Drawing Near

This year’s Artemis Transat Race will go down in the record books as a race that no one wanted to lead: If you did, chances were good that you might face the woes of Michel Desjoyeaux, Seb Josse, and Vincent Riou, all of whom were doing well; all of whom were forced to retire due to either collision with marine life (Desjoyeaux and Riou) or gear failure (Josse). Now the race has taken a brighter turn, as the leaders (still intact, knock on wood) sprint toward Boston. Here’s the (slightly edited) latest press release:

The solo transatlantic is now a match race, with less than 400 miles to go and the two leaders only some 20 miles apart in terms of distance to the finish. But that is a figure that should be taken with caution, as Armel Le Clac’h emphasized: taking into account wind shifts and final trajectory subtleties, Loick Peyron in fact has approximately a 60-mile advantage. Lighter winds expected off the south of Nova Scotia tonight may open the game, but the duelists remain very vague (publicly, at least) about their plans.

An attack from
Brit Air?

Loick Peyron didn’t seem very convinced when we asked him if he thought Le Clac’h on
Brit Air would make his move. “I think Armel wants to be sure to finish, he needs to qualify for the Vende Globe, he’s not going to take any risks”, answered a half-asleep Peyron. Yet he admitted feeling some pressure, and having raced against him on the Figaro circuit, Gitana Eighty’s skipper knows what kind of competitor Armel is. Despite what he had announced yesterday, Le Clac’h pushed during the night and reduced the gap throughout the storm, maintaining high speeds and keeping his brain gears spinning. The psychological warfare has begun.

“I’m going towards the coast of Nova Scotia. I’ve decided to play the tactical game 100%”, said Brit Air’s skipper Armel Le Clac’h. Looking at the wind files this morning, one could have suspected that a tack was inevitably in the cards for Armel, but the reality might have been different, so it was worth checking with the skipper… who smiled and declared “Well, that’s the big question for today, but the shift might allow me to continue on this direct route and gain some miles.”

Loick Peyron took advantage of a lift last night to place himself well to windward of his rival, a textbook defensive move; we’re now looking at a finale where close-combat racing tactics apply. Lighter winds expected tonight will complicate the game, but the wise Peyron, contemplating a third historical victory in the event, uttered not a word to that effect. He said, “I’m two days away from finishing in good place – I hope – in Boston, and even though I may have gone a bit far south, I think my position is rather good.”

Those of you who have followed the race closely will remember this week’s tumultuous leaderboard change, when Riou was forced to abandon PRB due to his collision with a whale, which destroyed one of his keel pins (critical on an Open 60). His savior was none other than Peyron, who was also a strong contender. The big question thus emerged: How much time allowance would Peyron be awarded for practicing excellent seamanship? Here’s the latest from the Transat officials:

The time allowance granted to Loick Peyron by the jury for having diverted and rescued Vincent Riou is 2h30, which takes into account the time spent, but also the position change induced. Gitana Eighty’s skipper does not face any penalty regarding the use of his engine during the maneuver. Peyron received the jury’s congratulations for his swift operation. Commenting on that decision, Loick said: “That’s a capital I hope I won’t have to use, it would spoil everything.”

Now, as the leaders rush towards Beantown and a nice, warm, stable bed, the time is right to command the lead, so long as you have a bit of luck on your side.


Posted: May 22, 2008

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