A solid podium but will opportunities knock for Pirouelle and Faguet?
14 May 2023
As the leading trio sail south west this Sunday afternoon, two weeks exactly since the Concarneau start of the Transat Paprec mixed tow handed race to Saint Barth’s, they are crossing in front of fourth placed Guillaume Pirouelle and Sophie Faguet (Région Normandie) who are about 17 miles astern.
Making speeds of eight to nine knots top three duos have just over 900 miles to sail to the finish line off Gustavia, Saint Barths where they are now predicted to finish between 0800hrs and 1200hrs local time on Friday.
Just as they led into the first night of racing two weeks ago Lois Berrëhar and Charlotte Yven (Skipper MACIF) top the 11 boat fleet and they have done since early Saturday morning. But their margin is a slender 1.2 nautical miles over Corentin Horeau and Pauline Courtois (Mutuelle Bleue) while third placed Gaston Morvan and Anne-Claire Le Berre (Région Bretagne-CMB Performance) are only 5.5 nms behind.
Increasingly this is looking like these three might form the podium come next Friday morning in Saint Barth’s There are options for fourth placed Pirouelle and Faguet but these will be small scale, about chaining together little gains as the breezes get lighter and shiftier as they get near the French West Indies.
Squalls mean gains?
“For sure it will be hard to come back from where Guillaume and Sophie are but they will sail into an area where there are a few fairly active squalls, especially in the early mornings. This can quickly mean quite significant wind differences. There can be 50 degrees of shift and 15 knots more or less breeze for a period.” Says Martin Le Pape, a pre race favourite who has had to sit this race out because of the injury of his partner, Elodie Bonafous whose boat they were to sail, “On the last edition, we took 20 miles on a single prolonged squall. The problem is that these squalls are unpredictable and you struggle. You can't do much but it creates gaps within the fleet. It is therefore impossible at this stage of the race to know who will win in Saint-Barthélemy.”
Pirouelle, second on last year’s La Solitaire du Figaro, noted this morning, ““We try to make a few little moves. We gybed before the others, hoping to get a little more wind than them. On the GRIB* files, that's what we saw but in the end it didn't turn out to be like that because they were still quicker than us"
He added, “Basically, there are two ways of seeing things. Either we play the pressure hoping to have more wind, or we play the wind shifts. The idea is to play both a bit hoping that those in front fall into lighter winds. It would be nice if they did slow down a bit in front so that we could come back at them bit! We try to take every chance we can. But we also pay attention to those behind us so that they don't come back at us too much. There is a bit of a gap but it can disappear quickly so we are watching everything. Yes, we would like to get on the podium but also we would like to do no worse than 4”.
Top five at 1700hrs BST Sunday May 2023
1 Skipper MACIF (Loïs Berrehar/Charlotte Yven) 907 miles to the finish
2 Mutuellle Bleue (Corentin Horeau/Pauline Courtois) + 1.3 miles
3 Région Bretagne CMB Performance (Gaston Morvan/Anne Claire le Berre) + 3.4 miles
4 Région Normandie (Guillaume Pirouelle/Sophie Faguet) + 36.3.4 nms
5 Cap Ingélec (Camille Bertel/Pierre Leboucher) +51.8 nms