A long stretch in the Caribbean

It is the perfect time for the leading IMOCA Open 60's to stretch out their lead in near perfect downwind conditions, maximum sail power most of the time in the pursuit of pure speed. Marc Guillemot and Charles Caudrelier Brenac on Safran have managed to continue their gains against their near identical sister-ship Groupe Bel, the leaders gaining another three miles from their pursuers. All three leading boats are pretty much lined up nose to tail on the same gybe, firing on all cylinders towards the coast.

Certainly the passage through the West Indies was near faultless for the leading duo. If the Safran co-skipper had expressed any quiet reservations yesterday morning, then 24 hours later they have proven unfounded as their margin – worth at least 3.5 hours in these conditions – remains solid. Safran covered the best 24 hours run, making some 360 miles, largely facilitated by the generally stable trade winds and the lack of squalls. The leading trio are all under big spinnakers, spearing downwind on a more relaxing set-up than the approach to the islands.

The Safran duo are opting for a route taking them closer to the coast of Venezuela, following their weather files routing which promise stronger winds there.

Mike Golding Yacht Racing followed through the same routing yesterday night and will soon break into the increasingly stable, easterly trade winds. Golding reported this morning that they passed through the islands with only a momentary slow down of about half an hour's duration. Now with the stable winds for foreseeable future on a 400 miles gybe he concedes that his tactical opportunities are limited.

"At the moment we are doing nicely. I think hopefully we will do better now that the breeze has evened up. It is a big gap now and so realistically we are trying to make sure we get the boat to the finish safely, and if a miracle happens we will be ready to take advantage, but at the moment the forecast is not promising anything miraculous. Which is good in a way. But it is a little bit processional. And there is not much Mich can do. Now he has gybed there is no alternative in the south, and there might have been. So to go much further sout. He has looked it more carefully and even now is taking the pain on an unfavoured gybe." Said Golding this morning.

MGYR is now some 270 miles behind Safran still with 250 miles in hand over Foncia.

Foncia are taking some pain now on the non-making starboard gybe (effectively diverging away from the optimum course) as the option to enter in the south and go for a more southerly routing has closed for the 2007 TJV race winner, and just as Golding seems to be conceding that the die are cast, so too Desjoyeaux considers his options are now very limited.

Despite all the predictions, including Yves Parlier's own, 1876 seem to be hanging on tenaciously to the breeze and to a solid sixth place as their nearest challengers struggled with light winds until early yesterday. The closely matched trio – Veolia Environnement, W-Hotels and Aviva are now in good trade winds breeze and perhaps we will see the gaps open more. The British duo are routing for St Lucia for their pit stop tomorrow.

Date Added - 21-Nov-2009

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