Isobelle Joschke (MACSF)
Retour à La Base, Richomme's bold moves north are paying off
For the meantime Yoann Richomme (Paprec-Arkea) is pulling out the stops as he continues to lead the Retour à La Base solo IMOCA race from Martinique to Lorient. So far he has been prepared to push harder and go slightly further north than the pack of boats chasing him. Benefiting from more wind he has nearly doubled his lead since yesterday.
And while he appears to have a boat and sails at close to 100%, more and more of the chasing pack have technical problems or have been more conservative. Whilst Jéremie Beyou (Charal) suffered with wind instrument and pilot problems he has been back on the attack, making good speeds today and getting back up to second place, duelling with third placed Sam Goodchild (FOR THE PLANET), both about 45 miles back on Richomme.
And after racing to a new 24 hours distance record to yesterday afternoon 539.1 miles Thomas Ruyant (FOR PEOPLE) suffered rudder problems last night which led to an involuntary gybe which tore his mainsail. His team reported this morning,
"In an involuntary gybe that followed (the rudder damage), the mainsail tore. A section of the starboard rudder up/down system went through part of the aft deck. Thomas has gone from "performing" to repairing, temporarily slowing down."
Meantime Goodchild gave a good insight into the balance between going north in the low pressure system or being more conservative, "It is going OK, I was not feeling in great shape yesterday but I'm getting better. I just gybed and am heading north. In the next 24 hours it is all about when we gybe and decide to go north. Go early it means more wind and more sea state, go late and there is the Azores and there is the potential to get caught in the light winds patch there. It's about trying to find that balance. Right now I am going north to try and get a bit closer to Yoann who has done quite well up there. I am not sure how much of that is boat speed and he is sailing quicker or tactical navigation and he has a better angle. We don't have the same boats and sails for going through a sea state. So that will be interesting. Yesterday was really gnarly and today has, pleasantly, been a bit better. I have set up the boat slightly differently which helps. I have a few small issues but nothing to affect performance, just things to keep an eye on. You need to do the regular checks to make sure nothing becomes an issue. And I am trying to find a way of sailing that is not too hard on the boat, speed and reliability. This boat has a lot more potential than I am using at the moment but it if I did it would just implode."
And over the course of this Tuesday afternoon more of the 'usual subjects' - those with a history of attacking or strong boats - have gybed to go north. Germany's Boris Herrmann (Malizia Seaexplorer) is holding high average speeds and has gybed this afternoon as has the hard driving maverick Louis Burton (Bureau Vallée).
Hunting for it
" I can see Yoann is really hunting, he is going for it and very much close to the routing." Observes British round the world racer Alan Roberts this afternoon, " All the routings now and for the last 24 hours show gybing and going north to find the shift. Boats more in the north will gain quite a bit on the boats in the south, they will get a big shift and a lot of breeze. But then it depends how extreme people want to go, there is up to 50kts in some gusts in the north and 5-6m seas. There others being more conservative but it is interesting to see a few people further back taking a couple of hitches north, and DMG. Sam Davies has got herself into a good position. I think Sam Goodchild is setting up to be quite conservative. I was surprised to not see Boris gybe up (which he has now). Clarisse is going to play it quite safe, and Louis Burton so far is staying quite conservative. But the problem to an extent is you play it safe and get through this low and end up in not very much wind between the two systems on Thursday and Friday morning – between the systems – and that is when the boats in the north will profit. The optimal routing I have goes right to the north edge of the Azores gate, so it will be interesting."
The intensity of the racing in the middle of the fleet is just as exceptional. Pip Hare (Medallia), Isabelle Joschke (MACSF) and Romain Attanasio (Fortinet-Best Western) were, Hare reported today, within two miles of each other. The British skipper reported that when she gybed she had taken ten minutes to do a deck check with her boat slowed, but in so doing had lost hard earned distance on Attanasio. Hare is 12th , Attanasio 13th and Joschke 14th. In 11th Clarisse Crémer (L'Occitane en Provence) admitted she was reigning back her attack to a prudent mode to do her best to make sure she finishes with her and the boat intact.
Cremer said, " We are simply starting to enter the hard bit of this first depression that we are following East and I voluntarily choose now not to follow my optimal routings. It hurts my heart, I lose time on my finish time. But this is the choice I'm making to take as little risk as possible. We know I need to finish the race. It stands between me and the Vendée Globe. Especially for me. There are too many things at stake. I try to avoid the worst of the wind, the worst of the waves, even if it means missing the next nice window to get home. Don't get me wrong though this is still a race and if the opportunity arises I will always try to go faster than my neighbors, but not at all costs. But rather than looking at others, I pay less attention to them and try to concentrate on the course that I consider more prudent."