Banque Populaire loses bow just 50 miles from Transat Jacques Vabre finish in Brazil 15/11/07

Two more ORMA class yachts have now finished the Transat Jacques Vabre.

Groupama 2 (Franck Cammas and Steve Ravussin) who took line honours yesterday (see previous news story here) and broke the race record, was followed into Brazil by Gitana 11 ( Lionel Lemonchois and Yann Guichard) yesterday evening. This morning, just before 0600, Banque Populaire (Pascal Bidégorry and Yvan Ravussin) crossed the line in third place despite losing the bow of its central hull. Apparently the nose was ripped off just 50 miles from the finish line but the crew manage to salvage it.

Bidégorry explained what happened: “No particular reason, while it was sailing under gennaker, a portion of the bow was ripped off. It was choppy and blowing 25kts and we were sailing under gennaker when it happened. I heard a big bang and I saw the bow rise and rip off in front of our eyes.There was a large ingress of water? it would have been more serious consequences if it had occurred mid-Atlantic?” Bidégorry also says that he really does not believe they collided with anything but thinks it’s purely fatigue of the material, adding: “These are wonderful machines these boats but there may be under estimated wear. We shall see what the expert says?”

Now just over 1,400 miles from the finish Mike Golding and Bruno Dubois on Ecover III are increasing their lead once again in the IMOCA fleet. So far they’ve managed to remain in the best pressure as they make their way through the Doldrums. They went through a very light patch but the latest report shows Ecover III now up to 12.6kts while the following pack are down a couple of knots over 40 miles behind.

Golding chatting from the middle of the Doldrums this morning commented: “It was a bit on and off during the night. A couple of sail changes and a couple of gybes. Periods doing 20 knots and some time with the kite hanging limp. I guess we are into the Doldrums.

“We made a little bit on some people but we will have to see. We have still got a little bit of margin. We are trying to push to the right to cover the boats in the west coming down behind. But that is quite tricky to do when you ain’t got no breeze. But generally we are as happy as we can be. We will be happier when we got some more breeze?.

“I have just been back in the engine bay. Our oil leak is getting a bit more serious. ?It is trying to keep on top of it and do little, short charges which the batteries don’t like, they like big charges. It is a bit frustrating and when the boat is heeled over it is tricky, because the only tray that will fit under there is not quite big enough. And you can’t run the engine for long, 20 minutes at a time. And that is not really enough to boost up the charge. I need to do it lots of times. Which is really not that conducive to concentrating on racing.”

Telecom Italia (Giovanni Soldini and Pietro d’Ali) are keeping their 50 plus-mile lead over Chocolate Monbana in the Class 40 fleet as they head down the African coast in 20kts of breeze towards the Cape Verde Islands.

Further down but making great progress in fifth place is British sailor Peter Harding and co-skipper Anne Liardet on 40 Degrees. Harding reporting from the boat yesterday said: “It’s 26 degrees outside, clear blue skies, and we are headed south again towards Bahia. Last night we had a frustrating night of very light airs and a couple of holes to weave our way through, and spent some time headed south-west. We have not changed sails for a couple of days now, and hope not to do so before the Doldrums. It seems that the leading pack have once again split, with not many miles separating 2nd to 5th placed boats. Who will be right and who will be wrong?

“The phosphorescence was extraordinarily bright last night – it seemed like someone had placed a fluorescent light under the boat, that lit up the stern and left two very bright rooster tails following in our wake. We have now found a couple of CDs hidden in unlikely places, so now have the privilege of racing along to the sounds of the lies of James Blunt, Cold Play and Depeche Mode.”

In the Class 50 fleet Crepes Whaou! (Franck Yves Escoffier and Karine Fauconnier) are still in control but have lost over 60 miles in the last 24 hours to Laiterie de Saint Malo (Victorian Erussard and Frederic Dahirel). Chatting from the boat Erussard said: “Our option in the west of the Cape Verde Islands has paid off because we have made distance on Whaou! For the moment, we are trying a passage a little more west Whatever happens, we are still there and we will not let go until we cross the finish line in Salvador de Bahia.”