With more than 2200 nautical miles still to sail, at least two more low pressure systems before a timely finish into Lorient expected Saturday, there is still a long, long way to go on the Retour à La Base solo Transatlantic from Martinique to France.

But as Thomas ‘The Rocket’ Ruyant (For People) scythed his way into third place today - setting a new solo 24 hour distance record - the podium positions are now held by the top three finishers on the outward, two handed Transat Jacques Vabre. Second into Martinique Yoann Richomme leads, Briton Sam Goodchild, third on the way out, is holding second.

Ruyant proved quickest downwind in the trade winds and with his new Koch-Finot Conq design and this afternoon he has just claimed to a new solo monohull 24 hour distance record.

Between 1430hrs UTC Sunday 3rd and 1430hrs UTC today Ruyant is measured to have sailed 539.94 nautical miles. This beats the 2017 record mark of Alex Thomson set on 16th January during the Vendée Globe of 536.81.  As ever this distance is provisional and is not a record until it is ratified by the World Sailing Speeds Record Council. And with the leaders still making round 22-24kts there is every chance Ruyant’s new mark might fall again.

Indeed race leader Yoann Richomme (Paprec-Arkéa) had already come close around 0800hrs this morning and subsequently has been first to gybe north in search of more breeze and was doing just under 24kts late this afternoon.

The recent winner of the Transat Jacques Vabre Normandie Le Havre with Morgan Lagravière,  Ruyant made up the best part of 30 miles and three places during those 24 hours at record speed This afternoon he was still about 14 miles behind Sam Goodchild (For the Planet). Early leader Jéremie Beyou (Charal) continues to have technical problems and has set up a secondary wind vane system and lies fourth.

“It looks a little like we saw on the Transat Jacques Vabre that the Koch boats have this edge. They have this quad set up with the smaller J2 and J3s which in certain wind conditions they can set as staysails and it is clearly very effective, they are very much optimised for that configuration. And we can see that again with Thomas who has been on a great run.” Observes The Ocean Race winner Jack Bouttell who was co-skipper on the TJV with Sam Davies.

He continues, “It is interesting to see Yoann gybing for the shift or more pressure, I think mostly the front group will follow each other otherwise. Sam (Davies) has been sailing well and has gybed. She has had a few little breakages, just some fatigue nothing serious but she and Clarisse are having a good race. I am also really impressed by how Violette Dorange is sailing, she is having a fantastic race for her first solo IMOCA race.”

Goodchild said today he felt that as the sea conditions have been building he is at a slight disadvantage compared to the new boats like Richomme’s and Ruyant’s. Nonetheless he was still holding a solid second place and going fast on the opposite gybe to the leader.

Goodchild said at midday, “I have just changed sails which took me a mere one and a half hours and so I am tired. It is fast but the waves are now picking up a bit which is making it a bit difficult for my boat which has not had a new bow put on it and all the boats round me are new boats which are a bit more adapted. I am not going to complain. I have made my hay while the sun shone to be here. I am struggling to keep up to the same speeds now. We have had a wind shift which we did not expect, well I did not expect, and it is a big lefty (header, wind has gone left) so I have changed to my smaller downwind sail and so there are some people who were already on that who might be a little bit slower, so they won’t have to change. And there are others who still will….I think it depends on what they have. Charal are obviously struggling a bit with their wind instruments, when I crossed them yesterday they had a big sail up or a medium sail up. I think Paprec did a second change as I saw them slow down, I am not sure about ‘People’ (For People), I have no plans to gybe soon, as this left wind shift is helping us get north.”

Hare: Awesome sailing. Awesome boats. Awesome race…!
In 14th this afternoon Pip Hare (Medallia) invested in a 50 miles gybe to the north, reporting this morning, “ We are hooked into the breeze before the front, I am not as far north as I was hoping so today I am going to gybe and get into some bigger breeze. It is a really hard decision to make, because the chart is a false friend and the moment. All of a sudden I am at the same longitude as the people ahead of me but I know I am that much further south and also on trajectory I am on I am sailing out of the bigger breeze rather than into and I just need to go a little bit faster for a little bit longer, so I am going to have to dig deep and sail in the wrong direction for a bit. I am still kind of battling with the gremlins on board but everything seems to be in a manageable state, I slept pretty well actually, I am really bored with my food at the moment, eating is a problem but other than awesome sailing, awesome boats, awesome race…!

The current angles are leading the fleet towards the Azores nearly 900 miles ahead.

Contrary to what some theoretical routings might show no one is likely to go very much further north even if there is more wind up there. We do see the skippers sailing in a relatively cautious mode.” the race’s meteo expert Christian Dumard contends.

The next big depression is due to hit the mid fleet boats on the 7th and 8th and will largely affect the middle of the fleet and the skippers behind them. The biggest problem with this system will be the sea state which will be big and confused following the passage of the previous system.  Consequently, again, the solo racers are most likely to route prudently and stay south.

“It would be dangerous to go too far north and be too close to the centre of the depression.” explains Dumard.


Life of the IMOCA solo sailor in one day?
Conrad Colman (Mail Boxes ETC) called in today “I pulled a bit of an all-nighter and slept this morning. I am living the standard life of the solo IMOCA sailor which is…put up the big gennaker, go ‘oh shit that is quite a big sail’ let us see what the wind does with it and then spend all night wondering ‘maybe this is too big’ ‘maybe it’s OK…’ ‘maybe it is taking us the wrong way,’ and then finally at 3 or 4 in the morning I take it down so going through the procedure of furling up the 360 square metre sail, get out the 200 square metre small gennaker which I have now set up which I now benefit from to fix a leak which I had been unable to do when the boat was fast, and then finish changing the sail, I realise that the bunk I use for stacking had broken and the six stacked bags had fallen all over the boat. So then I needed to get out the glue, the carbon fibre and the resin etc and glue things all back together, so a standard day in the life…..