ON THE TRAIN...BUT FOR HOW LONG?
Staying at the head of the front in order to keep up their speed; and making gains to the south in order to shorten their route: those are the two objectives for the crew of Spindrift 2 to pursue simultaneously in the South Atlantic. With speeds of around 35 knots, the pace is fast and living conditions on board are becoming harder. Further north than its virtual opponent, the record holder (Banque Populaire V, who was at 44° South and very fast at this stage of its route), Spindrift racing’s trimaran was 7 miles behind today at 1700hrs GMT. Straight ahead, is the south of the African continent with a rounding of the first Cape of the record attempt – the Cape of Good Hope – at the end of the week.
Day 11 – 17h00 GMT
7 miles behind the current record holder
Distance covered from the start: 6,783 miles
Average speed over 24 hours: 33 knots
WEATHER FORECAT - JEAN-YVES BERNOT
December 2: This system will hold together until the morning of Thursday December 3.
Then, on Friday, December 4, the area of high pressure will be settling into the south of Africa. We would like to pass it with some momentum. But that’s not guaranteed...
Spindrift 2 – The sinusoidal effect
After ten days at sea, the trimaran skippered by Yann Guichard is virtually tied with the holder of the Jules Verne Trophy, having accumulated a lead of over 380 miles just five days earlier. That is the effect of a gradual slowdown while negotiating the St Helena anticyclone, but also of taking a much more northerly route than the record holders did in 2011.
After leaving on Sunday, November 22, Spindrift 2 was able to achieve a near-perfect trajectory, heading almost straight from Ushant to the latitude of Recife at speeds that were rarely less than 26.5 knots – the actual average speed of Banque Populaire V during its round-the-world record in 2011-2012. At that point, off the Brazilian coast, Spindrift 2 was 386 miles ahead. But the “wind fuel” began to dwindle to a trickle with the approach of a storm front after a week at sea; their straight track was broken to negotiate this cloud mass that formed a barrier to the south, and in less than two days, the accumulated lead was reduced by more than 300 miles.
Staying in the front
Once on the other side of the barrier, the crew was able to hook onto the north-west edge of a depression coming from Uruguay and moving rapidly towards South Africa. In this powerful stream, Spindrift 2 was able to lengthen its stride again, achieving its best averages since the start: over 34 knots. Passing to the north of the island of Tristan da Cunha this Wednesday morning, the trimaran is still at the head of this front which is generating a north-westerly wind of 30-35 knots, and it is imperative to stay there or they risk unhooking from the 'conveyor belt', as happened to the IDEC Sport trimaran two days ago. Because behind this bank of clouds is a more moderate and, most importantly, westerly wind, which is sweeping the South Atlantic. That is a much less favourable scenario for posting average speeds of over 30 knots on the way to the Cape of Good Hope.
(c) Yan Riou
Four years ago, Loïck Peyron and his men were able to achieve three of their best days of their round-the world record, clocking more than 700 miles a day, on a remarkably parabolic path. They reached the longitude of Cape Agulhas (the official entrance to the Indian Ocean) in 11d 23h 50mins. Therefore, to maintain its advantage, Spindrift 2 needs to pass the first of the three great capes before this Friday, December 4, before 0352hrs GMT. It is a difficult challenge, but even if the trimaran skippered by Yann Guichard is slightly late, it will not diminish its ability to improve the time of the Jules Verne Trophy. Remember that Banque Populaire V had a lead of over 2,300 miles over the previous holder south of Australia, but only a 535-mile margin by Cape Horn.
The Pole paradox
“The sea is round” – like the title of Jean-François Deniau’s book – and that is important to remember for this record attempt of the circumnavigation of the planet by Dona Bertarelli, Yann Guichard and their 12 teammates. To circle the globe, you have to cross the Atlantic, from North to South, then skirt Antarctica before climbing back up the Atlantic, from South to North. The more southerly the trajectory around the Pole, the less far you need to go to get around the frozen continent. The explanation for the erosion of Spindrift 2’s lead relative to Banque Populaire V is also due to this paradox: the black and gold trimaran is currently faster than the record holder, but is sailing nearly 600 miles further north. Spindrift 2 is still at 35° South, while its virtual competitor from 2011 was flying along at 44° South: Spindrift 2 is going at the same speed, but travelling more miles toward its goal.
The challenge now is to slide towards the Roaring Forties while maintaining their rate of progress: Spindrift 2 should try and benefit as long as possible from this front while curving its way towards 45° South to round the tip of Africa. To date, the drift ice is lying well to the south of the entrance to the Indian Ocean, but more importantly the St Helena High has split into two parts, one of which is positioned under South Africa. To go under these high-pressure, less windy areas, they will have to make this change of oceans almost at the latitude of the Marion and Prince Edward islands (46°35 South). This second weekend at sea promises to be very important for positioning themselves to enter an Indian Ocean that seems very rough and also paved with icebergs up to the latitude of the Kerguelen Islands. The calculation of this virtual delta between the holder of the Jules Verne Trophy and Spindrift 2 will continue until Ushant, following a sinusoidal curve according to the breezes encountered on these three oceans.
The difference between the finish of Spindrift 2 compared to the holder of the Jules Verne Trophy varies continuously (every three hours on this graphic) depending on the weather conditions encountered. The lost time of the first few days turned into a growing lead at the equatorial entrance to the Doldrums, where the temporary drop is linked to the passage through this area of light winds. The lead rose in the Southern hemisphere trade winds, reaching 386 miles, and then abruptly decreased when the trimaran skippered by Yann Guichard had to pass through a storm front off Brazil. Finally, the gradual decline of the delta in recent days does not correspond to a lower speed, but to their much more northerly path than their virtual competitor.
Since yesterday, Spindrift 2 has been in a race on all fronts. The race with its virtual opponent – the holder of the record, of course, the race with Francis Joyon and his crew, and especially the race against a warm front. Staying well set ahead of this front boils down to sailing fast, in a straight line, on an almost flat sea. It’s just about a realistic aim, we’re not fooling ourselves...But this front is tending to move faster than the maxi-trimaran. So, we are expecting at any moment to see the wind ease off and shift, which would mean having to gybe, resigning ourselves to letting this weather system pass and getting in position to wait for the next one.
Meanwhile, there is not much we can do but take advantage of the ideal conditions to eat up the miles. The helmsmen are taking turns and displaying pretty exceptional averages. 805 miles on the last 24 hours. These are ideal conditions for speed, sometimes barely affected by the arrival of showers usually synonymous with wind that’s more unstable in strength and direction. But these squalls require the constant vigilance of the watch leader and the men on deck.
In terms of morale, everything is fine. The crew knows that these conditions may be short-lived, but are philosophical about it. It’s a case of getting it while you can, and there’s still a very long road ahead.