Fastnet astern !

Having passed the ‘Tout Commence en Finistère’ waypoint mid-afternoon yesterday, the duos competing in the fourth Guyader Bermudes 1000 Race Brest – Brest began their climb up to Fastnet. Far from relaxing, the sailors had to deal with a very fluky breeze. With wind shifts, light patches and squalls of up to 40 knots, they had a lot on their plates. Within this context, certain boats managed to sprint ahead in the middle of the night before squeezing up together again around the legendary lighthouse. This Tuesday, the top six are bunched within 35 miles and the battle is particularly hard fought between the two leaders, FOR PEOPLE skippered by Thomas Ruyant and Morgan Lagravière, and Charal 2 skippered by Jérémie Beyou and Franck Cammas. The two boats rounded the famous Irish rock within three minutes of one another, shortly after 11:00 hours French time. As such, suspense is guaranteed right to the last as they switch to ‘rocket’ mode on the hunt for the ‘Trophée Région Bretagne’ waypoint, which the front runners are due to reach this evening at around 21:00 hours.

The long leg between the ‘Tout Commence en Finistère’ waypoint and the Fastnet lighthouse was never going to be simple. Indeed, it proved to be relatively complex for the 13 duos in the fourth edition of the Guyader Bermudes 1000 Race Brest – Brest. “Having dealt with the light patch, which had us pinned to the racetrack after the first virtual mark, things got lively again this morning as a big squall rolled through.”

“The latter arrived just as we were considering hoisting the spinnaker. Suffice to say that we had no regrets about not doing that when we got slammed by 40 knots!” commented Yoann Richomme (Paprec Arkéa), who subsequently found himself in considerably more manageable conditions for rounding the famous rock at midday, in 5th position, two hours after the two leaders, Thomas Ruyant and Morgan Lagravière’s FOR PEOPLE followed by Jérémie Beyou and Franck Cammas’ Charal 2. 

The latter two, who managed to open up a lead of over 50 miles overnight, lost a lot of their advantage around Fastnet as they became embroiled in an incredible duel along the fringes of the TSS (Traffic Separation System) of the same name. Whilst the black boat had the upper hand for a long while, ultimately her adversary got the better of her shortly before rounding the rock.

‘Rocket’ mode activated!

“The Fastnet is always a really wonderful waypoint for sailors and leading the way around it is even greater!” said a thrilled Thomas Ruyant, who promptly launched onto the descent towards the next mark some 100 miles offshore of the tip of Brittany with a lead of two minutes and 47 seconds over his rival. “It’s going to be a very quick leg! Right now, we’re sailing under J0 and full mainsail and the boat is absolutely smoking!” gushed the winner of the last edition of the Route du Rhum – Destination Guadeloupe, whilst being propelled along at an average of over 25 knots, doing a big bear away on a reach. “We can switch to autopilot mode on these points of sail and the boat really flies, which is incredible fun!” added Morgan Lagravière, riveted to the helm with a pigeon he’s christened Fernand, which has been alongside him since yesterday evening. 

The winged creature is clearly relishing hitting peaks of speed of over 30 knots aboard FOR PEOPLE, a boat that is evidently of noble birth having already demonstrated her amazing potential. “We’re really making the most of it because after the next waypoint we’re going to end up close-hauled in a bit of breeze with quite a bit of sea for thirty hours or so to make the Gallimard mark, which isn’t going to be quite so much fun,” promises Thomas Ruyant, who will likely round the ‘Trophée Région Bretagne’ waypoint this evening between 20:30 and 21:00 hours, before heading offshore again to make the following mark. In fact, the position of this mark was also modified slightly by Race Management yesterday evening to prevent certain boats from getting stuck in very heavy seas.

Retirement of the Soudée – Douguet duo 

“During the following upwind leg, the competitors will have to put in a series of tacks so there will be some strategy involved. This won’t be easy as the breeze, which is set to ease to between 18 and 20 knots, will fluctuate a great deal,” announces Christian Dumard, the event’s weather consultant. As such, he doesn’t rule out the fact that the cards will be reshuffled right across the board. Indeed, as Yoann Richomme pointed out at midday, “in IMOCA the fleet concertinas in and out fairly swiftly.”

