Finish in order to qualify

The breakage of the keel actuator rod, suffered by Safran on Saturday, is now preventing Marc Guillemot from battling for victory. However, the main objective of this Transat Ecover B to B remains: to complete the race in order to obtain the very precious qualification for the Vendée Globe 2008.

"The main aim is to finish this race in order to qualify for the Vendée Globe" said Marc Guillemot prior to the start of this Transat Ecover B to B which saw him at the head of the fleet until Saturday 8th December, when the keel actuator rod gave up the ghost (see press release and video from Marc explaining the damage). Though he's clearly disappointed not to be able to defend his chances at 100 % and to do battle against Loïck Peyron – with whom he contested the leadership until Friday - the skipper of Safran must go back to basics: finish this race at all costs, even under reduced sail area, handicapping his boat "by around 30% of its potential" he estimates.

Remain positive
Thanks to the emergency system, Marc has managed to lock the keel vertically with the help of a false actuator rod, which will enable him to continue his course on towards Port-la-Forêt. The technical incident is part and parcel of mechanical sport. Though it is cruel and infuriating, better that it happens during this stage of the programme rather than eight days after the start of the Vendée Globe…. The whole of the Safran Sailing Team will be able, with the help of the engineers at SAFRAN, analyse the causes of the damage and resolve them prior to the grand start of the Everest of the Seas at the end of 2008.

The head of the fleet at the Azores
Marc Guillemot couldn't be contacted at the lunchtime radio session, whilst at the head of the fleet at the Azores. Doubtless too busy driving his damaged boat and sorting out his steed in order to prevent him from retiring, like Armel Le Cléac'h on Brit'Air (dismasting) and Mike Golding on Ecover (various damage). Even in these conditions, and this is a great performance in itself, Marc was managing to keep Safran in 4th position at the latest ranking at 1400 hours. The leadership was still being controlled by Loïck Peyron (Gitana Eighty), 1,100 miles from the finish. From La Baule on France's Atlantic coast, Peyron had a 37 miles lead over Kito de Pavant (Groupe Bel) and the invincible Michel Desjoyeaux (Foncia), was back to within 48 miles of the leader. Next up, Safran is 84 miles off the lead, Generali 101 miles back. These five leaders have a lead of between 100 and 200 miles over the chasing pack, led by Bernard Stamm (Cheminées Poujoulat, 6th and 203 miles from the leader).

First arrivals in sight…
With a S'ly wind – downwind therefore – expected to kick in from this afternoon, the pace should pick up towards Port-la-Forêt, where the frontrunners may well be expected from Thursday evening. The focus then will be on not losing too much ground since the leading group will benefit from steady, favourable wind. Unfortunately, a forecast wind shift may well force the rest of the fleet to finish off the race upwind, thus creating massive deficits in relation to the winner. Will Safran be able to stay in the same system as the three or four leading boats? This is the big question, even though Marc Guillemot's boat should logically suffer from its keel being locked in the axis of the downwind conditions as opposed to those upwind. There are still a few days of sea and adventure remaining before the qualification is in the bag!

Monday 10th December 2007

The breakage of the keel actuator rod, suffered by Safran on Saturday, is now preventing Marc Guillemot from battling for victory. However, the main objective of this Transat Ecover B to B remains: to complete the race in order to obtain the very precious qualification for the Vendée Globe 2008.