GLOBE40: COMING FULL CIRCLE
GLOBE40: COMING FULL CIRCLE
On Saturday 11 June 2022, the GLOBE40 competitors set sail from LORIENT LA BASE within the scope of the prologue, bound for the GREAT START IN TANGIER. Once they’d rounded the Pen Men headland on the Ile de Groix, the Class40s disappeared over the horizon, and it was hard to imagine that they would only see these landmarks again once they’d circumnavigated the globe. That moment should finally come for 5 of the 7 teams who took the race start and are due to complete this sporting and maritime feat of strength after a 30,000-mile sea passage spanning 8 legs and all the oceans of the planet: the North and South Atlantic, the Indian Ocean and the immense Pacific Ocean. To earn that honour though, the crews must first take on one last challenge, that of a full-on, winter transatlantic involving a 3,600-mile straight-line sprint from the island of Grenada in the West Indies to Lorient, France, with a compulsory passage via the Azores. The 4 competitors officially taking the start of the final eighth leg (SEC HAYAI / AMHAS / GRYPHON SOLO 2 / WHISKEY JACK) set sail today at 11:00 hours local time (16:00 UTC) from this beautiful Caribbean refuge. Meantime, the crew on MILAI Around the World also set a course for Lorient at 09:00 hours local time, albeit from Mar Del Plata in Argentina, her repairs now complete.
A full-on winter transatlantic
The 3,600-mile return leg from Grenada comprises several complex phases, as weather router Christian Dumard explains: “A moderate NE’ly trade wind will accompany the GLOBE40 competitors for the first two days of leg 8. It will be important to watch out for the wind shadows created by those islands with lofty peaks and Guadeloupe in particular, which lies along part of the latest routing options. Once they’re clear of the Antilles Arc, the crews should be able to continue their route northwards with the aim of latching onto a SW’ly to NW’ly breeze, which is generally located between the Azores High and the depressions rolling around to the north. To reach this corridor of fair winds, competitors will have to cross a ridge of high pressure extending out from this anticyclone towards the Bahamas. For now, it looks set to move slightly northwards over the middle of next week, which could make this passage quite laborious, with an area of calm conditions moving with the boats. Once this initial obstacle has been negotiated, the aim is to stay in a corridor of steady breeze, being careful to avoid climbing too far north. It’s still winter of course and with it comes a string of depressions in the North Atlantic synonymous with strong winds and very heavy seas, which the crews must steer clear of at all costs.” The requirement to pass a gate close to the island of Faial in the Azores archipelago once again reflects the concept behind this round the world race in terms of the organisation of the course and its approach to safety. Indeed, crossing the Atlantic in February / March remains a full-on passage, but getting the boats to pass through the Azores prevents them from seeking out a route too far north. In principle then, this reduces the risk of the fleet encountering the usual meaty low-pressure systems of the North Atlantic at this time of year.
Returning to LORIENT LA BASE, the European capital of offshore racing
Made to feel very welcome at the Camper and Nicholsons Port Louis Marina, the competitors have had a chance to carry out a final technical check of the boats and get some rest after a particularly demanding pace since the legs to Ushuaia and Recife. Indeed, some 6,000 miles were devoured on these two legs alone, which included a tough climb up the South Atlantic initially, with the pace picking up after Recife once the crews had finally hooked onto the trade wind. All too aware of this final challenge that awaits them before deliverance, they’ve had some time to hone their return strategy. If they climb up the Antilles Arc with the help of the trade wind, they must decide at which point to bend their course round to the east to avoid running the risk of getting caught up in the winter depressions. If they head offshore, they will have to hunt down favourable conditions for making headway on a direct route to the Azores. In any case, upon their arrival in Lorient, they’ll find Europe’s offshore racing hub, which boasts an ever-expanding number of teams and offshore racing craft, and serves as a base for a wealth of companies from within the marine sector, which have played an active part in maintaining the GLOBE40 boats at every stage of the course.
The verdict awaits…
With a lead of just 4 points over AMHAS (29 and 33 points), victory for the Dutch crew on SEC HAYAI (Frans Budel / Ysbrand Endt) is still far from a done deal. In essence, if the latter finish two places behind in this coefficient 2 sprint, they would lose their edge. In the event of a tie, the federation’s rules would come into play, meaning that the team with the most victories would secure the trophy (AMHAS has 2, SEC HAYAI has 1). Very well prepared, always ready to give their all and very consistent, SEC HAYAI certainly has what it takes to round off the event on a high, despite being the older boat. Meantime, AMHAS (Craig Horsfield / Oliver Bond) will be going all out with the same crew who won the first major leg of 7,700 miles between Cape Verde and Mauritius after a difficult passage around the tip of South Africa. Thanks to his 3 victories in previous legs, Masa Suzuki on MILAI Around The World has racked up a sufficient number of points (44 at the start of leg 8) to be assured of a podium place in the GLOBE40. Masa will initially be accompanied by Italian Andrea Fantini, before switching to Japanese sailor Koji Nakagawa from the Azores. There will also be one last match race between GRYPHON SOLO 2 with American Joe Harris and Italo-American Roger Junet, who have formed a successful pairing throughout this event, and Canadian Mélodie Schaffer, who will be supported once again by the American Tom Pierce, with whom she posted a brilliant win in leg 7, sailing a record distance of 347 miles in 24 hours in the process. Just 2 points separate these 2 teams (62 and 64 points). A fever pitch of nervous excitement then at every stage of the leader board in this final epic transatlantic sprint.