For now, after a little over 48 hours at sea, the latter remain fairly bunched, though there are nearly 200 miles between the first and the last boats. In short, there’s still everything to play for throughout the fleet, with the exception of Guirec Soudée and Corentin Douguet (Freelance.com). Indeed, the latter have been forced to throw in the towel in this Guyader Bermudes 1000 Race after breaking their bowsprit early this morning. They’re currently making for Concarneau.

Quotes from the boats: 

Julien Pulvé (Maître CoQ V): “The wind kicked back in a little more suddenly than forecast at the end of the climb up to Fastnet, which led to a wipe-out, albeit minor fortunately. We then slipped along towards the lighthouse on a direct route on very cool seas, which meant we could post some great peaks of speed and push the machine without harming her. It’s all grey outside and it’s raining. There’s no doubt that we’re in Ireland! This change of course is a new development. It’ll add to the route a little, but we’re adapting. In this type of situation, you need to be flexible and just focus on the navigation and honing your upcoming strategy. You have to think about things one segment at a time. For this leg to the ‘Trophée Région Bretagne’ waypoint, it is relatively simple because you have to follow a direct course. The boats are well matched, which is really great and also very motivating. It’s really interesting to size up your playmates and try to go faster than them. We’re neck and neck with Initiatives Cœur, which was making headway to the west of the direct route to make Fastnet and gained on us slightly. Our battle with them is punctuating our race!”

Gérald Veniard (La Mie Câline): “All’s well aboard. We put in a lot of manoeuvres on the way to Fastnet. We made a whole string of sail changes with the wind building gradually before the arrival of a big squall. We lost sight of Canada Ocean Racing and Freelance.com, who we spent most of yesterday with when we failed to extricate ourselves from the zone around the ‘Tout Commence en Finistère’ waypoint, as there was no longer a sniff of breeze. Since then, it’s been a whole different ball game and the setting and the course has changed. We’re adapting!”

Sam Goodchild (FOR THE PLANET): “We’ve just passed Fastnet and as we head southwards there’s more and more breeze and sea, but we have a good angle, which is enabling the boat to go quick, quick, quick. We’re trying to catch up with our playmates in front, FOR PEOPLE and Charal 2. It’s easier said than done, but we’re trying. We’re also trying to keep our friends on Paprec Arkéa astern of us. All’s well aboard. We’re having a ball. We’re learning a lot about the boat, which we’re not yet very familiar with, even though we’ve picked up a lot of info from the previous skipper. It’s cool to learn and do things for ourselves. We’re really having fun and that’s important. The weather’s nice in Ireland. Today is the first time we’ve seen the sunshine since the start. We’re trying to make the most of it. We’re 200 miles from the ‘Trophée Région Bretagne’ waypoint but we’re making fast headway. After that we’ll set a course for the Gallimard mark. Sailing close-hauled won’t be so nice, but we won’t have any choice if we’re to make it home.”

Order of passage at Fastnet: 

1. FOR PEOPLE (Thomas Ruyant – Morgan Lagravière) on 9 May at 11h10’41 – 1d 21h 10 min 41s 

2. Charal 2 (Jérémie Beyou – Franck Cammas) at 11h13’28, 2min 47s after the first boat.

3. FOR THE PLANET (Sam Goodchild – Antoine Koch) at 12h27’13, 1h 16min and 13s after the first boat.

4. Paprec Arkéa (Yoann Richomme – Yann Eliès) at 13h16’57, 2h 06min and 16 s after the first boat.

5. Initiatives Cœur (Sam Davies – Damien Seguin) at 13h41’22, 2h 30min 41s after the first boat.

6. Maître CoQ (Jean-Marie Dauris – Julien Pulvé) at 13h57’28, 2h 46min and 47s after the first boat.