After just over 24 hours of racing since leaving Fort-de-France, Jéremie Beyou is proving his well optimised Charal is fastest on the northwards climb up the Atlantic for the Retour à La Base fleet of solo racers.

While the French favourite on his Sam Manuard design has eked out a lead of 11 miles, showing the benefit of launching his new boat early and now having three Transatlantic passages to its credit, the fleet for this inaugural solo race from Martinique to Lorient, France was about to grow to 31 skippers after an express turnround in Fort de France by Tanguy Le Turquais.

Le Turquais and his co-skipper Félix de Navacelle were forced to pitstop for six days in Lorient to repair a large hole in the hull side of Lazare after hitting a floating object not long after the start of their Transat Jacques Vabre Normandie Le Havre. After battling light winds, keel ram problems and three days of squalls the duo crossed the finish line at  0551hrs local time, the word Resilience painted across their pink hull.

Greeted by friends, family, representatives of both races and his technical team, Le Turquais lost no time in fulfilling his immediate goals – a shower, fresh sea bream dinner, swim in the sea, and spending time with his and Clarisse Crémer’s one year old daughter Mathilda, before he was ready to cross the start line of the Retour à La Base – expected to be around 1500hrs local time, some 300 or so nautical miles behind Fabrice Amédeo(Nexans Art et Fenêtres) who is 30th after having had to take a 5 hours penalty for jumping yesterday’s start gun.

“In my head I don’t stop racing. Ultimately this is one race lasting two months, I will recover when I get back to Lorient.” he said when he stepped on the dock in Fort-de-France.

And the good news for Le Turquais, according to the race’s weather expert is that the displacement of the North Atlantic high to the east might allow the skipper of Lazare to catch a few miles on the fleet ahead of him, though his main objective is completing the course for Vendée Globe qualification.

Climbing just west of north in a moderate trade wind of 15-18kts, these first 48 hours are a speed test of upwind sailing with a true wind angle of around 65-70 degrees. Béyou – who had a disappointing 4th place in the Transat Jacques Vabre – is being pursued by Sébastien Simon on Groupe Dubreuil, winner of The Ocean Race as 11th Hour, Clarisse Crémer is going well in third on L’Occitane en Provence, previously a noted upwind performer in the hands of Charlie Dalin.

“I think things are going as we hoped, Clarisse made a safe start to a race which is very much a  confidence builder for her. Now they are just setting up for the high pressure ahead and the question is if west and north gives a better angle to get to the high or if you can play the right a little and saw off a little bit of the corner of the high with the risk you might get sucked into it. It is moving quite quick but you really have to kind of pick your position.” Explained Alan Roberts who is Crémer’s co-skipper this season and just finished the Transat Jacques Vabre Normandie Le Havre with her.
“Jéremie has really taken a step on in terms of speed and is going very well. Thomas Ruyant dropped a little bit but will be coming back and Boris probably has the best boat for the downwind stuff so he is quite well positioned.”

In eighth place this afternoon Sam Goodchild(FOR THE PLANET) noted this morning, “We are in fast upwind mode, going north. The first half of the first night I struggled to sleep as we were so close to Bureau Vallée and Paprec Arkea, we were within 0.3 of a mile of each other for ages and so I did not really trust the boat on its own. So I managed to get some free space and get some rest. I am probably a little further west than I would like to be I am trying to edge back east to the pack there without losing too much speed. Looking at the weather, the next day and a half it is pretty much like this, going north as fast as we can until the light winds spot tomorrow night”

Boris Herrmann(GER) Malizia- SeaExplorer has dropped slightly to ninth, just behind Goodchild, he said this afternoon “I am in a little light spot which was forecasted, expecting more wind tonight going to one reef and J3. Now it is blue sea, sunshine and 13kts of wind so it is like holiday sailing, it is still bouncy and not easy to make the boat go fast. I see Thomas (Ruyant) out there and Sam Goodchild on the AIS, which is nice to haver them to motivate you to change and adapt to every wind change. I did not much sleep yet, lots of little naps but no deep sleep, just I need to get in the rhythm and it is hot. I have little issues trying to find the speed but that will be solved when we go downwind. In the future I will get a new set of foils which will be bigger and better for these marginal upwind foiling conditions.”

The weather outlook

Christian Dumard the race’s weather specialist briefed this morning. “For the foilers these are super conditions. Tonight there will be a little front which they will pass with some stronger winds, but not a big front like we see in Brittany for example, but there will some rain and squalls, with unstable winds, between 12 and 22kts, that will be for a few hours only and that front is dropping south towards the fleet. After that they get to the anticyclone which is displacing east little by little, which they will normally pass to the north and get into the depression.”

Japanese skipper Kojiro Shiraishi(DMG MORI Global One) is going well in 13th just ahead of Pip Hare(Medallia) in 15th,

Hare reported this afternoon, “You don’t get much more beautiful conditions than we have here, the seas are still quite flat. I struggled these last 24 hours to find the real groove, I kind of feel the wind was right on one of my crossovers between reefed and unreefed. Last night I found really difficult trying to get the boat going and not really managing and hence losing a lot of the foilers. That is hard to see at the beginning of the race. I need to know how to do better in the trade winds thinking about the Vendée Globe as strategically that is important.”

Best of the daggerboard boats today is Louis Duc on FIVES Group- Lantana Environnement who is four miles ahead of Violet Dorange(Devenir). Kiwi Conrad Colman(Mail Boxes ETC) had a couple of small breakages which cost him some miles but he is catching back up to these two, about 12 miles behind Dorange.

Colman is struggling with a broken sensor which means his primary wind instruments are not working and also reported, “After we tacked over a big wave I heard a big crash and the carbon fibre sheave box for the J2 sheet exploded, so I have set up a jury set up but that is fine but it does increase my workload for the rest of the race, and mean that I am working harder to maintain the level. So that is quite frustrating to have small breakages which will impact on the way I can sail the boat efficiently. So I gave up a few places then but now I have caught up to Guirec and Manu and eat into my deficit to the boats ahead. That’s great as this will be a long and complicated race. I don’t think that will be the last of the breakages for me but then I don’t think anyone is going to get through this race without some kind of damage.”