Panerai-©JamesMitchell

Panerai-©JamesMitchell

 

Despite the physically demanding first few days of race the crews of the Panerai Transat Classique 2015 are continuing to push their “old ladies” as hard as they can. With such a marked contrast in the strategies chosen by the competitors, we can expect changes in the trade winds occurring in the next few days to upset the established order.

A record! Clocking up 273 nautical miles in twenty-four hours (an average of 11.4 knots), Altair has broken her previous best of 260 miles in one day. Not only that, the big schooner has covered 1,000 nautical miles in the first four days of the race (an average of 10.4 knots), thus achieving the goal Captain Stephane Benfield set for his antique vessel in the days leading up to the Panerai Transat Classiqe 2015. Surely William Fife III, the genius Scottish yacht designer, would be delighted to discover that one of his creations has performed so well eighty-four years after her launch. And positively proud after learning that another of his designs, Adventuress, the doyenne of the fleet dating from 1924, is currently leading the pack with a few minutes’ advantage over Altair. Prior to the race, pundits expected a duel between the “dragons” (nickname derived from the motifs carved into the bows of every Fife) and they haven’t been disappointed.

“We won’t give an inch”

Faced with such juggernauts, the other yachts in the race will have to redouble their efforts if they want to be in with a chance of a place on the podium… and that’s exactly what they are doing. The symbolic threshold of 200 miles per day has been exceeded by more than half the fleet, averaging eight knots, sometimes nine, day after day. And to those who thought the crews wouldn’t dare push their “old ladies” to the limit, just take a look at the figures and you’ll be convinced otherwise. Vagabundo II and Desiderata are hanging in there and their perseverance is paying off with a respectable 5th and 7th place in corrected time respectively, and with only a few hours behind the leaders. Argyll, the Stephens design from 1948, has swiped 3rd place from Gweneven with a lead of twenty small minutes, and the elegant Mylne plan from 1930, The Blue Peter, is consistently logging 200 nautical miles per day.

Messages received from the boats attest to the single-minded determination of every watch to push its sailing thoroughbred harder than the next. For example, here’s what Oren Nataf aboard Gweneven, the smallest vessel in the fleet, had to write earlier in the day: “We’ve been sailing side by side with Corto since sun up. She’s slightly faster than us but we’re a determined bunch and won’t give an inch. They’ve just put their big kite back in the locker whereas we’re still flying ours in twenty-six knots of wind. Lucas, Gildas and Clément have been at the helm and took advantage of the darkness to gain a few miles. We’re in the heat of the battle and overtook Desiderata yesterday, calling her up on the VHF as we passed. This isn’t a cruise and Gildas [Ed: sailed in several Figaros, winning some legs] has been baring his teeth…

Corto flashed at 16.6 knots!

They’re just as motivated aboard Faïaoahé, even if they ease off the throttle at night: “We start the night with three reefs in our mainsail and the yankee. Sky’s looking black, wind steady at 25 knots, gusting 30-35 in the squalls. The forecast thinks there might be 40 knots tonight. So we’re being careful. And even with this sail plan we’re clocking up 8 to 10 knots with ease. We’re seeing less of the moon as the days pass. It’s a shame, because the recent moonlit nights were splendid.” Keeping more or less shtum since the start, Corto’s crew has been knuckling down to the job of racing. Bruno Jourdren, Sonar world champion in 2013 and 2014, silver medallist in the Beijing Paralympics and winner of the 1998 Transat Ag2r, is optimistic but remains lucid: “All’s well out here after three days of very lively conditions, as you might have guessed. We decided to take things easy in light of the forecast and the expected sea state. We’ve had a few setbacks but nothing serious. The boat is once again 100 % operational. We’re currently flying the kite in a wind varying between 20 and 27 knots. Perfect conditions! She’s sliding along at 9 to 12 knots, sometimes faster. Corto’s record was beaten two days ago by Malik with a brief 16.6 knots. Everybody on board has found their feet. We are now in full racing mode! By the sounds of it we’re better off at sea at the moment. All the best, the crew of Corto.”

For Amazon the northern route continues to pay dividends and the big Stephens yawl is determined to catch up with Altair, sailing much further to the south, to claim back the lead in real time. With such hugely different routes, every change in the conditions has the potential to cause an upset on the race board. So far the big girls have been benefitting from the strong winds but the latest forecast suggests the trades might have a change of heart and cast a favourable gaze upon the smaller vessels in the race. So what are the trade winds going to do? If they ease off, expect the lighter yachts to play catch-up with their larger and heavier counterparts. This year’s Panerai Transat Classique is full of surprises and there will be more to come. Count on it!

Panerai-©JamesMitchell

Panerai-©JamesMitchell

Rk Boat Position Depuis 4 heures Depuis 24 heures DTF
Heure UT Position Cap Vites VMG Cap Vitesse VMG Distane
1 Altair Goélette aurique / gaff schooner 1931 • 40.78m • bois / wood 18:40 UTC-20mi 22°04.89’N34°08.28’W 264 10.9 10.9 270 11.2 10.9 266.75 1611.3 nm0.0 nm
2 Amazon Yawl 1971 • 22.25m • Acier / steel 17:54 UTC-66mi 25°24.64’N33°00.85’W 258 8.8 8.8 258 8.7 8.7 208.93 1722.6 nm111.3 nm
3 Adventuress goélette aurique / gaff schooner 1924 • 31.10m • Bois / wood 18:18 UTC-42 23°33.49’N32°22.08’W 261 9.6 9.6 265 9.5 9.4 226.04 1726.7 nm115.4 nm
4 Faiaoahe Sloop 2006 • 20.14m • Aluminium 19:00 UTC 26°35.10’N32°21.14’W 265 8.2 8.0 261 8.2 8.1 197.69 1778.6 nm167.3 nm
5 Argyll Yawl 1948 • 17.50 • Bois / Wood 18:35 UTC-25min 23°27.22’N30°51.29’W 255 9.0 9.0 258 8.5 8.5 203.45 1806.5 nm195.2 nm
6 The Blue Peter Cotre bermudien / Bermuda cutter 1930 • 19.65m • Bois / Wood 19:04 UTC4min 22°13.80’N30°28.31’W 263 9.0 9.0 262 8.8 8.8 211.73 1813.1 nm201.8 nm
7 Corto Sloop bermudien / Bermuda sloop 1970 • 13.00m • GRP 18:57 UTC-3min 22°59.13’N30°02.16’W 254 8.7 8.7 252 8.2 8.1 195.87 1845.1 nm233.7 nm
8 Gweneven Sloop 1975 • 11.60m • Polyester 19:00 UTC 22°58.07’N30°00.73’W 252 8.1 8.1 252 8.3 8.2 198.05 1846.2 nm234.8 nm
9 Vagabundo II ketch bermudien / Bermuda ketch 1945 • 13.50m • Bois / Wood 17:51 UTC-69min 25°03.33’N29°52.69’W 256 7.4 7.4 259 7.7 7.7 184.33 1880.6 nm269.3 nm
10 Desiderata Ketch 1975 • 20.12m 17:53 UTC-67min 23°07.19’N29°14.06’W 250 7.2 7.1 251 7.6 7.5 180.63 1890.1 nm278.8 nm
Panerai-©JamesMitchell

Panerai-©JamesMitchell

Panerai-©JamesMitchell

Panerai-©JamesMitchell

Panerai-©JamesMitchell

Panerai-©JamesMitchell

Panerai-©JamesMitchell

Panerai-©JamesMitchell