Dee Caffari and Brian Thompson Complete Transat (Photo by Marcel Mochet)

Dee Caffari and Brian Thompson Complete Transat (Photo by Marcel Mochet)

Dee and Brian completed the two-handed Transat Jacques Vabre race from Le Havre, France to Costa Rica onboard Aviva. The first week of the race saw the fleet battle through some extreme weather conditions and subsequent damage to boats forced four Open 60’s, including fellow British sailor Alex Thomson, to retire from racing.

Dee and Brian had their fair share of problems but were able to replace a lost wind instrument in a becalmed period. Generator issues meant that both sailors had to hand steer for the majority of the time as they were without the pilot, however, a speedy pit stop in St Lucia for a generator part enabled them to get powered back up and stay in the race. Towards the final stages, the duo raced hard to finish in 8th position from an original fleet of fourteen IMOCA Open 60 yachts that started the transatlantic race 19 days ago. In the last few hours of the race Aviva experienced very light winds making for a frustrating and protracted finish into the port of Limon.

The Transat Jacques Vabre was the last of the races validated by IMOCA in the two year Open 60 season and Aviva’s result earned additional points for both Dee and Brian. Out of 33 skippers, Caffari was ranked 6th, in her first full IMOCA season, and Thompson 8th. The World Championship title was won by Marc Guillemot, skipper of Safran.

Dee commented:
“To have finished 6th in the IMOCA rankings, alongside noted sailors like Michel Desjoyeaux and Marc Guillemot is an added bonus and makes me very proud of how much Aviva and I have achieved in the past two years.”
On arriving at the dock in Port Limon, Dee said:
“ The race was long and it was hard, in three different parts, the beginning and the stormy stuff, getting sorted out and then the finale in the Caribbean Sea. So it was very eventful, highs and lows. We have things to deal with and obviously a frustrating finish, but to be this close at the end of a race has been cool.
This is in a different league to my last Transat Jacques Vabre. Sailing with Brian has been great. He is cool and calm and you think: ‘ok this is fine and you get on with it.' So the intensity I have dealt with is much greater than I am used to. It was a much more enjoyable race than the Vendée Globe, and it was nice to be in among the people who were leading. The company I am keeping now is something I never even dreamed of. Now I want to carry on. I need to find the backing but I feel like I am growing at such a speed. This was a great race to do, you learn so much with the right person on board.”

Having now had chance to enjoy the creature comforts of dry land, like a shower, fresh food, a long sleep in a real bed and interaction with lots of people all at once, I have had chance to reflect on the race.

Having worked so hard and held such good positions during the race eighth place was disappointing at the time. The reality is that any of the four boats finishing with us could have finished in fifth and any order could have followed. We were in squall territory and it was a certain amount of luck for the final few miles. Even the conversations ashore with the other skippers and people involved in the race have all been talking about our huge gains at the end and also how fast we were at the start and during the big storm we all faced during the first week. This has off course made me feel better and I cannot deny I loved sailing Aviva again in a big race and it was great sailing with Brian. We had some problems to face and we did it all in a positive manner and had huge fun as well as the hard sailing together.

Now we are preparing the boat for the delivery home. Hannah Jenner and Katy Miller are busy helping with jobs on the boat to learn their way around as they will be joining James and Harry for the trip home. Let’s hope they will be home for Christmas. I know Aviva will look after them and I am confident that they will look after her well for me.

On arriving at the dock in Port Limon, Brian Thompson said:
“It was an interesting place to have the stealth play. There were light winds to the south on the more direct course, so people were deciding how far north to go, and we went a fairly direct course. It turned out there was a front which came through from Panama which gained us, we got through it early in the day and had clear skies for the rest of the day. Then we had nice sailing for the afternoon, maybe a little slower but we sailed less miles. But then we were next to W-Hotels and we thought it was Akena, but it was W-Hotels who had been 100 miles ahead. Then we were in constant squalls one after the other and were never becalmed until right near the end. They must have had the one squall which drove them all the way in.

Arrival At The Finish (Photo by Marcel Mochet / AFP)

Arrival At The Finish (Photo by Marcel Mochet / AFP)

It was a perfect, swashbuckling finale to bring the ninth edition of the Transat Jacques Vabre two handed transatlantic race towards its final conclusion. Marc Guillemot and Charles Caudrelier played the starring roles some days ago, Guillemot the hero of the Vendée Globe winning the top prize, but the final full day of racing proved a cliffhanger.
 
      After over 5,300 miles and nearly 20 days of racing, when all four protagonists, scrapping over 5th to 8th places emerged from the cover of stealth mode at 1000hrs GMT/UTC (0400hrs local) this morning, less than eight miles separated fifth placed Veolia Environnement (Roland Jourdain and Jean Luc Nélias) from seventh placed Aviva (Dee Caffari and Brian Thompson).
And Akéna Vérandas (Arnaud Boissieres and Vincent Riou) was a further 15.1 miles behind the British duo
Having held fifth place for five days – since they broke into the Caribbean – the Spanish duo on W-Hotels, were never going to give it away easily.
Passed for the second time in the final 12 hours by Veolia Environnement, when the French duo rocketed off into the rainy gloom of yet another squall, on the strength of a sail change the Spanish pair just could not make in the gusty 25 knots breeze, they felt that they were destined for sixth.
But their determination never wavered.
The next squall brought them back to rescue their fifth, arriving like a spectre from out of the murk at 17-18 knots to haunt Veolia for the third and final time, just half a mile from the finish.
It was perhaps appropriate that the surprised Spaniards – on their own voyage of discovery, racing an IMOCA Open 60 for the first time ever – cemented their success arriving Puerto Limon, in the wake of their legendary forebear Christopher Columbus who sailed to the New World in here in 1502.
Ribes and Pella finished four minutes and 16 second ahead of their French rivals, exhausted but pleased to have taken fifth, in between two of the most successful IMOCA Open 60 racing skippers, Michel Desjoyeaux and Jourdain.

