Race fans watching the tracker page over the last 24 hours have been witness to the battle at the front of the fleet. Events took a turn when Jeremy Pilkington's Baltic 78, Lupa of London moved into the lead at around sunset yesterday. Russian Southern Wind 94, Windfall, continued to gybe south whilst Lupa of London gybed west. The two yachts were as much as 120 miles apart during the night and, shortly after dawn this morning, the result of the differing tactics is that a lead of over 10 miles has opened up for Lupa of London. As they near the finish, these two Maxi yachts will continue the battle through Wednesday night. Lupa certainly holds the upper hand as she appears to be covering Windfall and will work to keep the boat between Windfall and the finish line in Grenada. With the boats likely out of view of each other, the crew onboard Lupa will be watching the tracker with the rest of the world, keen to ensure Windfall does not take a flyer and find an advantage in the more complicated currents and winds as they pass Barbados and round the southern end of Grenada in the last few miles to the finish.
The overall race win is far more difficult to predict; as the wind is likely to lighten for the leaders during their approach to the islands, the rest of the fleet are going to begin to catch up with them. With weather models showing a consistent easterly wind after the leaders have finished, we may be looking to one of the smaller boats to lift the IRC Trophy. The young American team racing Class40 Oakcliff Racing is a big threat. The Class40, although not always thought of as a competitive IRC racer, is, in fact, built for this type of race with the majority of the sailing downwind in moderate breeze, and they have certainly been constantly high up the leaderboard throughout. The Class40 Vaquita proved in the Racing Division of the ARC in 2011 and 2012 that, given the right conditions and when well sailed, the boat can take the top honours. But it is not just the wind that is affecting the fleet, as Oakcliff Racing revealed in their blog:
“Day 10 out here and life is good. It's important to look around sometimes and really enjoy the great times we are having. We are in slightly lighter pressure then usual, but still moving well and we seem to be holding with the competition. It's sunny and warm and watches were flying by until we started sailing through massive amounts of seaweed. The stuff haunts us, huge patches with no way through and no way to see them at night. Everyone on board has a different idea of how often we should back down (stop the boat and go in reverse to clear the keel and rudder) and some creative ideas are developing about how to clear the rudders underway. We think we lose a little over half a mile for every back down, but sometimes the weed can reduce boats speed by 1.5-2 knots, so it's a funny opinionated game to see how often stopping is necessary. Often we will prep for a back down, only to have the weed come off seconds before then maneuver...classic. I'm writing this post after having some frustrating time at the helm, so my hatred of the weed is at an all-time high. Perhaps it's not as bad is I'm making it sound! Under 700 miles to the finish and we are pushing hard to keep our position. There are some potentially tricky spots up ahead, so stay tuned to see how it works out!”
Whilst the leaders in the RORC Transatlantic Race are expected to finish tomorrow, Denis Villotte's JNP 12, Sérénade still has over 1200 miles to go and is not expected to finish the race for a week.
“I have raced Sérénade across the Atlantic once before in the 2011-12 two-handed race, La Transquadra. I wanted to make another Atlantic crossing in a race again. Though I loved the Transquadra experience, I wanted something different and made an entry as soon as I found out that the RORC was organising a new race. I would like to make a faster crossing than the previous one (16 days, 4 hrs) which won't be easy as the distance is a bit longer and winds might be weaker.”
You can view the seaweed and read all the blogs here!