After more than twenty days of sailing, the pecking order is becoming clearer with the leader Charlie Dalin expected to pass the latitude of the Cape of Good Hope on Monday. The South Atlantic has not been very kind for more than ten days, but the weather pattern concerning the St. Helena high is now allowing the two groups of chasers not to lose any more ground. The first Southern low-pressure system is meanwhile developing off Cape Town…
The Cape of Good Hope is coming up for the leaders at least. They are now wondering how to tackle this headland which is never the most welcoming. This is the first of the three capes in the round the world voyage before Cape Leeuwin (S.W. Australia) and the Horn (at the southern tip of South America).
After more than three weeks of racing to round South Africa, the leader has not smashed any records, as the reference time between Les Sables d’Olonne and the Cape of Good Hope is still held by Alex Thomson with a time of 17 days 22 hours and 58 minutes since 2016. But just four years earlier in 2012, it took Armel Le Cléac’h almost 23 days to reach the tip of Africa…
Shine a light
As the leader enters the gateway to the Indian Ocean (Charlie Dalin with a lead of 250 miles), what are the conditions like in the South Atlantic? With Jérémie Beyou (Charal) crossing the Equator this morning, there are no longer any competitors left in the Northern Hemisphere this afternoon (Sunday). Given the tricky weather, the fourth week starts today with the important advantage of shorter nights and a well-lit sky.
The Moon shines brightly every 29 and a half days on its journey around the Earth. The full moon lights up both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres. The Moon rises in the East and sets in the West lighting up the ocean at night. It offers a magnificent sight to the sailors as in the absence of clouds in the sky, they are able to make out the shadows of all the marine life.
From Brazil to South Africa – very different conditions
That is indeed the case for the “Brazilians”: the third group led by Alexia Barrier (TSE-4myplanet) on the oldest of the IMOCA monohulls. She is currently sailing off Salvador da Bahia in the trade winds, which have finally turned further east. With the wind on the beam, this group which also includes Miranda Merron (Campagne de France), Clément Giraud (Compagnie du Lit-Jiliti) and the Finnish sailor, Ari Huusela (STARK) and Sébastien Destremau (merci) a hundred miles further back, can look forward to reaching the Forties in the middle of the week.
As for the group ahead of them with Arnaud Boissières (La Mie Câline-Artisans Artipôle), Didac Costa (One planet-One ocean), Manuel Cousin (Groupe SÉTIN) and Pip Hare (Medallia), they are able to enjoy quieter conditions in the Atlantic with a gentle, yet more stable NE’ly breeze, before a new low-pressure system develops out of Uruguay. They are a long way from the leading group, which is hanging on to the first Southern low.
The leader at the Cape of Good Hope today
Some like Sam Davies (Initiatives Cœur) and Damien Seguin (Groupe APICIL) are already behind the cold front, so on rougher seas in a fresh to strong SW’ly air stream (25-30 knots), forcing them to sail towards the edge of the Ice Exclusion Zone at around 45°S. The others out in front are still ahead of the cold front and working hard to stay there for as long as possible. That is the case for Sébastien Simon (ARKEA-PAPREC) who is speeding along and even overtaken Boris Herrmann (Seaexplorer-YC de Monaco) and now has his sights on Yannick Bestaven (Maître CoQ IV) and Kevin Escoffier (PRB).
Jean Le Cam (Yes We Cam!) has dropped back from third place and is likely to fall further back in the coming hours with an attack from the foilers from more or less the latest generation, but out in front it is still the two Verdier designed boats setting the pace. In spite of a shortened port foil, Thomas Ruyant (LinkedOut) is managing to keep up an average speed of around twenty knots, just like Charlie Dalin (Apivia), who is keeping the chasing boats in check on a very straight course towards the Cape of Good Hope. From now on, it will be the gybes behind the cold front that will determine the rankings that follow.