The race morning update 09/11 - 07:11
The two leading Multi50s in the Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe solo transatlantic race are set to make technical pit stops in the Azores in short succession.
First-placed Thibaut Vauchel-Camus tacked his Solidaires en Peloton-ARSEP to the west, upwind in 20-25 knots, towards the island group at around 0230hrs (CET) this morning, and away from his duel with Erwan Le Roux.
But rival Le Roux on FenêtréA-Mix Buffet is expected to follow suit. He is expected to head to Punta Delgado where he is due to rendezvous with his technical team. A statement from the 2014 Multi50 race-winner’s team, made early this morning, confirmed Le Roux has been struggling with autopilot problems and his technicians are en route to the Azores. Vauchel-Camus’ problems are so far unspecified.
This presents an opportunity for third-placed Armel Tripon, who is 300 miles further to the east on Reauté Chocolat and 186 miles behind the leader, and fourth-placed Gilles Lamire on French Tech Rennes Saint Malo who is only a couple of miles further back but much closer to the Azores.
Negotiating the eastern side of the Azores anticyclone, IMOCA leader Alex Thomson has seen speeds drop to eight or nine knots overnight in the light, unsettled northeasterly breezes of just five to eight knots. But the British skipper has so far contained any advance from the two French skippers to his east, Paul Meilhat on SMA and Vincent Riou on PRB.
The band of light, unsettled winds caused by the high pressure, will occupy Thomson and his opponents throughout today. The British skipper’s patience may be tested but he knows he has the fastest machine compared to the French skippers. He will have also noticed the reaching speed deficit of PRB amid widespread speculation that Riou’s boat has suffered damage to her foils.
Germany’s Boris Herrmann remains the fastest of the leading IMOCAs and is disputing the lead with his much more westerly routing on Malizia II-Yacht Club de Monaco. Herrmann is computed to be just 13 miles behind his English friend Thomson and gaining steadily, but he will face a much more complicated, prolonged transition through the Azores anticyclone and a period of upwind sailing afterwards.
The Class40 leaders have had another breezy, tough night but at the latitude of Cape St Vincent this morning, they might finally be able to contemplate a change of regime as their winds ease back to a mere 22-25kts.
The 2016 winner of the Solitaire du Figaro, Yoann Richomme, continues to dominate and is sailing with the metronomic regularity born of many years on the French solo Figaro scene. His new, 2018-launched Veedol-AICis consistently up to one knot quicker than the older IMERYS CLEAN ENERGY of second-placed British skipper Phil Sharp.
In the Tropics, meanwhile, the overall race leader François Gabart on MACIF is now making easy miles, averaging 25 knots, yet still shadowed by Francis Joyon on IDEC Sport at 130 miles behind.
Gabart will hold onto his long port gybe through all of today but the approach to Guadeloupe looks complicated and downwind in 15 knots of easterly breeze. The final miles will require precision gybes and the French ace will be made to work hard for victory right to the finish line.