With the dramatic capsize of the maxi-trimaran, Banque Populaire IX early this afternoon and after it all ended for Thomas Coville (Sodebo) and Sébastien Josse (Edmond de Rothschild), the Route du Rhum – Destination Guadeloupe has turned into something of a match race across the Atlantic between the final two members of the Ultim class. The duel we have seen since Ushant between Francis Joyon and François Gabart has continued today with a tactical tacking duel to the north of Madeira between the two race leaders. Clearly, the two skippers share the same analysis of the highly complicated weather situation, which lies ahead before they pick up the trade winds. They are carrying out similar manoeuvres trying to find their way through to the south of the high.
Having both clocked up two changes of tack today, Francis Joyon and François Gabart are fully synchronised as they make their way down below the Azores. The seas remain heavy with waves in excess of four metres and the wind is very unstable, but much lighter than the rest of the fleet in the Bay of Biscay. The two skippers are now tackling the first really tactical part of the early stage of the race, which involves dealing with the transition into the trade winds. Nothing is looking settled in the weather patterns and Francis admits he is looking for a tiny gap to get through into stronger downwind sailing. At the moment, steering the boat is an acrobatic exercise on the IDEC SPORT maxi-trimaran, which is flying along and easily rises up on her leeward float.
Francis has fortunately now passed Cape Finisterre, and managed to snatch a few naps. When he woke up, there was some DIY to do and then Francis went back on the attack under full mainsail and J2, the wide ranging genoa.
“Just before the start, someone told me the story of Tibetan monks, who never slept and made do with a few moments of shut-eye, while holding noisy objects, which when they fell to the tiled flooring in their cell, immediately would wake them. Those short moments of sleep are more useful in terms of recovery than any other form of sleep. Just as well, as since the start, that’s about all I have had too!”