The Doldrums are proving cruel and capricious for longtime Class 40 leaders Yannick Bestaven and Pierre Brassuer. Trapped by extreme calms they have seen their leading margin shrink dramatically from a seemingly untenable 316 miles just after the Cape Verde islands to a much more delicate 87 miles this morning. Bestaven and Brasseur are making just 2.6kts while Louis Duc and Christophe Lebas (Carac-Advanced Energies) and Maxime Sorel with Sam Manuard (V and B) are sailing twice as fast, duelling at just one mile difference in latitude but 26 miles apart laterally.

Engaged in a tight battle for second in the Multi50 Class, Lalou Roucayrol and Caesar Dohy (Arkema) have had to reroute to Salvador de Bahia 130 miles ahead of them this morning. They have a structural delamination problem with the main hull of their Tri. “For us this is the start of another race.” Said co-skipper Roucayrol this morning, “We head for Salvador and leave as quickly as possible. We will have our team there waiting. We want to make the finish line of this Transat Jacques Vabre.”

Now less than one day from Cabo Frio, the three leading IMOCAs look to the fine detail of their decisive transition from the trade winds of the St Helena anticyclone to the area of stormy low pressures which prevail there and in the Bay of Rio. This will be the final phase of the race which will decide the finishing order into Itajaí. Rock solid leaders Vincent Riou and Seb Col (PRB) have lost nothing at all to Armel Le Cléac’h and Erwan Tabarly (Banque Populaire VIII) who remain 35.8 miles behind.

The leading IMOCAs will start their right turns late tonight or tomorrow morning, sailing downwind into the a lighter E’ly breeze. Short term there does seem to a wind which is reasonably well established all the way south to Itajaí. It will be down to timing their gybes and managing the squalls and lighter zones. The junction between these two zones is of paramount importance.

They said…
Lalou Roucayrol, Arkema (Multi-50): “The bottom of the middle hull is damaged. There are several leaks in the front compartment. Either we hit an object and did not realise it, or it has delaminated. We’ll see when we get the boat out of the water. The boat was not right in the water and in fact we pumped out loads of water. The middle hull was half fully for water. I made a bit of a repair, limiting the ingress with some patched but it really needs repaired and right now we are pumping all the time. We will sail to Salvador and finish the race.”

Vincent Riou, PRB (IMOCA): “ It is OK. This morning we managed to pass through a cloudy front. We are downwind and look ahead to Cabo Frio and then we will turn right tomorrow. After Cabo Frio, it will drop and so we will see how it feels. At the moment we are not really approaching Cabo Frio, and so we will watch what is expected to happen on land or offshore. Tomorrow morning we will look at the files closely. As leaders we open the course and take the risks, but I’d rather be where I am. Banque Populaire is good on the reach. But now we are better positioned than him and now that we have the sails we want, we cannot say they scare us. But there are bunch of maneuvers to do and mistakes that can happen … We are in the race and in regatta mode. It’s nice.The batteries are well recharged. Now we are on the final sprint: it will not be easy. We attack! “