Virbac leads Sill in Open 60s, while leading 60ft multihull Groupama2 is forced to take pitstop

The latest news this morning from the Transat Jacques Vabre shows that Jean Pierre Dick on Virbac-Paprec retains the lead in Open 60 class from Roland Joudain and Ellen MacArthur on Sill Et Veolia. But leading ORMA multihull Groupama2 is forced to stop in Porto Santo.

Sailing to the west of Madeira, the leaders, under full main and large spinnaker on a port tack and now just 12.7 nm from Virbac, are likely to feel the effects from the wind shadow of the islands but their strategy is to position themselves on their favoured direct approach south into the Trade Winds. Mike Golding and Dominic Wavre on Ecover and Jean Le Camm on Bonduelle in third and fourth respectively are currently still deciding which route to take but it’s likely they’ll head through the middle of the island where the breeze currently seems more established.

Chatting from third-placed Ecover this morning Wavre commented: “It’s all going well, it’s all going well. It is quite windy. But it’s mostly very fast! We have between 25 and 30 knots of wind. We are on a more easterly course than Sill and Véolia and Virbac-Paprec, we are currently studying the Madeira passage, to know which side we’re going, it will depend on the wind movements, but it looks like we’ll go through Madeira. The Tradewinds are quite settled. But they are quite strong as well, so we can?t really follow the route we’d like.”

After suffering various problems, including a lack of power for two days, which forced them to go ‘back to basics’ the all-female crew aboard Roxy, Miranda Merron and Anne Liardet, are in the process of making a comeback. They are now in seventh place. Merron explained: “For the last two days we’ve had no battery power, and so no computer or Iridium sat phone as a result. But it’s all fixed now thankfully. It was physically very tough yesterday with lots of manoeuvring, and sometimes we just had to hang on, it was utterly miserable! Anne and I had to go back to basics and relay between each other on the helm, and we were hand-steering a lot so it’s been really tiring. But the camaraderie is good, I’ve even converted Anne to drinking Earl Grey with a dash of milk! And the rewards come, as now we?re under full main and spinnaker, the sun’s shining and the sailing’s great. Roxy is a beautiful boat and we were doing really well until we got these problems, so we weren’t really doing her justice, but we will now!”

Franck Cammas and Franck Proffit on Groupama2 who yesterday held a good lead in the ORMA 60ft multihull fleet have encountered problems overnight and have pulled in to Porto Santo for a pitstop. Meanwhile Banque Populaire (Pascal Bidegorry and Lionel Lemonchois) has slipped into the lead and is currently storming downwind at 24kts in fresh following breeze. Michel Desjoyeaux and Hugues Destrema on Geant are now in second place, passing just to the east of Porto Santo.

Other news from the racecourse: yesterday morning, the shore crew from the capsized trimaran Foncia set out from Loctudy on the 70ft trawler Damoclès with a view to recovering the trimaran. It’ll take the rescue team about 36 hours to make it to the incident zone. The distress beacon is still emitting will enable them to pinpoint the boat’s position. They will try and right her in situ by filling a float with water and pulling hard on the other side. That should mean that the boat would suffer less when she is under tow. They should be returning to Lorient, at the end of next week.

Foncia’s co-skipper, Irishman Damian Foxall, who was injured in the capsize was immediately admitted to hospital and monitored overnight after landing in Brest by helicopter. The X-rays and doctor’s diagnosis show that he has not fractured his collarbone but has massive swelling and internal bruising to his right shoulder and ribcage.