Route du Rhum: Never Enough

Published on November 12th, 2014

November 12, 2014 – After the waves of Ultimes finished into Pointe a Pitre, expected next are the Multi 50 and the IMOCA60s. And in both classes today the respective leads now seem to be a little more decisive. Erwan Le Roux in the Multi50s is well positioned while Francois Gabart now has clear daylight between his Macif and Jermie Beyou’s Maitre Coq. The trade winds remain unstable with many squalls and gusts.

Gabart’s lead is now some 60 miles over Beyou while for Le Roux his cushion is now 90 miles. But there are still daily surprises. Their Caribbean trade winds are peppered with squalls, which can still ebb quite brutal and unexpected, often with heavy rain and big changes in wind direction and strength. Skippers are sometimes then caught on the horns of a dilemma, whether to ride it out and increase the risk or make quick sail changes, which minutes later have to be undone, and often there is a longer calm period in its wake.

The leaders of these two classes are on the direct course. First Multi50 should be tomorrow morning (local time) and then probably about eight to ten hours after that, the first IMOCA 60. The island tour and its inevitable calms should not upset the leaderboard too much for the top boats.

In the Class 40s the leading trio has become a quartet as Yannick Bestaven (Le Coservateur) has gained miles in the tradewinds, picking the little shifts and playing the squalls and gusts. Care is still needed not to blow out sails, which can be terminal at this stage. Alex Pella (Tales 2 Santander) is still faster than his two most dangerous rivals Kito de Pavant (Otio Bastide-Medical) and Thibaut Vauchel Camus (Partenaires en Peloton) and for them there is no real long terms strategy, there is just the need to stay in the best wind corridor down the Tropic of Cancer, but work is needed to stay with shifts where small gains can always be made in this long Figaro style battle. Miranda Merron has dropped a couple of places to eighth.

For the Rhum class, today is crucial because a ridge of high pressure is going to cut the fleet in half! Behind the untouchable Anne Caseneuve (Aneo) the leaders are already at the latitude of the Canaries but the Azores high pressure is now extending from Morocco and speeds have dropped to less than five knots (sometimes even 1 kt) and the high pressure is still sliding south, extending its tentacles by a further 100 miles and that is going to redistribute some of the cards. Wednesday does look like a key day in the Rhum class.

Francois Gabart (IMOCA leader Macif): “The news is sweet, I’m cracking on these last few days, just sliding along nicely. But I am still sailing in the squalls and through the nights I have slalomed between the clouds. The end of yesterday was pleasant with a long swell. The sunset was gorgeous. We are close to the rhumb and it is unlikely we will deviate from that too much. There are shifts and squalls to deal with. I can see the moon all the time and lightning flashes with no thunder and no clouds. I can feel the storms are not far away.”

Erwan Le Roux, skipper of the Multi 50 FenêtréA-Cardinal: “The squalls are passing by a little bow, it is more stable now. I’m on direct course and under big gennaker and mainsail. My next gybe might be at the end of today. There is still one more full night at seas, arriving early Thursday. I have no major problems and just stay focused. I’m getting a bit further ahead but you never know.”

Report by Event Media

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