Head west and you will find the south. Chess is played at the Transat Jacques Vabre


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Giancarlo Pedote (Photo by Martina Orsini)

After the crazy speeds of the first 24 hours, the Transat Jacques Vabre fleet is in for a real chess match. The days of “fat cows” at load-bearing gaits are now a distant memory, and all the boats in the race are going at it, off Portugal, tack by tack.

The tactical dilemma is one: there is a depression front behind the Azores. Sailing east of this one encounters prevailing south-southeast winds. Passing to the west of the depression center, however, the wind rotates first to the southwest and then to the west, and then continues even to the northwest. In the former case, you go less distance but sail several days upwind. In the second one travels many more miles, losing ground on the direct course, then opening the throttle first to windward wide and gradually at increasingly comfortable gaits.

Giancarlo Pedote and Anthony Marchand at the Prysmian chart table (Photo by Martina Orsini)

The fleet of Imoca 60 where our Giancarlo Pedote on Prysmian Group paired with Anthony Marchand split in two: the interim leader, PRB, tailed by two of the eve’s favorites, Apivia and Charal, chose the shorter route, sailing upwind along the coast of Portugal. Giancarlo Pedote, on the other hand, is pointing straight west, but he is in good company. Leading the group of what might be called “westbound northerners” at this time is Alex Thomson with Hugo Boss. Right now the choice obviously does not seem to be paying off, but it could be an investment for the future. But when? Hypothetically by tomorrow night this group of boats may be able to enter the wind shift, pointing at this point toward Brazil, so to speak since the destination is still over 3,000 miles away.

The situation of the Imoca fleet. Notice to the north the small group with Prysmian and Hugo Boss, to the south the leaders. The wind on the chart is as predicted for the night of Nov. 1. It seems clear how the west choice aims to engage the southwestward rotation first and then west-northwest evident on the wind map

What will the group to the east do instead? A major unknown presents itself here. The depression front we have been discussing is crushing the Azores anticyclone to the east, and the extreme edge of this high pressure seems to be affecting the leaders’ course, suggesting a partial slowdown. So the road Charal and co. seem to want to take seems to pass close to the Canary Islands, even may even be between the Canary Islands and the land, where the trade wind that will accompany them to the equator awaits them. The approach to the equatorial calms, however, would be from a position far to the east, which is notoriously unfavorable, but for this other delicate passage of the race there are still too many miles to go and the situation could change dramatically.

At the last survey, the Imoca top 3 sees Escoffier-Lunven’s PRB in the lead, second place at 2.4 miles for Dalin-Eliés’ Apivia, third for Beyou-Pratt’s Charal 9 miles behind. Pedote and Marchand are in 13th position at 121 miles, but the gap at this stage of opposing tactical choices is relative. Hugo Boss even 19th at 142 miles.

Mauro Giuffrè

HERE are the complete rankings with details of the other two classes in the race, Class 40 and Multi 50

HERE the tracking




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