Artemis Transat: with less than 400 miles to go, the two leaders are only 20 miles apart 22/5/08

It’s now a match race towards Boston in the Artemis Transat, with less than 400 miles to go and the two leaders some 20 miles apart – a figure that should be taken with caution, as Armel Le Cleach (see opposite) emphasised: “taking into account wind shifts and final trajectory subtleties, Loick Peyron [has] in fact approximately a 60-mile advantage. Lighter winds expected off the south of Nova Scotia tonight may open the game…”

An attack from Brit Air? Loick Peyron didn’t seem very convinced when we asked him if he thought Le Cléach would make his move: “I think Armel wants to be sure to finish, he needs to qualify for the Vendée Globe, he’s not going to take any risks”. Yet he admitted feeling some pressure, and having raced against him on the Figaro circuit, Gitana Eighty’s skipper knows what kind of competitor Armel is. Despite what he had announced yesterday, Le Cléach pushed during the night and reduced the gap throughout the storm, maintaining high speeds and keeping his brain gears spinning. The psychological warfare has begun.

“I’m going towards the coast of Nova Scotia, I’ve decided to play the tactical game 100%”, said Brit Air’s skipper. Looking at the wind files this morning, one could have suspected that a tack was inevitably on the cards for Armel, but the reality might have been different, so it was worth checking with the skipper: “Well, that’s the big question for today, but the shift might allow me to continue on this direct route and gain some miles.”

Consider this final duel as a match race – Loick Peyron took advantage of a lift last night to place himself well windward of his rival, which is a regatta textbook move, we’re now looking at a finale where close-combat racing tactics apply. Lighter winds expected tonight will complicate the game, but the wise Peyron, contemplating a third historical victory in the event (but as one might expect not uttering a word about it) certainly envisaged every possible scenario and will defend his leadership at all costs: “I’m two days away from finishing in good place – I hope – in Boston, and even though I may have gone a bit far south, I think my position is rather good.”

The man sure knows how to make good use of understatements, and is mentally gearing up for a coastal finish. Behind him, Armel Le Cléach will add pressure continuously, and one can expect his typical “Jackal” surprise attack tactics to come into the picture sooner or later.

2h30 for Loick Peyron
The time allowance granted to Loick Peyron by the jury for having diverted and rescued Vincent Riou is 2h30, which takes into account the time spent but also the position change induced. Gitana Eighty’s skipper does not face any penalty regarding the use of his engine during the manoeuvre. Peyron received the jury’s congratulations for his swift operation. Commenting on that decision, Loick said: “That’s a capital I hope I won’t have to use, it would spoil everything.”

Sam Davies sails into a whale
“I sailed into a whale – my starboard daggerboard took the shock and now I can only use half my daggerboard. Bit scarey! I was sitting at back of boat fixing my mainsheet and doing about 13 knots. We had 36-37 knots of wind last night but was expecting more so had put 3 reefs in the main – unfortunately, the big wind didn’t come so I was a bit down on speed. I am knackered from reefing then back to full main, plus a tack as well. Attach on Safran is quite hard and she is faster boat than me and its pretty impossible to defend on the 3 boats behind – if I defend on one another one could get passed. I will just sail my own race…”