New Class 40 Transmed record

Gérald Bibot's Akilaria sets a new time

Tuesday June 1st 2010, Author: Maguelonne Turcat, Location: France

The Belgium Class 40 Great Circle has established a new Class 40 record for the 'trans-Med' course between Marseille and Carthage, Tunisia.

Skipper of the Akilaria RC2, Gérald Bibot, with his crew Cécile Poujol, Michel Kleinjans and Nicolas Marchand crossed the finish line off the Ras Quartajamah lighthouse, Carthage this morning at 02:18:20 GMT  setting a reference time of 35 hours, 36 minutes and 13 seconds (subject to WSSRC ratification), admittedly a little slower than the time the Banque Populaire maxi-tri recently set of 14 hours 20 minutes and 34 seconds.

"As we left Marseilles, our routing software gave us a thoroughly realistic view of the situation: a 50-50 'all or nothing', due to the possible formation of a ridge of high pressure blocking our way," said Bibot. "As a crew we’d been on standby since early March, and despite evolutions in the information we were monitoring live over the last 12 hours, we decided just to set off anyway and give it our best shot. That’s part and parcel of this kind of thing. The moral of the adventure is that the boat goes well, the crew is fantastic, the software performed very well and we’ve had a spot of success!”

As planned – and despite having diagnosed instrument failure before leaving the quayside – the ride along the coast of Corsica overnight on Sunday was very quick and required a switch to ‘boiler’ mode. Under one reef mainsail and Solent, Great Circle, well on schedule on a regular basis, sent the spray flying, her wake smoking as she was propelled along by an steady, established wind of around 30 knots. Deprived of information from the nav station, the crew had to call upon their vast experience of offshore racing to optimise the routing of their Class40 without the possibility of measuring the strength and the angle of the wind. In line with the forecast, the situation got a bit tense to the South of Sardinia, offshore of Cagliari, with the wind dropping to around 15 knots for four hours.

After that the wind quickly kicked back in to 25-30 knots, and the crew was once again able to alternate between the small and the large spinnaker, at the mercy of the variations in pressure during the last night. They continued in this vein till they broached rather suddenly, resulting in them losing the large spinnaker. As is the case for all records, ultimately anything can happen before the finish, and the deliverance never really came until they got across the line in the early hours. However, the four sailors kept on battling and were justly rewarded by managing to stay with the wind all the way to the end.

“A great experience!” commented Cécile Poujol “The ‘record’ formula was very appealing: downwind all the way, sailing in the fastest direction, on the most efficient date. Other than repositioning ourselves slightly to enter the bay of Tunis, we sailed 450 miles on the same tack! Great Circle is a powerful boat, which requires a lot of attention downwind, but it really was a great sail”

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