Friday, November 5, 2010

The sense of anticipation

Route du Rhum - La Banque Postale 2010
From Saint Malo to Pointe-a-Pitre
Normally, during this time of year, the tradewinds are generally nice and steady, yet it has to be said that this doesn't appear to be the case for the competitors in the Ultimate Class competing in the Route du Rhum La Banque Postale.

Positioned 300 miles to the North of Groupama 3, Thomas Coville's Sodebo is enjoying stronger wind from a better direction to maintain a high average speed. In this way, the skipper has been able to make up 86 miles on the leader over the past 24 hours.

Similarly, Francis Joyon, who is positioned to the East of Groupama 3, has made up 60 miles of his deficit, whilst Yann Guichard has lost around a hundred miles.

On the Atlantic race zone then, things aren't exactly sticking to the usual routine. Variable both in terms of strength and direction, the wind is imposing a fast physical rhythm on the sailors, who not only have to keep watch for sudden surges of breeze to avoid capsizing, but also wind holes, so as they don't lose ground on their rivals by keeping an unsuitable sail configuration up for too long.

To spice things up a bit, you have no prior warning about how long this phase will last: you think it's going to last a good while so you manoeuvre by hoisting or reducing the sail area. Lots of physical effort is involved at that point, as well as a drop in speed as you perform the manoeuvres. If your forecast proves to be right then it's BINGO. There you are carrying the correct sail configuration, happy with the efforts you've made to get where you are. Where the opposite is true, it's hell. You're stuck fast or forced to go up on deck to avoid the risk of capsizing.

Such is the life of the multihull skipper, who only sleeps in 20 minute chunks.

Suffice to say that as the skippers begin to tackle the sixth day at sea, just 1,338 miles from the finish, the fatigue must be seriously beginning to make its presence felt. There's no question of easing off the pace though: you have to earn a Rhum!

Positions at 1500 hours on Friday 5th November
1/ Groupama 3 some 1,338 miles from the finish
2/ Sodebo 260.6 miles from the leader
3/ Idec 309.4 miles astern
4/ Gitana 11 some 453 miles astern
5/ La Boite à Pizza 905.2 miles astern

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