Wind arrives for Transat Jacques Vabre fleet currently heading down the French/Portuguese coast towards Brazil 6/11/07

The situation has improved for the Transat Jacques Vabre fleet currently making its way down the French coast.

For the first two days of the race the going was fairly slow with competitors struggling to make way in the light, shifty conditions but during the last 12 hours the north-easterly breeze has increased to 20-25kts and the Open 60 leaders are now reaching speeds of nearly 20kts.

Marc Guillemot and Charles Coudrelier on Safran are still heading the pack but Michel Desjoyeaux and Emamanuel Le Borgne on Foncia, now in second place are just under 10 miles behind with Loick Peyron and Jean Baptiste Levaillant on Gitana snapping at their heels. In an effort to stay in the strongest band of breeze around the Azores High Guillemot and Coudrelier (Safran) have taken a tactical decision to head offshore, tracking west, while Foncia and Gitana are still going south.

Less than 20 miles behind, out to the east, is Mike Golding and Bruno Dubois on Ecover making 16kts. Confirming the situation Golding sent this update from the boat yesterday: “It is good at the moment. We are on port gybe making on a good southwards heading. As we get out we are getting lifted towards the corner (Cape Finistere)?

“We are into the breeze a bit now, which is better. We have seen 15 knots but it is down the 10-13 at times, but it has been more solid. We are getting along fine at the moment now. We just have to keep plugging away at it.”

Further down the fleet (in 10th place) Jonny Malbon and Graham Tourell on Artemis have had a bit of a frustrating time. Not only did they miss the tide on the approach to Ushant yesterday and ended up drifting backwards towards the UK in zero wind losing 30 miles on the leaders but they then ended up in a weed bank. Tourell commented: “A huge weed bank had got caught around our keel blade, and got completely tangled up whilst we were sailing along with the big kite up. So we squeezed the kite, and slowed Artemis to a halt, and reversed up (under sail!). But no amount of boat manoeuvres were going to get this lot off, so there was only one thing for it…Out came Jonny, with a diving knife strapped to his leg, mast and snorkel on, and a line around him for safety, and leapt in the cold water to remove the offending article. Jumping in the water is always a last resort, but sometimes it just has to be done. Trying to race a yacht with what feels like half a ton of weed around your keel just isn’t fast.”

Giovanni Soldini and Pietro Ali on Telecom Italia remain in control of the Class 40 fleet for the time being but British sailor Alex Bennett and Ifor Pedley on Fujifilm(see photo)have lept from eighth place yesterday to second and are now just over 10 miles behind. Team Fujifilm are currently taking the same route as the leading Open 60 by heading further inshore so it will be interesting to see if, when they reach Cape Finesterre, they’ll gybe over to the west. Speaking to their Team HQ this morning, Ifor explained their tactical decision which has seen the boat head east of the main group: “We choose the easterly side of the fleet with the aim of reaching more pressure first. We expect about 25kts of breeze from the east as we near the Cape. We’re currently piling south with the mast head kite up sitting happily at 14kts and Fujifilm feels great at this gybe angle, very quick!”

Another British team – Simon Clark and David Lindsay on Clarke Offshore Racing – have also made big gains overnight and are now lying third.

Franck Cammas and Steve Ravussin in Groupama have snatched the lead from Pascal Bidegorry and Yvan Ravussin on Banque Populaire in the ORMA fleet while Franck-Yves Escoffier and Karine Fauconnier on Crêpes Whaou! are steadily increasing their lead on the Class 50 fleet.

The outlook for the next 24 hours shows the entire fleet picking up a north-easterly stream which will gradually build to 15 to 25 kts and at times 30 kts. Generally it will be a fairly fast day for all with the ORMA fleet catching the monohulls later this afternoon.