The latest race news from the race
(Ian Lipinski explains his project here)
Prophetic words. Crédit Mutuel only got better as the race wore on. They sailed their own race and had the skills and boat to back it up. Reaching out of the Channel, their northerly strategy was immediately apparent and after the first night they were one of only two boats to stay north of the Ushant Traffic Separation Scheme.
The list of favourites shortened by one after the first night when Britain’s Luke Berry and his French co-skipper, Tanguy Le Turquais, lost their mast while leading on Lamotte – Module Creation in the early hours of the first morning.
On the third night, they tacked south in seventh, 35 miles behind. Aïna Enfance & Avenir, the narrowest of runners-up in 2017 and most people’s marginal favourite at the start, were leading by three miles from Leyton.
By the fifth day, the fleet compressed in tricky upwind conditions with boats stuck in single figure boats speeds. “Our shift north? We still don’t know if it will be beneficial, but we think it's not that bad,” Lipinski, 38, said. It wasn’t and a few hours later and after five and a half days of racing, on the latitude of southern Portugal, Lipinski and Hardy, 35, took a lead they would never relinquish.
It was far from plain sailing. They still led by only 9 miles from their formidable and proven pursuers as they approached the Canary Islands.
But by the ninth day, they had clearly begun to enjoy themselves and were sounding ominously confident. The four lead boats got through the ridge of high pressure around Gibraltar unscathed and in the north-east trade winds extended away from the rest of the fleet under spinnaker.
“We haven’t touched the helm since Ushant,” Lipinski said in what became a repeated refrain. “We’re as happy looking at our track on Adrena (routing software), as a skier looking back at his track after descending a slope.”
24-hour speed record
In the north-east trade winds they powered away remorsely 20 miles to the west and on the 11thday after planing past the Cape Verde islands they repeatedly broke the 24-hour speed record. They peaked at 415.86 miles at average speed of 17.3 knots over 24 hours between 03:30 on 4.11.19 and 03:30 on 5.11.19. That beat the old record of 377.7 miles at average speed of 15.7 knots by 2017 winners V and B, set in the last edition of the Transat Jacques Vabre Normandie Le Havre. Despite the much less favourable conditions, they were only six hours outside V and B’s 2017 course record of 17 days 10 hours 44 minutes and 15 seconds.
“The boat is going on its own, we found the right sails, we’re monitoring it, but its going alone,” Lipinski said this morning. “We’re under medium spinnaker with 1 reef and 2 reefs in the mainsail. We’re getting around on all fours, the boat slams lot, we’re trying not to hurt ourselves. It's a bit wet on deck, but I think it’s nothing compared to those behind us.”
Crédit Mutuel was 81 miles ahead of Leyton and 89 miles ahead of Aïna Enfance & Avenir. Both were regularly touching the old 24-hour record in their Manuard mach 3 boats but are losing miles at every ranking.
After that, it appeared that they just had to avoid being Charaled in the Doldrums to secure victory and they managed that with aplomb, never offering Leyton a genuine sniff.
Goodchild and Delahaye are perhaps better judged by how they put the same margin between them and Leyton’s sistership, Aïna Enfance & Avenir, in third. No one in the fleet knew their boat better than Aïna’s skipper Aymeric Chappellier.
There were some similarities to the 2017-edition where Britain’s Phil Sharpe on a Manuard mach 2 was gradually dropped by the mach 3’s in front of him.
Thus to Leyton, great credit – in fact, you will advance your sleep-deprived correspondent some leeway if he ventures - mutual credit to the first two Class40 boats into Salvador.
The race came too early for Banque du Léman, a Manuard mach 4, who powered down the coast of Braizil into fourth. So that battle of the designers may yet have a postscript. The mach 4 lies somewhere between the mach 3 and the David Raison-designed, Crédit Mutuel.
There was always pressure, but Crédit Mutuel was always equal to it and they appeared to be enjoying their coast down north-east Brazil on their penultimate day at sea. “We think we’re going well, but we are still watching the rankings every hour,” Lipinski said.
But if they were feeling the pressure on Crédit Mutuel, that was slightly undermined by their menu. “Yesterday, Adrien made bread and today he’s making a crumble,” Lipinski added. Victory was on the menu and tasted sweet.
Key moment: Crédit Mutuel powers away at 24-hour record pace.
Did not finish: Entraide Marine-Adosm, SOS Mediterranée; Lamotte - Module Creation; Kiho; Beijaflore
1st Crédit Mutuel – Ian Lipinsky and Adrien Hardy
Finished: Thursday, November 14, 2019 at 04:36:23 (UTC)
Race time: 17 days, 16 hours 21 minutes and 23 seconds
Miles travelled: 4,714.35 nautical miles, average speed 11.11 knots.
2nd Leyton – Sam Goodchild and Fabien Delahaye
Finished: Thursday, November 14, 2019 at 12:58:11 (UTC)
Race time: 18 days, 0 hours 43 minutes and 11 seconds
Miles travelled: 4,663.32 nautical miles, average speed of 10.78 knots.
Distance to winner: 8 hours 21 minutes and 48 seconds
3rd Aïna Enfance & Avenir – Aymeric Chappellier and Pierre Leboucher
Finished: Thursday, November 14, 2019 at 16:21:45 (UTC)
Race time: 18 days, 4 hours 6 minutes and 45 seconds
Miles travelled: 4,656.22 nautical miles, average speed of 10.68 knots.
Distance to winner: 11 hours 45 minutes and 22 seconds