Banque Populaire to pull in for repairs, Virbac-Paprec still heads the IMOCA fleet

? Leaders at 14:44 GMT: Virbac-Paprec (IMOCA 60), Banque Populaire (ORMA 60), Gryphon Solo (Open 50 Monohull), Crepes Whaou ! (Open 50 Multihull)

? Abandon: Multihull Open 50 Acanthe Ingenierie abandoned the race overnight after dismasting off the African coast. There are now 4 Open 50 multihulls racing.

? Groupama 2 update: Franck Cammas and Proffit were both airlifted off Groupama-2 before midnight last night and taken by helicopter to La Palma, where Franck was admitted to hospital with broken ribs. A salvage operation to tow the inverted boat ashore is already underway, managed by Groupama-2 shore team manager, Stéphane Gilbaud. Franck Cammas’ interview describing the incident is online in English.

? Press Conference in Paris: A press conference was held at the Transat Jacques Vabre Race HQ in the TF1 auditorium at lunchtime with skippers Yvan Bourgnon and Charles Caudrelier from Brossard. The French Minister of Sport and Leisure was also present to talk to skippers, including Loick Peyron and Ellen MacArthur.

? Stops & Restarts: ORMA Class leader, Banque Populaire to make pitstop in Cape Verdes in 24hrs time to repair broken central rudder casing. Galileo Open 60 has rejoined the race from Vigo after a 60hr pit-stop to repair their goose-neck fitting on the boom.

The playing field has shaken up again with a strong but fluctuating trade wind breeze dominating the zone. Every boat which has come close to the Canaries has been affected by the turbulence around these land masses, and has had to gybe out west to bypass the islands, losing precious miles in the process. The 5 boats in the ORMA trimaran fleet are having a much closer race now as a result, and the 10 boats racing in the IMOCA 60 Monohull fleet have paired off two by two down the fleet, but the two leaders are getting richer by the minute..


The ORMA Class race has become more and more a technical race, as with just 5 boats left, the skippers of each are all reporting various problems on board left over from the Biscay storm which still need fixing. After the morning pitstop and subsequent capsize of Groupama-2 in a squall last night off the Canaries, today the new race leader Banque Populaire (Bidegorry / Lemonchois) announced their intended pitstop at the Cape Verde islands, on the Isle of Sal, to repair their central rudder casing. Banque Populaire suffered relatively little in the cold front which decimated 4 other multihulls, however they did not come through unscathed. The damaged casing fixes between the rudder and the central hull, and allows the rudder to swing upwards if it hits something. With around 75 miles lead over Géant (Desjoyeaux/Destremau) on their track behind, they have about a 3 hour gap at the 24 knot average boat speed these trimarans are maintaining in the Trade winds. Will it be enough to make the repair and set off before Géant or even Gitana 11 overtakes? There are 370 miles to sail before they reach the islands, so nearly a day before the leaders have to pull over for this repair.

TIM Progetto Italia (Soldini / Malingri) also have not yet been able to attend to their damaged rudder since the cold front, and are for the time being trying to make the most of the stronger breeze close to the African coast, just as Gitana 11 (Le Peutrec / Guichard) has been. Their fast sailing angle and heading closer to the direct route has propelled the trimaran into 2nd from 4th in the latest positions.


There have certainly been winners and losers over the tactical gybing battle round the Canary Islands in the 11 strong IMOCA Open 60 fleet with now 4 clear pairs of boats in their own match races. Clearly the westerly option offshore taken by leaders Virbac-Paprec (Dick/Peyron) and Sill &Veolia (Jourdain / MacArthur) has paid double dividends in terms of weather and course made good, as during the day these two Farr and Lombard design boats have taken out another 20 miles or more in just half a day on their nearest rivals Bonduelle (Le Cam/De Pavant) and Ecover (Golding/Wavre). That means a whole 2 knots faster on average. This advantage has been created mainly from clever tactics on the race course and not boat speed as Sill and Bonduelle are sisterships and with the same breeze should be matched for speed.

However, saying that, the Farr design is outwitting Lombard’s Sill et Veolia slowly but surely, gaining a handful of miles each position report, in their intense match race at the head of the fleet with perfect NE Trade wind conditions. Ellen MacArthur reported today that they experienced a crash-gybe in the dark in a 38 knot squall, indicating how gusty the conditions still are: “Last night things were getting a bit dodgy with the spinnaker. We changed to the gennaker to be a bit safer, though we didn’t expect what happened, which was a crash gybe under pilot in a 38 knots squall. Poor Sill and Veolia was on her side completely. The cabin seemed much wider as I climbed vertically up the floor to get out. We spent 20 minutes trying to get her sorted, and did. Miraculously we did not break anything..”

