The pressure is slightly off Safran this morning as skipper Marc Guillemot opens up his lead over Groupe Bel

Having opened a further 15 miles on Groupe Bel, there was an element of relief in the voice of Safran skipper Marc Guillemot this morning. While his co-skipper Charles Caudrelier snatched some well deserved sleep, Guillemot admitted that now, with about 90 miles in hand and with 240 miles to the finish line, the pressure is slightly off.
For the chasing pair, Kito de Pavant and Francois Gabart on Groupe Bel, there is the final throw of the dice – perhaps a realisation that their chances of simply powering past their rivals on the same course in the same winds, was not going to happen. Instead they have headed further north, in the hope of gaining more breeze and a more favourable wind angle in to the finish.

Meantime the Multi v IMOCA Open 60 Class battle is also nearing its conclusion as Franck-Yves Escoffier and Erwan Le Roux on the powerful, new Multi 50 Crepes Whaou! hunt down the leading mono Safran which is about 80 miles ahead on the same course. The red multi was a knot or two quicker at times in the fast, downwind conditions, but it will be a close finish.

British pair Dee Caffari and Brian Thompson completed their ‘007′ mission off St Lucia when they slowed down for only minutes to collect a spare part for their generator system. Under cover of darkness they dropped Aviva’s spinnaker rounded through the bay and slowed to receive the replacement control panel for their generator. Even their predicted losses proved accurate. The Aviva shore team expected to lose around 15 miles to Veolia Envoironnement. It was closer to 14. “It’s cool, we are still in the hunt and it is game on,” said a pleased Caffari.

And for Spanish skippers Pepe Ribes and Alex Pella, there is the contentment of moving up to fifth and leading the pack of three with 71 miles over Aviva and 42 over Veolia Environnement.

Comments from onboard:

Marc Guillemot (FRA), Safran: “One of us is asleep and one of us takes care of business. This has been a good night and one to get some rest. And we make some miles and so that makes us a little happier. We are not getting wet any more, compared to what it was at the beginning, it makes us feel good not to have wet heads. The wind is getting lighter and so we need to make the manoeuvres to balance up the boat for the lighter winds and so we have to move the kit around below. We need to get the movers in again! Since the last position report there is less pressure. Two years ago we could see the boat which was in front of us. It was right there. Now the position of the second boat allows us to approach the final hours of this race coolly. However, until the line is crossed, we stay very focused The current ETA has us arriving at Puerto Limon on September 24th between 0130hrs and 0400hrs in the morning.”   

Erwan Le Roux (FRA), Crêpes Whaou!: “Now it is dark and we are on a good course, the home straight. We have 20 knots of wind and there are no gusts, just some clouds around. We are able to rest a bit as well, each grabbing a few hours as we can.”

Dee Caffari (GBR), Aviva: “It was wicked. It was a shame it was dark because that made life a little more tricky. It was ‘crash-bang’, job done, on our way again. We are going to celebrate when we get into the daytime, because I am confident that I can produce power for this boat now. So we are in a new world that we have nit been in for a long time where we can use the autopilot, the keel and everything is all kooshtie, so we are so I am looking forwards to it. We slowed down at the top of St Lucia and spoke to the general manager of Rodney Bay Marina who had agreed with us an met us with the part that the team had sent out. We dropped our spinnaker and turned in to the bay at the same time that he was organizing for his team to come out to meet us. That part of the mission was accomplished with the part on board, our mission was then to get away from the island as quickly as possible. “We were aware that every minute we were slowed, the further the others were getting away. And we still had to get away from any wind shadows. So as tempting as it was to drop a hook and celebrate with a little rum punch moving into the Caribbean, so we bid them farewell and got on our way as soon as possible. Time for a sleep, and then daylight will prevail, but I am pretty confident it is what is needed.”

“It’s cool, we are still in the hunt and it is game on!” “We are flying. It feels like really comfortable sailing, we are in really flat water and the boat seems to be really enjoying it too.” “It is interesting now because all the routing has us going north, which is interesting because all of the boats ahead of our group have gone south along the Columbian coast, and now that all three of us W-Hotels, Veolia and us have all entered the Caribbean at slightly different places, it will be interesting and see who does what, and what tactic works and we will see more in the morning, when the new weather comes in.”

Alex Pella (ESP), W Hotels: “During the afternoon we passed  the wind was not so clear with some clouds and so we had some decisions to take, whether to go along the finish line coast or to go straight north, and at the moment we are going straight north and we are really happy with our position in the race. The thing is that we started so late with Pepe on this boat. We only sailed together for six days before the start. Ok we did the Istanbul Europa Race but we only sailed together for the qualification. Now the feeling is so good with the boat that we can push really hard with the boat. That is all: we are sailing well together as a team, and with our strategies, we are pushing hard, we were lucky with some good positions and that is all.”