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Transat Jacques Vabre - Day 10

by Soazig Guého on 14 Nov 14 November 2017

As with Sodebo Ultim's victory yesterday, the Anglo-Spanish duo of Phil Sharp and Pablo Santurde on Imerys Clean Energy are also showing in the Class40 that you do not need the biggest budget or the latest boat to be the leader.

With 60 per cent of the race complete, Sharp and Santurde, despite their communication problems and disrupted weather files, do not seem to be giving anything away to the theoretically faster latest generation French boats alongside them.

If the finish for the two Ultime in Salvador de Bahia yesterday was one of the closest in the history of the race - 1 hour 47 minutes and 57 seconds – the other three fleets battling it out in the Atlantic could deliver even more nail-biting.

The Multi50 has seen a stunning reversal at the front in the last 48 hours, the Imoca leader may yet suffer in Doldrums too and the podium battle is intensifying behind them. But nothing tops the Class40.

Latest ETAs

Ultime: Prince de Bretagne – Wedneday, November 15 night UTC

Multi50: Leaders, Thursday, November 16, 5 or 6 hours after Prince de Bretagne

Class40: Neck-and-neck

It was close yesterday, but this afternoon there was just 3.8 miles between the front three at 15:00 UTC. Sharp and Santurde (Imerys Clean Energy) took the lead back last night (Monday) from V and B, with Aïna Enfance et Avenir edging into second.

There is just 22 miles of lateral separation between them, with Imerys Clean Energy on the west and V and B on the east. Aïna Enfance et Avenir look like they're just 4 miles east of Imerys Clean Energy; have you seen them yet, Phil?

Maxime Sorel skippered this 2015-launched V and B to second place in the race in 2015, finishing just under two hours behind. Aïna Enfance et Avenir is a latest generation 2017 boat. Imerys Clean Energy was new in 2013 when it won this race as GDF Suez, but fell into disrepair and Sharp has had to restore it. He will hope it can recapture all of its former glory in the next 2,000 miles.

The front three have been averaging 10 knots in steady 10-12 knot westerlies, but it was a tough night. "Last night was a difficult one as we sailed through the wind shadow of the Cape Verdes," the experienced Catalan sailor, Santurde said. "The wind was light and shifty and it wasn't until this morning that we were able to access some consistent wind. We are starting our approach to the doldrums, which could be a little bit longer than expected due to the lights wind ahead."

TeamWork40 made up 20 miles in fourth in the morning, but has lost 30 during the day, probably due to the same Cape Verde effect.

They are all looking ahead to the Doldrums – which they should still enter tomorrow - conscious of the effect it has had on the classes in front of them and in the history of the race. The Class40 can get really stuck there. West is often best, and has been so far, but how much should the boats invest if it costs them miles in the approach. And before that they will have to struggle through the same soft patches in the approach that have slowed the Imoca.

Imoca: A soft approach and difficult Doldrums

St Michel-Virbac, so far, has avoided the fate of the leader of the Multi50 and countless more before them in the Doldrums. But Jean-Pierre Dick and Yann Eliès are entering another stretch of murky winds this evening and may watch SMA, 58 miles behind at 15:00 UTC, come back on them as they did this morning.

St Michel-Virbac, did not follow the last gybes by its pursuers yesterday afternoon, so they find themselves further east compared to SMA. That looked expensive overnight as the lead was halved to 28 miles. But the elastic of the Dodrums sometimes stretches both ways and it soon stretched back. Paul Meilhat, skipper of SMA thought last night that they would be out of the Doldrums in about 30 hours, so they will be out tomorrow morning. But their westerly position looks like it might give them a better exit. We will have the answer tomorrow.

It has been a slow and complicated approach to the Doldrums from the Cape Verde islands, with the wind going soft, and that has perhaps increased the pressure for the podium too. Still third, Des Voiles et Vous! is 135 miles behind the leader but has intimidating sight in the rear view mirror – 60 miles behind. Lined up in its wake is a phalanx of five boats, separated by only 40 miles and waiting to pounce on any a slip ahead of them. Ninety miles behind them and having the race of his life is the amateur Pierre Lacaze funding Vivo A Beira, with professional skipper Yoann Richomme. They are excelling on an older boat and have met some friends in the Atlantic.

Multi50: Was it the Doldrums?

