Transat Jacques Vabre fleet struggle with light airs across Bay of Biscay 5/11/07

A massive high sitting over the Transat Jacques Vabre fleet means that progress is tediously slow as the fleet heads across the Bay of Biscay.

The IMOCA Open 60 fleet is making the most of the light, fairly unstable north-easterly breeze with Marc Guillemot and Charles Coudrelier on Safran establishing a good lead overnight with Loick Peyron and Jean Baptiste Levaillant on Gitana through into second place. Peyron commenting from the boat said: “The wind is shifting a lot, still under spinnaker but the sea, unlike the Channel, is choppy.”

Mike Golding and Bruno Dubois who led the race from Le Havre on Saturday and were lying in second place last night, have dropped down the rankings overnight to fifth, but currently have good speed and are only 20 miles off the leader. Commenting from Ecover, Golding said: “The French worked well yesterday evening around Ushant. But there is still a long way to go. The boat works well and we are pleased with her performance but we are looking forward to finding more more wind. For the moment, it alternates between spinnaker and gennaker.”

Dee Caffari and Nigel King on Aviva are currently mid fleet (second British sailors) and having a good race battle with Sam Davies and Jeanne Gregoire on Roxy who are just a couple of miles astern. Talking from the boat this morning Caffari said: “The sea is a flat calm. There is a gentle swell coming up from the Bay of Biscay and the winds are changing from north-east to east as we try and head south.

“We are getting sucked into Bay of Biscay rather than aiming straight for Finisterre but the wind is forecast to fill in and go more easterly and possibly southerly later so we just have to get through this light patch at the top of the Bay. It has finally warmed up because it has been freezing. I have been a right wuss, with every single layer on. I’ve been like a Teletubby.”

In the Class 50 fleet which started yesterday Crêpes Whaou! – Franck-Yves Escoffier and Karine Fauconnier have retained their initial lead but are now considering the tactics for their crossing of the Biscay. Escoffier commented: “We have to work out if we go straight ahead or if we pass outside the Bay of Biscay … ”

Giovanni Soldini and Pietro Ali on Telecom are now through to the lead in the Class 40 fleet while yesterday’s class leaders – Bruno Jourdren and Nicolas Pichelin on Vector-Plus Groupe Moniteur – are 10 miles behind in ninth place. Simon Clarke and David Lindsay on Offshore Racing are currently the best British team in seventh place just under a mile ahead of Alex Bennett and Ifor Pedley on Fujifilm.

British sailor Nick Bubb who’s sailing with Tanguy de Lamotte on Novedia/Set has gone from celebrating second place to last place in the last two days. Apparently during the first night they decided to stay fairly near the rhumb line but the wind strength turned out to be a lot lighter than expected on the French coast. Chatting from the boat Bubb said: “No wind…lottery, drift-a-thon-, whatever, just trying to keep cool and study the weather but this is really tough. A little worried the leaders are going to get into good pressure first so just going to have to try our best to hang on in there and live to fight another day.

“We know that once the breeze comes up we can take miles and we know there is an awfully long way to go. Even so still pretty gutted, but gained miles in the last report, so some good news. Giovanni Soldini is flying and on same line as us so…”

Over the next few hours he wind is expected to turn to the west and north-west and by the evening it should increase to 15-20 kts.