Transat Jacques Vabre, full speed ahead to the finish line
The hoped for grandstand finish in Martinique is beginning to look likely as Ultimes and Ocean Fiftys begin their approaches to the line. The IMOCA leaders continue their high-speed cat and mouse chase whilst for the Class 40s it’s decision time.
Class 40 – decisions, decisions
Most of the Class 40 fleet are at the Cape Verde islands but none have yet committed to the right turn to the west to Martinique. The leaders are travelling further south to find the ideal route, "We are playing with the small variations in the wind. Yesterday was a busy day with Cape Verde to get around with plenty of complicated breezes. We finally managed to get out and find a more established wind last night. It was annoying to have to head south" explains Axel Trehin, co-skipper of 7th placed Project Rescue Ocean.
The trade winds seem to be more established to the south, so there are two choices; West with less win but a shorter route, or South with more wind but a longer route.
IMOCA – a sprint to the finish
Led by LinkedOut who passed the waypoint at Fernando de Noronha first, the leading three boats are skirting the north east of Brazil. Just 3.5 hours separates the leader from third placed Charal. Charlie Dalin and Paul Meilhat are the boat in between.
It's a 250 mile separation back to Arkéa-Paprec and Britain's Sam Davies on Initiatives-Cœur who are involved in a fascinating battle for fourth place. Davies, who's expected to reach Fernando de Noronha this evening is enjoying the tussle, "We are happy to be in the trade winds to the south, we are going fast! The current and the weather have been complicated. We had to do a lot of gybing so it was quite sporty, but we're used to that after the Canaries and Cape Verde (laughs). We're looking forward to seeing the Martinique coast, but for now we're living in the moment."
Ocean Fifty – gybe fest
With 1000 nautical miles to the finish line in Martinique the leading Ocean Fifty multis are closing in on the Ultimes, who are completing a longer course. The leaders of the two classes are just 400 miles apart so in about 36 hours we should see a grandstand sprint to the line between the fastest boats in the race.
Meanwhile the Ocean Fifty crews are facing a tough gybing routine in the strong 20-25 knots tradewinds, a race mode that allows for very little sleep. Sam Goodchild (GBR) and Aymeric Chappellier have been working hard to keep their high speeds consistent,"We have been a bit busy gybing, like with an hour between each gybe we were trying to catch up on rest as much as we can so we only have been getting 45 minutes each maximum rest. We have been struggling a little bit for speed compared to Koesio which is kind of forcing us to keep trying new things and we are discovering new things, little by little."
Ultimes – freeway sailing
Still led by Franck Cammas and Charles Caudrelier on Maxi Edmond de Rothschild the Ultimes will experience a similar sailing mode to the Ocean Fifty trimarans. The gybes will follow one another for half a day until the easterly changeover, where they will be able to reduce the manoeuvres and finish in a straight sprint towards the finish.
Banque Populaire XI in second is keeping a close eye on fourth placed SVR-Lazartigue who are only 50 miles further back. Armel Le Cléac'h and Kevin Escoffier confirm the wind is expected to strengthen from behind, "We're watching François and Tom more, so that they don't take miles away from us."
The finish is getting closer with an ETA scheduled for this Tuesday evening (UTC).