A toll booth in the Dover Straits

The passage through the Straits of Dover will have played a decisive role in how things developed in this first edition of the Vendée St-Petersburg. Handing out passes to allow boats through on a drip by drip basis meant that the fleet is now spread out over more than 400 miles. The two frontrunners are expected to round the tip of Denmark during the night, as the final boats hope to be completing their brain-teaser in the Channel at around the same time.

 Music may soothe the wounded soul, but it does not appear to have stirred the sleepy, lifeless wind. The rhythm pattern is laid down by the flapping sails, while the fog horns add a touch of jazz, as ships appear out of nowhere. However, our ocean racers would prefer the smooth sounding symphony of the hull sliding through the water, punctuated by the harmonies of the rudders or daggerboards, as the boat picks up speed, with the whistling wind adding its eolian chant. It’s not easy when you’re racing to get excited about the clumsy flight of a razorbill, as he overtakes your racing machine, or to feel upbeat in the face of this ill fortune and simply go and do some cooking while awaiting the good times to come. The competitive spirit eats away at the brain and the sailors contacted this lunchtime during the radio session clearly expressed their feeling that time was dragging its heels and that this game in the Channel was simply a lottery.

The virtues of intuition

However, in this contest, not everyone finds themselves in the same situation. The crew of Crêpes Whaou ! 2 , may have been the first in the chasing group to get through the Dover Straits hold-up, but there are two ways of looking at what is happening to them. On the one hand, the three sailors on board can be happy to have got a reasonable distance away from the rest of the fleet, but at the same time, losing a hundred miles in one night to the frontrunners obviously has its effect on the morale of the crew. On the other hand, Pierre Hingant and the crew of La mer révèle nos sens could not hide their pleasure: With Cape Gris-Nez in their wake, they were happy about their intuitive decision-making, as in spite of routing recommending they move closer to the British side, they decided after looking at what was happening out on the water and based on their racing experience, to go for the direct route and make the most of each little puff of air they managed to find. Consequently, they have managed to secure fourth place in the rankings in spite of being on one of the oldest boats in the fleet. Behind them, the calm weather continues to punish the sailors, something that different crews accept to different degrees: It is at this time that some crews show real team spirit, others think of the goals they set themselves at the start, while life goes on aboard the boats meaning in fact that they deal well or badly with these difficult moments. One thing is certain: as soon as the wind returns, it will blow away all those wretched thoughts that accumulated during those hours of waiting. When they start to enjoy themselves again, sailors quickly put behind them what they have had to endure as they finally savour the fruits of their labour.