One mark and they’re off again
This Thursday morning, Thomas Ruyant pipped Charlie Dalin and Jérémie Beyou to the post by being the first to round the IOC-UNESCO waypoint to the south-west of Iceland. Jogging along now, half the IMOCA fleet has already begun its descent down to the Gallimard waypoint.
On Wednesday evening, Thomas Ruyant was a long way shy of the top two who seemed to have a clear lead in the far north. Some 42 miles astern of Charlie Dalin and Jérémie Beyou, who were posting good speeds en route for 62°N 25°W, it seemed rather optimistic to hope to play a part in the Ulysse Nardin Challenge.
A magical nightHowever, a magical night can all come down to trajectory. "The nights are much shorter, explains Thomas Ruyant, and this long tack on flat seas, with the boat constantly picking up speed is exhilarating. It was magical. It made me want to make even faster headway so as not to let myself get dropped by the top duo".
Whilst the skipper of LinkedOut battled to get the most out of the westerly wind, which was a tad fleshier until the early hours, Charlie Dalin and Jérémie Beyou were sampling the delights of the calm airs over the IOC-UNESCO waypoint, which is the most northerly point ever offered up in an IMOCA race. And it was slow going. Very slow. Achingly slow. Except for Ruyant that is. Indeed, while his two adversaries were already in line with the virtual waypoint, he managed to leave the skipper of Apivia standing and rounded the IOC-UNESCO mark with a six-minute advantage. It was broad daylight when Charlie Dalin commented on the tactical coup made by his pontoon buddy: "Thomas took the inside track last night, whilst we were ensnared in the light patch". Effective.
A flotilla on the huntThe two-way match is now back to three, and that might well last until the finish in Les Sables d’Olonne next Tuesday or Wednesday… or even until the third week of January (the ETA for the finish of the Vendée Globe) given how similar the performances are on these foilers. "Apivia and my boat share a similar level of performance, says Thomas Ruyant. Both boats are by the same naval architect (Guillaume Verdier), the hulls are similar, but not the deck layouts or the suits of sails. We’re set apart in this regard, notably thanks to Antoine Koch", an engineer and sailor, who sailed high-speed multihulls for a long time, which were the inspiration behind today’s foiling monohulls.
This explanation prompts another observation from the skipper from northern France about the state of play in the Class IMOCA as reflected on the Vendée – Arctique – Les Sables d’Olonne racetrack: "The modern boats are very similar, but the slightly older ones, like Isabelle Joschke’s MACSF or Boris Herrmann’s Seaexplorer – Yacht Club de Monaco have really been given a good boost so they’re performing very well too. The type of scenario we’re experiencing here may not necessarily be reproduced in the Vendée Globe, where there tend to be fewer reversals (of situation) than we’re seeing right now".
Jogging alongThe atmosphere was surprisingly calm around the Arctic Circle today, so much so that whilst the head of the race was beginning to jog very gently southwards, their pursuers were also making laboured progress around the IOC-UNESCO mark. Five hours after the passage of Thomas Ruyant, Charlie Dalin, Jérémie Beyou, Sam Davies, Kevin Escoffier, Boris Herrmann, Isabelle Joschke and Yannick Bestaven had already passed the first waypoint in the Vendée – Arctique – Les Sables d’Olonne, the last of this bunch lamenting a deficit of just 28 miles in relation to the leader. And that’s set to last: to locate a breath of air in excess of 10 knots, the head of the race still has around 70 miles to cover.
For the chasing pack, it’s a stroke of good luck that must be seized upon. Yannick Bestaven (Maître-CoQ IV), 8th, less than thirty miles shy of the leader, was keen to emphasise this at the morning telephone link-up: "I’m happy to have been able to hook back up with this little posse (made up of Sam Davies, 4th, Kevin Escoffier, Boris Herrmann and Isabelle Joschke) because I’d lost contact with it after the technical issues I had to deal with along the Irish coast. I’ve managed to make up the lost ground by switching things up a gear in the low pressure system and again, last night, when Isabelle (Joschke) and I were pushing the envelope. Right now, there’s no more wind and it’s cold, so it’s not so much fun".
THE STATSChallenge Ulysse NardinLes Sables d’Olonne – IOC-UNESCO mark1st: Thomas Ruyant (LinkedOut) passed the waypoint at 11:41 French time, after covering 1,581 miles in 4d 20h 11’ (average: 13.6 knots)
QUOTES FROM THE BOATSThomas Ruyant (LinkedOut):"It was worthy of a round-the-cans race. It was funny for all three of us to get up there at the same time, in any case, I found it really enjoyable. For them, maybe a little less… Above all, it was getting up there after the night I had last night that was crazy. Getting back in contact at the symbolic mark in this race, and being first to round it, it’s fantastic. I’m very happy with how things played out, but there’s still a long way to go in this race. Charlie and Jérémie are going very fast and there’s all to play for".
Kojiro Shiraishi (DMG MORI Global One):"Up till now, I’ve done more repairs than sailing, which isn’t very pleasant. I’m finally going to be able to enjoy myself now. I’m 11th and I’m happy to still be close to the fleet. I don’t know how to start races well, because I’m seasick for the whole of the first week generally. I’ve had my share of technical issues from the get-go. I had to scale the mast to fix a problem with the hook, which caused my mainsail to get stuck at the second reef (…) We hadn’t yet had the opportunity to fully test the boat in very heavy sea conditions. It’s fantastic that this race was able to be organised as it has given us the chance to sail in some rough conditions. What’s happening to us now is normal. My objectives? To enjoy myself, sail well, really have some fun and race with my playmates. Sam (Davies) and Isabelle (Joschke) are in on the action. It’s not easy. For a macho man like me it’s hard to have two girls ahead of me! I’m joking of course. The girls are sailing brilliantly. Sam is very experienced and Isa is beginning to rack up some experience too and the boat has been remarkably well transformed. As for Clarisse, she’s impressive and has really raised her game and is defending herself very well".
Giancarlo Pedote (Prysmian Group):"Things are going well. We’re putting in some nice tacks. The colours in the sky are very special. I’ve had out my whole wardrobe, which will come in useful in the Vendée Globe to tackle the cold."