Loick Peyron and Franck Proffit arrived in Cartegena, Columbia at 15.08 yesterday afternoon to take victory in the Transat Jacques Vabre.

Loick and Franck took command of the race and never lost control. “We’ll always remember the storm. We lost a close friend that day,” commented Franck Proffit by VHF radio shortly after crossing the line. “Loick and I have been racing together for seven years. Our common knowledge at sea meant we could push the boat as hard as if we had a full crew on board. You have to have that kind of level if you want to stay in the lead of a race like the Transat Jacques Vabre.” Both Loick and Franck were clearly delighted with a job well done. “We always went on the right tack. We only slowed down during the last couple of hours. The tension on board was huge during this race.”

When Fujicolor II crossed the finish line at the foot of the ramparts of the old city of Cartagena de Indias, the sun was shining radiantly but the easterly wind was light, only blowing at 5 knots. The green and white trimaran finished the race at a snail’s pace, very different to the rest of the race: the winners covered the 5,365 nautical miles course at an average speed of 14.81 knots.

The starboard side of the central hull was clearly damaged, as Franck explained: “It happened during the worst part of the storm. There is a tear from the rear brace down to the escape hatch. We repaired it with all we had on board. The boat suffered just as we did.”

While Loick Peyron and Franck Proffit savour their fine victory, 200 miles further east the battle for second place continues between the Bourgnon brothers on board Foncia and Franck Cammas and Steve Ravussin on Groupama. The latter are slightly further north but also further west and so closer to the finish. There was nothing between the two at the 17.00 position report, but the crew of Groupama has new problems to deal with on board. “We can’t see ourselves beating Foncia,” admitted Steve Ravussin. “We broke our starboard foil between Barbados and St Barts. When it broke a bit of the outrigger was torn off and water is now flowing in. I’d like to mend it before we finish.” Nevertheless, the remaining two steps on the podium will not be decided until the finish line has been crossed and the wind has proved it can be temperamental on the final appreaches to Cartagena. The two boats are expected to reach the finish line this morning.

The Monohull Race

Catherine Chabaud and Luc Bartissol on Whirlpool-Europe 2 are anxiously studying their wind and speedometers, with one eye on their rear-view mirror. “We’re permanently on deck. It’s the final home straight and we’re going to give it everything,” said Luc Bartissol during the daily radio link-up with race HQ. Following their ultra fast stopover in the port of Gustavia to replace the spinnaker that broke on Friday, the leading yacht is now more than ever within the sights of the chasing pack.

Whirlpool-Europe 2 passed the Pain de Sucre this morning at 0050 GMT, followed by Sodebo, Savourons la Vie at 10.50 and Sill Entreprises at 13.38. Indeed, the 17.00 position check showed the gaps to be just as slight between the three boats. All three still have a realistic chance of victory and should cross the line on Thursday 4th November or Friday 5th if the trade winds do not rise in strength. “We’re 51 miles behind Catherine,” said Thomas Coville. “Since the start we’ve been doing our best to catch her. Sill isn’t far behind either. The weather isn’t easy to analyse. We had enough problems negotiating Saint Bartholomew.”

The Weather

The weather forecast is for a low-pressure trough with little gradient, thus not much wind over the West Indies. The east to south-easterly wind should gradually drop in strength, shifting to the west north-west over the centre of the Caribbean Sea. This situation should persist at least until Wednesday. The conditions