Their trajectory to just to the west of the direct route will see them pass the Cape Verde islands offshore as well, whereas the chasing pack are possibly going to have to pass through them. This will surely throw up the same problems these following boats had at the Canaries – turbulent winds around the land mass, gusts and calm patches alike. Will this be a question now of the rich getting richer..?

Another clear winner of the second generation pack is Skandia (Thompson / Oxley). Australian skipper, Will Oxley penned his joy at passing Pro-Form (Thiercelin / Drouglazet) round the Canaries: “Another big night sailing under kite, as low as we possibly could, has seen us clear La Palma, the western island of the Canaries whilst Pro-Form has had to gybe. This has given us the break we needed on them and so we have now gybed to consolidate that lead and to try to ‘shut the door’. The other boats ahead are VERY fast but we will continue to look for passing lanes before the finish.” Result, Thompson and Oxley are back up to 5th 40m ahead of Pro-Form and tailing the new generation 60 footers by only 34 odd miles.

The fierce battle between 3rd placed Bonduelle (Le Cam/De Pavant) and Ecover (Golding/Wavre) in 4th, just over 10 miles apart and now repositioned to the west of the direct route behind the leaders, saw them lose out badly to Virbac and Sill, as they now have an 80m and growing deficit to make up. This was caused by having to sail through the Madeira islands and gybe close to the Canaries to pass to the west. So, unlike the leaders, they have endured more turbulence thrown up by the height of the land masses around them, but also a particularly difficult sea state as Mike Golding reported early today: “It’s been very rough. We went within three miles of where Groupama was capsized and unfortunately, we didn’t know that at the time. It was very rough conditions there, very short waves, very dangerous waves.” With 2,500 miles to go, there’ll be opportunity enough to make up that deficit with the Doldrums yet to come.

Roxy (Liardet / Merron) have been clocking some of the highest boat speeds in the class back in their 7th position today as they open up their Open 60 to see what she’s got. They are keeping ahead of UUDS and both boats have just gybed onto starboard to pass the Canaries to the West. Brazilian Open 60 Galileo (Antunes/Coldefy) reported in that they are leaving Vigo imminently to rejoin the race after a 60hr repair job on their goose-neck handled entirely by the ever capable Coldefy, and so should soon be homeward bound.


Both Crepes Whaou ! and Gryphon Solo remain solid leaders of the Open 50 Multi and Monohull Class 2 fleets after the unfortunate abandon of 2nd place Open 50 multihull Aganthe Ingenierie overnight after dismasting. Harris and Hall on their ex-Tommy Hilfiger Open 50 have clocked some incredible boat speeds to make an Open 60 skipper proud, and are now on starboard tack coming back over to the direct route below Madeira. Second placed Vedettes de Bréhat (De Broc / S. Escoffier) are matching them well enough for speed and routing, despite a 60m deficit, and so the Anglo-British pair up front won’t be resting on their laurels with 3050m of ocean still to cross.

WEATHER by Louis Bodin
The NE Trades 25 – 30 knots is well established over the zone the 60 ft monohulls and multihulls are racing across. These winds will carry the monohulls to the Doldrums and at least to the Cape Verde Islands for the multis, with gusts of 30 knots today. So no rest for the teams as this boat speed battle maintains a high pace still. The Open 50 multi and monohulls, apart from leader Crepes Whaou !, should be coming out of the high pressure system today to then find the trade winds as well.

The Multihulls will be working out their strategy for the Cape Verde Islands. We’ve seen some gybe to get out of the turbulent air caused by the Canary Islands, which loses miles compared to an offshore route to the west like Géant. The trades are likely to rotate gradually to the East North East.

For the monohulls, the 25 – 30 knot North Easterlies will propel them towards the Doldrums. The skippers will be concentrating on boat speed for the time being as it is still too early to predict the Doldrums activity, which changes rapidly. In the same weather, it seems that Virbac-Paprec has the edge on Sill et Veolia in the speed stakes.

