Groupama 3's 24 hour averages continue to be in excess of 20 knots

In the clash of the giants that is the Ultime class, Franck Cammas is looking increasingly likely to be crowned king. Groupama 3 has profited from another day of unchecked high speed miles down the trade winds motorway towards Guadeloupe.

The maxi trimaran devoured nearly 490 miles of Atlantic in the 24 hours to 15:00 CET yesterday (4 November). Groupama 3’s lead is now up to the best part of 350 miles with just over 1770 miles to go, well ahead of a worthy three cornered fight as support billing, Sodebo, Gitana XI and Idec all within 30 miles variation of each other powering towards the finish at very similar speeds.

Groupama 3’s 24 hour averages continue to be in excess of 20 knots, leaving Yann Guichard (skipper of route record holder Gitana XI) to admit today that he is resigned to the battle for the remaining podium places. Guichard commented: “It’s going OK. It is a bit of a fight just now. I am a bit stuck just now under the stormy clouds. I have had nothing. It’s a bit like that here, these little stormy clouds come from the south, but you can’t spot them coming. I am still under one and I kind of hope Francis has had the same, but looking at the rankings I don’t thin that’s the case. The pilot goes down a bit, so I have to steer from time to time. I have not seen Francis, maybe he is in furtive mode?

We have a port tack to make with Francis. Groupama 3 is always quicker and so something would need to happen for us to pass. The battle for us will be with Thomas and Francis. But I will just do my best and we’ll see at the finish. But we wont converge just now with Thomas.”

Meantime after his rescue from his badly damaged Air Oman Majan yesterday evening, Sidney Gavignet is now on board the Turkish bulk tanker Kavo Alexander heading for either Gibraltar or Malta. He is expected to disembark either in Gibraltar, Saturday or Malta on Tuesday, depending on the ship’s refuelling itinerary. Oman Air Majan’s shore team are heading for the Azores to evaluate a salvage mission.

In the IMOCA Open 60 class it is a buoyant Roland Jourdain (Veolia Environnement), the Farr designed former BT and Armel Le Cléac’h on Brit Air, a Finot Conq design, both of three years vintage which currently top a fleet which contains no fewer than three new designs launched already this year.

Roland Jourdain explained: “In spite of a small mistake not long after the start I am on top which is great. I’d stay here. So far I have succeeded in one goal. So that is good, it’s a small thing ticked off. Life on board is difficult. Veolia 1 was not comfortable, but at least I knew where to hang on to. Here (Veolia 2) I fall flat on my face by the chart table. It’s a bit sadomasochistic! From the outside it looks great, but inside you could not say the same, you cannot sleep because it slams so much, and when you want to do something outside you almost need to stop the boat! But that’s the way it is!

We have between 12 and 15 knots of wind, working into a seaway, not very big but choppy and so it is slamming. But it could be worse! And we are slowly getting to the depression.”

Their passage around the north side of the dominant high pressure system is set to be followed by a very active front, which will give strong but unsettled winds which will push them harder after a long spell slogging upwind around the high.

Their reward, after the front, should be a brisk northerly airstream to turbo boost them downwind towards the West Indies. But Michel Desjoyeaux (Foncia), admitted today that his southerly routing around the high had been too costly against the majority group in the north, echoing a sentiment expressed during last year’s Transat Jacques Vabre when he lost out on a similar strategy. But Desjoyeaux, as his opponents know all too well, is the sailor most capable of delivering against the weather odds.

The same routing dilemma is now playing out progressively in the Class 40 fleet where Thomas Ruyant (Destination Dunkerque) has leveraged his margin to 17 miles over second placed solo-skipper designer Sam Manuard (Vecteur Plus) and Germany’s Jorg Riecher ( in third admitting today that he is thriving on the close racing.

Bernard Stamm (Cheminées Poujoulat), double round the world race winner and one of the favourites to win, suffered another ocean racing disappointment today when he confirmed that he expects to have to make a repair pitstop in the Azores, just under 500 miles to the SW, after a failure in his steering system. He can only sail relatively slowly downwind with the helm jammed and sails balanced. The popular Swiss skipper is trying to make a temporary fix.

Inspired perhaps by the massive send off last Sunday and the engaging action which has prevailed, nearly 200,00 players are now engaged in the Route du Rhum-La Banque Postale virtual game. And since the race was launched more than 237,000 unique visitors have logged on to the official race website, and more than 50,000 users have downloaded the official iPhone application.

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