Ellen MacArthur and Alain Gautier are struggling to defend Foncia-Kingfisher's 22-mile lead in the multihull class of the Transat Jacques Vabre

Ellen MacArthur and Alain Gautier are struggling to defend Foncia-Kingfisher’s 22-mile lead in the multihull class of the Transat Jacques Vabre. Their approach to the Doldrums involved a sudden change of heart and cost them half their lead.

“We tried to go for the safe option by going 23.30 West, to be outside the windless zone,” said Ellen today. “Then new information unfolded, which said that there was a windless zone right ahead of us this morning. So we decided to just sail as fast as we could through to the other side, but it’s a gamble. With Groupama to the East and Belgacom to the West it’s really not over yet.”

Franck Cammas, on Groupama, stuck to his original assessment of the weather picture, with reservations. “We wanted to pass the Doldrums between 20-23 W. Now we’re here I feel that Foncia-Kingfisher is better placed than us. Everyone knows there is supposed to be more wind to the West but it lengthens the mileage enormously. So whatever Belgacom is up to, no one knows if it will pay.”

Belgacom skipper Jean-Luc Nélias, racing with Michel ‘Le Professeur’ Desjoyeaux, is heading west having seen enough promise of breeze in the meteorology there to convince him it’s worthwhile. Desjoyeaux was giving nothing away. “We headed West to curve round the Doldrums. Were we right? Who knows right now.”

In the 60ft monohull class, longtime leaders Mike Golding and Marcus Hutchinson now find themselves and Ecover in sixth position, 153 miles behind the new leaders, Roland Jourdain and Gael le Cléach onboard the Lombard flyer Sill.

Jourdain’s unerring knack for finding breeze has brought Sill a 78-mile lead over second-placed Voilà.fr with Mark Turner and Nick Moloney on Casto-Darty-But (the rebranded Kingfisher) a further 43 miles back in third. “This breeze is not out of the mail order catalogue,” joked Jourdain, “still not really established. But we chose the right option that’s for sure, thanks to Pierre Lasnier our router so we’re pretty happy!”

Things might be about to change for the EDS Atlantic Challenge-winning skipper however. In the East, closer to the Mauritanian coast, Sme Negoceane and Fila have been posting highwe average speeds to 24 hours now, moving up to fourth and fifth respectively.

In the 50ft monohull class, Alex Bennett and Paul Larsen, runaway leaders at one stage, have been tripped up by the breeze. One Dream One Mission has spent the last couple of days under the thumb of high pressure, watching her lead, 150 miles at one stage, be chipped away to just 20 miles over second-placed Saving today.

Jacques Vabre
Distance to Finish and Distance to Lead (nm) at 1646 today
Multihull Class1. Foncia: 2,492.8 – 0.02. Groupama: 2,514.7 – 21.93. Fujifilm: 2,525.5 – 32.74. Belgacom: 2,548.8 – 56.05. Nautica: 2,593.6 – 100.96. Bonduelle: 2,612.5 – 119.87. Fila: 2,633.2 – 140.58. Banque Populaire: 2,727.4 – 234.69. Eure et Loir: 2,746.2 – 253.510. Biscuits La Trinitaine – Team Ethypharm: 2,807.3 – 314.511. Gitana IX: 3,220.5 – 727.712. Pindar Systems: 3,324.6 – 831.860ft Monohull Class1. Sill Plein Fruit: 2,244.7 – 0.02. Voilà.fr: 2,323.0 – 78.33. Casto-Darty-But: 2,366.2 – 121.54. Sme Negoceane: 2,380.1 – 135.45. Fila: 2,388.7 – 144.06.Ecover: 2,398.4 – 153.77. Un Univers de Services: 2,445.6 – 200.98. Temenos: 2,450.8 – 206.19. This Time: 2,452.9 – 208.110. Bobst Group Armor Lux: 2,457.0 – 212.311. Sollac Atlantique: 2,474.2 – 229.550ft Monohull Class1. One Dream One Mission: 2,477.9 – 0.02. Saving: 2,498.9 – 21.03. Tredici: 2,714.5 – 236.64. BranecIII: 2,748.7 – 270.85. Setrabio: 2,753.0 – 275.16. Adecco-Etoile Horizon: 2,917.2 – 439.47. Olympian Challenger: 3,007.1 – 529.2