The Jacques Vabre fleet continue to follow African coast before heading West 9/11/07

Wet-weather gear is probably being stowed for the time-being, as race leaders head for the trade winds and more stable conditions.

The first ORMAs (approximately 2300 miles from Brazil) are passed the canaries, and choosing to stay east of the course, sailing alongside the Saharan coast. The last 24-hours have seen the multihulls distance themselves even further apart. Groupama (Cammas and Ravussin) has increased its lead from about 30 miles to almost 90, and Banque Populaire (Bidegorry and Ravussin), currently second, is one-hundred miles ahead of third placed Gitana 11 (Lemonchois and Guichard).

Groupama had preferred to negotiate its way south through the Canary Islands, while Banque Populaire chose to rely on the Venturi effect between the African Coasts and the Spanish Islands. Bidegorry and Ravussin decided to gybe to gain some track west, but nevertheless lost a lot of ground. Last placed Sopra and Brossard are now 360 miles behind Groupama – their speed dropping dramatically. It is now likely that race leaders will continue south as far as Senegal, before turning west towards Brazil.

The IMOCAs should be benefitting by following the tracks of the ORMA multihulls. The moods onboard have been calm, most crews taking advantage of the conditions to rest, make any necessary repairs and generally dry off. Safran (Guillemot and Caudrelier) is still leading the Open 60 fleet, but is losing its advantage. Guillemot and Caudrelier’s lead of 30 miles on day five has now halved. Foncia (Desjoyeaux and le Borgne) is still lying second, followed by Gitana Eighty (Peyron and Levaillant) in third.

Highest placed Brit Mike Golding, with French team-mate Dubois (Ecover III) remain in fifth place, almost 40 miles behind the leaders. Reporting from his boat last night, he explained:

“It’s been OK. We had a fast-ish night and a bit quieter morning. It has been like sailing in the Doldrums really. It’s just weird and the weather is very strange. Compared with previous races there are no normal features of the course. The normal meteorological features are not in the right place. The Azores High is well to the north and there is a low where the High should be, so it is a bit strange?It makes for an interesting race.”

I think everyone is at least heading to the Canaries, and then probably through. We are going to get pinned to the side of the race course, which is kind of unfortunate because it does not give you any passing options. But it is still interesting, testing the boat. The boat handled the strong winds well. Everything is functioning on the boat, and we did not break anything which is a good feeling with a brand new boat!”

Sam Davies and co-skipper Jeanne Gregoire (Roxy), and Dee Caffari sailing along side Nigel King (Aviva), are positioned tenth and eleventh respectively.

The discouraged 40 footers must be feeling brighter this morning. After recording speeds of only four knots yesterday, the top half of the fleet are heading south at 11-12 knots. Mistral Loisirs (Bouchard and Krauss) has fallen back to third place after some great tactical sailing on days four and five – crushing the distance between itself and race leader Telecom Italia (Soldini and d’Ali) from 55 to 15 miles. Today Vecteur Plus – Groupe Moniteur (Jourdren and Pichelin), 18 miles behind Telecom Italia, separate the two in second.

The Open 50 class is witnessing an astonishing lead, extended another hundred miles since yesterday. Crepes Whaou! (Escoffier and Fauconnier) are now a staggering 235 miles ahead of second placed Laiterie de Saint Malo (Erussard and Dahirel) and 315 miles ahead of Croisieres Anne Caseneuve, positioned third.