Akena Verandas Making For The Finish (Photo by Marcel Mochet / AFP)

Akena Verandas Making For The Finish (Photo by Marcel Mochet / AFP)

They had only sailed together for a few days before embarking on this race, and learned as they came down the track. Standing smiling in the torrential rain on the dockside they admitted to many mistakes and ‘beginners errors’ but they can be justly proud of their result in this highest quality field.
The Spanish were delighted. But there was disappointment for Dee Caffari and Brian Thompson on Aviva. At one point they were, according to Ribes, 100 metres away from Aviva.
They waited for the British pair to tack and, in the end, chose to do their own thing, gaining 15 miles in to the finish.
The British pair slowed in a final light zone, losing out to Akéna Vérandas in the last stages to finish eighth, just 27 minutes behind the 2004-5 Vendée Globe winner Vincent Riou and skipper Arnaud Boissieres.

Caffari and Thompson’s disappointment in losing out in the high stakes scuffle, which was largely carried out in torrential tropical rain and changeable winds, was obvious but Caffari reflected enthusiastically on how much she has improved since she competed in the last edition in 2007 as an IMOCA greenhorn.

Gitana Eighty Crossing The Finish (Photo by Marcel Mochet /AFP/ Riva.fr)

Gitana Eighty Crossing The Finish (Photo by Marcel Mochet /AFP/ Riva.fr)

All four boats finished within just over three and a half hours. 1876 was due to finish by around 1800hrs GMT and Sam Davies and Sidney Gavignet on Artemis later tonight.

Quotes:
Pepe Ribes, (ESP), W-Hotels:

“ The last 36 hours have been no sleep, no eating, nothing. We played the stealth card and so did everyone else at the same time. And when we played the stealth it was the first time that we saw a boat, with Veolia just crossing our bows, that was yesterday morning. Then since then we passed them once and then they passed us again, then we passed them again just half a mile from the finish line. I really don’t know what made the difference in the end. We went to the beach and then we saw Aviva, who were very close to us, only 50 metres away.
We went with Aviva to the beach and we waited for them to tack but they did not tack, and so we tacked and from there we were reaching really, really fast maybe 18-19 knots.
Then we saw a light and thought it was a cruising boat. We were sure Veolia were way ahead. In one of the squalls they managed to drop their spinnaker and put up their masthead genoa and go straight, so we had to bear away. So they left. And when we saw a green light we thought it was a cruising boat. I looked with the binos and told Alex and we could not believe.”

“ I think it is good result for us, very very good. We were not expecting such a good result at all. We did not know the level, and for me I thought between tenth and fourteenth and we finished fifth, so, fantastic. It is a good result for me, and I hope for Spain.”

“ I feel very, very tired. But we made many, many mistakes. At the beginning, not so much now. We made a lot of mistakes and lost a lot of miles. But we are going forwards.”

“ I think we were pushing the boat very, very hard and broke a lot of things. We were good together. We tried to share everything and learn about each other. He has a lot of strong points and I have strong points and it works well. He is more like an offshore sailor, more relaxed and I am more go, go, go. It is a good mix, I am always 100%. We pushed, I don’t care, I sail it like a Volvo boat, we keep pushing and I don’t care if the boat breaks.”
“But we made mistakes, it is double handed and it is new for us.”

Alex Pella (ESP) W-Hotels:

“ The boat is OK, but we broke a lot of small things, the spinnaker. We had problems with the pilots, sometimes they worked, sometimes they did not work. But we fived them with a spare compass, and they worked, and then two days later they did not. But the boat is nice and work towards the Barcelona World Race.
Pepe is a very good sailor. He has so much experience and pushes very hard, he has experience with the Volvo boats which helped, and I learned so much from sailing with Pepe.”
“ On the one hand he is a very methodical guy, very ordered but he wants to push all the time, to push hard.”
“ At the beginning of the race we had decided to go south, but then when we saw some going west, we said ok we try to catch this option but it was too late. In fact there was a time when we tried but we were too late. We went with the wrong option.
But we are here!” 
“ Foncia and Akena went further south. We had a maximum of 50 knots in the third storm and big waves.”
“ I am really, really happy. We are hear to learn the boat. This is a training for the Barcelona World Race and here we are in Costa Rica, it is incredible….in between Foncia and Veolia. It is fantastic!”

Dee Caffari (GBR) Aviva:

“ The race was long and it was hard, in three different parts, the beginning and the stormy stuff, getting sorted out and then the final in the Caribbean Sea. So it was very eventful, highs and lows. We have things to deal with and obviously a frustrating finish, but to be this close at the end of a race has been cool.
This is in a different league to my last Transat Jacques Vabre. Sailing with Brian has been great. He is cool and calm and you think: ‘ok this is fine and you get on with it.’ So the intensity I have dealt with is much greater than I am used to. It was a much more enjoyable race than the Vendée Globe, and it was nice to be in among the people who were leading. The company I am keeping now is something I never even dreamed of..
Now I want to carry on. I need to find the backing but I feel like I am growing at such a speed. This was a great race to do, you learn so much with the right person on board.”

