After setting sail from Ushant at 01:33 UTC this morning, the crew of the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild has already devoured the Bay of Biscay and is rounding the north-west tip of Spain and with it the renowned and dreaded Cape Finisterre this Sunday afternoon. As forecast, the NE’ly breeze has fleshed out throughout the day and is currently dishing up in excess of 30 knots with the sea building. The six sailors of Gitana Team have had to put in a fair few manœuvres to adapt both the sail area and their trajectory. However, these bracing conditions have not prevented Franck Cammas, Charles Caudrelier and their crew from finding their bearings and getting right into the swing of things on this long-distance race opening up ahead of their 32-metre giant.
“We have to be making an average speed of over 30 knots on the descent… things go quickly on these boats. However, our first night proved to be fairly calm after a superb departure from the dock in Lorient yesterday in glorious sunshine with our nearest and dearest. It was windy, but the sea is relatively well organised, which is enabling us to take up our watches and get into our rhythm” , admitted Charles Caudrelier, speaking into the microphone pointed at him by Yann Riou, the boat’s media man.
The course southwards passes around Cape Finisterre, a sector of navigation renowned and dreaded by sailors, as the co-skipper of the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild explains: “It’s an area of convergence for all the shipping headed up to northern Europe. There’s a concentration of merchant vessels here as they’re supposed to make the rounding using a narrow shipping lane, which we refer to as a TSS (Traffic Separation Scheme). It’s very busy and when you’re making headway at our kind of speeds, you have to be extremely vigilant so that you don’t get caught out as you cross tacks with another boat. On top of that, there is also a weather phenomenon, which particularly stands out in a NE’ly wind like we’ve got right now. It’s an area that’s well known for its accelerating wind as there’s a very high chain of mountains, which causes the wind to pick up along its length and behind it you can end up in a wind hole that must be avoided at all costs. It’s always a bit of a complicated passage here, where you hit strong wind with messy seas and shipping. With the accompanying manœuvres there’s a lot going on.”
Continuing on her way at high speed, the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild is quickly gaining ground to the south. Charles Caudrelier believed that there would be another 24 boisterous hours, but the forecast is already promising a rapid improvement. This will serve as added motivation for the six sailors, who are all too aware that in the coming hours, temperatures will soar aboard the flying maxi-trimaran, treating the crew to some much milder sailing conditions as they make towards the trade wind of the northern hemisphere.