For FenêtreA-Mix Buffet, the meteorological equator was an archetypal example of what the Doldrums can do to a race - maybe. Arkema seized the lead and was 56 miles ahead at the 15:00 UTC. Lalou Roucayrol and Alex Pella have just taken 160 miles in 42 hours off Erwan Leroux and Vincent Riou. The strangest thing is that Arkema managed this on very similar track. The Doldrums can be extremely localised and random, with the skillful and lucky managing to jump from squall to squall but it could be that FenêtréA-Mix Buffet suffered silently with a technical problem. The two 50ft trimarans have been in a south-east trade wind all day with 900 miles of racetrack left for the favourites, Le Roux and Riou to make a comeback.

Ultime: The lone boat

Stuck in the Doldrums yesterday afternoon, positioned well in the West, Prince de Bretagne is currently reaching at 25 knots in steady south-easterlies 100 miles ahead of Arkema. Without a generator, and having to rely on their wind turbine just to give them a little bit of autopilot, Lionel Lemonchois and Bernard Stamm are definitely not going to be able to take advantage of any weather files precise enough to help them shorten the road to Salvador de Bahia. Thomas Rouxel (Maxi Edmond de Rothschild), paid tribute to Prince de Bretagne, which is unique in the Ultime class and has not really been helped by the conditions. Very low on the water (the central hull is that of an extended Orma trimaran), Prince de Bretagne is probably, with the Multi50, the wettest multihull to sail on in the fleet. It still has 800 miles to the finish in Salvador de Bahia.

Pit stop

Esprit Scout (Class40) is still on a technical stop in Tenerife (Canary Islands) with delamination of their hull on the port bow. They will relaminate in the boatyard tomorrow morning and hope to leave tomorrow morning.

Quotes from the sailors

Pablo Santurde, co-skipper, Imerys Clean Energy (Class40):
"Last night was a difficult one as we sailed through the wind shadow of the Cape Verdes. The wind was light and shifty and it wasn't until this morning that we were able to access some consistent wind. We are starting our approach to the Doldrums, which could be a little bit longer than expected due to the lights wind ahead. No longer is the moon shining and we are sailing through a kind of sandy fog, so the nights are long and dark. Apart from that, we can't ask for much more! "Life on board is nice, we are happy with our progress so far and there is still a lot to play for - so all in all we are a happy crew on board Imerys Clean Energy!! That's all for now, cheers from the flying fish land; or should I say sea??"

Antoine Carpentier, co-skipper, V and B (Class40):
"We're passing Cape Verde there is a little less wind and it's a break in the battle. The day before yesterday, our routing was not very obvious, but we could see that there was a little less wind in the west. That's why we pointed closer to the wind and accelerated. We're really very close to Imerys and Aïna, we're watching each other, without having them on the AIS. The Doldrums change so fast you have to see 48 hours before. We're looking a little at what the Imoca and Multi50 are doing but we're not fixed (on a strategy) yet. The Doldrums I have only been through once, and the memory I have in 2007 is a pretty good one. We didn't stop. I hope it will be the same this year."

Lalou Roucayrol, skipper, Arkema (Multi50):
"Here we are, coming to the end of the Doldrums and we did not hold anything back. We had big squall of 35 knots. We were under J1 we stayed upwind and quite close-hauled, to calm things down. We'd get through and then roll out the J1 in the soft and we finished with mainsail only, fully open at 25 knots. The Doldrums were a bit of a last chance to get back to Erwan and Vincent, so it feels pretty good. Everything will be played at the exit of the Doldrums and the arrival to Bahia! These are the angles that we like, the boat goes pretty well in these conditions, we know we have good speeds but nothing is won yet and we remain very focused. In any case, Alex and I are enjoying it. It's a great race."

Isabelle Joschke, skipper, Generali (Imoca):
"We're approaching the Doldrums, very slowly, in a weak wind, and a calm sea. The night was complicated because the wind came and went as it pleased, we had to follow it. We have filled up with energy for the next two days that will not be a pleasure. We also took advantage of the calm to do some DIY below, and take stock of our food and water reserves. Currently we are slalom between seaweed, it's is everywhere. This is forcing us to be doubly focused (to not get it stuck on the keel). And now that there is not so much wind, we're seeing how the veranda which we move around and grind and which protects us from the spray, can turn into a furnace. Fortunately we packed a small fan."

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