Brian Thompson (GBR) Aviva:

“It was an interesting place to have the stealth play. Ther were light winds to the south on the more direct course, so people were deciding how far north to go, and we went a fairly direct course. It turned out there was a front which came through from Panama which gained us, we got through it early in the day and had clear skies for the rest of the day. Then when had nice sailing for the afternoon, maybe a little slower but we sailed less miles. But then we were next to W-Hotels and we thought it was Akenas, but it was W-Hotels who had been 100 miles ahead. Then we were in constant squalls one after the other and were never becalmed until right near the end. They must have had the one squall which drove them all the way in.”

Roland Jourdain:

“Before, it was the English, now we have the Spanish! It was hard.! It was tough but fun, a great race for first place in this second group! It was intense with many challenges. We knew this course would be more varied in terms of the different weather conditions  and that really was the case. We even had our small technical pit stop, we like them with Jean-Luc. That’s why I plan to make stages races. We would like to have played with the top of the fleet. The technical stop we could have done without.  We did not think it would cost us. We were optimistic but saw time slipping.
Marco went very fast and I agree they went the right way, with the good options, but they went really, really fast.
Yesterday morning it was hell. We waited for the wind from the east and north and had southerly. We saw a boat behind and managed to escape. Yesterday evening we saw it again and gybed away. In a squall we tacked and put five miles on them. And then this morning we were sitting all but still and a racing car arrived, someone so quick we thought it was a motor boat.”
“But our boat is OK, it went well but on the other hand it is not a new boat. Veolia has gaps compared with the new boats. We still go well and make results because I know this Mobylette but it is nevertheless frustrating.”

Jean-Luc Nélias, FRA (Veolia Environnement):

“We passed W-Hotels in a squall, but they negotiated them better. When we cam out from stealth, we realized we had made five miles on them, and then this morning we took another squall and got it back. From a result point of view we are not that happy. We could have battled it out with boats such as Mike Golding but the others are faster. It is nevertheless frustrating because out mainsail mast track was broken. The first reef has been very useful. But we are glad we got here. We laughed a lot with Bilou. It was a good adventure.”

Times summary

Breaking the finish line at 11:41:44hrs GMT Friday 27th November (05:41:44hrs local time, Costa Rica) after sailing for 18d 22hrs 11mins  44seconds at an 10.41knots average for the theoretical course (4730 miles) since leaving Le Havre on Sunday 8th November, Spain’s Pepe Ribes and  Alex Pella on W-Hotels took fifth place in the IMOCA Open 60 class in the ninth edition of the Transat Jacques Vabre two handed Transatlantic race. Ribes and Pella sailed a distance of 5790 miles at an average of 12.75kts.
W-Hotels finish 3 days 2 hours 49 minutes 34 seconds behind the winner Safran. 

Breaking the finish line at  11:46:00hrs GMT  Friday 27th November (05:46:00hrs local time, Costa Rica) after sailing for 18d 22hrs 16mins 00 seconds at an 10.41 knots average for the theoretical course (4730 miles) since leaving Le Havre on Sunday 8th November, France’s Roland Jourdain and Jean Luc Nélias on Veolia Environnement took sixth place in the IMOCA Open 60 class in the ninth edition of the Transat Jacques Vabre two handed Transatlantic race. Jourdain and Nélias sailed a distance of  5734miles at an average of 12.52kts. 
Veolia Environnement finish 3 days 2 hours 53 minutes and 50 seconds behind the winner Safran.
Breaking the finish line at 14:50:12hrs GMT  Friday 27th November (08:50:12hrs local time, Costa Rica) after sailing for 19d 1h 20m 12s seconds at an 10.34 knots average for the theoretical course (4730 miles) since leaving Le Havre on Sunday 8th November, France’s Arnaud Boissières and Vincent Riou on Akena Veranda took seventh place in the IMOCA Open 60 class in the ninth edition of the Transat Jacques Vabre two handed Transatlantic race. Boissières and Riou sailed a distance of 
5823miles at an average of 12.73kts. 
Akéna Vérandas finished 3days 05hours 58min 02s seconds behind the winner Safran.

Breaking the finish line at 15:17:12hrs GMT  Friday 27th November (09:17:12hrs local time, Costa Rica) after sailing for 19d 1h 46m 12s seconds at an 10.33 knots average for the theoretical course (4730 miles) since leaving Le Havre on Sunday 8th November, Great Britain’s Dee Caffari and Brian Thompson on Aviva took eighth place in the IMOCA Open 60 class in the ninth edition of the Transat Jacques Vabre two handed Transatlantic race.
Caffari and Thompson sailed a distance of  5700 miles at 12,45 knots average .
Aviva finished 3d 06h 25min 02secs behind the winner Safran.

artemis-by-mark-lloyd-artemis-ocean-racing

Artemis (Photo by Mark Lloyd Artemis Ocean Racing)

 Too late to play cat and mouse….. it seems like Safran – the super light, quick IMOCA Open 60 boat the sponsors like to call the ‘jet fighter’ – will have devoured Groupe Bel by the time that the Transat Jacques Vabre leader appears from under the cover of ‘Stealth Mode’ to cross the finish line off Puerto Rica this evening to take a well deserved, hard earned victory.

