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Bermudes 1000 Race: Drag race towards the Azores

by IMOCA Globe Series 13 May 02:20 BST 13 May 2019
Bermudes 1000 Race © David Branigan / Oceansport

The 17 competitors in the Bermudes 1000 Race Douarnenez-Brest suspected that this 2,000-mile test would be both comprehensive and complicated. And they haven't been disappointed! After a tactical start to the race in light airs for the climb up to Fastnet Rock, the situation has seen a dramatic change since last night.

The IMOCAs are now powering along at full speed (nearly 20 knots for the leaders) towards the Azores in a SE'ly breeze, which has picked up significantly and will continue to fill in before it eases again midway through tonight. Life aboard is wet and heeled over and a good balance needs to be found for racking up miles without putting the gear under too much strain. This evening, Sébastien Simon is still controlling the fleet with a lead of a little over 50 miles in relation to Boris Herrmann.

"It's like being in a submarine". Finnish sailor Ari Huusela nicely sums up life aboard the IMOCAs, powering along at full pace across seas with a deepening swell in a SE'ly wind of 25 knots gusting higher. In these conditions, the boats are really slamming, the skippers are confined to their cabins and any manoeuvres up on deck have been reduced to the bare minimum. The videos sent from on-board are wet with an impressive wake.

"Getting used to life heeled over again"

"There's a cold, heeled over, wet atmosphere on Groupe Sétin. The wind kicked in as forecast midway through last night and it was important to manœuvre, adapt our sails to the new breeze and get used to life heeled over again", writes Manuel Cousin. For the first time since the start in Douarnenez last Thursday, the gear is suffering. "I've put in a second reef in the mainsail and it's a lot more comfortable", explains Boris Herrmann. The utmost vigilance is a must if they are to avoid straying off the track. Exhausted but happy to be ticking off the miles, the racers are tempering their ardour, as testified by Fabrice Amedeo: "I've opted for a prudent sail configuration, but the boat's still flying. It's just incredible. I'm happy because I'm just about managing to get some rest and above all I'm trying not to lose sight of my main objective, which is to go all the way and validate everything that needs it."

Conditions favourable for the foilers; game on for everyone

In this 'straight line' drag race, there are no clear options to take. Even though the angle in relation to the wind is relatively tight, those competitors on foilers can rely on their appendages to gain a few precious knots. Sébastien Simon is still the firm leader with a lead of over 50 miles ahead of Boris Herrmann, who had Sam Davies and Yannick Bestaven on his tail at the 17:00 hour polling. Aboard IMOCAs with classic, straight daggerboards, Damien Seguin, Maxime Sorel and Stéphane Le Diraison are hanging on in there remarkably well, though Fabrice Amedeo and Giancarlo Pedote are managing to eat into their lead. Clément Giraud and Manuel Cousin are also trying hard to stave off an attack from another foiler, that of Arnaud Boissières. The five competitors bringing up the rear (Miranda Merron, Ari Huusela, Alexia Barrier, Pip Hare and Denis Van Weynbergh) were grouped within around thirty miles of one another at 17:00 hours.

The leaders expected to make the Azores waypoint on Tuesday evening

The SE'ly wind propelling the sailors along will strengthen over the course of the evening with rough seas and gusts of 35 knots, the latter set to ease in the middle of the night as it shifts round to the S/SE and then the South (17-23 knots). In the early hours, the wind will drop away again to 5 to 8 knots, at which point tactics will be crucial once more!

The Top 5 at 17:00 hours (French time) Sunday 12 May:

1. Sébastien Simon (ARKEA PAPREC): 1,305.5 miles from the finish
2. Boris Herrmann (Malizia - Yacht Club de Monaco): 52.2 miles behind the leader
3. Sam Davies (Initiatives Cœur): 63.5 miles behind the leader
4. Yannick Bestaven (Maître CoQ): 75.8 miles behind the leader
5. Maxime Sorel (V and B - Sailing Together): 83.5 miles behind the leader

View the next ranking here.

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