Photo: Marcel Mochet / Route des Princes

Oman Air horizon job

The Sidney Gavignet skippered MOD70 continues to stride ahead in the Route des Princes

Monday June 10th 2013, Author: James Boyd, Location: Spain

Sidney Gavignet and the crew of Oman Air-Musandram have made an admiral effort leading the MOD70 class in the Route des Princes, despite losing the lead momentarily in a park-up earlier this morning.

Positions at 1551 UTC

Pos Skipper Boat Lat Long Spd Crs Dist DTF DTL
          2 hrs   24hrs    
1 Lionel Lemonchois  Maxi 80 Prince de Bretagne 36 57.72' N 1 24.93' W 15.5 247 ° 254.9 489.2 0
1 Sidney Gavignet  Oman Air-Musandam 36 29.40' N 1 28.79' W 13.5 240 ° 259 480.4 0
2 Yann Guichard  Spindrift 36 58.37' N 1 24.04' W 16.9 259 ° 250.2 490.1 9.73
3 Jean-Pierre Dick  Virbac Paprec 70 37 00.92' N 0 48.09' W 10.8 211 ° 227.7 518.1 37.75
4 Sébastien Josse  Edmond de Rothschild 36 59.64' N 0 44.37' W 11.7 199 ° 223 520.7 40.35
1 Yves Le Blevec  Actual 35 58.97' N 2 22.46' W 8.7 234 ° 184.7 435.5 0
2 Lalou Roucayrol  Arkema – Région Aquitaine 36 03.38' N 2 20.50' W 8.8 256 ° 184.7 437 1.55
3 Erwan Le Roux  FenêtréA-Cardinal 35 56.82' N 2 14.80' W 9.4 254 ° 184.4 441.7 6.26


Before he left Valencia on Sunday for the first leg of the Route des Princes Oman Air- Musandam’s skipper Sidney Gavignet spoke quietly of a ‘rich get richer’ scenario developing where the leading MOD70 might continue to reap a dividend by leading down the course and out of the Mediterranean on Leg 1, the 800 miles passage to Lisbon, Portugal.

With twenty four hours elapsed it is Gavignet’s team which has prospered almost since they rounded the Benicarlo mark north of Valencia on Sunday evening, six hours after the start.

If the first night at sea for the Route des Princes crews was marked by mainly light winds, punctuated briefly by a spell of stronger breeze, there has been very little chance to rest as constant sail changes and continued trimming in the changeable conditions have been required.

For all that, the mainly gentle, shifty Mediterranean winds have been up and down, meaning alternating from headsail to gennaker and back, the one design MOD70s have remained very close.

After leading around the Benicarlo turning mark and taking the two points bonus for doing so around 2000 local time last night, Sidney Gavignet and the crew on Oman Air- Musandam had built themselves a lead of some eight miles by the time they lead past the latitude of Ibiza. Their more offshore course had paid a dividend, but as the fleet caught up tucking in closer to the land to round Cabo de la Nau, it was Sébastien Josse’s and crew on Edmond de Rothschild which had taken on a very slight lead. Behind less than one third of a mile separated Edmond de Rothschild from Jean-Pierre Dick’s third placed Virbac-Paprec 70.

But for Gavignet & co the easterly, offshore position had again paid off and by the 0800 sched, Oman Air-Musandam had regained the lead, heading more directly south with three miles of margin on Virbac-Paprec 70.

The wind god defintely smiled on the Omani MOD70 which by 0836 UTC had managed to extend her lead up to 20 was already level with Cartagena.

By mid afternoon the leader was some 43 miles southwest of Cartagena, and had managed to eke out a lead of nearly 29 miles ahead of Yann Guichard’s Spindrift, the reigning MOD champions. In turn Spindrift was five miles up on Jean-Pierre Dick’s Virbac-Paprec 70.

At present it is a case of making hay while the sun shines for the outlook for the Strait of Gibraltar looks set to offer only very, very light winds. In fact the latest weather files indicate continuous light headwinds until the fleet escape into the Bay of Cadiz and beyond. Increasingly it looks like whichever team can break into the northerly winds off the Portuguese coast should have a clear advantage to the finish.

Spindrift’s skipper Yann Guichard was reckoning on one and a half days to Gibraltar when he spoke on this morning’s live radio link up with Race HQ.

“We are now in a SW'ly air stream, so we're prepared.” Guichard reported, “That means tacking upwind. We're going to have to look for local effects. We know that there is less wind close to shore. You have to find the right balance. This is all about speed, but at sea it is not easy maintaining a stable speed.”