 
        Both of the leading pair, Safran and Groupe Bel, pressed the stealth button in unison together to complete their final miles away from the public tracking system, but at eight this morning Marc Guillemot and Charles Caudrelier-Bénac were already champions elect, with a 90 miles lead and less than 200 miles of the gruelling 4730 miles course from Le Havre to the finish off Puerto Limon, Costa Rica.

       While Bel was last seen tracking slightly north in search of some last minute bonus miles as the trade winds fold,  Safran was steadily rolling down towards the finish line, on the verge of a significant triumph. Second in the last edition of the race in 2007 and an heroic third on the last Vendée Globe when Guillemot brought the wounded Safran the final 1000 miles with no keel, Safran has lead this race since Thursday 12th, before battling through the storm of Friday 13th.

       Guillemot was predicting a slightly ‘sluggish’ finish in light winds, but could not see any obvious reason why their long time rivals Kito de Pavant and Francois Gabart on Groupe Bel should close that significant gap.

“We still have a few more gybes to go and the final 50 miles look like being rather sluggish, but the lead we currently have allows us to remain composed. The lead over Groupe Bel could be cut, but we’re certainly not going to give anything away now.”  Guillemot told his team today, happy with the routing they have taken since leaving the English Channel 14 days ago,
 “We know that we have left a smooth trail in our wake. As not everything can be done by the two of us together, on the weather it was Charles, who did most of the work picking up and analysing the data. Then, we took decisions together. We always agreed about them.”

And they have always pushed extremely hard:
  “With one or two exceptions, we always sailed with the maximum amount of sail. That requires a lot of energy. It really drained our reserves to carry out these manoeuvres and there were many of them. If we do manage to win, it will certainly feel good, as we really gave it our all throughout this race.”

      Built-in reliability has been one of the keys to the two leaders successes this race After being hobbled by gear problems, not least a damaged main sail mast track in the Vendee Globe, Guillemot reports that their only damage is to their big spinnaker and slight mainsail damage.
The battle for line honours, between Crepes Whaou! – the Multi50 – and Safran is in the balance. While Franck-Yves Escoffier was relishing the chance to beat the monohulls home, the three times winner of the Route du Rhum and twice winner of his class in this race, is keen to break the finish tape first.
      Mike Golding’s power problems have continued and the British skipper and his Spanish co-skipper Javier Sanso have been unable to start their engine for the last 48 hours and so are running with next to no electrical power. Mike Golding Yacht Racing had acceded a few miles to fourth placed Foncia but still has over just under 200 miles in hand over the double Vendée Globe winner with 412 miles to go to the finish. Foncia has been consistently quicker, while Golding’s avowed intent recently was simply to get across the finish with his boat and the podium finish intact.

      Spanish fortunes are both climbing and declining. Alex Pella and Pepe Ribes on W-Hotels are positively buoyant with their speed on the Farr design, making miles all the time on Veolia Envirinnement and Aviva. Adding more sail area, to the main and their spinnakers, is paying a regular dividend as is their hard driving style. Meantime 1876 was just emerging back into the trade winds again but has dropped to ninth
Quotes

Franck-Yves Escoffier (FRA) Crepes Whaou:
“Yes we are still hoping to get in before the IMOCA’s, even if our chances are reduced a little, we are little quicker on a straight course, but at night we tend to take the foot off the accelerator. But we are always truthful that our aim, that is for sure. When it happens, whoever is first – us or the IMOCA’s – there will not be very much in it. We think we will arrive during the night (Costa Rica time) But a little mouse told us there will not be much wind when we are arriving so nothing is for sure. We have fed flying fish with Whaou Crepes, they seem to like them because they keep coming back to the boat.
When we get there I will be congratulating the Crepes Whaou designers, saying to Vincent, to Erwan, Kévin and the others, that we have been on a boat which is great. It is good and looks good, which is good because I wanted a boat which was faster and more powerful, and I think that goal has been met.”

Marc Guillemot (FRA) Safran:

“All is good on Safran. We decided to go in stealth mode. We thought about it while passing through the West Indies, then thought about it yesterday but finally we went for it today. I understand it can be frustrating for those on shore, but it adds a bit of spice. But it’s a card to be played and it would be stupid not to use it before the end. There was a difference of 90 miles and with 250 miles to go, I don’t think we needed it or it will help in any way, there no great gains to be made. I don’t think we need to worry unduly about big surprises, unless Kito and Francois expect a big surprise. For the moment we have not really looked too closely at the weather forecasts to the finish, we are happy to be just racing in and to trim the sails. We kind of saw this time coming a couple of days ago. And we don’t have to do too much to push the boat. We have not really thought about breaking the finish line. Over this race focus has been 100% on the sporting result, there have been no side adventures, since the start gun the focus has just been on getting to the finish. These boats are very demanding, they require a lot of hard work to make them go. The physical effort has been great and we are tired of all the manoeuvres. If Crepes Whaou! get in first, so be it, it won’t bother me. And it would be good for Franck-Yves and Erwan but what interests us is in getting in before Groupe Bel and the others. They are a different class and did a different course.”

