Tonight sees the two ‘Charlies’ still heading each group. American skipper Charlie Enright and his crew (11th Hour Racing Team) are leading the way after passing the Azimut 2 waypoint at 08:26 hours this Thursday morning, whilst Charlie Dalin, heading the fleet of solo sailors on APIVIA, followed suit one hour later.
Since then, the IMOCA skippers have been making headway at a slower, laborious pace, with the vast majority now launched onto a beat. The ETA for the front runners is from 06:00 local time tomorrow morning for the 23 solo sailors still out on the racetrack after Japanese skipper, Kojiro Shiraishi (DMG MORI Global One) retired last night for personal reasons. Signed up for a longer course, which will take them on a slight detour via Penmarc'h, the four crews are due to make the finish from noon.
As promised, this ‘48 Heures’ race in the Défi Azimut-Lorient Agglomération began with a long downwind sprint with the competitors reaching the first mark at quite a lick after an exhilarating run. This was also true for those sailing their boats in race mode for the first time, like Samantha Davies, aboard her brand-new scarlet red Initiatives Cœur. “The sunset, an average speed of 26-27 knots… It was incredible! With Justine (Mettraux) only just behind me, and within sight of several boats, the drop down to the first mark was really nice,” explains the sailor, despite having to contend with water ingress aft, not far from the batteries for the electronics. Fortunately, it was more of a fright than anything and tonight she’s positioned in 7th place less than 30 miles from the head of the fleet.
“The first 24 hours were pretty steady on a long stretch of downwind with a gybe that was difficult to time right. We knew that APIVIA’s used to sailing above her polars (speed estimates according to the conditions and points of sail), but there were lots of boats able to match that,” commented Hubert Lemonnier, Race Director. “The foilers clearly have the edge,” he adds.
This evening, the hierarchy established on the water illustrates this gradual takeover, after a race start that saw a small group of boats with daggerboards able to keep pace downwind under spinnaker focused on VMG.
Following the stretch of reaching in what was a shifty breeze both in terms of strength and direction between the waypoints of Azimut 1 and Azimut 2, the wrestling match between the leading foilers reached fever pitch as the first boats launched onto a beat for home. It’s achingly close tonight between the unshakeable APIVIA (Charlie Dalin) and LinkedOut (Thomas Ruyant), who are bunched within a handful of miles as per usual. However, the newbies can’t be discounted either: Charal (Jérémie Beyou), and V and B-Monbana-Mayenne (Maxime Sorel) are poised to pounce just astern of them. It’s the same for Holcim - PRB (Kevin Escoffier), who’s made a fantastic comeback in the second wave. All of them have really been able to show what they’re made of out on the racetrack with peak speeds of between 29 and 34 knots overnight. All this merry band are making headway within ten miles of one another with less than 150 miles to the finish.
On the tally of great performances, it’s essential to mention that of Monnoyeur-Duo for a job (Benjamin Ferré), the first boat with daggerboards, which is hanging onto 8th place. Mission accomplished for the skipper who said this morning: “We’ve put on our finest speed goggles! I’ve just passed the Azimut 2 mark and after a slight tac-tac to reposition myself, I’ll launch onto a beat and try to catch my mate Attanasio. All’s well aboard!” This afternoon, he’s really holding his own ahead of several foilers, with Fortinet-Best Western (Romain Attanasio) and Groupe APICIL (Damien Seguin), as his closest rivals. Gentoo Sailing Team (James Harayda) is also sending it, despite being new to the circuit and has been well positioned since the start of the race.
At 17:30 hours, Ollie Heer Ocean Racing (Ollie Heer) and freelance.com (Guirec Soudée), in 20th and 21st positions respectively, had just passed the Azimut 2 mark, so they too are now embroiled on a beat to the finish offshore of Lorient. “Upwind always involves twice the distance and three times the pain”, according to offshore racing lore, particularly at the back of the fleet where there’s a risk that the front runners will extend away…