The southern group is making headway at the latitude of Cape Verde
This Thursday, the competitors further south in the 23rd Mini Transat EuroChef fleet have evidently hung a right. Pretty much all of them are now on a direct route towards the West Indies, propelled along by a NE'ly trade wind which, though slightly lacklustre, is enabling them to post an average speed of between 8.5 and 10.5 knots, whilst their adversaries further north are having to pick their way along through patchy breeze and are readying themselves for a few tricky hours, especially so over the course of tomorrow. The reason for this is a large area of very light winds sprawled right in front of them that could well wreak havoc on the leader board.
The southern group, which is now making headway at roughly the latitude of Cape Verde, has clearly bent its trajectory round to the west. As such, it's currently benefiting from an advantageous heading in relation to the goal and are powering along on a direct route towards Guadeloupe, which is still some 1,700 miles ahead of their bows after what is soon to be six days of racing. In the zone in question, the NE'ly trade wind is proving to be a little lazy as it generates between 13 and 17 knots of breeze depending on the time of day.
Though we're still a far cry from the wild, long surfs and supersonic peaks of speed in the brochure, the sailors are managing to rack up an average speed of between 8.5 and 10.5 knots of VMG and, as a result, reduce their leader board deficits in relation to those sailors in the north. This is evidenced in the prototype fleet, where Arno Biston (551 – Bahia Express), who was lying in 12th position yesterday at 12:00 UTC with a 126-mile deficit in relation to the first boat, is riding high in 3rd place today, at the same time, around fifty miles or so astern of the leader, François Champion (945 – Porsche Taycan.
The same is true, albeit to a lesser extent, in the production boat category, where the group headed by Jean Cruse (910 – Ini Mini Myni Mo), Quentin Riché (947 – Race for Pure Ocean) and Marine Legendre (902 – EY – Pile Poil) is slowly but surely clawing back miles in relation to its rivals making headway at the opposite end of the race zone. These rivals include Melwin Fink (920 – SignForCom), who is currently lying in first place, banging the point home that he's more than capable of maintaining high speeds, along with all the sailors presently in the Top 10 in the provisional overall ranking drawn up after the first leg, with the exception of Anne-Claire Le Berre (1005 – Rendez-Vous Equilibre).
This trend is set to become even more exaggerated in the coming hours too, especially so over the course of tomorrow, because from 33° or 34° West, those favouring the most direct route will stumble up against a light patch, which is sprawled out smack bang in the middle of the Atlantic. "The further north the competitors are, the more they will be impacted", explains Christian Dumard, the race's weather consultant, whose grib files provide a rather gloomy insight into the 18 to 36 tricky hours the latter group of sailors are due to face. Put plainly, we can expect to see the current hierarchy turned on its head because, as part of the fleet struggles to make headway, the other will continue to lengthen their stride. So what of those who are positioned between the two groups? It's hard to say.
Some are trying to slink southwards at the moment to avoid stalling, but their angle of descent is not ideal. For others, like François Champion, there may still be a slender chance that they won't get trapped, but it's going to be touch and go. You've got the picture then, by tomorrow, things may look vastly different on the leader board and, at this stage of the game, certain skippers may well lose a few tail feathers on the Atlantic playing field, even though it promises to be a long old ride to Saint François. Indeed, the latest routing suggests that the first prototypes aren't likely to make landfall before the morning of Saturday 13 November, while the first production boats aren't due in before the evening of Sunday 14.
Of note elsewhere on the racetrack
In other news from the racecourse today, it's important to highlight the autopilot issues lamented by Lucas Valenza-Troubat (606 – Six Saucisses) and Felip Moll Marques (588 – Alleva). Otherwise, each of them is doing just fine.