Early this afternoon (Thursday) about thirty miles off La Coruña,....
Bob Escoffier, the 65 year-old skipper from Saint Malo, was airlifted to safety by the Spanish Navy from his modified Sydney 60ft monohull Guisnel Grouo which was racing in the Rhum class of La Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe.
Bob Socffier's boat had been taking in water due to an unknown reason. He was transferred, safe and in good health, to the Spanish base in Vivero. Escoffier was engaged on his fourth race participation and has also completed three successive Transat Jacques Vabre races between 2001 and 2005. He was a late replacement for his daughter Servane who pulled out of the race in early September for medical reasons. His helicopter evacuation is the third such rescue after those of François Angoulvant who lost the keel of his Class 40 during the first night of racing and that of Pierre Antoine whose Multi50 was struck by lightning. The drop out rate has always been closely monitored on this four yearly passage from Saint-Malo to Guadeloupe. The usual average rate of skippers abanding is around 30 per cent but has been as high as half the fleet in editions such as in 1986 and 2002. So far there have now been 21 abandons with 70 skippers still racing in the five divisions.
Loick Peyron can feel satisfied with his work to date on Maxi Solo Banque Populaire VII leading across the theoretical midway point of the race today with a margin hovering still around 170 miles to the finish line in Pointe-a-Pitre. With 1700 miles to go his delta has held steady at 10 per cent of the distance to the finish. In light, poorly established trade winds today, Peyron should lead Yann Guichard's Spindrift out of the light winds zone and extend away again. On deck it is summer, 25 degrees with gentle breezes with a full moon at night. In the three cornered battle of the Multi70s Sebastien Josse eased clear of Sidney Gavignet again today but Yann Eliès struggled in a very light zone, conceding distance to his two rivals and was 140 NM behind Gavignet's Musandam-Oman Sail this evening.
Off Finisterre this evening conditions are forecast to be tough for the ten Rhum class racers and the back markers in Class 40 as a new low pressure sweeps across Biscay. Gusts up to 55kts are predicted with big, bad seas.
François Gabart increases the gap. Looking in the mirror from time to time to monitor three times La Solitaire du Figaro winner Jeremie Beyou, Francois Gabart carries on with his near perfect race. Beyou came back at him yesterday but Gabart is 45 miles in front again this afternoon with Marc Guillemot in third 77 miles behind. They have been sailing through a high pressure ridge but tonight their breezes veers NW and it will be a chance to set gennakers again. And while their worst weather is behind them, Tanguy de Lamotte (Initiatives Coeur) had 30kts was upwind and big in
Game One. The skipper of FenetreA-Cardinal, Erwan Le Roux warned he was hunting down long time leader Arkema (Lalou Roucayrol) and has pushed hard these last 24 hours closing the gap between the top two boats to just six miles. They now race head to head less than 19 miles apart on the water though Le Roux is significantly quicker this late afternoon. Five of the 50 foot multis are still racing.
Thibault Camus Vauchel, leading to the trade winds. After going upwind in headwinds of 15-20kts the leaders are back reaching. The pacemaker remains transatlantic rookie Thibault Vauchel-Camus on the Sam Manuard designed Mach 40 Solidaires en Peloton. Despite being on his first solo race across the Atlantic, the skipper from Saint Malo, is more of a multihull expert from the ORMA and Multi50 world and before that F18 Raids. He leads past Solitaire du Figaro winner (2002) and Transat Jacques Vabre runner up Kito de Pavant on the Tyker Evolution3 Otio-Bastide Medical with Spain's Alex Pella still nicely poised in third on the Botin design Tales 2.
Pella reported today: "Everything ok aboard the "Tales II" I finally had the chance to sleep a little on the bunk. I even got in the sleeping bag. Yesterday afternoon the wind went down and I had to repair many things!! This left me once again, a few hours without being able to attend the boat. However, everything's rolling now!! Now upwind!! Very unstable!! Let's see if I go through the correct place... Now "Tales II" is perfect!! Me too!! Except for my hands and feet... due to so much sea water!!"
Battle of Cape Finisterre. Several of the Rhum class skippers have chosen to head to a haven to see out the worst of this weather. Portuguese Ricardo Diniz (Parisasia.fr) was en route in to La Coruña as was Benjamin Hardouin (Krit'R V) who shadowed Bob Escoffier during his rescue. Christophe Souchaud (Solitaire-Rhum) is in Bayona. Finn Ari Huusela (Neste Oil) should avoid the worst of it, being further to the south, but he reported this afternoon: "It's really heavy here now, I just changed the jib to stormjib and now the main thing is to keep the boat safe through into tomorrow morning!" Second placed Anne Caseneuve (Aneo) has the chance to get south and increase the longitudinal separation with leader Italian Andrea Mura (Vento di Sardegna) who always leads but is now 250 miles further north. But the guts of the battle is a four way tussle between Wilfrid Clerton (Cap a Cap Location) Pierre-Yves Chatelin (Destination Calais), Jean-Paul Froc (Berto Group) and Robin Knox-Johnston (Grey Power).
ETA Guadeloupe hours
Ultimate: Monday, November 10 at noon
IMOCA: November 15
Multi50: November 16
Yann Guichard Ultime Spindrift 2: "It was never going to be easy. What is good right now is that we have had not had so many manoeuvres and so I have been able to get some rest because the trade winds are not so well set up. There is a little calm bubble that is in front of us and that is why Loick has slowed. But I have managed to get out a bit and escape from Prince de Bretagne and the groupe behind them. The trades are not that strong but there are still gusts. Meantime I try to reduce the manoeuvres and save energy for later."
Marc Guillemot, IMOCA, Safran: "Once the wind drops a bit into the trades I have one job to do to climb up the mast to recover and unwind my spinnaker halyard which has a wrap around the mast. It also seems like the halyard ripped off the VHF and AIS antenna and so I am invisible. I can see a pink sail though (Lalou Roucayrol, Multi 50) who is about two or three miles from me."
Vauchel Thibault Camus, Class40, Solidaires en Peloton: "I'm really happy. I trusted the race strategy I had for the first 46 hours. I also enjoy the support of some of my competitors like Nicolas Troussel and Sebastien Rogue. The position I have been looking for is good and while I was upwind before I am ready to get the spinnaker up. At first it was quite tough and sporty. We had some surprising gusts more than 40 or 50 knots."