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Vendée-Arctique-Les Sables d'Olonne Race update: It's the Beyou-Dalin show at the head of the fleet

by Ed Gorman 8 Jul 11:06 BST 8 July 2020
Jérémie Beyou on Charal leads the Vendée-Arctique-Les Sables d'Olonne Race © Gauthier Lebec / Charal

It's a classic match race at the head of the Vendée-Arctique-Les Sables d'OLonne Race this morning as the two Figaro veterans Jérémie Beyou and Charlie Dalin duel for the lead in light airs just under 300 miles from the IOC-UNESCO Waypoint.

After all the upwind violence of the first few days and then some fast phases off the wind, the leaders in the 17-strong fleet are new creeping along at a pace that cruising sailors might hope for, with six or seven knots of boatspeed in very light winds.

But the battle between the two Frenchmen could not be closer with just a couple of miles separation between them on a smooth sea, with Beyou's Charal positioned to the northeast of Dalin's Apivia.

The two skippers have stuck to each other like glue, unlike third-placed - and former race leader - Thomas Ruyant on LinkedOut who has sailed his own race and is now 15 miles to leeward of the leading pair.

Dalin is loving every minute of this duel with Beyou.

"Everything's going well for now," he reported. "I saw Jérémie on AIS last night and again tonight. We're fighting, we're fighting... we're negotiating a ridge of high pressure and it's like we're doing a little Solitaire du Figaro. Thomas isn't very far behind either, he's making good headway."

This is Dalin's first solo race on his Guillaume Verdier-designed foiler and he is relishing the opportunity. "I'm happy to be on my boat, on Apivia," he said. "It's really good to regain the feeling of being alone... the boat is at 100% and so am I. I managed to get some rest yesterday. I didn't get much sleep last night because of this ridge of high pressure, but I hope once we get out of it we'll be able to recover."

The skipper originally from Le Havre who won last year's Transat Jacques Vabre alongside Yann Eliès, believes the IOC-UNESCO Waypoint can be reached - "more or less" - in one tack once the breeze fills in from the west, to the north of their current position.

Behind Ruyant the chasing boats have been able to catch up with the leading trio, something we rarely see in a Vendée Globe when the leaders usually disappear over the horizon.

This morning Britain's Sam Davies is up to fourth position on Initiatives-Coeur, 20 miles behind Beyou and 12 miles ahead of Isabelle Joschke on MACSF in fifth position. Davies who was 10 miles to windward of Joschke, has been enjoying the easier conditions and has reported that her boat is in good condition.

Behind the two female skippers on the leaderboard, but 25 miles southwest of Davies, is a tight battle for six and seventh between Kévin Escoffier on PRB and Boris Herrmann on Seaexplorer-YC de Monaco. Those two were just a couple of miles apart and still cruising along at 10 knots compared to Beyou at just seven knots.

Back in 14th position about 125 miles off the leading pace, Arnaud Boissières has been benefitting from downwind conditions on the northern edge of the low pressure system that has dominated the race over the last two days. The skipper of La Mie Câline-Artisans Artipôle has had some repairs to make to his autopilot connection and is enjoying this "warm-up" race for the Vendée Globe.

"I'm super-happy to be here and I'm not desperate to catch the little group in front of me," he said. "It's a really nice exercise...first we had upwind sailing and now we're sailing downwind but we're heading north!"

"It's like a big Olympic triangle," he added. "It's the ideal exercise before a Vendée Globe. It's really good for testing the boats and the man. I'm very happy with what we've done this winter on the boat, especially the cockpit hood to protect me from the spray. However, I forgot my gloves. Maybe it's a mistake as my hands are already starting to burn."

All the skippers are feeling the cooler temperatures as they head north towards Iceland and the shorter nights too with just four or five hours of darkness. Boissières commented on this. "It's nice to have shorter nights," he said. "It's like we've got a spotlight on us. It's nice to trim the sails, manoeuvre a little. It's a change from normal nights."

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