November 12 2017
The two huge trimarans, both over 30 metres long, are expected to cross the finish line in the Bay of All Saints between 12 and 16:00 UTC tomorrow. Seb Josse, the skipper of Maxi Edmond de Rothschild, was spot on when he predicted an eight-day finish three days before the start.
A 40 mile lead for Sodebo Ultim
At 16:00 UTC today Sodebo Ultim’ had a 40-mile lead, but in patchy easterlies off the north-east coast of Brazil was four knots slower than its more powerful pursuer. By the evening with boats getting back towards 30 knots there may be little more than an hour between them.
Whoever wins, the race record will be smashed.
The fastest finish to Salvador remains Franck Cammas on Groupama 2’s astonishing 10day 0h 38min win in 2007 in the 60ft multihull class.
For Thomas Coville, the skipper of Sodebo Ultim’ it would a second Transat Jacques Vabre victory to add to his 1999 win on a very different beast – an Imoca 60ft monohull. Coville has concentrated more on solo round-the-world records in trimarans since and broke the record in December. For he and co-skipper Jean-Luc Nélias it is a measure of revenge after another newly-launched maxi, François Gabart’s Macif beat them in 2015.
Maxi Edmond de Rothschild skipper Seb Josse’s best finishing time was his 11days 5 hours 3min win with Charles Caudrelier on the MOD70 trimaran Edmond de Rothschild in the 2013 edition – that time to Itajaí, Brazil.
The dilemma for Coville and Nélias is that they do not know if Josse and Thomas Rouxel’ boat have a technical problem and whether they can control the race against a potentially more powerful rival.
“Even with their technical problem they’re going at the same speed as us,” Nélias said. “Control is the whole problem, it’s possible if you’re going at the same speed, with the same boat in the same class, but now we don’t know if can control them or whether they’re going to go faster,”
Nélias predicts a complicated light upwind finish after the north-easterly drag race down the coast.
The first Multi50s (just after the last Ultime, Prince de Bretagne) entered the Doldrums – still loitering at 7°N this afternoon, going through what they hope will be the fastest door between the 28°W and the 30°W. According to Richard Silvani of Météo France: “As for the Ultime, there is a mouse hole there where the activity is less, the Multi50 should not be too slow.” Erwan Leroux et Vincent Riou on FenêtréA – Mix Buffet have not escaped from Lalou Roucayrol and Alex Pella on Arkema, who stemmed the losses and then made 10 miles back today to be 93 miles behind with 1,300 miles of the racetrack left.
The Imoca are passing the Cape Verde archipelago. As predicted by SMA yesterday, west is best, so the fleet has refined its trajectory, gybing behind St Michel-Virbac. That manoeuvring has cost every one miles to the leader, with SMA and Des Voiles et Vous! now 60 and 117 miles behind respectively. British skipper, Sam Davies, with Tanguy de Lamotte on Initiatives-Cœur – despite a mast climb - have moved from seventh into fifth, but have lost about 80 miles on the leader in the last 24 hours and are now 226 miles behind. All are positioning themselves for what they hope will be the best route through the ITCZ (Intertropical Convergence Zone, aka the Doldrums), but it is still too early to know how active it will be. The leaders will start entering the Doldrums overnight into Tuesday.
Phil Sharp and Pablo Santurde (Imerys Clean Energy) are watching their lead get nibbled away to six miles as the frontrunners flirt with a ridge of high pressure between the Canaries and Cape Verde generated by a depression in the west that is moving north. Imerys’s speed has dropped to under 8 knots, while those positioned further east are finding more pressure. The depression is momentarily breaking the trade wind. Sharp, still battling with communications and weather files on his back-up Satcom after an antenna failure, explained that the loss of 30 miles of their lead had come from finding a mountain of seaweed on their keel. He was forced to stop and dive under the boat to check.