Transat AG2R La Mondiale : Artemis fight to hold 8th as the fleet head South towards Canary Islands

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Day 5 of La Transat AG2R La Mondiale: Sam Goodchild and Nick Cherry continue to hold 8th position. At 0900 Artemis were 18nm behind race leader Nacarat who overnight have taken their lead back from Sepalumic who dropped to 3rd place.  Artemis co-skipper Nick Cherry also reports on the joys of fast offshore racing plus beard growing and onboard chores...
The cold front that the fleet have been sailing underneath for the last 24 hours has caused the break up of the leading pack as the fleet fan out, each boat looking for a tactical break before the pack closes up once more to round the virtual mark north of La Palma – the western-most island of the Canary Islands in two days time.  The racing is close at the front, as is expected in this highly competitive Figaro class, with just 6nm separating the top 3 boats.

As the fleet push south to La Palma conditions improve daily as Goodchild reports: “Relieved its calmed down a lot now, no more water on deck and able to let the boat dry out a bit!”  The past few days have been very wet for the co-skippers with wind speeds varying from 19 to 46 knots, whilst sea conditions off the coast of Portugal have been confused with big waves combining with a swell from a different direction. The race is followed by a media boat which has managed in these difficult conditions to capture some rough sailing footage normally only seen by the competitors.

Despite the rough and soggy conditions, Cherry and Goodchild have remained positive and focused as Cherry explains: “Days of the week have definitely become irrelevant now for me and Sam on board Artemis with the only two facts that count being the distance to the boat ahead and hours until the trade winds. Whilst the first figure has been a bit disappointing recently, the second is always coming down. Although maybe not trade winds, our latest forecast has the wind coming aft of the beam by tomorrow afternoon some time. The thought of sailing a flat dry boat and not spending all night squinting through the slit between smock and hood trying to make out faint red numbers against the blackness is quiet appealing. Hopefully a change in angle will bring some more passing lanes too.”

In other news, the Artemis co-skippers are keeping their spirits high and the competitive fire aboard their damp Figaro alive with a beard growing contest: “It’s early days yet and with no independent verification it is hard to be sure, but I definitely have the edge on length; I think Sam must be looking for better coverage.”  Referencing the two sailors new lives together aboard the small 33ft boat, Cherry goes on to say: “Still no fallings out or arguments yet. With there being only two of us, it’s pretty clear who didn’t do the washing up, or ate the last chocolate, etc, so I think we’re both pulling our weight. I do feel a little bad that due to our pre-agreed division of labour Sam has done the most headsail changes. A particularly unpleasant job since we’re protecting a tiny patch of chafe on one halyard by doing bare-headed changes. All for now, back to getting soggy on deck, Nick.”

The leaderboard over night has been shaken up, with prologue winners Nacarat back in the lead followed by Cercle Vert, Sepalumic and Banque Populaire. The more experienced Figaro sailors are now coming into their own, with the distance between the first and last boats expanding by the day. As the youngest and two of the least experienced in the fleet, Cherry and Goodchild are doing well to consistently hold their mid-fleet position and continue to gain on the leaders.  Race Director Gilles Chiorri gives his statement as to the race so far and what the 32 competitors can expect over the coming stretch: “For the first three days, the leading pack have applied the same strategy: go as fast as possible in the front. We are now seeing a big difference in the speed of the fleet, showing that the wind is dropping. Conditions are now much calmer and the boats are advancing at around 6 knots. However, the weather is still very changeable and the duos will need to make many sail changes in the coming hours- it will not be so easy.”

Ahead of the fleet lies the island of Madeira, which has been used in the past as a stopping point for this race, but since it has become non-stop to St Barts, the sailors have to continue on past. They should pass to the east of the main island around 1400 tomorrow (Friday) in light NW winds – the wind shadow from the island will give the fleet some tactical options to play with.  Once past Madeira they have just 230nm to the La Palma turning mark, where Artemis will point her bows west to cross the Atlantic. It should be a fairly swift approach to the mark with winds returning to above 20 knots, and the NW direction will allow Goodchild and Cherry to set their spinnaker for faster progress.  Expected arrival time at the turning mark is early Saturday evening where the race’s true ranking will be revealed.

You can still vote for Sam, Nick and Shelterbox here and help the Artemis co-skippers win 10,000€ for the disaster relief charity. To find out more about Shelterbox, visit where you can make an online donation, making an immediate difference to people’s lives.

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Last Updated ( Thursday, 26 April 2012 )