Long port gybe drag race to Guadeloupe

Gabart continues to lead the IMOCA 60 charge as Alex Pella is up to first in the Class40s in the Route du Rhum

Tuesday November 11th 2014, Author: James Boyd, Location: none selected

At the time of writing, the Ultime race in the Route du Rhum is all but over with an amazing performance put in by Loick Peyron claiming line honours on Maxi Solo Banque Populaire VII, the same boat that won in 2010 as Groupama 3 in the hands of Franck Cammas.

It is interesting to note that in this race we probably have found the limit where a boat gets 'too big' to be raced singlehanded, for while fully crewed the 40m long Spindrift 2 would easily outpace the 31.5m long Banque Pop, it appears that it was just too hard for Yann Guichard to get the potential out of the big tri on his own - he said it would take him four hours just to hoist the genniker for example. It is also a real shame that we didn't get to see if Thomas Coville has got the formula right with his latest Sodebo (following her collision with a cargo ship on the first night of the race).

With Francis Joyon and IDEC Sport bringing up the rear, it also appears that the seven year old generation of Irens-Cabaret 100 footers no longer have the legs singlehanded. However Joyon coming in last could also mean that he's had some monumental problem which he hasn't gone public with.

We expect to hear more in the next few months about the prospect for a singlehanded non-stop round the world race in the Ultimes.

Images courtesy of Expedition and Predictwind

Meanwhile in the IMOCA class, with annoyingly relentless perfection to his sailing, Francois Gabart and MACIF continue to lead. Apart from a hitch to the northwest over the early hours of yesterday morning, MACIF and second placed Maitre Coq have been continuing a long, long port gybe that at present has them laying the north end of Guadeloupe. At present they are sailing deep on port gybe in 15-20 knot easterlies and while it is currently northeasterly closer to the Caribbean, this looks set to veer usefully into the ESE and drop slightly as they approach Guadeloupe, the finish line still 914 miles away from MACIF at the 08:48 UTC sched this morning.

With Marc Guillemot and Safran still some 150 miles astern of Maitre Coq, the IMOCA class seems set to remain a two horse race to the finish.

Finally the top Multi 50s have overhauled the IMOCA 60s. Here again there is a two boat race with Erwan Le Roux on Fenetrea Cardinal currently 52 miles ahead (in terms of DTF) of Lalou Roucayrol on Arkema Region Aquitaine. Also with his track being some 60 miles to the south of his rival, Le Roux is better positioned to be on a hotter point of sail coming into the finish.

Yves le Blevec on the pre-start race favourite, Actual, is still almost 400 miles off the lead and despite being on a more southerly course than the two frontrunners looks unlikely to catch them. The best skipper Yves le Blevec can hope for is to overhaul Gilles Lamire on board Rennes Metropole-St Malo Agglomeration (the old Prince de Bretagne) to claim the final spot on the Multi 50 podium. 

Behind them the Class40s, since our last update, have more or less split into three groups. The lead four are currently furthest south, in fact even further south than the Ultimes went when they passed through these waters more than a week ago. Firmly into the northeast trades, some repositioning has been going on among the leaders with all of them having gybed northwest over the course of this morning. Among the top three it remains close with Spain's Alex Pella on the speedy Botin Partners design TALES 2 Santander taking the lead at the first sched this morning from Kito de Pavant on Otio-Bastide Medical. Meanwhile Yannick Bestaven on the latest Verdier design, Le Conservateur is holding the most southerly berth.

Leading the group behind them is former Mini sailor Pierre Brasseur on the Owen-Clarke designed Matouba in fifth, very much punching above his weight, while Miranda Merron on Campagne de France is currently positioned to the north. However she has Stephane Le Diraison on Ixblue-BRS and Fabrice Amedeo on SNCF Geodis-Newrest breathing down her neck, both within 10 miles of her and set to pass behind her (on the favoured gybe in terms of DTF) when she comes across on port gybe this afternoon. 

Miranda will no doubt be entertained to see that her partner Halvard Mabire on the newer Pogo 40 S3 Campagne de France is leading the third wave of Class 40s, which look set to be cutting the corner on the boats ahead. The wily Mabire's track (and those following him) looks set to be some 100 miles to the north of the front runners.

Back in the Rhum class, Sir Robin Knox-Johnston is up to sixth place in his Open 60 Grey Power but is in fact just 18 miles off third place! He is currently match racing with Willy Bissainte on the Pogo 40 Tradysion Gwadloup, with fourth placed Pierre-Yves Chatelin on the Lombard-design RM 1350 Destination Calais positioned some way to their north.

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