Yves Parlier (FRA) 1876:

“We have finally reached the trade winds and now have a much better speed, but we have been through some areas of terrible calms for the last 24 hours. We have started to have really hot conditions; there is a lot of light but not a cloud in sight. Yesterday it was 35º inside the boat, and now it is 32 with no shade at all. We have water so there is no worry of being dehydrated. However for the connections and the screens the pilots are broken, and so right now I am at the chart table and trying to drive at the same time with the only pilot that is working still. I am lying down at the bottom of the boat, head up looking at then gennaker through one window and when I want to correct the pilot I have to move, but at least I am in the shade! Pachi has just had a short rest as he has spent a lot of time taking the pilots apart and trying to repair them.”
“We are not too surprised that we were overtaken as until just a while ago we were only making two knots. But the road is still long and we hope not to lose any more positions, and even try and win something!”

Pepe Ribes (ESP) W-Hotels:

“Things are going extremely well. It is downwind in the Caribbean Sea, spinnaker, shorts and beautiful sailing here today. We are a bit surprised by our downwind speed, the last five or six days. In the Istanbul Race we were able to keep up with some of the boat here but now we faster than them, so the changes we have made are paying off.
We have a new main, much bigger, 17 sq m, and we have changed to downwind Quantum Sails, and so little by little we are getting better.”
“We are pushing very hard, the others will be doing the same. But it is hard, 12 hours every day on deck, the secret to be fast is not to use the auto-pilot, to steer as much as possible, you have to steer.”
“I think we are OK, a long way to go. We are maybe 50 miles to leeward of Veolia and maybe 120 miles to leeward of Aviva and it is a downwind race. We are sailing fast and in a good position.”
“ We share everything. Normally Alex pulls the grib files when he is off watch, but at the moment I am doing the weather. And we are sharing everything, we share the helm and just keep changing. We have little problems with the batteries and so on, but I hope we will be able to sort it out and have no more problems.”

Marc Guillemot and Charles Caudrelier Skippers Of Open 60 Safran (Photo by Jean-Marie Liot / DPPI)

Marc Guillemot and Charles Caudrelier Skippers Of Open 60 Safran (Photo by Jean-Marie Liot / DPPI)

 

In between the simple routine of just keeping their boats at maximum speed in the right direction, and picking their way as best they can, there is a certain quiet satisfaction underpinning the efforts of the top three duos in the IMOCA Open 60 fleet as these Transat Jacques Vabre leaders set themselves up to break into the Caribbean.
 
That is not to say that any of them have already accepted their position now will be the same when they cross the finish line off Costa Rica’s Puerto Limon, but with the gap between leader Safran and second placed Groupe Bel grown by 20 miles to 81 miles early this morning, and the margin between Bel and Mike Golding Yacht Racing, in turn 82 miles, then each feels they have breathing space which they perhaps did not expect this morning.

Instead of the expected initial compression, in fact Marc Guillemot and Charles Caudrelier slipped away another 20 miles overnight on Safran, a gain which surprised Guillemot’s co-skipper enough to wonder this morning if their pursuers had a technical problem.

But in fact Safran has just had more a little more wind.

Satisfaction, such as it is, aboard Mike Golding Yacht Racing comes from being back in something closer to full racing shape after British skipper Golding spent much of yesterday night dealing with an electrical charging issue which firstly meant they could not start the engine, which then developed so they had a complete power failure.

But for his hard day’s night and recuperation yesterday Golding has remedied their problems and was pleased to be back in a more competitive mode early this morning.

Winds for the leaders are still very up and down, variable in direction. The leading trio have anything between seven and 12 knots this morning and winds will drop more at times as they approach the arc of West Indies islands

But the gap back to Michel Desjoyeaux and Jérémie Beyou has also opened another 20 miles to 290 miles between Mike Golding Yacht Racing and Desjoyeaux’s Foncia. Golding said his preference this morning would be to have been a little more south, but given his problems yesterday that has not been possible.

Dee Caffari and Brian Thompson creep closer to fifth all the time, this morning getting to less than 17 miles of Veolia Environnement their slightly more southerly position has been beneficial to the British Aviva duo, but both were slowed to less than ten knots this morning.

Battle continues in the middle order of the Transat Jacques Vabre

After successfully regaining sixth place yesterday and battling hard to maintain their position overnight, Dee Caffari and Brian Thompson onboard Aviva have narrowly lost out to 1876 in this morning’s polling.

The three boats currently in the middle of the fleet – 1876, Veolia Environnement and Aviva – are all positioned within 15 miles of each other and with over 2000 miles of the route to Costa Rica remaining, the battle for fifth to seventh place is set to continue.

The 10h00 race ranking positioned Dee Caffari and Brian Thompson, onboard Aviva, in seventh place, 575 miles behind race leader Safran.

“We have just spent darkness coasting along in a dying breeze under a canopy of bright stars. Flat water and warm temperatures have made it an uneventful but also a wonderful night’s sailing.

  As predicted we will be fighting light airs with those around us. If we can keep working hard and keep at the front of this little group then we will reach the stronger breeze about 36 hours quicker. It is amazing getting a grib file now for weather information and realising how far we have come because we are also getting the Caribbean weather too.

 To play tribute to this particularly tropical theme we also celebrated shower day onboard Aviva. So now she and her dynamic duo smell of roses as you would expect.”

