Copyright Chris Schmid
Exactly one week after the Route du Rhum began in Saint-Malo, the leaders are already preparing for their arrival in Guadeloupe. As the layer of clouds rises following 48 hours of heavy rain, all eyes on the island are turning to the arrival of the first boats. The main city square in Pointe-à-Pitre, Place de la Victoire, is preparing to give the sailors a hero's welcome. With just 400 nautical miles to go, Yann Guichard, still in second position behind Loïck Peyron, is sailing at an average speed of 27 knots and could reach the course marker at Tête à l'Anglais, to the north of Basse-Terre, on Monday morning local time (around lunchtime in Europe). He will then begin the famous tour around the island, which is always complex and full of uncertainty.
"Last night, after the squalls, Spindrift 2 slowed down in an area of low wind, with the trade winds calming to speeds of around 10 knots for several hours," explained Erwan Israël, from the team's routing centre near La Trinité-sur-Mer. "Yann didn't sleep much, but successfully negotiated another unstable situation, maintaining his lead over his two chasers, Lionel Lemonchois and Sébastien Josse. Spindrift 2 recovered speed when the wind picked back up to around 17-18 knots."
A complex final stretch
The skipper will use this sprint in stable conditions to get some precious minutes of sleep and to stock up on food, ready to face the final stages of the race. The final lap of the island will surely require a huge physial investment, with several maneouvres and sail changes to complete. Out in the lead, Banque Populaire VII is expected to reach Guadeloupe in a matter of hours and is preparing to complete the tour around the island during the night. Yann will do the tour during the daytime, which should slightly facilitate the task, enabling him to better monitor the wind and avoid the numerous fishing nets.
"We'll ask Yann to gybe before he reaches Tête à l'Anglais at dawn on Monday around midday French time," explained Erwan. "After that, Richard Silvani (Météo France) and I will take a back seat, because the best way for Yann to adapt to the conditions will be based on his observations from the boat. One piece of good news is that the trade winds are likely to be blowing at around 15 knots in the Canal des Saintes channel, which would be favourable for Spindrift 2."
Despite all the forecasts, it is very hard to accurately predict what time Yann will reach Pointe-à-Pitre. The last 50-mile stretch between Tête à l'Anglais and the finish line in front of Pointe de la Verdure in the town of Gosier, is one of the most unpredictable parts of the course.
Ultimes class standings at 3pm CET:
Position / distance / current speed
1 - Banque Populaire VII, Loïck Peyron, 1 791 miles to the finish, 26.9 kn
2 – Spindrift 2, Yann Guichard, 148.9 miles to the leader, 22.3 kn
3 – Prince de Bretagne, Lionel Lemonchois, at 217.3 miles, 13.6 kn
4 – Edmond de Rothschild, Sébastien Josse, at 203.1 miles, 15.2 kn
5 – Idec sport, Francis Joyon, at 195.9 miles, 14.5 kn
6 – Musandam Oman Sail, Sidney Gavignet, at 244.8 miles, 14.9 kn
7 – Paprec Recyclage, Yann Eliès, at 307 miles, 16.6 kn
8 – Sodebo Ultim', Thomas Coville, abandoned
>> SPINDRIFT 2 ARRIVAL INFORMATION Monday 10th November at Pointe-à-Pitre: