To the ice gate

One of the issues in racing across the North Atlantic in the spring is the danger posed by icebergs. They drift south from Greenland and the Davis Strait and making the turn around Newfoundland into the Atlantic. These bergs are right in the path of racers coming across from the U.K. Thus, the Artemis Transat Race committee designated a turning mark, a so-called ice gate, that the boats must pass to the south to avoid the worst of the ice. Below is a recent report from the Race (the picture is an underway shot from the racer BritAir)

From the press release: Bumping at mid-morning into yet another light patch (foreseen by our expert Jean-Luc Nélias four days ago), the leaders have to be on deck to try and prevent the dreaded speedometer values downfall. Less than 0.5 knots of speed for PRB, race leader, at the 10:00 GMT position update – Vincent Riou sees Loick Peyron gradually gaining miles while Brit Air, even faster, closes the gap as well.


“It’s warm, it will be the warmest ice gate I’ve ever seen”, said Loick Peyron this morning, commenting on the very peculiar weather situation Gitana Eighty had to cope with. As Jean-Luc Nélias points out in his daily analysis, the effect of the Gulf Stream certainly partly explains these conditions temperature-wise, but Loick didn’t have time this morning to stay on the phone and discuss the matter over. It was getting lighter and lighter, boat speed was dramatically dropping and something had to be done in order to maximize the gain on Vincent Riou, already stuck in the light winds zone Gitana Eighty was entering when we called. Looking back, it was completely foolish to hope we’d be able to reach the leader during our daily mid-morning calls session. If making a boat go fast is a job that requires accuracy, preventing the boat from stopping when the winds dies is an even more demanding task. Aboard Brit Air, Armel Le Cléac’h managed to reduce the gap, before being trapped too – but receiving the 10:00 positions update, Armel certainly made everything he could to avoid the sticky trap the leading duet fell into.

Further north, Yann Elies aboard Generali was expected to tack upon receiving the aforementioned update, clearly showing the demise of the leading trio – were we going to witness a Yann attack on the western front, was the white and red Finot-designed monohull going to take advantage of the situation to gain in longitude, remaining parallel to 40º North, slightly delaying his dive towards the south?


The 12:00 position update showed the wind on the zone was not exactly as forecasted, since Generali did tack but managed to keep sailing to the SW heading straight towards the front of the fleet, Marc Guillemot aboard Safran (5th) is getting better everyday, and now only feels the pain from his ribcage after having performed physically demanding maneuvers such as tacks (be sure not to miss Kito de Pavant’s feature concerning that particular matter).


While the “Vintage Finot division” (as Yannick Bestaven aboard Cervin EnR calls Roxy, Akena Verandas and his own ex-Aquitaine Innovations) is putting on a great fight, Marco is gradually escaping, getting his physical potential back. Sam Davies (Roxy) and Yannick Bestaven (Cervin EnR), positioned north, are seen as coveted targets by Arnaud Boissieres (Akena Verandas) who thinks his position further south is favorable.


By Ocean Navigator