- Maxi Spindrift 2
“Physically, it’s like climbing Mount Everest,” Yann said in yesterday’s video recorded onboard Spindrift 2, the largest boat in the Ultimes class. Yet his clear, calm and collected voice could not hide the tired look on his face, clearly affected by his lack of sleep since leaving Saint-Malo last Sunday. The skipper knew only too well that sailing this boat, initially designed for crews, would be one of the most difficult challenges of his career. Now, halfway through the race, he says that he did not expect it to be so physically challenging. Lying in second position, Yann still has a chance of winning the race. He is pushing back the boundaries of physical endurance by the day and his performance so far is an incredible feat.
Spindrift 2 was the first boat to escape the area of low wind yesterday afternoon. Since then he has been averaging around 25 knots, driven by the Azores High weather system. Yann is gliding along the water with a sail area of 800 m², the largest in the fleet. “I’ve not performed many manoeuvres over the past few hours, which has allowed me to get some rest,” he said at around midday. “I can honestly say that I never imagined it would be so physically challenging. Now that I’m into the trades, I’ll have to choose the right routes with my routers to minimise the number of manoeuvres I perform so that I can keep going until the end of the race.”
Half way to Guadeloupe
Loïck Peyron has already reached the midway point, and Yann will pass there shortly. Spindrift 2 has stabilised the gap to the leader at around 170 nautical miles and has pulled well clear of the rest of the chasers. Lionel Lemonchois, in third position, is now more than 300 miles behind the leader. “Loïck broke clear,” explained Yann, “but I’ve managed to escape the calm-weather area better than my close rivals. I’m travelling in winds of 12 to 20 knots. The boat is making good headway in warm, 25-degree waters, with bright sunshine and a typical trade-wind sky with small cumulus clouds.”
“The plan now will be to take advantage of moderate winds before making a sharp turn,” explained Richard Silvani, one of the Yann’s onshore routers, this morning. Yann will thus head towards the heart of the anticyclone before gybing at just the right time to maintain the pressure and adopt a good angle of attack, avoiding the calmer conditions at the centre of the high-pressure system. On the map, the trajectory will look like that of a seagull’s wing. “Over the next few days Yann can expect to be busy with gybing manoeuvres in full sail,” explained the meteorologist, who is working alongside Erwan Israël to find the right balance between performance and the conservation of Yann’s energy levels.
En route to Pointe-à-Pitre
The leaders are expected to reach the finish line on Monday.Although this prediction should be treated with caution, it leaves no doubt that Yann will have to keep on pushing while protecting his travel-weary boat and body. “We’ll have to find a good route across the Atlantic, but I also need to sleep and eat as best I can to reach the end of the race. Mentally, it’s not a problem, but physically it most certainly is.”
Furthermore, true to tradition, the Route du Rhum will end with a tour around the north side of the island of Guadeloupe, which is usually in very light winds. The competitors need to anticipate these final stages by saving as much energy as possible for this final challenge before the finish line.
Ultimate class standing at 03:00 pm UTC:
1 – Loïck Peyron / Banque Populaire VII, 1 729 nm to the finish
2 – Yann Guichard / Spindrift 2, DTL 170,4 nm
3 – Lionel Lemonchois / Prince de Bretagne, DTL 308,6 nm
4 – Sébastien Josse / Edmond de Rothschild, DTL 415,1 nm
5 – Idec sport, Francis Joyon, DTL 445,2 nm
6 – Musandam Oman Sail, Sidney Gavignet, DTL 465 nm
7 – Paprec Recyclage, Yann Eliès, DTL 595 nm