Coville's on the comeback!

Coville's on the comeback!

2010 route du rhum A long, industrious, testing 24 hours for both of the leading Ultime skippers in the 2010 Route du Rhum-La Banque Postale sees Thomas Coville start to come back at the so far completely dominant Groupama 3 of Franck Cammas. Coville has pushing as hard as he dares on the giant red tri Sodebo, reporting to today's lunchtime radio vacation that he had been regularly making 33-34 knots, and has posted the highest 24 hours run yet of this edition of the race, making 519 miles as his northerly routing now sees him in stronger and more consistent wind than Cammas.

If Coville had the pedal pressed to the floor, Cammas was spending much of time trying to knit together the best pressure he could find and stay away from the squally clouds which had slowed him, sucking away the breeze. His need to be constantly vigilant was certainly draining the Groupama 3 skipper, but much more it was the regular sail configuration changes and maneuvers on the powerful multi, usually sailed by a crew of ten, which was sapping his strength.

Sodebo's surge has clawed back 40 miles on Groupama 3 since yesterday evening, and 86 in 24 hours. Cammas lead is scaled back to 260 miles with about 1340 miles to go to the finish in Guadeloupe. Present speeds suggest there is about three days left for them to race, but the weather files also suggest a sting in the tail, in the form of a big zone of light winds to traverse. Both skippers have pointed out that it is not over yet, and Coville's gains are set to continue, but for how long?

Francis Joyon hangs in nicely in third on Idec, matching nearly exactly Sodebo's VMG, but the solo round the world record ace has managed to pull nearly 50 miles clear on Yann Guichard on Gitana XI. The race record tri has strayed further south and has been stricken by light, squally winds, speeds dropping to single figures for much of the time. Guichard's deficit to Groupama 3 is now 453 miles.

In the IMOCA Class it is the 2006 class winning Roland Jourdain (Veolia Environnement) who jumped free of the pack this morning with his optimal routing through the front, earning the first shot at the brisk 20 knots NE'ly breezes which should arc this leading group on a fast course all the way down to the French West Indies. While it was the most northerly path which paid for this IMOCA vanguard, those on the lower, southerly line of this main back and slightly back suddenly struggled. Spare a thought for

Christopher Pratt on DCNS 1000. After an impressive opening to his first solo IMOCA Open 60 ocean race, he erred only a little too far south and was punished by losing the best part of 100 miles in a character-building 24 hours. Meantime the Jackal, Armel Le Cléac'h (Brit Air) lurks poised in second, and third and fourth placed PRB and Virbac-Paprec 3 – new VPLP/Verdier designs of Vincent Riou and J-P Dick pace each other only 3 miles apart on the water.

Marc Guillmot (Safran) did not have to look for his troubles. An unidentified floating object kicked up the leeward rudder on Safran spinning him into a broach. As he was knocked flat, the IMOCA world champion – frantically pumping his primary coffee grinder winch – could only watch as a key gennaker broke its ties and slipped out of the cockpit. It took Guillemot 45 minutes to tidy up the resulting yard sale and get himself on his way.

And 165 miles SE of the Azores, Michel Desjoyeaux looks poised to pass Arnaud Boissières, closing to within three miles of Akena Vérandas on his new Foncia. But the Professor and Cali have still been losing miles to the leaders, 100 between 2000hrs Thursday night and 1600hrs, now 249 miles behind.

Long time leader Thomas Ruyant (Destination Dunkerque) may lead the Class 40 fleet by 17 miles, but the MiniTransat winner was ready to light the afterburners as he emerged first through the front and into the fast downwind conditions. Ruyant was counting down to the second he could really push on and try and earn more miles on second placed Sam Manuard on Vector Plus. Kiwi Conrad Colman has been by far the quickest boat in the fleet, forcing his way into the Top 10, ninth now on the chartered Owen-Clarke 40 Degrees, continuing his impressive ascent from 22nd.

A temporary repair to the steering mechanism linked to his pilot unfortunately has not held for Swiss skipper Bernard Stamm and he is on course to get down to the Azores to make a proper repair. If Stamm can have the right part waiting on the dock he reckons it would be a half hour pit-stop. If not it might be longer. But Stamm has light winds ready to encroach on him.

Franck Cammas (Groupama 3) : « It is very complicated, the wind is shifting a lot. It has just jumped from 18-30 kts, and so I don't really know what sails to have up. Yesterday afternoon it was pretty mean I had so much rain that I could not see the front of the boat, and the sea was flattened like Marmite. Now I have swell on the nose and it is not very comfortable. I put the gennaker up this morning, and an hour later it went up to 25-30 knots. I am a bit tired. I am not going to be able to sleep as I will have to maneuver again. I don't really feel like I have slept since the beginning. Thomas is in a good place and coming back at me. He surely has had better winds than me and will now catch up a bit after the front. The finale will be complicated for sure. The pace I stick to is not too high, because I am not near the finish line yet. I want to sail well and make the most of some of the moments. I have a low ahead that is going to start to influence me from tomorrow.»

