Catalan solo skipper Alex Pella passed another mental milestone this afternoon as he seeks to close out victory in Classe40 in La Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeluope, but he needs to remain totally focused to avoid any mishaps in the final stage of the solo race from Saint Malo to Guadeloupe.
Fish nets and traps and weed, as well as the swirling light winds in the lee of the island are among the reasons Pella needs to hold back his maximum energy to concentrate through the last hours of his race. He had slowed this afternoon - perhaps with a small technical problem - but was still making good progress towards the finish line.
Pella should still be in good shape. This Tuesday afternoon he passed under 100 miles to the finish with his leading margin back to second placed Transatlantic rookie Thibault Vauchel-Camus at 115 miles. His nearest rival was making between 10 and 12.5kts and Pella a more conservative nine knots.
Pointe a Pitre and La Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe's red carpet pontoon and La Place de Victoire is set for a truly international 24 hours or so. Alessandro di Benedetto, the Italian skipper who has been adopted by Les Sables d'Olonne as their own since he sailed from there solo around the world on his Mini650 in 2009-10, was due to finish later this afternoon. He had been slowed to between 5 and 7kts down the west side of the island. Tanguy de Lamotte (Initiatives Coeur) was around 42 miles behind making 10 kts but had yet to enter the real lee of the island.
Di Benedetto will add to his own incredible ocean going record, now completing the set of Vendee Globe, Transat Jacques Vabre and now Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe.
In fact Pella is only 20 miles behind De Lamotte, who had to stop into Brest to make a time consuming repair to his rudder. Pella may actually be able to benefit by tracking De Lamotte's path through the calmer winds. Tanguy will complete his second Route du Rhum after finishing 15th in Class 40 in 2010 on a boat which he co-designed. but it will conclude his sixth Transatlantic. After having to make his technica pit-stop De Lamotte confirmed that his main objective changed to simply learning the boat Initiatives Couer - formerly Vincent Riou's 2006-7 Farr design - with a view to a future which he hopes will include the 2016 Vendee Globe.
Meanwhile it is a cavalcade of 32 skippers which Pella leads home, Class40 spanning 2,200 miles of ocean this evening.
In the Rhum Class Sir Robin Knox Johnston has conceded some miles to 2010 Class winner Andrea Mura who is now 66 miles ahead in third place. "I have all the right sails up and am really flying along by Andrea is going like the clappers." said Sir Robin this afternoon.
And on this night 24 years ago history was made when Florence Arthaud became the first woman ever to win La Route du Rhum. At 33 she wrote a new page in the history of French ocean racing, winning the fourth edition of the race, following in the wake Birch, Poupon and Bourgnon, she won in 14days 8 minutes and 28 seconds.
Tanguy De Lamotte, IMOCA Initiatives Couer: "It is difficult to know how long I'm going to take to get around Guadeloupe to the finish. My goal is to get finished tonight. On my last Rhum in the Class 40, it went well until I arrived at the Tete a L'Anglais. I finised at sunset and it would be nice to do the same. Last nigght was good, all surfing along under spinnaker. Then I got a squall and it tore at the bottom so it has been down to the gennaker. I had a bit of a problem with the drum but its OK. So it was a sleepless night. Alex is not far behind and Alessandro not far ahead, and so I think we form a beautiful trio of international finishers. "
Thibaut Vauchel-Camus, Class40, second on Solidaires en Peloton: "It feels stable as they say. It For more than 30 hours I have had problems with weed. Kito closes the gap a bit and I feel under pressure, we are still racing. I maybe need to reposition a bit and eget downwind to control him. Along the leeward side of Guadeloupe there may be a lottery, and I hope I have the winning ticket."