Soufriere claims scalps

Route du Rhum Ultime class' fourth and sixth places decided in the lee of Guadeloupe

Wednesday November 12th 2014, Author: James Boyd, Location: Guadeloupe

The Ultimes have all now completed their Route du Rhums. However there was no shortage of drama in the final miles coming into Pointe-a-Pitre. First in the morning Sidney Gavignet and Musandam-Oman Sail had a hard earned fourth place stolen from him in the final miles by Lionel Lemonchois on Prince de Bretagne. Then in the afternoon Yann Elies and his Paprec Recyclage MOD70 suffered the same fate at the hands of Francis Joyon on IDEC Sport.

In both cases it was the disturbing influence in the lee of the 4183ft (1467m) high volcanic mountain Soufriere that causes these mishaps. Gavignet had applied conventional logic and stayed offshore out of the immediate lee of the high land of Guadeloupe, but came to a virtual standstill as Lemonchois who had been some miles behind approaching Guadeloupe merely sped up the inside track, close to the land, to steal fourth place of him, finishing just 1.5 hours ahead.

The same occurred later in the afternoon to Elies who led around the western leeward side of the island, only to stall allowing Joyon to passhim and claim sixth place, finishing at 17:42:04 UTC with Elies, a relative newcomer to the Multi70, left wallowing 14 miles behind.

(Zooming into Guadeloupe on the race tracker - when it's working properly, it's currently broken - makes for some entertaining viewing of this).

Gavignet on the dock could not hold back his disappointment, his usual upbeat, glass half full positivity broken by the final hours: “I made 99% of my mistakes in the last two hours. Sorry, but I'd like to scream with joy, but I'm still fed up. I have sailed really badly over the past couple of hours.

“It was a great race and we were sailing fast. But I can't hide the fact that I'm disappointed. I have had to smooth things over. This is still a fantastic race with magnificent boats. I haven't broken anything apart from a windscreen I left a bit too far up and that got smashed by the waves.

"We got through it. At the end there were still squalls between 12 and 25 knots, so it was a bit on the edge, but no one capsized, as they're all good sailors. But it could have been different. It's fantastic to spend days sailing downwind. With Seb (Sébastien Josse), we were keeping a close eye on each other. I'm pretty certain he kept looking at the rankings. It's nice to be able to sleep when you're going along at 30 knots, when you know your boat well. But it's not something I'm going to do every day."

Joyon commented: “You can never look forward to a simple finish, but going around Guadeloupe was really tough. You had to really work hard. I must have done three loops in the water before managing to round the Basse-Terre buoy. It was particularly hard. In this final stretch, the weather was more suited to a light boat rather than a heavy one like IDEC. I had little hope of getting by Yann in these light conditions, but I managed it.

"Right at the start I dropped something heavy on my computer screen: the screen completed exploded and could not be used. I had a spare computer, but there was a huge bug, as it would switch itself off every couple of minutes. So I could see the charts for two or three minutes, but I couldn’t establish my waypoints, so that was a problem. I did have a portable GPS with me, so it wasn’t hard pinpointing where I was. So it wasn’t really like in the old days with a sextant! I made a bit of a comeback off Portugal but it cost me a lot, as my central rudder hit something. The time it took for me to realise what had happened, the lines at the helm had become wrongly set. By the morning it was hard to steer my boat.”

Ultimes finish times:
1-Loick Peyron (Maxi Solo Banque Populaire Solo VII): 7d 15h 08m 32s
2-Yann Guichard (Spindrift 2): 8d 05h 18m 46s
3-Sébastien Josse (Edmond de Rothschild): 8d 14h 47 09
4-Lemonchois (Prince de Bretagne): 8d 17h 44m 50s
5-Sidney Gavignet (Musandam - Oman Sail): 8d 19h 15m 24s
6 Francis Joyon (IDEC Sport): 9d 5h 42m 04s‏
7-Yann Elies (Paprec Recyclage): 9dh 5h 48m 15s

Images courtesy of Expedition and Predictwind

Click on images to enlarge them

Meanwhile the lead Multi 50s will be the next arrivals with Erwan LeRoux on Fenetrea-Cardinal with 408 miles to sail at 09:48 and, as anticipated, having extended his lead to 114 miles over second placed Arkema Region Aquitaine, sailed by former Banque Populaire ORMA 60 skipper Lalou Roucayrol. LeRoux has been sailing high to place himself between Roucayrol and the mark, however Roucayrol also seems to be staying high, which seems odd as with the wind fluctuating betwen the east and the southeast there appears to be no manoeuvres required before reaching Guadeloupe and if there is more pressure to be had it appears it will be on Le Roux' side of the race track.

