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Bermudes 1000 Race: Fastnet, the first Justice of the Peace

by IMOCA Globe Series 10 May 11:53 BST 11 May 2019
Bermudes 1000 Race 2019 © François Van Malleghem

The first 24 hours of the Bermudes 1000 Race Douarnenez-Brest have proven to be highly tactical in order for the skippers to extricate themselves from the Breton coast and head up to the Irish Sea. Progress towards Fastnet lighthouse, which the leaders are set to reach late morning tomorrow, will continue to be complicated with a transition phase needing to be dealt with as the wind gradually switches round from the South-East to the North-West.

This Friday evening, the 17 solo sailors are all still on the racetrack and the less seasoned of them are making the most of the manageable conditions to get the measure of their imposing machines, even though they're not really able to get any rest. Leading the way, Sébastien Simon, Sam Davies and Boris Herrmann are setting the pace, with very little separating them (barely 1 mile at the 17:00 hours position report). After the Fastnet, the racers will set a course for a virtual mark off the Azores.

"This climb up to Fastnet promises to be tough and tactical!" Manuel Cousin (Groupe Sétin) lays his cards on the table in a message sent from on-board today. Having been subjected to a zone of light airs offshore of Brittany last night, the 17 sailors in the Bermudes 1000 Race Douarnenez-Brest have been sailing in a S/SE'ly breeze backing round to the East (10-13 knots) this Friday afternoon. Any moments of respite have been extremely rare since the start, in zones where the shipping is particularly heavy. Upcoming conditions are unlikely to encourage rest since the fleet will have to negotiate a transition phase. Early tonight, the skippers will have to deal with a shifty, freshening wind from the North, peppered with potentially violent squalls. This N'ly breeze will quickly back round to the NW then the W/NW, so the racers will have to launch onto a beat to make Fastnet. The atmosphere is set to change then and the skippers will have to swap spinnakers for flat sails. According to the latest routing, the quickest sailors could reach Fastnet by late morning tomorrow, with relatively little separating the leaders.

Still 17 out on the racetrack, a trio of Simon/Davies/Herrmann at the controls

Conditions are wearing and demanding, yet manageable too. They're enabling the solo sailors to avoid getting caught off guard. In fact, just 24 hours after yesterday's start at 17:00 hours, there have been no major events to report and all the IMOCAs are still racing. "The light wind is perfect for understanding how the boat works. I've got so much to learn", explained Miranda Merron (Campagne de France). Sam Davies (Initiatives Cur) is also delighted about this light-airs start to the race: "We've been spoilt and it's a welcome treat for this first singlehanded race of 2019. The boat is running well, I'm getting my bearings and the manuvres are going smoothly for now." Together with Sébastien Simon (ARKEA PAPREC) and Boris Herrmann (Malizia - Yacht Club de Monaco), Sam is currently forming a very compact top trio (1-mile separation at the 17:00 hours position report!) The three leaders have probably been sailing within sight of one another for part of the day today.

Weaving along

For the racers, this evening's challenge is to line themselves up nicely with a view to the upcoming wind shift. Everyone is manoeuvring and weaving their way along the road to the Fastnet, heading North one minute, West the next. Behind the three leaders at 17:00 hours were Fabrice Amedeo (Newrest-Art & Fenêtres) and Maxime Sorel (V and B-Sailing Together), an IMOCA rookie who has sailed a blinder of a race so far. "I hadn't expected to be so well placed in the ranking. In these conditions, the speed differential between my boat and the foilers is not significant", admits Maxime, whose boat with classic daggerboards may well be able to stay in contact with the leaders in the upcoming close-hauled conditions. Astern of him, it's likely that the ranking will evolve with every passing hour according to how each boat is positioned in relation to the great circle route (direct route). The passage around the Fastnet lighthouse (to be left to port) will enable a precise status report to be drawn up in terms of the rankings and separation.

The Top 5 at 17:00 hours (French time) Friday 10 May:

1. Sébastien Simon (ARKEA PAPREC): 1,823.3 miles from the finish
2. Sam Davies (Initiatives Cur): 0.5 miles behind the leader
3. Boris Herrmann (Malizia - Yacht Club de Monaco): 1.1 miles behind the leader
4. Fabrice Amedeo (Newrest-Art & Fenêtres): 11.5 miles behind the leader
5. Maxime Sorel (V and B-Sailing Together): 11.6 miles behind the leader

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