Moving slightly to the east
"It feels good to be able to move slightly to the east, because as far as I know, there is no course mark off Newfoundland!" With this little joke, Marc Guillemot sums up the situation quite well with the fleet of eight Imoca monohulls in the Transat B to B completing their fifth day of racing. Since the start in St. Bart's on Monday, they have practically always been heading north. This route has been forced on them by the weather patterns, which are blocking their way across the Atlantic… This route towards the top of the charts has only just started to turn slightly.
A complicated weather situation
"For a few hours now, I've been able to head a little towards the east," explained the skipper of Safran, "I hope it will last. After that, I'm going to have to find a way to hop onto a low pressure area, which should finally mean quick sailing on the direct route towards the finish." He is talking about the port of Lorient, which is still some 2700 miles away. "I am on the port tack in a 13-knot NNW'ly wind, under solent," added Marc Guillemot, "The problem that is in terms of the rankings, I don't have that much to be pleased about (6th 58 miles from the leader Macif this morning, editor's note). I had a really bad day yesterday. I got held up in a calm for several hours… and to get out of there, I had to head off in a direction I wasn't keen on taking. But there's still a long way to go and everything is still to play for in this complicated weather. We can see quite clearly, in fact, that that there are 100 miles separating Jean-Pierre Dick (Virbac Paprec3, editor's note) right up in the north and Armel Le Cléac'h (Banque Populaire, editor's note) way down south, so everyone is scratching their heads..." Safran is sailing between these two extremes, slightly further back in longitude from the fleet, which is 650 miles off the direct route.
They are going to have to be patient: "The day before yesterday, I was in contact with Armel Le Cléac'h (2nd, editor's note) and then I lost ground in the calm. But I didn't ease off at all and even carried out a lot of sail changes."
As for his preparation for the Vendée Globe, on the other hand, it is all very positive. "I have found my feet again sailing solo and it feels good. I feel at ease on the boat. It is still too soon to say if this Transat will be beneficial for my Vendée Globe preparation. I'll tell you that at the finish. But I am more or less certain that sooner or later, we'll be finding stronger winds, as we make our way across the Atlantic." And rougher conditions are exactly what a Vendée Globe racer needs to be prepared for.
0700 rankings on Friday 9th December 2011
Safran 6th 58 miles from the leader Macif (François Gabart), at 34°29 North and 62°20 Westr. Speed 12.5 knots. 2709 miles from the finish in Lorient.
600 miles off the coast of North Carolina (USA), Safran has finally managed to start to ease her way slightly eastwards this morning (Friday 9th December). In sixth place in this morning's rankings, Marc Guillemot is still feeling upbeat. There is still a long way to go and the solo sailing is going well.