For the Mono & Multi 50 footers, they are entering the Trades one by one. But they mustn’t be left behind as a new depression is forming on Monday betwen Spain and the Canaries, which will disturb the NE flow of the Trade winds.

Official Rankings at 14:44:00 GMT

IMOCA Open 60 Class:
Pstn / Boat / Lat / Long / Hdg / DTF / DTL
1 Virbac-Paprec 25 07 00′ N 23 07 00′ W 17.6 200 2485 0.0
2 Sill et Veolia 25 38.28′ N 22 39.28′ W 19.4 208 2522.8 30.8
3 Bonduelle 26 36.44′ N 21 17.24′ W 16.1 200 2604.0 113.1
4 Ecover 26 47.72′ N 21 20.12′ W 14.2 198 2613.6 123.2
5 Skandia 27 02.04′ N 20 24.48′ W 14.8 186 2646.0 155.2
6 Pro-Form 27 32.08′ N 20 03.96′ W 15.9 213 2681.3 190
7 Roxy 29 13.48′ N 17 04.44′ W 14.0 259 2840.3 351.9

Open 50 Monohull Class 2 14:44:00 GMT:
Pstn / Boat / Lat / Long / Hdg / DTF / DTL
1 Gryphon Solo 32 26.84′ N 15 21.72′ W 13.8 236 3052.8 0.0
2 Vedettes de Bréhat 32 30.84′ N 13 03.76′ W 13.2 237 3113.1 60.2
3 Top 50 Guadeloupe 35 26.36′ N 11 44.40′ W 12.0 185 3297.6 244.7
4 Défi Vendéen 36 02.20′ N 11 26.32′ W 10.8 171 3335.9 283.0
5 Polarity Solo 38 51.76′ N 14 17.52′ W 11.8 205 3419.4 366.5
6 Artforms 39 17.64′ N 12 31.80′ W 14.1 223 3480.1 427.3

ORMA Open 60 Class 14:44:00 GMT:
Pstn / Boat / Lat / Long / Hdg / DTF / DTL
1 Banque Populaire 21 54.04′ N 21 35.72′ W 26.5 195 3326.8 0.0
2 Gitana 11 24 00.32′ N 16 24.92′ W 22.9 196 3400.8 74.0
3 Géant 23 37.20′ N 21 11.68′ W 24.0 195 3401.2 74.3

Open 50 Multihull Class 2 14:44:00 GMT:
Pstn / Boat / Lat / Long / Hdg / DTF / DTL
1 Crêpes Whaou ! 28 58.00′ N 17 43.08′ W 16.1 267 2811.6 0.0
2 Jean Stalaven 36 30.60′ N 11 09.96′ W 9.5 174 3367.0 555.4

Quotes from the Boats:


Loick Peyron (Virbac-Paprec): “We’re going hell for leather, it’s pretty humid out here now, the speed we’re going is simply impressive, I’m loving this race just as much on a monohull. Our boat speed and tactics are strong, and it’s a great match race right now with Sill et Veolia, we’ve been working hard to get round the Azores High.”

Miranda Merron (Roxy): “We are again wearing full foul weather gear, as the boat occasionally ploughs into the wave in front, sometimes managing to get water all the way to the back. It isn’t really possible to leave the helm, so we have a rope led from the cockpit, which the person in the bunk wraps around their wrist. you pull gently on the rope, and the other person obliges by getting up to go on watch/ help with sail change etc.”

Walter Antunes (Galileo): “We are finally off after 60 hrs of intense work. The resin seems to be properly cured in our repair and we intend to treat the boom “like a baby” all the way to Brazil, non-stop! What a challenge. No shore team, so we are actually going to get some rest racing for next couple of days. Racing is never that hard, what is really dificult is getting to the starting line, and as we painfully discovered, staying in the course… Well, let’s hope our fortunes change for the next couple of weeks and that we can finally get HOME!”

Kip Stone (Artforms): “We’re making the most of this voyage, learning what we can in the spirit of adventure, even if we are very far behind, and have sailed an extra 300 miles, we’re doing our best. True, we were very disappointed at first but this race is more than just about winning, getting to the start line is a huge accomplishment in itself, so now to get to the finish will be a huge achievement. Right now, it’s wet, fast and fun. We’ve got 20 – 25 knots and our speed over ground is 10 knots. Merf is helming with a big smile on his face, we’re enjoying the opportunity to participate in this race and carry on – we’ll be back in 2007!”