Franco-Spanish duo Yves Parlier and Pachi Rivero are on good form this morning, making west at good speed in good breeze. On the quickest boat in the fleet just now, 1876 Rivero remarked that they will make their move south later today, but just 40 miles of DTF (distance to finish) separates fifth from eighth.
 
Quotes:

Mike Golding (GBR) Mike Golding Yacht Racing: “We had a problem, a big problem. As the batteries got low the engine would not start, and so the engine start batteries had not been getting trickle charge and so the engine would not start. That created an earthing problem on the engine as well, and so with no engine…no lights, nothing at all. It was pretty dodgy for a while. The switchboard 12v charger has blown, we had a spare but it has blown as well, so what I had to do was lift one of the main batteries out of the bank and use it to start the engine, so that took up most of yesterday night and the boat was a complete tip after that. So yesterday was spent getting tidied and getting the boat moving again, so so far tonight has been relatively quiet. We had no electronics, no navigation, no electronics, and it was pitch dark and so trying to see the wheel compass is hopeless. So we have ended up where we are. I am not especially pleased…we are where we are, we should be further forwards, we should be further south, but we are where we are.

I think there may still be some options and opportunities, but meantime we do need to make sure we get out of this light stuff. We probably haven’t done the job we wanted to to get out of it, we are doing 10 knots just now and probably have eight knots of breeze.”

  Charles Caudrelier Bénac (FRA) Safran:  “ It is going very well. We are trying in a way to understand what is going on because we expected less wind but that is not so. There must be a reason why we have gained so many miles on Groupe Bel during the night, maybe they have some technical problems?

We had a good night, between 10 and 15 knots, rolling along, and it makes good speed. We did two or three watches of three hours each and made no sail changes so it did not go too badly, and there are no clouds or squalls. But on the other hand the trade winds are broken down, and if there are no clouds during the day it will be hard because there will be no wind.

We are 1500 miles from the finish and it is just great. We can still break things if there are stronger trade winds, and there will be many manoeuvres before we get there.”

“The passage through the West Indies arc? Well it can make a big difference and we have already chosen, but we are not telling anything……”

Mike Golding Yacht Racing (Photo by Lloyd Images)

Mike Golding Yacht Racing (Photo by Lloyd Images)

     
The breakaway trio, Safran, Mike Golding Yacht Racing and Groupe Bel continue to profit from the excellent conditions through Sunday, all seeing the speed readouts peaking over 20 knots for periods as the they relish wind, sun and high speeds.
 
      Their Sunday has been a time to re-group, catch up on repairs but most of all simply making sure the pace does not drop off.
As the distance remaining of the 4730 miles course from Le Havre to Costa Rica counted down under 3000 today, Marc Guillemot and Charles Caudrelier’s Safran has continued to be a little faster than her pursuers, opening up a lead of 53.7 miles on the British-Spanish duo on Mike Golding Yacht Racing, whilst Kito de Pavant and Francois Gabart is just a little more than 12 miles behind.

      The threesome are sprinting south with a cushion of 134 miles back to the British crew on Hugo Boss, Alex Thomson and Ross Daniel, and the best part of 300 miles ahead of the best of the southern group, Foncia. Michel Desjoyeaux and Jeremie Beyou lie eighth.
Golding, pointing out that Safran was still no more than three hours ahead of him, remarked that he felt the three runaways have themselves a ‘glamour hand’, but that there are no guarantees. The current routings today sees a more northerly course still paying off, with a much more southerly option still bringing that southerly groups in 200 miles behind the leading trio as they enter the Caribbean Sea, but the weather predictions further down the track are changing all the time.

     For all that IMOCA Open 60 skippers usually have just about everything paced by or matched to their powerfully computed data collection and analysis, such have been the effects of the recent storms that several are reduced to first principles, setting sail area by what they see with their eyes, judging wind speed and sea state, rather than being able to take the real and predicted windspeeds off the computer and match them to their known sail cross-over charts. Golding today said that his speedo was simply how they are doing against their rivals: “We are doing our best to hold on to Safran,” said Golding, “But we are struggling a bit in terms of just knowing where we are, particularly going downhill. We kind of forget how reliant we are on our systems to give us advice on our sail plans and all that, and now here we are just trying to judge whether we have enough or not. Sometimes we are right and sometimes we are wrong. It is quite hard to gauge it, and to some extent we are using them to measure it, if they are faster we push harder…and if they are lower…..well we push even harder!”

      For Sam Davies and Sidney Gavignet on 11th placed Artemis, they have been getting towards the end of their long jobs list, one which has left them exhausted and which Gavignet said this morning has cost them many miles, not least 20 hours or so trying to sort out their mainsail problems.

Quotes:

Mike Golding, GBR, (Mike Golding Yacht Racing):
“ We always sort of had a game plan for this race, where we wanted to be at a certain time and place in the racecourse, and so we are very happy with where we are. We don’t like that Safran has pulled away a little bit overnight, but that is just one of those things, but in real terms she is just three hours in front of us and really that is not so bad.”
“What we want to do is make sure we are in a good, attacking position going to the Caribbean Sea which will present some different options to make an attack on Safran. I certainly think we can, and I certainly think there may even be some conditions down the race course which could favour our boat, and maybe have a little bit of an edge.
I think there is some opportunities for compression in the future, but the reality is that we have been dealt a glamour hand, us three boats, Bel, Safran and Mike Golding Yacht Racing, it does look like if the gate does not exactly close behind us, it does make it quite hard for them to keep up, because of the way that the weather is closing the door behind us, but as near as dammit.”

