Panerai Transat Classique : First impressions
Tuesday, 04 December 2012
The fair weather of the first couple of days of the leg to Barbados has allowed the crews in the Panerai Transat Classique 2012 to settle comfortably into the race. Despite a few minor troubles with the gear, everyone is happy to be back at sea.
“A pleasant start to the race, no spin outs, no pit stops, tyres intact!Look forward to passing in front of the stands at the end of the first lap to see the Mexican wave.” A humorous start to Bruno Jourdren's first message sent from Corto. Two days after the magnificent start off Cascais, under the gaze of the four-masted Creoula, the competitors in the Panerai Transat Classique 2012 are, like Bruno, all delighted to be in this exceptional adventure which combines sea, sport and human endeavour. It must be said that the fine weather has played its part, allowing the crews to get their sea legs and, for some, to get to know the ropes in the best of conditions. Race manager François Séruzier is thoroughly satisfied with the behaviour of the fleet: “They're moving faster than we anticipated. But they'll soon be facing their first test: a windless zone between them and the port off the Savage Islands. They can sail around it from east to west, although there seems to be some high pressure on the African coast. It looks like the coming days are going to test their patience."
In the meantime everybody's enjoying the downwind sailing and the messages sent into race headquarters are—already!—describing unforgettable moments, much to the satisfaction of all involved. Unsurprisingly there have been sightings of dolphins, those joyous animals who have accompanied man's aquatic adventures ever since he first went down to the sea in ships. They've already put the smile back on the face of little Elizabeth who had been suffering from some post-start blues on Croix des Gardes.So too have the fulmars and gannets, and a wood warbler who, straying out to sea, settled on the main sail for a rest, briefly turning the 1947 Bermudan cutter into a poor man's Noah's Ark. Let's hope the little bird managed to get back to the safety of its more usual forest habitat.On Artaius, Jérôme Lunot, owner of this pretty little Bristol pilot cutter, also reported seeing dolphins before adding “morale is excellent and life aboard is, for the moment, easy-going”. A number of dolphin images have been sent back to race headquarters and the winner of the Capbiotek prize for the first yacht to take a photo of a marine mammal is... going to be kept secret until the finish! However it certainly won't be Gimcrack because, despite crossing the path of a school of pilot whales, easily recognizable by their distinctive back fin, none of the crew had a camera to hand to immortalize the event.
Sailing is never just, er, plain sailing and the boats have already reported a number of minor incidents.White Dolphin is bemoaning the loss of her big black chute which bears—no surprises here—an enormous white dolphin; an incident which is costing her about a knot and a half. But skipper Yann is not one to give up easily: “I never had much belief in the ‘magic' staysail much vaunted by Fred [the first mate]. And strangely enough, today I'm the first one to put all my hopes in it.We'll keep it set until Barbados.” The staysail is usually set before the mizzen when reaching. Gérald Ravache, owner of the 1961 yawl Gimcrack, recounted his woes with little concern: “After a few disappointing incidents at sunset (spinnaker guy parted and mainsail foot track partially torn off) we carried out repairs in the morning and set the chute again which got us back up to racing speed.” But the prize for post-start teething troubles goes to Persephone: “We had to stop the boat when we spotted a piece of net, about 80 cm long, hanging off the propeller.We brought in the kite and got it fixed. We then set off again at full tilt. We had probably been losing 0.3 to .05 knots! We're now gulping down bacon and eggs with a glass of red wine, double rations for Xavier who did the diving.”
After handing over her position at the head of the fleet to the Swan 38 Gweneven designed by Oren Nataf, The Blue Peter is now back in command of the main leg of the Panerai Transat Classique 2012. Just behind her battle is raging, in corrected times, between Persephone, Valteam, White Dolphin and Corto with positions changing almost by the hour.Further back Cipango is biding her time, waiting for a chance to catch up with the main pack.Bringing up the rear, Artaius, Croix des Gardes, Marie des Isles and Gimcrack are determined to hang in there and not get left standing.But the fleet is approaching the windless zone near the gate off the Savage Islands and making the wrong decision there could cause a major upset. Valteam has more westing than the rest who are heading south to sail along the African coast.Who'll make the right decision? Answer coming soon.
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Last Updated ( Tuesday, 04 December 2012 )