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Krys Ocean Race : FONCIA in oceanic cavalcade mode

09-July-2012. The Krys Ocean Race, which set off on Saturday at 1500 UTC offshore of New York, is certainly living up to all expectations. The pace is fast on the MOD70 FONCIA and her rivals as they traverse the North Atlantic. Propelled by favourable winds both in terms of strength and direction, a phenomenon generated by a cold front, the 30 crew members participating in this first transatlantic sprint are maintaining a crazy pace, which is attracting all manner of superlatives in its wake. In 3rd position, Michel Desjoyeaux and his men are 35 miles shy of the leader of the fleet, a position currently held by Spindrift Racing (Yann Guichard), and just a dozen miles astray of Edmond de Rothschild Group (Sébastien Josse).
Involved in a drag race in its purest sense, this trio has already devoured a third of the course bound for Brest. It has gained an edge on the crews of Race for Water (Stève Ravussin) and Musandam-Oman Sail (Sidney Gavignet), both of whom have damage to lament – a broken central daggerboard for one, a foil for the second. This damage isn’t putting the integrity of the boats in danger, but it is slowing their progress.

In sports catamaran ‘MOD’

After covering 1,000 miles in less than 48 hours, the speedos are stuck above 30 knots, with peaks of speed of over 35, which occasionally flirt with 40 knots: the figures are there and speak for themselves. After a gentle start, the pace very quickly ramped up a notch on the Krys Ocean Race, which has been treated to some ideal conditions, ahead of a weather system which is set to accompany the fleet in their transatlantic. On the water, it didn’t take any more than that for the five crews to immediately launch into a top drawer, high-speed navigation. Indeed they’re driving their large 70-foot trimarans like sports catamarans.

“It’s rather nice to be making headway so fast towards home. It’s very exhilarating, but a bit stressful too. In these conditions, either you let her power up or you reduce the sail area when the wind picks up. However, you adapt to things by hauling on or easing the headsail sheet. That requires vigilance round the clock and that’s the necessary condition to remain upright”, explains Michel Desjoyeaux. “At the helm we’re wearing a helmet with a visor to protect ourselves from the plumes of spray which are breaking over the deck. You have to admit that since last night, the atmosphere has been reminiscent of a combat sport!”

Polled at 36 knots

Fast and furious best describes the setting on this oceanic crossing on its fairly southerly course, since the fleet is making headway along the latitude of the Azores archipelago at the longitude of the banks of Newfoundland. “Since the start, we’ve been holding two-hour watches, otherwise things would very quickly go pear-shaped. However, the amount of time spent at the helm is down to how you feel: one or two hours according to the sea state and how the automatic pilot is handling. As for the grub, we’re getting by okay, though it’s not easy. Sleeping is another matter entirely though… Jérémie Beyou, who’s helming right now, has just racked up 36 knots… It’s just as well we don’t get points on our driving permits at sea!”

“Between you and me, there’s little between the boats. Aboard FONCIA, we really feel that we’re right on the pace. Since the start, we’ve been holding the same trajectories, and we spent a good part of yesterday with Spindrift Racing. On the other hand, the end of the race will doubtless become more strategic in terms of the choices we have to make…,” comments the skipper, who is delighted at having a great team around him.

According to the latest forecasts, the crew of the MOD 03 is likely to have to keep up this crazy pace for at least until tomorrow evening. It’s over the course of Wednesday that some options may be up for grabs and the trajectories begin to diverge. This is especially true given that the course, which feature a course gate between the Scillies and Wolf Rock, could be further lengthened so as the highly-charged trimarans don’t finish the race before Friday, which heralds the start of festivities in the Tonnerres de Brest…!