Virbac, the leading monohull in the Transat Jaques Vabre, has extended her overnight lead to 108 miles

Virbac, the leading monohull in the Transat Jaques Vabre, has been gybing under spinnaker in a 20-25kts of north-east breeze and able to reach 16 knots boat speed. She is now 108 miles from her nearest rival, Sill (Jourdain/Thomson) and 159m ahead of Ecover (Golding/Thompson) at this morning’s 0700gmt position update. Jean-Pierre Dick on board Virbac chatted from the boat this morning: “We’re well and truly in the Trade Winds. The flying fish are not yet jumping for joy onto the deck but last night was incredible, one of the best out of the 95 days I have spent on my boat. Now the next hurdle is to get well positioned to attack the Doldrums and for the Equator.”

Mike Golding and Brian Thompson are getting back into his groove after set backs on board Ecover. After a succession of problems to contend with, including a broken steering wheel and two lost spinnakers over the last two days, the boat is back up to speed. Golding commented: “What’s annoying is we had technical problem that put us back 50 miles, but the result of the set-back meant we fell out of a position and we fell into somewhere we shouldn’t have been, so our loss turned into a lot more than the original problem caused.”

Roland Jourdain on Sill said: “We are into the trades now, with the big spinnaker flying and full mainsail. The winds are still establishing themselves but in a few hours the breeze will stabilise.” Now 214m to the west of Virbac, Sill hope to gain advantage from their westerly option to sail in the trades on a better angle. They are heading directly south on port gybe with the wind on their aft beam, whereas Virbac is pointing nearly dead downwind, and both currently averaging just above 12 knots boat speed. With 2,400m to go, they are nearing the half way mark and have all to play for still.

In the Open 50 fleet, Hellomoto is still maintaining her lead of 48m over Storagetek (Guillemot/Salnelle) but is more worried about the third-placed boat Défi Vendéen 78m in her wake as they continue down the direct route. Storagetek is actually lower in latitude but much further over to the east as she passes Madeira to the east and the other two to the west.

In the Open 60 multihull fleet Groupama (Cammas/Proffit) controls the lead with a 61m lead over Sergio Tacchini (Fauconnier/Foxall), who are on the same latitude but in the east more. Now Géant (Desjoyeaux/Jan) is just 7m further back in terms of miles to the finish, but is more or less in Groupama’s wake. Groupama clocks the highest boat speed at 18.9 knots with a 15 knot VMG (Velocity Made Good – speed to the finish).

Cammas had this to say: “It’s good to be on the verge of the Trade Winds, the direction of wind is there but the strength of the breeze is yet to be established. We are sailing down this very small corridor with the next three boats and we must not lose this. This passage of airflow should shut off behind us, and yet Biscuits La Trinitaine is right over to the west in an interesting position, he’s looking good there. Now we are just trying to negotiate the fluctuating winds which are shifting 5 to 10 degrees, and gybing within this in order to gain more of a lead. There will be four shifts today and the wind will rise gradually to 20-25 knots, so we’ll be at the helm the whole time, any lack of concentration could lose us precious miles.”

‘Giant’ sailor Mich Desjoyeaux with Hervé Jan will also be focused on the task at hand: “We’re happy where we are, accelerating gradually under gennaker and full main. I am entirely confident in Géant’s downwind performance for what is next?” Watch out for Biscuits La Trinitaine (Guessard/Guichard) and Sopra Group (Monnet/Bourgnon) out in the west, as these machines can cover 500m in 24 hours. Bayer CropScience is still in Porto Santo and will be leaving shortly.