Too late to play cat and mouse

Too late to play cat and mouse….. it seems like Safran – the super light, quick
IMOCA Open 60 boat the sponsors like to call the ‘jet fighter' – will have
devoured Groupe Bel by the time that the Transat Jacques Vabre leader appears
from under the cover of ‘Stealth Mode' to cross the finish line off Puerto Rica
this evening to take a well deserved, hard earned victory.
Both of the leading pair, Safran and Groupe Bel, pressed the stealth
button in unison together to complete their final miles away from the
public tracking system, but at eight this morning Marc Guillemot and
Charles Caudrelier-Bénac were already champions elect, with a 90
miles lead and less than 200 miles of the gruelling
4730 miles course from Le Havre to the finish off Puerto Limon, Costa Rica.

While Bel was last seen tracking slightly north in search of some last minute
bonus miles as the trade winds fold, Safran was steadily rolling down
towards the finish line, on the verge of a significant triumph. Second in the
last edition of the race in 2007 and an heroic third on the last
Vendée Globe when Guillemot brought the wounded Safran the final 1000
miles with no keel, Safran has lead this race since Thursday 12th, before
battling through the storm of Friday 13th.

Guillemot was predicting a slightly ‘sluggish' finish in light winds,
but could not see any obvious reason why their long time rivals Kito de
Pavant and Francois Gabart on Groupe Bel should close that significant gap.

We still have a few more gybes to go and the final 50 miles look like being
rather sluggish, but the lead we currently have allows us to remain composed. The
lead over Groupe Bel could be cut, but we're certainly not going to give anything
away now.” Guillemot told his team today, happy with the routing they have
taken since leaving the English Channel 14 days ago,

We know that we have left a smooth trail in our wake. As not everything can
be done by the two of us together, on the weather it was Charles, who did most of
the work picking up and analysing the data. Then, we took decisions together. We
always agreed about them.

And they have always pushed extremely hard:

With one or two exceptions, we always sailed with the maximum amount of
sail. That requires a lot of energy. It really drained our reserves to carry out
these manoeuvres and there were many of them. If we do manage to win, it will
certainly feel good, as we really gave it our all throughout this race.

Built-in reliability has been one of the keys to the two leaders successes
this race After being hobbled by gear problems, not least a damaged main sail
mast track in the Vendee Globe, Guillemot reports that their only damage is to
their big spinnaker and slight mainsail damage.

The battle for line honours, between Crepes Whaou! – the Multi50 – and
Safran is in the balance. While Franck-Yves Escoffier was relishing the chance to
beat the monohulls home, the three times winner of the Route du Rhum and twice
winner of his class in this race, is keen to break the finish tape first.

Mike Golding's power problems have continued and the British skipper and his
Spanish co-skipper Javier Sanso have been unable to start their engine for the
last 48 hours and so are running with next to no electrical power. Mike
Golding Yacht Racing had acceded a few miles to fourth placed Foncia but still
has over just under 200 miles in hand over the double Vendée Globe
winner with 412 miles to go to the finish. Foncia has been consistently
quicker, while
Golding's avowed intent recently was simply to get across the finish with his boat
and the podium finish intact.

Spanish fortunes are both climbing and declining. Alex Pella and Pepe Ribes on
W-Hotels are positively buoyant with their speed on the Farr design, making
miles all the time on Veolia Envirinnement and Aviva. Adding more sail area,
to the main and their spinnakers, is paying a regular dividend as is their
hard driving style. Meantime 1876 was just emerging back into the trade winds
again but has dropped to ninth.