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New York Vendée, Macif and Malizia are the halfway leaders New York Vendée, Macif and Malizia are the halfway leaders
Whilst the two leaders of the New York Vendée Les Sables d’Olonne, Charlie Dalin (MACIF Santé et Prevoyance) and Germany’s Boris Herrmann (Malizia Seaexplorer)... New York Vendée, Macif and Malizia are the halfway leaders

Atlantic Ocean – Whilst the two leaders of the New York Vendée Les Sables d’Olonne, Charlie Dalin (MACIF Santé et Prevoyance) and Germany’s Boris Herrmann (Malizia Seaexplorer) might be feeling quite isolated today as they passed their theoretical half way point of the solo Transatlantic course from North America to the French Atlantic coast, the very opposite is true for the two main groups which are valiantly pursuing them some at more than 400 miles behind the French leader. 

At nearly six days in neither Dalin nor Herrmann has a boat within 200 miles of themselves. But in both of the two groups – the posse of fast foilers heading towards the Azores and the older daggerboard boats now climbing north of the foilers – many of the skippers are still within sight of each other, visually or on AIS (the automatic radar monitoring alert system for vessels). It is highly motivating to benchmark and speed test against each other as well as share the occasional VHF radio contact.

Stuck on you…
“With Jérémie (Beyou) we have had 36 hours stuck together sometimes he is a bit faster, sometimes I am a bit faster. We have been pretty much in sight of each other most of the time.” messaged Sam Goodchild this morning, “We have had a couple of chats on the VHF, nothing too exciting, not giving tips how to trim the sails, just keeping in touch and having a chat. We spent the Transat last year together – the Retour à La Base – and here we are coming up to the Azores where we met up last time. It is a good little group of boats we have here, a bunch of good people, if we are going the right way it should turn out quite well.” 

Splendid isolation?
With a British based team working out of Poole, England Pip Hare on Medallia often suffers a more permanent feeling of being cut off, distanced from the epicentres of the IMOCA world in south Brittany and so she is thrilled to be in the thick of the action, today racing side by side with Switzerland’s Justine Mettraux, holding 11thand 12th.

“I came across Justine in the night, she was having a problem with a sail and was heading downwind for a bit and I caught her up, and now I am about three miles from her, on the horizon, and it is great. Any opportunity now to look at my speed and set up, and compare how Medallia is performing is gold dust to me as I am running my team in the UK I am in isolation and don’t have the chance to train with any other boats. So being within sight of other boats is invaluable.”  Enthused Hare

Getting there, one biscuit at a time…
In 17th Conrad Colman, the ‘crazy Kiwi’, on Imagine MS Amlin is just one more skipper to have been confounded by the random weather, humorously complaining that this race -which would normally a downwind charge to Europe in conditions akin the Southern Ocean – is not what most of the 28 skippers on this race expected:

“Good Lord…this race!” he exclaimed, “I think in all of our minds we were expecting a fast downwind sleigh ride. And instead we are walking on eggshells and doing twinkle toes all the way across the Atlantic. There are several complicated weather systems and in fact it’s been no fun in terms of no fast downwind sailing at all. So I don’t really feel we have got what was advertised. Open the tin and the biscuits are not what is on the label. That being said it is delightful to be finally heading east and with the exception of leaders Charlie and Boris the fleet has coalesced into two groups -the ‘slow’ guys that is to say the older daggerboard boats going north, and most of the faster foilers going under the Azores, to the south. Who would have thought?” 

Actually on the latitude of the finish line today but still 1200 miles west – and most of that upwind – Dalin is picking will be picking through the light conditions for the next day at least whilst second placed Herrmann is nearing the north side of the same anticyclone.

The outcome is very much in the balance. The German skipper explains his feelings about the risks involved and the homework he did before making his choice. Either way, he says he would still rather be near other boats…

He said in his video this morning…“It is complicated for sure. I see a fair chance going north. The route is not longer. The route is a little bit shorter by the north and it has some potential. It has some risk, more risk than the south route but where Charlie is a very good position but I can’t get to where he is for a while and so it is pretty tricky for me to make something good from the south route, at all. For me it is not ‘gambling’. With the information I had the best informed decision I could make with the tools I have, I spent a lot of time with Adrena looking at the options and at one stage you have to make the call, and I could have made the call beforehand to keep it more safe, so in a way I regret that as I would love to have less excitement because this is pretty much up in the air what comes out of this to be honest, I see that consciously like everybody else. There are a couple of risks attached to this route, namely crossing the high pressure tomorrow and in a couple of days near the Irish coast. But at the same time my instinct was to go this way because, with the uncertainty we have seen on the weather models, I was not feeling ready invest straight into the east the way Charlie did. That was the rationale yesterday and since them I put myself a little bit out of options.”

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