Phil Sharp increases lead by 70 miles during 24 hours in Route du Rhum Class 40 7/11/06

The young British sailor Phil Sharp currently leading Class 40 in the Route du Rhum continues to gain pace on his northerly route towards Guadeloupe. Sharp who finished third in the Mini Fastnet race earlier this year and who last year finished a creditable fourth overall in the Mini Transat has increased his lead overnight and now leads Gildas Morvan in Oyster Funds by 81 miles with 1,685 miles to go. Interestingly Sharp’s British team mates – Ian Munslow and Nick Bubb – are also following Sharp’s track north but seem to have lost 85-90 miles over the leader in the last 24 hours. Despite this Bubb sounds in top form.

Chatting from the boat this morning Bubb said: “I saw a ship today for the first time in a few days also much more excitingly I saw a whale something like 25 to 30 ft long right next to the boat, I was on the foredeck battling with some sail and I was caught in a moment of WOW that is amazing, and also I hope he doesn’t come any closer!! He hung around for an bit then sloped off. Despite the ten of thousands of miles I have sailed in the last few years, I haven’t been privileged enough to see a whale so close up.

“In a reflective moment last night I was thinking how well this boat is coping with everything seeing as it is only the 5th time she has ever been sailed since being launched at the beginning of October! Feeling lots better this morning despite very light tricky night, done a huge amount of jobs on the boat to improve reliability and performance, some of them would definitely come under the description of building rather than maintenance… Only issue at the moment is the very flappy foot of my Solent as the foot line has parted company after a small amount of chafe on the pulpit. I’ve learnt a hell of a lot the last week or so about handling the demands of a bigger boat on your own and I am hoping this will help me for a fast finish!

“Am off for a coffee now and a few hours on the helm, in these moderate upwind conditions the pilots work fantastically, sailing to precise wind
angles. Sailing really is a joy when it’s like this. I have just loaded the water ballast, we are fully powered up and the sun is out.”

For Bubb the game plan is to reach the cold front, which is lying on an axis south-west/north-east, as fast as possible. Having passed under the front he should benefit from the strong northeasterly winds forecast.

The ORMA fleet has been steadily flowing across the finish line in Guadeloupe since yesterday morning with Lionel Lemonchois, Pascal Bidegorry, Thomas Coville, Michel Desjoyeaux and Franck Cammas completing the course within seven and eight days and all within the record-breaking time set by set in 1998 by Laurent Bourgon. Yvan Bourgon on Brossard should finish within the next hour or so.

By taking a route north Jean Le Cam on VM Materiaux and Jean-Pierre Dick on Virbac-Paprec has closed the gap slightly on IMOCA class leader Roland Jourdain on Sill et Veolia. However, Jourdain is currently clocking up better speeds on the track nearest the layline but Dominique Wavre on Temenos is going to be one to watch over the next few hours because he’s currently sailing faster and shadowing Jourdain Wavre on the same track.

Jourdain reporting from the boat this morning said: “I’m in great shape. I’m enjoying myself and I feel so good with the boat that it keeps me alert. I don’t really feel like going for a sleep? The weather should be a bit calmer by the end of the day so I’m making the most of conditions now to cover some ground!”

While those on a direct course at the moment are currently leading, Wavre clearly believes that nothing is set down in stone. “It’s highly likely we’re going to have flat calm at the end of the afternoon, which is pretty much par for the course in this particular zone! The evolutions in the weather are difficult to forecast so you really have to work on them on a day to day basis. The sailing is more about reacting to the clouds for the time being.”