Friday 13th in the Transat

It's as if the scriptwriters have a hot line to the weather gods. Friday 13th and the Transat Jacques Vabre fleet have their toughest conditions yet, with storm force gusts, mean windspeeds for those in the north of around 50 knots, huge seas and the boats down to tiny sail areas as they live out what promises to be the most difficult period.

True to the plot the winds built at around midnight, and skippers spoken to early this morning say they expect to have seen the worst of it by they time they get into Saturday. Conditions on deck are close to impossible and below decks the duos try to stop themselves from being flung around the inside of their boats like pinballs.

As record breaking British skipper Dee Caffari – the only woman to have circumnavigated the planet non-stop solo in opposite directions – reported from Aviva: "Things are a bit messy. We have 40-50 knots squalls. It has been like this for the last three hours. We took the staysail down and put out the storm jib but did not unfurl it because we are just overpowered. It is consistently 35, gusting to 40 and 50. It is definitely in for the next 12 hours. It is uncomfortable and there is nothing we can do about it. We just have to survive it and so we are in survival mode which is a bit frustrating, but it is about getting through this and coming out the other side and getting back to sailing. The boat seems to be handling it well, Brian is a cool, calm cucumber and is having a good effect on me. We've had our fair share of issues and problems but so far we seem to be surviving."

Kito de Pavant, from Groupe Bel, summed it up: "It's a war!"

Jeff Cuzon on second placed BT: "It's horrible."

Conditions for the group in the south are marginally better but it is the Safran of Marc Guillemot and Charles Caudrelier, in the northern vanguard, which still heads the rankings by 18.7 miles from Seb Josse and Curzon on BT.
In the south Michel Desjoyeaux and Jeremie Beyou on Foncia are in a SW'ly wind on port tack and have pulled back around 20 miles since last night but still have a deficit of some 245 miles on the leading pack, an seem set to continue into lighter headwinds.

Somewhat ominously perhaps, the boat that is the furthest north - Alex Thomson's black hulled Hugo Boss, was the quickest this morning, with the best VMG of the fleet.

Mike Golding and Javier Sanso retain their third place on the IMOCA Open 60 standings on Mike Golding Yacht Racing just less than 40 miles in arrears to Safran, while Caffari and Brian Thompson and seventh, behind Alex Thomson and Ross Daniel on Hugo Boss whose distance behind the leaders is very little changed since the same time yesterday morning.

Deliverance, in some form, should come at the Azores where the fleet seems set to compact again a little with some lighter breezes, although there are still small systems around to be negotiated or utilised to best effect.

In the Multi50 fleet Crepes Whaou have been sticking to the survival recipe in their new boat but are emerging with a lead of 184 miles. With Prince de Bretagne safely in Vigo, Galicia for assessment and repairs, only three multi's are actively racing just now.

Date Added - 13-Nov-2009


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