Crepes Whaou! consolidates Class 50 lead while Groupama retakes control of ORMA fleet 8/11/07

The situation facing the leaders on day five of the Transat Jacques Vabre shows less wind ahead.

After a couple of days of 30-35kts around Cape Finesterre, the IMOCA fleet is now heading down the African coast seeking out more stable winds on a course set to pass inside Madeira.

But the big decision will be tactics through or around the Canary Islands – finding the best position to catch the winds generated by a low-pressure system in the Azores that currently seems to be moving towards the Canary Islands.

Out in front Safran (Marc Guillemot and Charles Caudrelier) has increased her Open 60 lead to nearly 30 miles over second-placed Foncia (Michel Desjoyeaux and Emmanuel le Borgne), while Gitana Eighty ( Loick Peyron and Jean Baptiste Levaillant) is now just a couple of miles behind.

British sailor Mike Golding, and French team mate Bruno Dubois on Ecover currently remain in fifth place despite the tricky conditions. Golding reporting from the boat yesterday afternoon said: “?We had a little stoppage – well not stoppage but a bit of a slow down – an hour ago [yesterday], for no apparent reason. It went very light and there were no indications it was about to happen. Nothing in the sky or anything like that, it is just very, very difficult to judge. The routing is very difficult to judge.”

Although Telecom Italia (Giovanni Soldini and Pietro d’Ali) is still leading the Class 40 fleet down the Portuguese coast the Italian team are seriously having to keep a careful eye on what’s happening behind. Misral Loisirs – Elior (Thierry Bouchard and Oliver Krauss) have leaped from 55 miles behind in fourth place yesterday to second and are now 15 miles away. The winds have dropped since yesterday – down to 15kts from the north-east – and with fairly unstable conditions ahead there are likely to be some significant changes of positions over the next few hours.

Further down the fleet in 13th place Nick Bubb and Tanguy de Lamotte on Novedia Set are on a mission to overtake Peter Harding and Anne Liardet on 40 Degrees (in 12th) to become the leading British team. From the boat last night Bubb sent this report: “From the latest weather information we have, and from looking at the synoptic charts, we believe those further west of us although further south initially, will have to sail into light headwinds whilst we are riding downhill. This weather system is going to really divide the fleet and for now we see it as our great chance. After that, we then have to negotiate Madeira (probably pass to the east) and then the Canaries (probably pass through the middle). Better keep some of our plans quiet though in case this info makes it back to our competitors!

“For now at least, we are battling for the honour of being the first British boat with Peter Harding, sailing with former Vendee Glove skipper Anne Liardet, and Simon Clarke, sailing with ‘kiwi ‘Dave Lindsay. Alex Bennett and Ifor Pedley were riding high earlier in the week but they have slipped down the rankings as they take an extreme east option.

“For those wondering, despite Tanguy and his sponsors being French, the boat is actually registered in the Isle of Man hence the GBR sail number and I’m obviously prime British beef (well ish, makes me hungry that thought?)”

There’s now a massive 121-mile gap between Crepes Whaou! (Franck Yves Escoffier and Karine Fauconnier) and second-placed Laiterie de Saint Malo (Victorien and Frederic Dahirel) in the Class 50 fleet.

In the ORMA class. Groupama (Franck Cammas and Steve Ravussin) have retaken the lead. The French duo sailed spectacularly over the last 24 hours and are now 31 miles ahead of second-placed Banque Populaire (Pascal Bidegorry and Yvan Ravussin). Gitana 11 (Lionel Lemonchois and Yann Guichard) who led yesterday is now in third place – 48 miles astern.