Thomas Coville (Sodebo) :
« It is tough. I have between 28 and 30 knot and a following seas. I have enough sail up doing 33-34 knots, and you really need to be careful and totally focused. I gulped down some food and am poised with the sheet in hand ready to dump it. Yesterday I had an incident when it was absolutely vital to ease. It is what I am up here for, but I did not expect as much wind as I got, 44 knots. In fact I have been posting high averages, but in the waves the boat slows a little. But near the end it will be complicated, and lots of things could happen. At the start Groupama stole the march and was successful, like us behind her did not have. But we say that flies can change wings, anything can happen in sailing, and so I'll be fighting to the end. And I always sail like that. Groupama is well ahead that is for sure, it would certainly need a calm to catch her, but as a solo skipper you always remember that anything can happen. But for the moment it is not going badly. There is a bad squally cloud so I need to go ! »

Roland Jourdain (Veolia Environnement):
“ I don't have any big problems. I have a collection of small ones, minor irritations, but nothing big. In the front I did not have to go far to get to the transition. And the under water situation was calmed where the wind dropped, but there are squally clouds and so it is important to be on the look out. I'll put some more sail up but less and wind and more sail can be a problem!”

Marc Guillemot (Safran) : “I passed through the front. Early in the night, the transition suddenly appeared: initially, the twenty-knot southerly dropped right off. In a quarter of an hour it fell to seven or eight knots. I just had time to prepare the sheets for the change of tack, the sails went around to the wrong side, the wind shifting to the north-east and we got going again slowly at first. I was then behind the line of the low-pressure area. I managed to hoist the small gennaker and was feeling rather pleased with the way things were going. I got her moving again and everything was going well. Then I had to take a reef in on the mainsail, as it was getting a bit hairy, with the wind increasing to above thirty knots with gusts of 36 knots. I was under autopilot and suddenly I heard a huge noise from the daggerboard and then the rudder. I had definitely hit something. The rudder kick-up system functioned correctly, but I found myself without any leeward steering and the boat bore away,” “It took me around three-quarters of an hour to get Safran back on track… I had a real battle on my hands. And as this was going on, I lost my big gennaker, which had been attached at the stern with the genoa. I was crouching over the winch pedestal in the middle of hauling in the runner and the boat went right over on her side and under the pressure the straps broke. I saw the sail disappearing, but couldn't do anything about it… The situation is not as comfortable as it was before the incident: losing this sail has really upset me. Now I'm going to get some rest; change and make repairs. I'm a bit disappointed, but there's still a long way to go, and I'm ready to go on the attack.”

Thomas Gruyant (Destination Dunkerque) :
« Everything is alright. I am trying to push on a bit now and everything is set to do that. I passed the front now and just emerging. The passage was quite rough but now I have 17-18 knots, but now the shift will come and there will be strong downwind conditions and so I am going to helm for four hours to maximize my speed, making the most to try and increase my lead. But at the same time I want to be prudent, to manage things to keep the boat together. »

Bernard Stamm (Cheminées Poujoulat) :
« The repair I made has broken, but not entirely. I could head the course but now it is totally broken. I had to repair it to be able to steer the boat. Now I hope to reach the Azores because it is just not possible to race on. I think I will reach there on the evening of the 7th November, but after I will have a zone of no winds to go through. I am starting to see the wind drop. If we can find the right part and have it there, then the stop would take half an hour. If we don't manage to do that and have to make a repair it there then that could take a lot of time. I repaired all that I could at sea. I finished this morning, and if I chose to do it this way then, to come down here, then it ‘s because I knew that I had two days of upwind sailing. But to come here I have been able to try and repair the boat as we go, the steering system was locked off and I was steering the boat with the sails. The course I am taking is certainly not a good one, because in front of us there is no wind. »

Conrad Colman (40 Degrees) :
« “I have my shift and am now heading south-ish finally under spinnaker after nearly a week hard on the wind. I had an incident with my big spinnaker so the pilot is now driving over the through the waves while I am busy down below in Mr. Fixit mode. Which brings us to the subject of autopilots. Ever since Joshua Slocum- the first ever solo circumnavigator- swore that a manifestation steered his ship whilst he was in the throws of a deathly fever, solo sailors have tended to anthropomorphous the machines that make what we do possible. Given my current occupation, it should come as no surprise that I name my autopilots Knut, after a crew on the Kon Tiki Expedition, one of my favorite childhood stories.”