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Ecover reign supreme in the West

Belgacom wins the bet by going West round depression

mercredi 7 novembre 2001Information Transat Jacques Vabre

image 300 x 158Monohulls start from Le Havre. Photo : G.Martin-Raget / Royale Production

In the long run the West way has won in the bets placed by the leading Transat Jacques Vabre Transat Jacques Vabre #TJV2015 multihulls to cross the first low pressure system down off the coast of Portugal, without losing ground. Although Groupama (Cammas/Ravussin) flirted with the lead this morning by crossing at a better sailing angle but with less wind, it is Belgacom (Nelias/Desjoyeaux) who is back in the top spot by 8 miles over Fujifilm (Peyron/Le Mignon). Skipper Jean Luc Nélias was sure of his moves. "We preferred to anticipate the movement of this depression than worry about Bonduelle overtaking to the East of us, as they have since had to gybe across the whole fleet to get over to our side."

Up to third is Kingfisher-Foncia (Gautier/MacArthur), 18 miles behind in Belgacom’s wake. Ellen recounted briefly : "I’m so relieved to be out of the big 40 knot winds past Madeira. We gybed yesterday to get West and now we’re heading South, getting ready for two days of fresh upwind conditions. Alain & I change helm every 1 or 2 hours, it’s extremely physical, hand-steering a lot, the boat is light but very powerful – I’m loving the sensation !"

For both the Open 60 and 50’s on the direct route ahead lies a dangerous parking lot in the form of a weak depression, and after the first few physically arduous days to gain crucial miles and get well positioned, everything could turn on its head. The drama will be played out off the North coast of Africa, the West side boys staying in a more established breeze but adding to their mileage, the East side boys sailing the shorter route but taking the risk of negotiating lighter airs.

Open 60 leader Ecover (Golding/Hutchinson) strides out even further West, as the co-skipper explains : "We decided long ago that we wanted to guard the right hand side of the course and be outside the rest of the fleet, and it’s paying for now. It sounds more like Olympic tactics than transatlantic ones but with the positions coming every 2 hours we’re watching the others like hawks." Immediate rivals Sill Plein Fruit (Jourdain/Le Cleac’h) have reeled back the lost miles and lie just 5 miles behind, heading more Southwards for the time being.

Third placed monohull (Gallay/De Pavant) is levelled with Casto-Darty-But (Moloney/Turner), claiming a mere 3m lead. Moloney consolidated the situation at midday : "It’s been frustrating to see Ecover & Sill gain good miles and now we’re heading West too, but still keeping an eye on SME-Négocéane and Fila near the beach. Everything says in the charts not to go East but they are coming through it well."

The phenomenal lead of 66 miles held by Open 50 One Dream One Mission (Bennett/Larsen) over Saving (Le Youdec/Bacave) could for the first time be seriously threatened, and skipper Alex Bennett has a lot weighing on his shoulders. "The next 24 hours are going to be very interesting, and a big tactical decision has to be made on our course. A weakening depression is in our path and is threatening light winds around 5 knots by the end of today 7th Nov. Do we head west to bypass it, or east or just go straight through it ?"

- Multihull Positions at 1500hrs GMT – DTF (nm)

- Postn Boat Latitude Longitude Speed Hdg DTF DFL

- 1 Belgacom 30 53.60’ N 18 08.64’ W 17.5 199 3809.2
- 2 Fujifilm 31 01.60’ N 16 58.12’ W 17.7 187 3817.3 8.0
- 3 Foncia 31 11.72’ N 18 16.72’ W 17.5 185 3827.6 18.4

- Open 60 Monohull Positions at 1445hrs GMT – DTF (nm)

- 1 Ecover 35 01.52’ N 19 16.16’ W 13.9 191 3111.6
- 2 Sill Plein Fruit 34 56.08’ N 18 45.96’ W 12.1 200 3116.3 4.7
- 3 Voilà.fr 35 21.48’ N 18 22.88’ W 11.5 203 3147.0 35.3

- Open 50 Monohull Positions at 1445hrs GMT – DTF (nm)

- 1 One Dream : One Mission 35 28.12’ N 13 39.92’ W 11.9 173 3247.8 0.0
- 2 Saving 36 57.54’ N 13 59.94’ W 13.4 197 3314.2 66.4

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