Indeed, Banque Populaire VII is continuing to go it alone at 25 knots, whilst in her wake, the instantaneous speeds of her rivals amount to between 11 and 18 knots. The trimaran fitted out by Baron Benjamin de Rothschild is currently lying in fourth place in a chasing pack made up of Francis Joyon and Lionel Lemonchois. Meantime Spindrift 2 is located some forty miles ahead of their bows.
The transition zone described above and the forecast arrival in the north-easterly tradewinds, which provide downwind conditions enabling a high-speed crossing to the West Indies, mark the start of the major manœuvres. Already, things have been very animated on the decks of the trimarans over the past few hours, as Antoine Koch confirmed: “Since last night, Sébastien has had to constantly adapt his sail area. Yesterday, at the same time, he was sailing under 3 reefs and ORC, whilst right now he is slipping along downwind under full main and gennaker. All these sail changes are long and tiring in solo configuration.”
And yet, this is only the beginning! Indeed, if we base our estimates on the weather forecasts available to date, the journey to Pointe-à-Pitre won’t be a bed of roses. The disturbed tradewinds revealed in the weather models will call for a great many manœuvres. Such a scenario isn’t an unpleasant prospect for Sébastien Josse and his routing team: “Once in the tradewinds, there will be a lot of work. It’s not going to be a straight line the whole way. The routing software seems to agree that there will be a number of gybes to contend with in order to keep pressure in the sails throughout the negotiation of the Atlantic en route to the West Indies. The fleet is likely to be on a run and in this configuration having a light boat will be an advantage,” concluded the router of the trimaran with five arrows.
Ranking on 5 November at 1200 GMT
- Banque Populaire VII (Loïck Peyron) – 2,339.2 miles from the goal
- Spindrift 2 (Yann Guichard) – 128.6 miles back
- Idec Sport (Francis Joyon) – 168.2 miles back
- Edmond de Rothschild (Sébastien Josse) – 170.3 miles back
- Prince de Bretagne (Lionel Lemonchois) – 190 miles back
- Musandam Oman Sail (Sidney Gavignet) – 226.6 miles back
- Paprec Recyclage (Yann Elies) – 253.7 miles back
Abd – Sodebo Ultim’