Sharp extends lead as Merron heads home
The Anglo-Spanish duo, Phil Sharp and Pablo Santurde (Imerys Clean Energy) extended their lead at the front of the 40ft monohull fleet, as Halvard Mabire and Miranda Merron (Campagne de France) were limping back to Cherbourg, their home port, nursing a broken port rudder. They are expected back at midday tomorrow (Thursday).
Such has been the pace, complication and fatigue after 72 hours at sea since the start from Le Havre on Sunday, that Sharp admitted that he fell asleep at the helm today (Wednesday) -“that’s when I realised it might be a good idea to change with Pablo,” Sharp said. “I think we’re getting 3-4 hours in 24 hours.”
“It’s been difficult because it’s been really unstable, so it’s hard to keep the boat flat the whole time. I woke up a couple of times in the night with the boat over and my bunk nearly vertical. It’s quite alarming. The second time I came back to find the sleeping bag had unfortunately gone in a big pool of water in the boat – that was not good.
Sharp took back the lead last night then stretched 20 miles ahead of his nearest French rival – Aïna Enfance & Avenir – with five French boats all within 40 miles behind. Despite the fatigue and hot-bunking one wet sleeping bag between them, he and Santurde were able appreciate the result of their efforts.
“The conditions we had yesterday were insane, pushing the boat like that pretty much the whole day at speeds on the limit was quite an experience. We’ve been pushing really hard and when we realised we’d taken a big advantage it was hugely positive for us and we’ve been really spurred on to try keep extending.”
The bad news is that the antenna on their main satellite system failed this morning so they have not been able to download weather files. With no outside assistance allowed, that will be complicated as both the Class40 and the back of the larger Imoca 60ft monohull fleet will have to cope with squalls, gusting up to 30 knots and big seas in the open seas off Portugal as they head to the Azores.
For the two Ultime-class trimarans at the front, it looks like being a much easier giant slalom on port tack all the way to the Doldrums. The Multi 50 and the leading Imocas have a few more bumps in the road, with a cross sea and they need to be accurate with the route and avoid the effects of the active depression around the Canaries.
Whilst you are sleeping, spare a thought for Lionel Lemonchois and Bernard Stamm, Prince de Bretagne, the smaller Ultime, who will make their pit-stop to fix the broken mainsail halyard tonight in the shelter of the island of Santa Maria in the Canaries. “We should get there between midnight and one o’clock in the morning (French time),” Swiss co-skipper Stamm said. “We have to get up the mast and put everything right in less than two hours. We will see if we can get everything down or not.”
Speaking about the damage sustained crossing the cold front that battered the fleet yesterday and that has knocked them out of the running and maybe out of the race, Merron said both she and Mabire are uninjured but feeling low.
“Other than being absolutely gutted, we’re fine,” Britain’s Merron said. “We’d positioned ourselves in relation to the rest of the fleet where we wanted to be (and were lying in fifth place), we had good downwind conditions, we had the fractional spinnaker and two reefs in the main and the boat was flying. Then the boat wiped out, it took us a while to get it upright, whereas normally its straight away, then we realised the port rudder (bracket) had broken and then the boat obviously wiped out again pretty much immediately.
“We don’t know whether we wiped out because of the rudder or if the wipeout caused the boat to break. Then, we couldn’t get the boat upright because the rudder was swinging around wildly. Then the spinnaker blew up. So, it took a while to sort that out, because it was in several pieces and didn’t want to come down. We got that down eventually and managed to detach the rudder before it made a mess of the back of the boat.
The damage has forced Merron and Mabire, partners on land as well at sea, back to France rather than heading to Spain, which would have required a starboard tack.
“We can only sail on port tack, as we’ve only got the starboard rudder at the moment,” Merron said. “We looked at our options and decided to go Cherbourg because the conditions were favourable for getting there on port tack and at least we’ll be in a home port and we can have a look to see whether we can repair it quickly and leave again.”
Samantha Davies, co-skipper, Initiatives-Cœur (Imoca)
“It’s Rock’n’roll here, downwind in an unstable wind, with friends not far away (Multi 50 and IMOCA). At the moment, we’ve making almost 30 knots and we have all the canvas out, so we’re being vigilant and changing watch often so as not to be tired outside. But we’re slamming less so we can sleep a little better and the trackball is staying in the same place. We’re still in dry suits, but it’s a little less humid. Well, we just switched over, Tanguy is outside, I’m going to sleep a little … good night!
P.S. our thoughts are with Miranda and Halvard; I hope they manage to find shelter without too much difficulty.”
Bernard Stamm, co-skipper, Maxi 80 Prince de Bretagne (Ultime)
“A little message, to say that we’re advancing as well as we can with our two reefs in the mainsail and the solent. The gennaker is staying in his bag because the halyard is occupied by the mainsail. And hey, we should not be with them, but we we’ve in sight of Saint-Michel Virbac. It was nice to see them anyway and Jean-Pierre (Dick) called us for a little bit of chat.”