Marc Guillemot (FRA) Safran:
“I would like it to be a bit calmer for the last part of the race: we must meantime build a bigger distance from Kito de Pavant and Mike Golding. We have to remain on guard because they are two excellent competitors! We haven’t find a solution for the mainsail but we have decided to continue the race with this little problem and maybe find a solution near the Antilles. The weather conditions are pretty good but we are still wet : we are almost all the time under the cuddy : on the boat it’s like being next to a big geyser…Actually we’re going faster : I think that we could arrive to Puerto Limon at the end of next week.”

Charles Caudrelier Bénac (FRA), Safran:
“It is not yet the trade winds, but they’re not far off. Tomorrow, we should be in them. I must admit that Marc and I are both looking forward to getting some fresh air outside on the deck without getting completely soaked.” 
“We had one particularly tricky moment on Thursday night, which really stood out. The leeward rudder kicked up and the boat swung around into the direction of the wind, with the mainsail flapping.  It was torn about 50 centimetres along the leech. It was not easy fixing the rudder back with tons of water crashing over the deck, but we managed to get the repair done quickly.” “As we’re sailing downwind, the tear isn’t really having any effect. What counts for the moment is extending our lead if possible. We’re not even halfway through the race yet and everyone knows that the end of the voyage in the Gulf of Mexico can be very difficult to predict”.
“We knew our route was going to be tough. We never did anything silly and when the emergency beacon was triggered on BT, that was a particularly difficult time for us. But this route was clearly the fastest, and it was the only way to go. We made a strategic choice remaining fully confident in our boat,”
“We’re already looking at where to go between all the islands. We’ve got an idea in the back of our mind, but I can’t tell you anything more.  I can just say that we’re going to have to gybe and then after that, it should almost be a straight run.”

 
       The lightweight, radical chined Safran is clearly in her stride,  an IMOCA Open 60 widely admired by the peers and rivals of skipper Marc Guillemot since her launch, making a further 10 miles on Golding and Javier Sanso since yesterday morning, but it is pleasing to see three skippers who no one would deny a measure of good fortune to any of them, spearheading the vanguard as they streak south towards the Caribbean.

      Guillemot was the peoples’ humanitarian hero of the Vendée Globe, struggling home to a great third making the final 1000 miles with no keel, after having bravely stood by during the rescue of his badly injured friend Yann Elies.
Golding was cruelly robbed of the Vendée race lead when his mast tumbled in the South Indian Ocean in a 65 knot squall and few will forget the emotional images of Bel’s tough guy Kito de Pavant in pieces after his race ended so suddenly, less than 48 hours in.

      All three leading crews have shown the guts, experience and seamanship to get the balance right on the northerly routing and today can enjoy the fruits of their endeavours, even if they go on to prove transient.

      Safran, peaking at 22 knots on this morning’s early Sunday schedule, now has 51 miles over Mike Golding and Javier Sanso and has been consistently a knot or so quicker. The British boat in turn had stretched on Groupe Bel but by a smaller margin.

      Safran’s Charles Caudrelier Bénac reported excellent conditions this morning, anticipating getting a gennaker up later in the day, racing in around 20 knots of breeze.

 Alex Thomson (GBR) Hugo Boss:
“We were near as dammit beam reaching, about 12 knots, and the sea was getting pretty enormous, I was sat at the nav station, Ross was sat in the cuddy, I can only describe it as if you can imagine being, doing 12 knots if you imagine the boat suddenly being hit by a bulldozer. We basically got knocked down by a breaking wave. I got thrown across the boat, I did not know what the hell was going on, bashed my head, it was pretty sacry, I have never experienced anything like it to be honest, and unfortunately because of that episode, with the boat basically being picked up and pushed sideways it broke our daggerboard.”

   Alex Thomson and Ross Daniel have lost some miles on Hugo Boss, some of which Thomson attributed this morning to the after effects of something close to a knock down when their IMOCA Open 60 was bodily picked up and thrown by a huge wave. The British skipper was flung across the cabin from the nav station and a daggerboard was smashed. Since they have swapped boards and the duo are in good shape, he confirmed racing at 100% to regain the distance lost to the leading trio.

Alex Thompson On Hugo Boss (Photo by DR)

Alex Thompson On Hugo Boss (Photo by DR)

      In fifth Yves Parlier and Pachi Rivero have made steady progress in the north, whilst Roland Jourdain and Jean-Luc Nelias on Veolia Environnement remain ahead of Aviva despite their pit-stop in the Azores yesterday afternoon which cost them about 150 miles.

      Of the easterly group Michel Desjoyeaux and Jeremie Beyou on Foncia have recovered 40 miles on the leaders since yesterday as they sail a converging course across the high pressure ridge to break into same weather pattern as the leading trio.
 

Quotes
Charles Caudrelier Bénac (FRA),  Safran:
“It’s going fast and the sea is flat. It is very pleasant. The wind is not too strong, about 20 knots, and we hop to be under spinnaker before the end of the day. We need to get things dry. Everything is wet. We spent much of yesterday going over the boat.
In my opinion the guys in the south will be able to get into the same system as us but they should not succeed in getting past us, except if we break something of course.
In the north it is similar, and so we do think the battle should be between us, Mike Golding and the Laughing Cow. But, that’s OK just now, we are a long way from the finish, we have not even done half the course. It was certainly tough the way we went. Half of the boats had problems, and it would not surprise me.”

