At 11:40 UTC Marc Guillemot and Morgan Lagravière on Safran were the first of the IMOCA Ocean Masters New York to Barcelona Race boats to pass the western end of the mandatory icebox.
Competitors are obliged to stay south of this virtual line that runs along latitude 40⁰N between 51 and 47⁰W. Following the French race leader’s exact same track two hours later was Hugo Boss.
En route to the icebox Marc Guillemot reported: “The last hours have been pretty good even if we’ve had to make sail changes to maintain some speed, only for the wind to build again. I don’t know if Hugo Boss, has managed to avoid it, but we have been slow for several hours. Now we are just under 20 miles from the southern limit of the Ice Box, so we must be careful not to go too far north, but the wind should veer enough to help us avoid that. And this is what our routing confirms.”
Now into the south and continuing to veer slowly into the SSW or southwest, the wind is effectively blowing the boats north across the forbidden line. As a result everyone is giving the line a wide berth, passing some 15 or so miles to the south of it.
With icebergs having been sighted just a few miles north, the crews will be sailing along the 183 mile length of this most southerly section of the ice gate on high alert. Fortunately they are due to pass the southeastern end of it by midnight Barcelona time tonight, which is still daylight where the boats are.
Guillemot gave the first indication that they were nearing colder waters: “We’ve noticed that the temperature of the water has really dropped, which is weird because only two days ago, we were seeing flying fishes… I’m certainly not going swimming today!”
While their current predicament is unusual, effectively like sailing along a very long, straight coastline, the competitors are also keeping an eye on what is going on ahead. At present conditions for tomorrow are forecast to be tricky and slow with a ridge (an elongated area of high pressure) orientated initially along a north-south axis forming ahead of them, bringing with it light winds. Given that Safran will be first into this tomorrow morning, the French crew is going to be able to do little to prevent their lead evaporating as the boats behind, cruise in with pressure.