Safran pulls ahead

As her rivals get caught in light airs approaching the Azores in the IMOCA Ocean Masters New York to Barcelona Race

Sunday June 8th 2014, Author: James Boyd, Location: none selected

After the regrouping of the fleet yesterday and a virtual race restart, the four competing yachts in the IMOCA Ocean Masters New York to Barcelona Race have today scattered as each crew has picked its own path by or across a dissolving front that has barred their way east to the Azores.

Clear winners from this have been Marc Guillemot and Morgan Lagravière aboard Safran. From holding a 21 mile lead over second placed Hugo Boss at 10:45 UTC yesterday, the French aces had extended their margin over second place to 83 miles a day later.

"Like the other boats, we had a tricky transition yesterday... At one point we were under spinnaker with good breeze only for the wind to drop from 25 knots to 3-4 knots,” commented Guillemot. “It was very hard to have a clear idea of the weather situation, so we decided to ignore the forecasts, which weren’t right, and simply to concentrate on sailing as fast as we could, in whatever direction we could! After this tough night we feel that we are now out of this complex weather situation.”

However Guillemot admitted that their strategy had been based on the belief that the axis of the trough had shifted from north-south to NW-SE. “We were trying to get east and south to escape it faster. That’s why the boats in the north have more of a disadvantage. I have to say we didn't anticipate it - we feel lucky to have past ‘the trap’ so well.”

At 11:45 UTC Safran was due south of Flores, the westernmost island of the Azores archipelago and her course indicated that she would comfortably pass to the north of the mid-Atlantic chain’s main islands.

As Safran maintained an easterly track last night, her boat speed rarely dipping below 10 knots, her rivals have had a more frustrating time, as they got into trouble attempting to cross the zone of light winds.

“Our 30 miles or so of northerly separation have not been kind to us.” admitted Ryan Breymaier from Hugo Boss, putting on a brave face on their first having been passed by their Alex Thomson Racing stable mates on Team Neutrogena at 20:00 UTC, dropping them to third place, and then being becalmed for a few hours. “We spent part of the night under Code 0 in very light air, then with the spinnaker making good time in the northwest breeze. We thought that would be our escape, until a massive rain squall came through… We are still in good spirits, keeping track of the weather and our situation, and making the manoeuvres well. We know it’s not over yet.”

At 11:30 UTC the breeze had finally filled in, but were still mystified by the forecast, that bore little correlation to what was happening in reality. “It was disheartened to see what’s happened overnight. Looking at the weather files, everything was saying ‘go north to hook into the new low’. But there you are.”

GAES Centros Auditivos, sailed by mixed crew Anna Corbella and Gerard Marin, went furthest out on a limb with their tactics over the last 24 hours and have spent the longest caught in the light conditions. At 11.30 UTC GAES was continuing on a northeasterly heading and making good speed, but had lost 120 miles in her northerly gamble.

Media crewman on board GAES Centros Auditivos, Enrique Cameselle, echoed the Hugo Boss crew's thoughts. “Our opponents seem to want to maintain a more southerly route than the option we have chosen - north of the fleet.All of the weather information indicated a faster passage past the Azores if we were north.”

Once past the Azores, the boats will get into building northwesterlies that will get them most of the way to Europe. But now with an 80+ mile advantage it will be tough to catch the wily French.

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