Brit Air  (Photo by Marcel Mochet)

Brit Air (Photo by Marcel Mochet)

A time for reflection and rest in France, home of the Transat Jacques Vabre, Armistice Day was certainly not observed by the malicious Atlantic weather systems into which the IMOCA Open 60’s and Multi 50 fleets were pounding over the course of the fourth day of this race from Le Havre to Puerto Limon, Costa Rica.
 
Relief should come by the weekend, and forecasters promise some occasional respite. Ominously, perhaps, the worst effect of the systems is now due during Friday, the 13th, but as the IMOCA Open 60 fleet work their way SW towards the Azores some skippers were counting down the hours to escape from the miserable conditions, and to see how their strategies play out.

The divide between the boats in the north and the south has become even more pronounced during the middle part of today, with Michel Desjoyeaux and Jérémie Beyou on Foncia now more than 400 miles south and east of their rivals in the north.

British duo Alex Thomson and Ross Daniel on Hugo Boss may have been feeling slightly exposed – lonely even – on their more extreme northerly course. No sooner had a slightly rueful Thomson admitted, early this morning, that his preference, in hindsight, would have been to be in closer touch to the group of boats just to his south, than up popped 1876 only 22 miles astern.

The Spanish IMOCA Open 60, with French co-skipper Yves Parlier – double winner of this biennial race – had taken the option to go for 24 hours in ‘stealth’ mode during which their position and progress is not published – as they hiked north on to a routing which has gained
considerable credence over the last 24 hours.

The equation under scrutiny now is whether to endure much tougher, windier conditions for a short period in the north to get to the preferred wind shift first, or to stay – more prudently – south and profit that way.

Lying seventh and eighth respectively with deficits of 61 and 86 miles, on this afternoon’s schedule Hugo Boss and 1876 were the quickest boats in the fleet this afternoon, by margin of between two and four knots.

After taking the lead on the pre-dawn schedule yesterday, Seb Josse and Jeff Curzon on BT continue to hold on in the IMOCA Open 60 class, with a margin of just under 15 miles to maintain a controlling grip on the northerly group, perhaps with the exception of Hugo Boss.  During the late afternoon BT, Mike Golding Yacht Racing and Groupe Bel were the first to tack SW.

Britain’s Mike Golding, along with Spanish co-skipper Javier Sanso, retains fourth place with sistership Aviva of Dee Caffari and Brian Thompson just less than five miles behind, but still making NW this afternoon.

After arriving in Concearneau just after lunch time this afternoon Armel Le Cléac’h and Nicolas Troussel spent the afternoon assessing the repair options to their mainsail mast-track and the forecasted weather conditions, looking their options for a possible return to the race course.
Due to the combination of predicted storms in the Bay of Biscay, their deficit on the front of the fleet, and their desire not to compromise their IMOCA Open 60 in any way, the BritAir duo, in agreement with their team, decided the prudent option was to retire from the race.

Alex Thomson (GBR), skipper Hugo Boss:
“I had a phone call half an hour ago to say that Estrella have popped up out of her stealth mission and she is 20 miles behind us here in the north.  I haven’t had a chance to plot the position yet, but if Yves Parlier – one of the great legends of solo sailing –  has decided
to come this way then it obviously means we’re going the right way! Or we hope it does anyway…..”

Javier Sanso (ESP), co-skipper Mike Golding Yacht Racing:
““It is going well, we are making some progress down south. We have 3 reefs and a staysail, bouncing up and down, like in a washing machine. It is incredibly wet on deck and a very bumpy. It is miserable, cold and wet. But finally we think that in the next 40 hours we should be out of it….I hope.”
“The pilots and the electronics are still giving us some problems. We are back like the old days with a piece of wool! But in some ways we are getting used to it, but it is very tiring and we have done a lot of hand steering. It is not good in this weather to have to suddenly get on deck to hand steer because the pilot has crashed. And that eats up the energy to suddenly run from inside to hand steer. So we are always ready to jump outside, it has been very, very, very tiring for Mike and I.”
“ It is a good place. We are happy with that just now and will see what happens as we work to get down to the high pressure in the south.”

Vincent Riou (FRA), co-skipper Akena Veranda:
“The first days have been wet, but the conditions are not so difficult for the moment. We have taken the comfortable option, towards the south, and so we don’t have any concerns for the boat. We chose the middle, intermediate road. The conditions so far remain OK, and with
Arnaud we have no worries, we have had good rest, and he is a guy who
is very easy to get along with.”

Marc Guillemot (FRA), Safran:
“It’s pretty brutal. It is crash, crash, crash. Since the end of the night the seas have got worse and the winds have got right up with some big gusts. But it is good to have a sailor like Charles on board. In conditions like these it is hard in the manoeuvres but together we manage. As for our options, well this is what we chose and we’d still rather be here.”

Michel Desjoyeaux (FRA) Foncia:
 “All is well. This beating in the Atlantic was expected, and it was known that the strategies would develop. We will see what happens. Perhaps with Jérémie we have been too cautious. I did think that those closer to the depression would have had more difficulties today.”
“As for Yves Parlier I did not really consider that he would have chosen such an extreme option. So now, we will need to be patient. It is in the long run that we will all be able to make the assessment.”