It’s A Battle For The Transat Jacques Vabre Fleet
It’s as if the scriptwriters have a hot line to the weather gods. Friday 13th and the Transat Jacques Vabre fleet have their toughest conditions yet, with storm force gusts, mean windspeeds for those in the north of around 50 knots, huge seas and the boats down to tiny sail areas as they live out what promises to be the most difficult period.
True to the plot-line the winds built at around midnight, and skippers spoken to early this morning say they expect to have seen the worst of it by they time they get into Saturday.
Conditions on deck are close to impossible and below decks the duos try to stop themselves from being flung around the inside of their boats like pinballs.
As record breaking British skipper Dee Caffari – the only woman to have circumnavigated the planet non-stop solo in opposite directions – reported from Aviva: “It’s survival conditions. We are just working to get through it, looking after the boat and ourselves.”
Kito de Pavant, from Groupe Bel, summed it up: “It’s a war!”
Jeff Cuzon on second placed BT: ‘It’s horrible.”
Conditions for the group in the south are marginally better but it is the Safran of Marc Guillemot and Charles Caudrelier, in the northern vanguard, which still heads the rankings by 18.7 miles from Seb Josse and Curzon on BT.
In the south Michel Desjoyeaux and Jérémie Beyou on Foncia are in a SW’ly wind on port tack and have pulled back around 20 miles since last night but still have a deficit of some 245 miles on the leading pack, an seem set to continue into lighter headwinds.
Somewhat ominously perhaps, the boat in the furthest north remains Alex Thomson’s black hulled Hugo Boss, was the quickest this morning, with the best VMG of the fleet.
Mike Golding and Javier Sanso retain their third place on the IMOCA Open 60 standings on Mike Golding Yacht Racing just less than 40 miles in arrears to Safran, while Caffari and Brian Thompson and seventh, behind Alex Thomson and Ross Daniel on Hugo Boss whose distance behind the leaders is very little changed since the same time yesterday morning.
Deliverance, in some form, should come at the Azores where the fleet seems set to compact again a little with some lighter breezes, although there are still small systems around to be negotiated or utilised to best effect.
In the Multi50 fleet Crepes Whaou have been sticking to the survival recipe in their new boat but are emerging with a lead of 184 miles.
With Prince de Bretagne safely in Vigo, Galicia for assessment and repairs, only three multi’s are actively racing just now.
JF Cuzon (FRA) BT: “The conditions are very difficult. Since midnight we have had between 35 and 60 knots. It’s tough, it’s horrible, it’s impressive. You try to preserve the boat as much as you can. The swell is powerful but the most impressive thing is the gusts of wind. It goes up so quickly and that is what makes it so difficult.
Then today maybe round midday it should start to drop.
….there, we have 53 knots of wind, I need to go….”
In his message sent shortly after he confirmed that they were sailing only under deep reef mainsail.
Dee Caffari (GBR), Aviva: “Things are a bit messy. We have 40-50 knots squalls. It has been like this for the last three hours. We took the staysail down and put out the storm jib but did not unfurl it because we are just overpowered. It is consistently 35, gusting to 40 and 50.
It is definitely in for the next 12 hours. It is uncomfortable and there is nothing we can do about it. We just have to survive it and so we are in survival mode which is a bit frustrating, but it is about getting through this and coming out the other side and get back to sailing. The boat seems to handling it well, Brian is a cool, calm cucumber and is having a good effect on me. We’ve had our fair share of issues and problems but so far we seem to be surviving.”
Alex Thomson (GBR), Hugo Boss:
“ All is well on board. We had a bit on an issue with the J3 which unfurled itself in 50 knots of wind but Rossco dealt with it and furled it away. Ross banged his wrist on the first night out but he has been battling on through the pain, he is a real trooper.”
“It is incredible on board. You cannot move around anywhere or do anything, you can’t go to the toilet. In fact we have not even managed to make a cup of tea since the start and both Ross and I are avid tea drinkers.”
“But we are moving up the rankings OK, which is nice, but at the moment survival is the most important thing, but as soon as the wind eases off we will be able to really put the hammer down the more miles we get south.”
Mike Golding (GBR), Mike Golding Yacht Racing:
“ It was a rough night really and now we are hoping in the next hour or so to see the back of the squalls which have been coming through up to 65 knots, and just horrendous seas but I am sure that all the boats are struggling in these conditions. It is not an easy time.”
“ We are both fine. Javier has just gone for some rest. We have both been up all night with just such extreme conditions. We are just trying to push through them and not break anything.”
“ I think at the moment we are just pleased to be still on the race course, we are having to squeeze up a little to try and find a line through, but I have always been quite happy tactically where are, to the south of this group.
“And I’ll be pleased to be the first out of the worst.”
“ We are lining up to pass the Azores in 12 hours of so, and we’ll see what happens there.”
Michel Desjoyeaux, (FRA), Foncia:
“It is a bit wet here. We had a front pass over then a rough night with the wind increasing and a shift around daybreak and since then it has gone SSW’ly. It is bumpy, everything shaking. It is quite impressive but it passes and that is the way it is. We are getting along between 12 and 14 knots all the time and mostly the wind has been low 30′s. The most we’ve seen is 48 knots. And in a few hours we should see some calmer conditions. The seas will remain for a bit, but the winds will abate steadily.”
Roland Jourdain (FRA) Foncia:
“ We tore off the cars at the head of the mainsail when we were taking a reef in. The winds have been between 40 and 45 knots, we took a first reef, then a second and then we had the problem. We realized the problem and immediately dropped the mainsail. We can’t sail with more than two reefs, which is fine for the moment. But if we want to be competitive to the end of the race then we need to stop to repair it.”
“We will stop in Horta in the Azores to make a repair as quickly as possible. If everything is OK it should be done quickly. We should get into the port relatively easily and the repair is not complicated and it is not a big thing to repair.”
“ What is costly to us though is changing course, we were very happy with our option.
Anway we don’t want to give up, we want to stay in the race and we will do everything to get to Costa Rica. We have had better times but that is the way it goes.”