Just over a week in and the carnage level has died down a little, with the exception of Conrad Humphreys in the class 40 ‘Cat Phones’ losing his rig and Robin Knox Johnston who’s all out of cigarettes and dangerously low on whisky. The only storm left on the course has been surrounding Loick at the finish as he cemented his status on the legends roster with a popular race record and overall victory. Despite finding one of Sodebo’s tow missing bows washed up on a French beach Thomas Coville has denied rumours he plans restart the race shortly.
The strategy in the IMOCA 60 fleet is all but over. Francois is 30nm directly ahead of Jeremie and there is little but breakages which is going to change the result in this one. Both boats are probably about 100nm off the port layline into ‘GuadeLOICK’ and therefore a short hitch might be needed to make it around the North of the island. The ensemble GRIB below of 1.0deg at 1200UT 10th November is suggesting this gybe is absolutely better to do sooner rather than later, but expect fleet tactics to dictate this move rather than following the perfect weather. When Jeremie goes, Francois will follow.
CLASS 40 ROUTING
In the Class 40 fleet the race is absolutely still on and it is hotting up at the front with 4 boats going for the podium places. In the grudge match of this race Mirranda Merron has a healthy lead over her long time partner Halvard Mabire (who’s got the newer flashier boat of the two). Don’t be fooled by the westerly favouring tracker here, Alex Pella is in the lead over the biggest rockstar in the 40 club Kito de Pavant.
Alex is in a really strong position here compared to the rest of the fleet. He will be looking to cover moves from Kito in the north, who will be his biggest rival for victory as it stands at the moment. It is interesting comparing the two routings of both Kito and Alex.
Strategy wise, there are 4 big gybe calls to make between now and the finish. From the IsoRoute below (the shaded area) you can see there is about a 200nm corridor in which to play this game where you would only lose 3 hours (the setting we choose for the IsoRoute) giving plenty of options to play for the lead skippers. Picking up the small, but predictable, shifts that occur between day and night due to atmospheric tide and playing with squalls around the taller clouds are the key trade wind skills needed from now
One thing that is hard to defend however is pure boatspeed, and here we could see which boat performs well in VMG running conditions if they choose to stick together. Kito will know the game on play here, and it will be fascinating how he chooses to attack Alex over the coming week. Through keeping it close if he believes he is faster? Or using the gaps in between the ‘sched’ updates to try and create leverage on his opponent? Any lead of less than ten miles or so won’t be safe until the very end as the wind shadow round the back of Guadeloupe can be a fickle beast indeed. – Nick Cherry.