Around 150 miles behind, and approaching Guadeloupe on a more southerly course, Francois Gabart appears to have turned on the afterburners aboard MACIF. In fact the Vendee Globe winner has sailed into more southeasterly pressure enabling him to more than double his lead over second placed Jeremie Beyou on Maitre Coq, from 39 miles to 87 at the latest sched. The biggest loser over the last 24 hours has been former Mini Transat winner Armel Tripon on For Humble Heroes (the former Groupe Bel) who has lost 100 miles to the leader over this period. Meanwhile in fifth place, Louis Burton on Bureau Vallee (ex-Delta Dore) has decided to quit his flier to the extreme south and has just put in a costly gybe north.

The Class40s remains the most competitive in the Route du Rhum fleet with the battle for first place remaining close with Spain's Alex Pella on TALES 2 Santander doggedly holding on to first place ahead of Kito de Pavant on Otio-Bastide Medical, just 10 miles behind at the 08:48 UTC sched. Of the front four former Vendee Globe skipper Yannick Bestaven has now swapped sides of the course and from being furthest south yesterday morning, is now furthest north. Pella in the early hours of this morning put in a hitch to the south but has since gybed back, all the boats now on a more or less due west course. 

Unfortunately in the second wave of Class40s, Miranda Merron on Campagne de France has lost two places and is down to eighth after the south paid for Stephane Le Diraison on Ixblue-BRS and Fabrice Amedeo on SNCF Geodis-Newrest. While she won't be happy about this, the good news for Miranda is that eighth place is looking comfortable to defend as ninth placed Damien Seguin on ERDF-des pieds et des mains is more than 100 miles astern of her, although he is leading a trio of boats that dived south overnight.

The group led by Halvard Mabire on 12th placed Campagne 2 France, that was heading west and looking set to 'cut the corner' around the high, appear to have thought better of this overnight and have en masse dived south - there doesn't appear to have been any major shift, this is due to them seeing a drop in pressure as they close on the high. Mabire and the boats around him are all making around 3 knots less than those in the 'second wave' ahead of them.

Just behind this group is Sir Robin Knox-Johnson on the Open 60 Grey Power. After spending days resolutely heading southwest, overnight Sir Robin has also been doing some manoeuvring to get south, like the Class40s immediately ahead of him to stay in solid pressure. 

He writes: "Last night, for a while, it was more like the Doldrums: Perfect for a cruise across the Atlantic, but frustrating for racing. I slept in the cockpit last night so I could see the Windex which indicates where the wind is coming from at the masthead, and adjust course as the wind shuffled around. Eventually I reached a satisfactory setting and the next thing I knew three hours had passed. That is the longest single sleep I have had since the start and it felt wonderful.

It looks as if the Azores High is splitting, and certainly its southern extremity has moved south. Those who got south earlier have benefited, those of us who were trying to get south but had not got far enough, are suffering. To avoid going closer into the High I gybed yesterday evening and have been on a direct south course since, so I can get to stronger winds south of the high. It’s gritted teeth time.

I know I was within six miles of third position, so this inevitably effects my position in class, but there are five of us within 50 miles of each other on distance to the finish, so plenty for us all to go for.

Gybing, in fact tacking or a sail change makes me appreciate just how big everything is on these boats. It’s nothing compared to the Ultime class of course, the big multihulls that are now all finished. How those guys cope is a miracle and a testament to their ability, and frankly, their courage.

But the trouble with the larger boats is not that you cannot do all the jobs, it’s just you cannot do them as effectively. When I did this race in 1982 on my 70 foot Catamaran Olympus 5, I could gybe the boat, including gennaker, in seven minutes. Now that process takes 20 minutes on this boat.

Maybe I should get a smaller boat for future races?



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