Oman Air–Musandam was holding firm to her offshore position and appeared to have had some of her lead eroded in the late afternoon by Spindrift as the two groups split more.

Yann Guichard reported from Spindrift: “The night was hard for us all I think. First we struggled to get to the buoy in the north of Valencia then we ran out of breeze. So we stalled, but during the night we managed to get back into contact apart from Oman Air, who have sailed very well and made a different choice. They have got it right. Now we are going again in a southwesterly wind in sunshine, clear blue skies, always with the swell coming at us, we are making about 18-19kts upwind and I think it will take us a good day and a half to get to Gibraltar. It is good to have Virbac Paprec nearby to measure ourselves against. On the AIS we are always watching their speed and what they do. After Cabo Nao there were two groups but really the wind forced us to choose these routes. There are now bigger differences between the courses and we may end up staying with Virbac-Paprec for a while.

"At the moment we are running three watches of two. Two on deck, a helm and a trimmer and two on standby, but last night the standby did not rest at all really because it was hard work. Now we are into a southwesterly flow, but it will drop away. We have 20 knots of wind at 50°. We are tacking upwind Xavier and Christophe will go to rest and eat. We are pacing ourselves on this first leg.

"We were prepared for the southwesterlies. They mean tacking upwind. We're going to have to look for local effects. We know that there is less wind close to shore. You have to find the right balance. This is all about speed, but at sea it is not easy maintaining a stable speed."

Meanwhile Jean-Pierre Dick’s Virbac-Paprec 70 continue to be a threat despite this being his team’s first long offshore race in the class.

Dick reported: “Everything is going well but it was a tough first night with a lot of changes in the wind this morning. But fortunately the wind has come back a bit and we are going well along the Spanish coast. The boat is going well at the moment. We are in contact with most of the other boats. We can see that Spindrift is not far behind us with Edmond de Rothschild and in front are our Omani friends. The conditions are good, there is not much water over the deck, so far the wind has not got up too much. Watches have been established now but not really through the night as there was too much going on, but on average now maybe everyone has had three hours. You have to keep changing the helmsman to maintain maximum concentration.”

At the latest sched Prince de Bretagne, the lone Ultimate class boat, was match racing Spindrift back in towards the Spanish coast south of Cartagena. Earler Navigator Jean-Luc Nélias reported: The night was generally quiet with light winds except for the last couple of hours at Cabo de la Nau when we had a spell of 30 knots. We have Edmond de Rothschild and Virbac-Paprec 70 and Spindrift just ahead, but here we are in no wind. We try to get ourselves out of here. Last night we mainly had between eight and 13knots on starboard tack, nothing like the files were promising. We changed between the Solent and the small gennaker and have been with the MOD70s. It is shifty with light southwesterly winds. Immediately it will remain light but it should pick up to about 12knots nearer Cabo de Gata, and then in the Alboran Sea it will be 8-13 knots. Meantime we change headsail regularly. We have really worked hard with not much sleep, there is plenty to do, we are busy."

In the Multi50 Class have benefitted from not having had to sail the 120 mile loop north to Benicarlo and back. Their progress towards the Strait of Gibraltar is no doubt helping mark the way for the chasing MOD70s. In this division for the smaller tris, the two leading boats were less than one mile apart with Yves Le Blevec and his crew on Actual just keeping their advantage ahead of Lalou Roucayrol’s new Arkema-Région Aquitaine swith about 140 miles still to make Gibraltar and Oman Air–Musandam about 40 miles astern of them.

Mayeul Riffet reported from Arkema-Aquitaine Région: “We are getting back into it now, but we had a couple of painful hours. It was very light and we did a 360° right round in calm conditions. We are only two miles behind Actual and we saw he did the same as us. Now we have wind again and are on course and going well. We have about 12 knots of breeze and we are making almost due south. We are trying to get out of this messy area but what has been nice is that the wind is quite hot. It was very quick from Valencia to Cabo de la Nau. In fact we had 25 knots and fairly rough seas but not as bad as I thought it would be. Then is started to drop and we were in light stuff and then becalmed. We had to work hard but are two miles behind Actual. The next 24 hours it will remain close I think. It is still not clear what the options are but there will be enough to make it interesting. The passage of Cabo de Gata will be complicated, around 90-100 miles down the course on the direct route but it is hard to say when we will get there, maybe later this morning.”




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