If the Ciaran storm which rears its head in France paralyzes the race in Brittany and Normandy (the Imocas are in Le Havre while the Ocean Fifty and Class 40 are sheltered in Lorient), the battle rages in the heart of the Atlantic between the giant multihulls of the Ultim category.
Wednesday morning, at the 8:00 a.m. check-in, first place remained in the hands of the duo François Gabart - Tom Laperche at the helm of SVR Lazartigue but their leadership was hanging by a thread since behind, Maxi Edmond de Rothschild of Charles Caudrelier - Erwan Israel was just 3 miles away while 60 miles separated the leading men from their pursuers less than twenty-four hours ago. Maxi Banque Populaire (Armel Le Cléac’h and Sébastien Josse) is also in the mix, just 6.9 miles from first place.
The trio began a war of nerves as they approached Madeira which will be overtaken during the day after entering a high pressure ridge. Because if the winds start to blow strongly in the west of France, in the heart of the Atlantic, you have to fight to find a little breeze. Accustomed to taking off with their foils at high speed, the multihulls are stuck to the sea with light winds. Conditions which will force the crews to carry out physically and nervously demanding gybes while waiting for the winds to return.
“We found conditions with much easier seas for sleeping, eating and doing things. The wind has died down. We have twelve to fifteen knots and it will ease during the night so we sent canvas and we are starting to see the first two in front of us,” explained Armel Le Cleac’h before darkness fell on Tuesday evening.
Behind the trio of favorites, Thomas Coville and Thomas Rouxel on Sodebo Ultim are slightly behind (4th at 76.7 miles). They explore a route further east in the company of Actual Ultim (Anthony Marchand and Thierry Chabagny). A bold strategy but which is not paying off for the moment. “We were unable to find the settings that would allow us to go as fast as Banque Populaire and Gitana who were next to us at the start. We’re going to work on it and look,” Coville confided on Tuesday, approaching a “big transition zone to try to get back together.”
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