Gabart increases lead amid rough ride
Published on December 5th, 2017
(December 5, 2017; Day 32, 19:00 FR) – Two days after rounding Cape Horn, François Gabart has met tough wind and sea conditions off Argentina in his attempt to beat the single-handed round the world record.
However, the skipper of the 30m MACIF trimaran continues to make great northerly progress in the Atlantic, covering 756.0 nm in the past 24 hours along Argentina’s coastline and has increased his margin to 1479.08 nm ahead of the record pace.
This will be the ongoing story of this round the world. Once again, Gabart must deal with a J2 furling system that has broken due to the repeated impact of waves when the MACIF trimaran enters them at full speed. “I have never sailed as fast as this in such weather conditions. When you enter a wave at 40 to 45 knots, it causes quite a bit of damage at the bow, and it’s likely to be the chief worry until Ouessant.”
Already repaired twice, this fixed furling system (contrary to the J1 which can be dismantled and taken into the cockpit) is causing trouble again and preventing Gabart from rolling his J2 (forward intermediate sail). This is quite an issue in the heavy air to gale conditions he has met since yesterday (35 to 45 knots, with gusts at 50) which require the use of the J3, a smaller sail.
With this rough sea and strong winds, there is no question of doing repair jobs at the bow of the central hull. This is why Gabart is having a stressful time today as he will not be able to do anything about the furling system until tomorrow when the weather conditions will ease up.
As is often the case when sailing up the South Atlantic, Gabart will have a wide variety of weather conditions until he passes the equator by next weekend. “Today, the idea is to leave the area of heavy air I’m in and where I’m being tossed about. Then I’m going to cross a ridge of high pressure, which means that I will not be sailing very fast as of tomorrow (Wednesday) and I will be able to carry out the repair jobs I’ve planned.
“Afterwards, the goal will be to go and pick up the trade wind and, to achieve this, I will have to slalom for 24 to 36 hours in and out of mildly the stormy low-pressure systems that are forming off Cabo Frio, at the eastern tip of Brazil, resulting in changeable winds. And once I’m in the east to south-east trade wind, I will have a long starboard tack (wind coming from the right, Ed.) until the equator.”
After the extreme conditions of the Great South, in which the skipper and his MACIF trimaran were knocked about, the fatigue of over 31 days at sea is beginning to show, especially since the sea grew deeper yesterday, resulting in hard jolts on board. It is difficult for Gabart to sleep in these conditions and he admits feeling tired.
“Even though I didn’t have too much manoeuvring to do at the end of the Pacific and I was able to take longer naps, I did not recover quickly enough, like I did before, and this will probably last until the end of the round the world.”
Like his boat, the sailor has also had a few small injuries, in particular one of his fingers. “These are small details that need to be taken care of before they get worse,” he explained. In short, he must now ride out the weather until it gets better.
Only three sailors to date (Francis Joyon, Ellen MacArthur, Thomas Coville) have ever held the record. After his start on November 4, to beat the record of 49 days, 3 hours, 4 minutes and 28 seconds held by Coville since December 25, 2016, Gabart will need to cross the finishing line (between Créac’h lighthouse, in Ouessant (Ushant), and the Lizard Point lighthouse in Cornwall, England) before 13.09 on December 23 (French time, UTC+1).