Beware of the tropics
  • Maxi Spindrift 2
November 7, 2014

Driven by the trade winds, the trimarans are cruising through warm, turquoise waters. While the sailors are now clad in shorts and t-shirts, there are still nervous times ahead. The north-east wind has built up and stabilised at around 20 knots. The squall has gone, and Yann Guichard successfully negotiated a small area of light winds last night. Two gybes under a full moon took the Spindrift 2 skipper onto a fast, effective route. Still lying in second position with 1,400 nautical miles to go, Spindrift 2 has even closed the gap slightly on Loïck Peyron, the current race leader, who will have to make the right decisions now if he is to fend off the predators following in his wake.

“I don’t know exactly how many days we’ve been at sea,” said Yann in the on-board video he recorded. “I think this is the sixth day.” Sailors, especially those sailing solo, fit their sleeping patterns around the boat and the weather conditions, making it difficult for them to keep track of the days and nights they’ve spent at sea. “I’m cruising at 24-25 knots on a boat that is using its full potential, which is good,” he adds. “Now that the wind has picked up, I really need to minimise my manoeuvres to reduce the chance of making a silly mistake.”

Onshore support
Yann’s routers continue to keep watch day and night, advising the skipper about his order of priorities. At their headquarters in Carnac, Brittany, Richard Silvani of Météo France and Erwan Israël are following each and every minute of this transatlantic race. “At first I wasn’t sleeping enough and I was so focused on the race that I actually forgot to eat,” said Erwan. “Richard, who has tremendous experience, has helped me to find a good rhythm, which is crucial as we also need to last right through to the end. Erwan, who knows Spindrift 2 by heart, having sailed as part of the crew for previous records, is able to perfectly calculate the extent of the tasks that Yann must face: "We decided to manoeuvre last night to avoid this bubble which could have made us lose time. Yann stepped up to the challenge, yet again. He’s right onto his game! We ask him to alert us about the slightest change in the wind so that we can react as quickly as possible. What impressed me most was his close-hauled sailing in the Bay of Biscay, when he kept his foot on the accelerator despite the awful conditions. It paid off, because he moved to second place, and has stayed there ever since.”

The team is keeping a close eye 24/7 on both sides of the Atlantic

The meteorologists are not the only ones who have to get up in the middle of the night. Each member of the team is supporting the skipper in his or her area of expertise. Dona Bertarelli is directing operations, maintaining a link between Yann and the onshore team, constantly monitoring the skipper’s morale and anticipating his needs. Leo Lucet, Executive Director of Spindrift racing, is one of the cornerstones of the team, dealing with the logistics required to ensure that such a huge challenge functions properly. From a technical point of view, the boats are suffering wear and tear after nearly one week at sea. Yann must now perform some maintenance alone on this immense maxi-trimaran. To make such maintenance possible, Spindrift 2’s technical manager Antoine Carraz needs to find fast solutions so that the skipper can spend as little time as possible keeping the boat in perfect shape.
With the finish line approaching, the teams have already begun to fly out to Pointe-à-Pitre. Travel plans were made months ago, and team members will travel in several groups to ensure that Yann can contact the right person he needs at any time, day or night.

Choosing the right moment
Loïck Peyron and Yann Guichard are both following a long starboard tack on the edge of the Azores High. In a few hours time they will gybe to follow a long port tack, this time towards the island of Guadeloupe in the West Indies. If there are no major tactical surprises, each skipper must choose the right moment to hit the home straight. Banque Populaire VII is in control. Behind Loïck and Yann, Lionel Lemonchois has decided to veer south to pick up the trade winds as soon as possible, even if it makes his route slightly longer. Sébastien Josse is following in his wake. Although the two leaders currently look to be outside everyone else’s reach, the two closest chasers have taken a last-ditch gamble, knowing that they could still spring a surprise and reach Guadeloupe first.

Ultime class standing at 7pm UTC:
1. Loïck Peyron / Banque Populaire VII, 1230,4 nm to the finish
2. Yann Guichard / Spindrift 2, DTL 124,91 nm
3. Lionel Lemonchois / Prince de Bretagne, DTL 263,09 nm
4. Sébastien Josse / Edmond de Rothschild, DTL 309,76 nm
5. Sidnez Gavignet / Musandam - Oman Sail, DTL 391,42 nm
6. Francis Joyon / Idec Sport, DTL 418,56 nm
7. Yann Eliès / Paprec Recyclage, DTL 574,81