Fleets begin to spread out crossing Bay of Biscay
Both the IMOCA and VO65 fleets are finally free of the English Channel and into the more open waters of the Bay of Biscay / Celtic Sea / North Atlantic.
The mission now is to leave the Bay of Biscay to port and run down the west coasts of Spain and Portugal before turning into the Mediterranean.
After a couple of days of very light winds, Sunday morning brings a light to moderate breeze, but it’s a south-southwesterly, which is generally the direction of travel, meaning choices will need to be made. Further west there is likely to be more wind, but it comes at a cost of extra miles. This tactical choice over the next 24-48 hours will be one to watch.
“We lost a bit on Biotherm overnight, but still have a good lead at the moment… so far, so good,” said Benjamin Schwartz on IMOCA fleet leader, Team Holcim-PRB. His team dropped just over 10 miles in the early hours of Sunday, but have managed to stabilise now and are set up directly west of Paul Meilhat’s Biotherm team, and nearly 50 miles ahead of Boris Herrmann’s Team Malizia.
The VO65 fleet has pushed further west than the IMOCAs, especially the leader, WindWhisper Racing Team who are over 70 miles west of second-placed Mirpuri-Trifork and Team JAJO in third.
The challenge for WindWhisper skipper Daryl Wislang is to determine when there is enough west in the wind direction for them to tack and start making miles south – at the moment (0800 UTC) his team is pushing nearly directly west, and not making miles towards their goal.
“It’s definitely been a tricky time with very, very light winds,” confirmed Viva Mexico skipper Erik Brockmann, where his team is in a pack of four VO65s chasing the leader.
“The last days have seemed more like the doldrums with a little bit of everything mixed in. Now we finally have some breeze and have sailed all night and I think we are finally getting into the southerlies we have been expecting. Only WindWhisper has been able to get into the wind first (and get away), but we can see the others, so it should be a fun day today.”
Two boats returned to The Hague after the dramatic collision that marred the start of Leg 7 for the IMOCA fleet.
On Sunday morning, GUYOT environnement – Team Europe confirmed they would not be able to repair their boat in time to get to Genova for the Grand Finale. Instead, the team has effected a temporary repair (no bowsprit) and will limp towards their home port of Les Sable d’Olonne where full repairs can be made.
“We wanted to finish this race and we put all our power towards that, but we try to go to Genova like this – no bowsprit, no downwind sails – we will arrive well after the stopover,” said skipper Benjamin Dutreux.
“We have spent the past six months with all the other teams. We have that link together now. There is no way we will miss the arrival of the boats in Genova. All of our team will be in Genova to welcome the boats. Whether our boat is there or not there, changes nothing. This is a human story and we want to be there to share that with them.”
Dutreux repeated his regret for the incident and its impact on 11th Hour Racing Team and The Ocean Race.
Still in The Hague, Charlie Enright’s team is continuing to work around the clock on repairs to its boat with the goal of getting to Genova for the Grand Finale.
“The time, the effort, the craftsmanship, the dedication is unbelievable…” Enright said dockside on Saturday afternoon as he looked at the work happening on the boat. “I feel so lucky to have this level of dedication to the cause. When you get into situations like this you find out what you’re made of and I’m so proud of what we’ve seen so far.”
The team is expected to update on its plans to get to the Grand Finale in Genova over the next 24 hours.
More information about the schedule for 11th Hour Racing Team’s Request for Redress with the World Sailing International Jury will be shared when it is available.