The latest race news from the race
Dramatic Atlantic rescue after stunning Ultime lead switch
The 13th edition of the Transat Jacques Vabre now has 35 crews left racing following the abandonment today (Thursday) of Halvard Mabire and Britain’s Miranda Merron on their Class40 Campagne de France and the capsizing last night of the Multi50 Drekan Groupe.
Eric Defert and Christopher Pratt, the two French sailors trapped on the overturned Drekan Groupe overnight, are safe and sound after being rescued by the crew of the Dutch cargo ship, Beautriton, this morning. They are now heading for Georgetown, USA, instead of the finish line in Salvador de Bahia, Brazil.
It was a sobering fifth day of this bi-annual double-handed Route du café, tracing the historic coffee trade route from Le Havre. The hectic pace set by the leaders, the chaotic sea and the violent squalls are making enormous demands on the boats and the sailors.
In happier circumstances, the headline surprise of the morning would have been Sodebo Ultim' taking the lead from Maxi Edmond de Rothschild in the Ultime class at the front of the fleet. Thomas Coville and Jean-Luc Nélias’s decision to position themselves further west paid in stunning fashion as they turned a 70-mile deficit into a 60 mile lead. Sébastien Josse and Thomas Rouxel were forced to gybe last night and are sailing in Sodebo Ultim’s wake. Ominously, the newly-launched Maxi Edmond de Rothschild had already eaten back 10 miles of that advantage yesterday afternoon, averaging 28 knots to their rivals 20.
In the Imoca, the favourite, St Michel-Virbac, was maintaining its lead, but even more impressive was the incredible SMA, who are still somehow in second just 30 miles behind in an old boat without foils. In the Multi 50 the fight is getting ever fiercer between Arkema and FenêtréA-Mix Buffet, who have opened up a gap of 150 miles on the rest.
In the Class40, the Anglo-Spanish duo of Phil Sharp and Pablo Santurde (Imerys Clean Energy) has been setting a speed that has been punishing his French rivals in newer boats and matching the older boats at the back of the Imoca 60 fleet. Only V and B have matched them and are 30 miles behind, making a spectacular comeback after having to slow and laminate a cracked forward bulkhead yesterday.
Capsize and rescue
Eric Defert, skipper of Drekan Groupe, contacted by phone on the Beautriton cargo ship:
“We were sailing downwind under one reef with the little gennaker. We were going to roll up the little gennaker. I was below and Chris (Christopher Pratt) was on deck. I was preparing to go out, to take in another reef. The boat pitchpoled, (plunging forward and flipping over). It was blowing hard, we were under a squall in a pitch-black night, but we were being very cautious. Chris just got inside. I was below, so that's ok, but when you're on deck it's less easy. There was a huge feeling of shock. You blame yourself; there are no words. Our rescuers arrived in the area at half past midnight. They circled around us all night; they did a great job. The rescue was epic because there was a lot of sea and wind. Their boat only had a small 15hp engine. They came to save us, and we found out that one of them was having a birthday. So, maybe his gift was saving two lives.”
Mabire and Merron on Campagne de France (Class40) arrived in their home port of Cherbourg at 11:30 UTC and officially declared their abandonment to the race office, following serious damage to their port rudder on Tuesday.
Enel Green Power, skippered by Italians, Andrea Fantini and Alberto Bona are heading to Lisbon to try and fix their starboard rudder (bracket or bearing). They recovered the rudder, but there is a big hole in the stern at the level of the rudder attachment.
Back to business
The Ultime, Prince de Bretagne, left the island of Santa Maria in the south of the archipelago of the Azores at around noon. After a mast climb, Bernard Stamm and Lionel Lemonchois were able to solve their mainsail halyard problem.
Slamming on the brakes
A mini-Doldrums tomorrow before the real thing looks like causing a headache for the two giant trimarans at the front as they pass the half-way mark and approach the latitude of the Cape Verde islands. As forecast, the stationary depression in the southern part of the Canaries is disrupting the trade winds.
Mind the squalls
For the Multi50, Imoca and Class40 the wet, wild gusts and battering seas are not over yet. “We’re all on fire,” Alexis Loison, co-skipper of Class40, Carac, said. “At the moment, we are under a spinnaker with 2 reefs in the mainsail and we’re doing 18 knots.” Erwan Le Roux on his Multi50, FenêtréA - Mix Buffet, said that the atmosphere was like a dizzying black run descent. Tomorrow the conditions should begin to improve. DIY and napping will be on the schedule.
Samantha Davies, co-skipper Iniatives-Cœeur (Imoca)
“My thoughts are with the Multi 50 guys and hats off to all of them because these conditions are really hard and it’s hard enough for us (in an Imoca 60 monohull) and we’ve got a keel underneath our boat that keeps us the right way up. But there’s been a couple of times with Tanguy and I when we’ve put our boat on its side with various manoeuvres or just trying to push it too hard. But our boat comes back upright when tips over on its side, it’s not the same for a Multi 50.
It’s loud because we’re doing 29 knots. The speed were doing is absolutely ridiculous, so the gaps in terms of time are only a matter of an hour or two. So, it’s really still pretty close.”