Back to zero ?
Tuesday 29 May 2012
Francois Gabart took a slender lead on Leg 2 of the Europa Warm’Up race this Monday afternoon on Macif as leader Jean Pierre Dick, the winner of the first stage slipped some miles against the new leading trio.
Early this morning Dick was up ahead by 13 miles or so but he has been swallowed back into the pack, 3 miles behind Macif.
JP would be forgiven for thinking he had done the hard bit, escaping first from the high pressure ridge first between Sunday and today, but in solo ocean racing skippers never have far to look for problems or setbacks.
Indeed if the seven solo skippers had thought Leg 1 had been the nerve shredder and Leg 2 might promise some more straightforward strategic choices, then this passage from Cascais to La Rochelle, taking in the Azores and the Fastnet promises to test patience and stamina as much as guile and drive.
It seems from the afternoon and evening position polls that the two leaders might have eased off the accelerator a little.
Small technical issues have already contributed to slow periods for other skippers, as well as the light winds of the ridge. But no matter who is saying what – or holding their counsel – it is obvious there has been something of a restart with five of the seven boats back within 5 miles of each other after 24 hours or so of racing since leaving Cascais, Sunday afternoon.
And with the five all closed together then monitoring just who is sailing to potential, to their expected polars, will reveal more to each other about which skippers might already be harbouring damage or problems of any kind. Vincent Riou (PRB), Armel Le Cléac’h (Banque Populaire) as well as Bernard Stamm (Cheminées Poujoulat) might hope their opportunities now come to attack the leaders. Even Kito de Pavant on Groupe Bel might will likely consider that his 20 miles deficit can be reduced.
Of course the mental mind games of solo ocean racing are part of the contest. Hiding or disguising any little handicap, a small technical issue is to appear strong to the opponents. Who can forget the collection of little problems that Michel Desjoyeaux hid until he finished his extraordinary come from behind victory in the last Vendée Globe?
This early in a race which is essentially of Transatlantic distance and duration, cards are played extremely tightly to the chest..
Meanwhile, the fleet continues to move towards the Azores islands’ Santa Maria. It is of course well known to the soloists and Transat Jacques Vabre racers not just for being a milestone en route, but it the island chain can offer some nasty wind shadows, not least the effect of Mount Pico which at 590 metres is Portugal’s highest mountain rising sharply from the dark lava of the volcanic island.
Vincent Riou (PRB): “I have just changed the genoa to the solent. If there is a maneuver which is knackering it’s this one. The wind has just gone up to 17-18 knots and it’s pretty wet on deck. We are close to Armel (Le Cléac’h) and it’s always nice to have someone to guage yourself against. I don’t really feel like I have had to adapt to the rhythm of solo sailing. But now we have had almost three weeks at sea, so I am into this pace easily.”
Armel Le Cléac’h (Banque Populaire): “All is well, it’s fine. I sail alongside Vincent… with a few clouds were looming on the horizon that should see the wind backing to the west. Every time I passed the Azores, it was at night. One day I’ll go there for a cruise. Apparently it is beautiful, but whenever I have been there it’s been dark!”
Ranking at 18h
Dist. to finish (MN)
Dist. to leader (MN)
37 26.68′ N
18 57.84′ W
37 10.04′ N
18 56.48′ W
36 59.44′ N
18 56.12′ W
37 39.08′ N
18 55.16′ W
37 24.28′ N
18 24.24′ W
37 50.16′ N
18 27.40′ W
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37 37.20′ N
17 58.00′ W