The 5,400 mile Transat Jacques Vabre continues to claim victims. Two more IMOCA 60s have suffered damage and one has retired from racing. HUGO BOSS and O Canada have reported damage and Alex Thompson onboard HUGO BOSS has made the decision to abandon the attempt at Itajai. O Canada will attempt repairs to the mast track and hopes to resume racing, however they are not certain of their fate. The latest string of dropouts bringing the total count of retirees to nine.
Among these nine teams are five IMOCA boats, and of those, three have been the foilers. It’s a disappointing go for many of the skippers onboard the newer models, but Banque Populaire VIII holds on to second place overall in the IMOCA fleet and is giving hope that the new foils will work… once the bugs are fixed. With less than 10 miles to the leader, Banque Populaire is closing the gap and showing promise that they will be the first monohull to arrive in Brazil if all goes smoothly.
For the rest of the fleet, a welcome break has found many of the sailors in the form of light winds.
While the leading duo of Ultimes, Sodebo Ultim and Macif, pass between the Canary Islands and the Moroccan coast in light winds last night and this morning, there was a welcome pause for the remainder of the fleet last night as they encountered a small light winds bubble. But a new depression over the Azores is going to make life tough for the next 24 hours.
Because the Azores high is displaced and squeezed the two leaders face the prospect of light winds and having to stick with the African coast where the best corridor of stronger winds are. There is even a passage through the Doldrums which is very east.
The contrast is marked for the rest of the fleet. After two depressions in three days they face another, a potent cocktail at the Azores mixing a cold mass of air from Labrador and hot Caribbean air to form a malicious low which will sweep the islands before spinning up towards Ireland.
The co-skipper pairs got a break last night, winds dropped to five knots which allowed some respite and perhaps the chance to rapidly tackle any repairs or try and create some order on board. But before dawn this morning this next low looked set to bring winds of over 30kts. At the latitude of the Azores the leaders are likely to pass to the East of the islands rather than through. From here it will be 400 hard miles to the latitude of Madeira before getting to more manageable conditions.
The top four IMOCAs are now lead by PRB, Vincent Riou and Seb Col overhauling Queguiner-Leucemie Espoir, Yann Eliès and Charlie Dalin, during the night to now be 3.5 miles ahead. They have Banque Populaire VIII 12 miles behind them and SMA, Paul Meilhat and Michel Desjoyeaux 17 miles behind Armel Le Cléac’h and Erwan Tabarly. 150 miles further north the back markers will have half day more suffering the brunt of the depression.
And for Class 40 the break is perhaps more welcomed. They face even longer in these testing conditions before they can break south. The leading duo are less than a mile apart, tracking west in upwind conditions. Yannick Bestaven and Pierre Brasseur on Le Conservateur still have V & B nicely in their pocket, leading directly in front of their rivals whilst this top two have a lead of over 30 miles. Of the internationals Brazilian duo Eduardo Penido and Eduardo Araujo lie seventh on their first big Class 40 race with Pip Hare and Philippa Hutton-Squire in ninth.