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Transat CIC: Dalin and Lipinski still lead as fleet braces for Atlantic low pressure system.

Yacht Racing Podcast

After passing through an earlier front yesterday with winds in excess of 30 knots and heavy seas, the fleet, which has left the south coast of Ireland behind and is now sailing on the open ocean, is gearing up for the second complex weather situation. Although the leaders are still over 2,300 miles away from the finish line in New York, the next few hours will be crucial.

Yesterday, one of the race favourites Jérémie Beyou on Charal had to throw in the towel, as did three other IMOCA skippers and one Class40. Everyone’s motto seems to be: get through the low pressure unscathed and keep the boat safe.It has been a second very active, busy night after the passage of a front yesterday, with all the skippers already feeling tired after the passage of the first front which brought winds of more than 30kts. The IMOCA leaders of the Transat CIC have been negotiating the unsettled winds around the centre of an area of low pressure which is moving west. They are all seeking to break into the new, strengthening NW’ly breeze first, picking the best and fastest angle west towards New York.

Charlie Dalin (MACIF Santé Prevoyance) has regained the lead in the IMOCAs, after relinquishing it for a few hours, and now must watch out for the pair behind him formed by Yoann Richomme (Paprec Arkéa) and Paul Meilhat (Biotherm), who are chasing Dalin and closed in on him and are now just over ten miles behind. “We’re getting ready for some pretty strong winds. I’ve already reduced sail, two reefs to the mainsail, getting ready for what’s coming today. We have to ensure the boat is safe,” Richomme said in a video sent ashore. “I’m happy with the position to the north, I’m back in the lead group, and I have a good angle for the next stretch. I hope I will be able to rest a bit, because tomorrow we will sail faster, at a wider angle. The big gennakers will come out…”

The first group includes Louis Burton (Bureau Vallée) who also made big gains over the last few hours, Nicolas Lunven (Holcim – PRB) and Vendée Globe winner Yannick Bestaven (Maitre CoQ V).

Britain’s Sam Davies (Initiatives Coeur) has showed good pace and is currently the first female skipper sitting in 7th place, some 40 miles behind the leader. In a video message sent to race HQ this morning, she said that last night’s strong winds and big waves caused some minor damage to her IMOCA, forcing her to carry out some DIY repairs on board. “Tonight it’s going to get rougher, and tomorrow the wind is going to be very strong, with crossed seas so not comfortable at all. It will be key to have the right sail configuration and to keep going until it gets better. But I feel good, I’ve eaten well and I slept quite a lot.”

As for the other international skippers, Boris Herrmann (Malizia – Seaexplorer) is in 10th place over 50 miles from the main group, Some 60 miles back, in 12th is Switzerland’s Justine Mettraux (Teamwork – Team SNEF) while Italian Giancarlo Pedote (Prismyan) is 15th and Japan’s Kojiro Shiraishi (DMG MORI Global One) is 17th. Britain’s James Harayda (Gentoo Sailing Team) and Swiss-German, Ollie Heer (Oliver Heer Ocean Racing) are in in 22nd and 25th place respectively.

At midday, 29 IMOCA boats were still racing following Jean Le Cam’s retirement (Tout commence en Finistère – Armor Lux), Sébastien Marsset (FOUSSIER) for medical reasons and Arnaud Boissières (La Mie Câline) suffering a problem with the port foil system. As for Jérémie Beyou (Charal), one of the big favourites in the race, he was forced to retire from the opening race of the season following damage to the forestay of his J2 while sailing in less than 20 knots of breeze with waves of 2 to 3 metres. The skipper is now heading for Lorient, to carry out repairs as quickly as possible before setting off again to reach New York for the start of New York-Vendée on 29 May.

Among the Class40s, also now heading west, there is a tight battle going on in the leading pack, with the top four, led by Ian Lipinski (Crédit Mutuel), all within 10 miles of each other at the 2pm rankings. Lipinski, Fabien Delahaye (Legallais Team Voile) and Nicolas d’Estais (Café Joyeux) form a French trio trying to keep at bay the Italian duo made up of Ambrogio Beccaria (Alla Grande Pirelli) in fourth less than 7 miles back and Alberto Bona (IBSA) in fifth. The first and only female sailor in the class Amélie Grassi (La Boulangère Bio) is in sixth place and less than 28 miles from the leader.

There are now 12 Class40s racing, as Quentin Le Nabour has had to head back to Brittany due to a broken bowsprit on his new Mach 40.6 Class40 Bleu Blanc Planète Location.

Some 300 miles behind the leading IMOCA, the two Vintage boats got out of the front late this evening.

A busy afternoon and a busier evening

In the early afternoon, most of the fleet were heading west in a northerly air flow, which is set to strengthen as the day progresses, reaching 30 knots with seas that are also set to build to up to 4 metres.
“The afternoon will be quite invigorating. We can see that the IMOCAs are taking it relatively easy. You get the impression that they’re putting their foot on the brakes a little to try and avoid breaking anything,” observed Yann Chateau, Deputy Race Director, who believes that the Class40s should be in the same mindset, especially as a small mistake can quickly prove costly. “This fairly steady northerly to north-westerly flow is due to the pressure gradient between the low-pressure area to the north of the British Isles and a ridge of high pressure extending northwards from the Azores High,” continued Yann Château, adding that as soon as the sailors get close to the ridge of high pressure and enter it, “they’ll have a little respite to carry out a good check on their boats.”