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Saturday Night Fever as IMOCAs lead the charge towards New York

Yacht Racing Podcast

The top trio on the Transat CIC solo race to New York from Lorient, France are charging towards the finish line averaging over 22 knots.

A slow down is forecast which should see some compression but this Saturday night with just under 700 miles to sail, Yoann Richomme on the Finot Koch designed Paprec Arkéa is over 70 miles ahead of Charlie Dalin with Germany’s Boris Herrmann (Malizia-Seaexplorer) now in a slightly more defined third place at five miles ahead of Briton Sam Davies (Initiatives Coeur).

And since last night Italy’s Ambrogio Beccaria (Alla Grande Pirelli) holds the lead in Class 40 by nearly 40 miles over Ian Lipinski (Crédit Mutuel) who this evening is three or four knots slower than Beccaria on his Musa 40.

Being in the lead, what changes psychologically?
Yoann Richomme: “What changes is that I feel pressure! I would love to win this damn race! It’s so complicated to get everything right and the goal is still far away. I give it my all, being in the lead gives a form of intensity to each decision that I didn’t feel before. I try to put things into perspective to think calmly and always try to be one step ahead.”

Ambrogio Beccaria: “For the moment, mentally, it doesn’t change anything. But it helps me and encourages me because it shows that I am doing things the right way. Our coach, Tanguy Leglatin told us that this race is an ultra trail run and I think he is completely right. Here I am in the lead for the first time in the race but I know that what awaits us is so long that it means nothing.”

How can we explain this level of intensity since the start?
Y.R: “When I see the list of competitors, I’m not really surprised. For example I don’t know how many Solitaire de Figaro have been contested by each of them, but they are skippers who have this culture of high performance. I knew it was going to be intense from start to finish and it really will be. I know that with the slightest mistake, the group behind me will catch me. The sporting level has risen among everyone.”

A.B: “I expected this, I didn’t think the intensity of the race was going to be any lowern it is. This is also why I came to compete in The Transat CIC. I wanted to see how far we could go. It’s true that from the start, the pace has been incredible!”

How do you view the race of the skippers chasing you?

Y.R: “This is a good group at the head of the race with Charlie (Dalin, MACIF Santé Prévoyance, 2nd), Boris Herrmann (Malizia – Seaexplorer, 3rd), Sam Davies (Initiatives Cœur, 4th) and Maxime Sorel (V and B – Monbana – Mayenne) and everyone is pushing hard. It is super clean. There is a level of navigation and preparation that results in a very close match even for those who take slightly different options. I have a lot of respect for what they do.”

A.B.: “Until today I was one of the pursuers. I find that Ian (Lipinski, Crédit Mutuel) highlights that he is a great champion. He does not have the fastest reaching boat and in the end, he was in the lead for the entire reaching part. His start to the race is incredible. I’m a little disappointed for Nicolas (d’Estais, Café Joyeux) who always makes great starts but who probably has to deal with technical problems, it’s a real shame. He deserved to be in the good package. Fabien (Delahaye, LEGALLAIS) is one of the favorites and he remains so!”

What do you expect on the approach to the finish?

Y.R : “We have a downwind leg that started this morning and we were caught by a bank of fog. It’s super cold, the water must be at 2° and the air not much more. It’s impossible to make too many sail changes in these temperatures. It looks like the Southern Ocean but more extreme sometimes. Then there is a transition area and an ending that looks long and slow depending on the timing. This is why I can’t even give an ETA. 5% difference in speed can result in a 24-hour difference, so it’s not easy to say.”

A.B.: “There are lots of things that will happen in the next five days of sailing! We have almost one new weather phenomenon per day. Now it’s a nice straight path to get to the anticyclone and then there’s a very rapid succession of different weather systems. I’m even having trouble seeing it clearly in my head, it’s going too fast! It’s moving in all directions: I have no idea with what wind we’re going to finish in New York!”

Does being in the lead allow you to be more open in your approach or on the contrary is it an added pressure?

Y.R: “It’s obviously a lot more pressure. It was not bad being right behind Charlie (laughs)! As the finish gets closer, there will be additional intensity. I try to detach myself from the result because I know that until the finish, everything can change.”

A.B.: “No, not at all. The classification it just lets me know if I’m doing things in the right order. It’s a little extra, of course, but I’m not going to spend my time looking at others. We all have different boats, we all have different problems. I have such a small lead with five days to go. I don’t feel freer than before!”