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Transat CIC: IMOCA leader Richomme attempts a breakaway move

Yacht Racing Podcast

Might The Transat CIC’s IMOCA class lead Yoann Richomme be making good his escape towards New York? The French solo skipper of Paprec Arkéa has opened out some 25 or 30 miles on his nearest pursuer Charlie Dalin (MACIF Santé et Prévoyance) over the last 12-18 hours and late this afternoon was nearly 60 miles clear with some 1300 miles to the finish line which actually lies some 120 miles offshore of New York City.

Briton Sam Davies lies third on Initiatives Coeur but will certainly be upset to have seen her nearest rival, friend and co-skipper Paul Meilhat compromised this morning when his Biotherm hit a floating object suffering damage to his port foil and foil well. He will push on to New York but had already dropped to sixth this afternoon making a modest 12kts whilst fourth placed Boris Herrmann (Malizia Seaexplorer) was making more than 20.

Richomme, a proven master of weather strategy, is on great form, a daily video today showed him whooping for joy as his IMOCA flew along in the flatter water as he led the fleet out of the complex low pressure system which had given winds of more than 40kts and big seas yesterday. Dalin is slightly slower. Assistant Race Director Yann Eliès suspects Dalin has had some damage and had spent some time ‘tinkering’ as the French call making small repairs.

“Charlie Dalin had to go ‘off course’ yesterday in difficult sea and wind conditions, which surely caused a lot of damage. He has been displaying jerky speeds ever since. He must be tinkering and trying to find solutions to repair and regain a minimum of potential. The speeds are so high that it’s complicated as soon as you stop. I am impressed by the speed and commitment of the sailors. Their faces are hollowed. This shows the intensity of the race they are fully engaged in” says Eliès who has moved to race direction support after a long career including three La Solitaire du Figaro wins and two Vendée Globes, but who has raced as co-skipper to Dalin and more recently with Richomme on last year’s Transat Jacques Vabre.

But while Richomme is looking good just now Elies points out the finish over Monday is forecast to be slow, “It will slow down over the last 400 miles on Monday before the line and the fleet will compress in from behind”. And so nothing is set in stone and there will be a benefit in trying to rest as much as possible for the final 24 hours.

Dalin is enjoying every aspect of his return to solo IMOCA racing, and he is just as much up for the final meteo challenges, “The trajectories are interesting, the management of the weather systems is special because you have to think twice.. We don’t just think about the next thing coming, but about the one after that, or even after that.”

Germany’s Herrmann is sailing another well modulated race so far, comfortable in his own skin back racing solo after developing a love for crewed racing on The Ocean Race. He is very much in his own bubble he says and sailing his own race, although profiting from constantly benchmarking against Davies on the AIS.

Herrmann called in this afternoon, “So far in this race I have always had someone on AIS and I am enjoying matching someone directly since the mark off South Brittany and now I have Sam Davies who I see and I can see the changes coming and down, so I can anticipate and compare my speed. Today was quite and enjoyable day, it got a little bit light and I gybed last night and then I went a little south to get a better angle. I don’t follow the news of the race as I am a little in my own world, life is good, it is bouncy for sure, but it is very warm today for sure, hot, the boat is a little bit of a greenhouse, rather be too hot than too cold which is good news for the South in the future. The conditions are a bit like the South.”

He is just two miles behind Davies, both are in touch with Richomme who is further west by about 60 miles, not much considering the leaders will be first into the sticky slow stuff.

Tanguy le Turquais is now in 12th among the foiling IMOCAs on Lazare, his well optimised straight daggerboard 2007 Finot Conq design which Damien Seguin sailed to seventh on the last Vendée Globe and on which Eric Bellion made ninth on the previous race.

Switzerland’s Alan Roura is 13th, reporting today from HUBLOT, “So far I’m quite happy with the race, I was not too bad on the first part. Hopefully I can manage to keep going and catch some of the others, they’re not too far ahead. I’m really happy with the boat and with myself, to sail that fast and that close, I’m actually in the match so I’m pretty happy about it. I don’t have too many problems with the boat, even if I only splashed the boat into the water a week before the start of the race, everything is fine. Just some little things like the furling system of gennaker. I think I have some wind instrument problem but the rest is so far so good. It’s kind of hard to make the boat go well in these kind of conditions, a lot of sea with crossed waves. Now I’ve got 10 knots of wind so it’s hard.”

And in 25th Ollie Heer reported today from his IMOCA Oliver Heer Ocean Racing, the boat which won the 2008 race, “It’s been quite full on here, after intense days upwind it’s now intense days downwind – 30 to 35 knots, pretty full on. I feel really sorry for the guys that have dropped out, I think Monnoyeur has had a problem as well, looking at his tracker. I think it will stay this way for another two days so we have to look after the boat and keep sailing towards New York.”

In Class 40 still in the lead, Ian Lipinski was only 8.5 miles ahead of Italy’s Ambrogio Beccaria, 15.8 miles ahead of Fabien Delahaye and 69.3 miles ahead of Nicolas d’Estais (CAFÉ JOYEUX). The Transat CIC title is very much in the balance, knowing that a transition zone awaits them 1000 miles from the finish.

“This transition will be more difficult to cross for those arriving to it later”, says Yann Eliès, who believes that “everything will be decided in the last moments. Until now, it was mainly about commitment, the reliability of the boats and a little bit of strategy with three moves to play and courses that are not easy to adjust. But the key point for the four leading boats will be three days before the finish.”

The end-of-race scenario is therefore not easy to predict for the Class40s either and Beccaria is in good shape. He said today:

“The race has its reputation. I’m feeling like I chose to do this race because it was different from the others and I love to see some other routes but it is not an easy, nice one. It’s full of big storms and I have some little problems on the boat but I think that everyone has some, but I think everyone their own and I do have some, tonight I have the biggest but it didn’t last too long. I don’t know how it was possible but I was able to repair the bowsprit very very fast because I have a bowsprit that can be move it. The system broke in down wind of 30 knots with the Spi. it was a big mess.

“Two hours later I was able to sail again, I think this is the main lesson of the race. You don’t have to go out, just be in the race, repair as you can and just race. The weather for the next few days – in the next few hours we will dive into the middle of the low pressure, to do as little as possible of the route. We will do some gybes and it will not be an easy task because there will be 35 knots. After this, it’s not super easy to know because there will be a high pressure a big ridge to go through. it’s not very easy to understand if it’ll be from north west or south west or what. So it’s not going to be an easy one. My boat compared to Credit Mutuel Thet are doing amazing but I think I know the boat very well because I sailed with them and the boat a lot. I think only Ian Lipinski can do this kind of racing with that boat because it’s unbelievable. It’s actually a boat that’s lower in reaching and until yesterday it was a reaching race and they were still leading and leading the class. Because now it’s downwind and downwind is very fast. We will see, we will see. it’s an unbelievable race. I love my boat, I love it. It’s mine, everything about it.

“I did not sail the best route ever in the south of Ireland. But it was a conservative one and I am really happy I was able to check with the leader group. It was not an easy task. Meanwhile I have been cooking a lot of freeze dried unfortunately, but a couple of days ago I cooked some past which was nice, a taste of home always helps and picks you up”

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