Sweet… Class 40 Telecom Italia

Giovanni Soldini och Pietro Dali startade La Solidaire du Chocolat här om dagen. Just nu är de fyra. I samma race har vi finländarna på Tieto Passion, Jouni Romppanen och Sam Öhman, som man bäst följer på Facebook.

Last night was pretty interesting. I can tell you that reaching 45+ knots in complete darkness is an exciting experience. It was so wet! Fortunately, the boat held together. Indeed, we have not yet broken anything else than wind instruments and… vhf antenna. Otherwise all OK and feeling good. Little problems with eating, but it will be fine! Sam

A brief period of reaching before it’s back upwind again

The fourth night at sea for the 18 Class40s in La Solidaire du Chocolat has been a second test of endurance and courage for the 36 sailors as 45 knot north-westerly gusts tore through the fleet. Bruno Jourdren and Bernard Stamm on Cheminées Poujoulat have maintained their lead averaging 7-8 knots through the storm. “The wind has actually dropped a bit from 35 knots last night, to around 26 knots, although the sea state is very strong,” reported Stamm this morning. “We’ve developed a small diesel leak and with the boat moving around so much it has got everywhere,” he comments. “The inside of the boat is now like a skating rink!”

Overnight, Thierry Bouchard and Oliver Krauss on Pole Sante Elior-Mistral Loisirs in second place have closed down the lead of Cheminées Poujoulat by a handful of miles and are now shadowing the fleet leaders 10 miles off their starboard quarter at 0800 GMT averaging nine knots – one knot faster than Jourdren and Stamm. In third place, Tanguy de Lamotte and Adrien Hardy on Initiatives-Novedia are furthest inshore and most southerly of the leading trio, 240 miles off the Portuguese coast, while the Italian duo of Giovanni Soldini and Pietro d’Ali took Telecom Italia away from the coast as the wind turned north-westerly yesterday afternoon: a move that has gained the Italians two places overnight and they now trail the leaders by 63 miles in fourth place.

Separated by just four miles this morning, 40 Degrees of Peter Harding and Miranda Merron in seventh place and the Spanish Class40 Tales of Gonzalo Botin and Javier de la Plaza have taken the middle course. “After a day of upwind yesterday, sometimes in lots of wind, sometimes going nowhere under an evil cloud, nightfall brought torrential rain with the approach of the bullet low,” reports Merron this morning as the British boat trails the leader by 146 miles. “In the very limited visibility, I had to alter course to avoid a ship at the last moment – couldn’t see it in the driving rain – and it didn’t appear to have AIS or radar on.”

Both the British sailors are making safety a priority onboard 40 Degrees. “We have been living in drysuits and lifejackets since Monday, including when sleeping,” confirms Merron who is eying the course taken by the Franco-Italian duo of David Consorte and Aubry Arnaud on Adriatech in 14th place and Erik Nigon and Marc Jouany on Axa Atout Coeur Pour Aides with envy. “Two of our playmates appear to have gone for the sunshine route south,” she comments. “It has been very tempting to do the same. Instead we have a string of lows to deal with, while hoping that the Trade Winds get established. Someone in the fleet must have done something very bad to deserve this kind of weather!!!”

In 12th place, 58 miles north of Harding and Merron, Denis Lazat and Frédéric Nouel on Plan are also looking forward to milder conditions. “I know we signed-on to head south, but I wasn’t expecting these boat-breaking conditions in the freezing cold!” comments Lazat this morning. “A quick message for Jacques Fournier, President of Class40: I demand a refund of my Class40 subscription!” Currently making 9.3 knots and trailing Chiminées Poujoulat by just over 200 miles, Lazat and Nouel are in good shape, but the constant strong conditions are taking their toll. “We have a list of the small problems onboard, but so far – touch wood – nothing serious,” says Lazat. “Latest problem, the active echo antenna – which cost so much money – has disappeared overboard in a big wave. I’m pretty certain this isn’t covered by the guarantee. Apart from seasickness, which has hit us both, we’re fine!”

During the storm, the Chilean duo of Felipe Cubillos and Daniel Bravo Silva dropped three places to 11th on Desafio Cabo de Hornos as they freed-off in the north-westerly breeze and headed south-east. “We were in a horror show with wind exploding across the boat in 45 knot blasts,” explained Bravo Silva this morning. “Our situation was somewhat difficult because we were running with reduced sail and just couldn’t risk increasing the sail area,” continued the 24 year-old naval architect. “We’ve also had an issue with the autopilot which decided to give up during one huge squall,” he confirms. “We rushed on deck, wearing little more than thermals and tried to get the boat back under control.” For Bravo Silva, his first transatlantic voyage is developing into a revelation. “I’ll be honest: we’re both dead with fatigue,” he adds.

Of the two boats making repairs in-port, Vale Inco Nouvelle Calédonie of Yves Eclaret and Lionel Regnier rejoined the race earlier this morning after work on their mainsail in La Coruña and Patrice Carpentier and Victor Maldonado on Crédit Maritime are preparing to leave port just north of Cape Finisterre. “Despite a non-functioning autopilot and unfavourable weather ahead, we’re going to continue south,” explains Carpentier. “In theory, we could make another stop to make proper repairs in Portugal or Spain.”

The first mark in the course, the island of Flores in the Azores, must be left to starboard, but the route south-west to the remote archipelago will produce more hardship for the fleet. With just over 700 miles remaining to the islands for the leading boats, the forecast is predicted to be yet more headwinds with the chance of the breeze turning south-westerly on Friday.