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Dalin has solid lead and reflects on his break

Tuesday morning, day 6 of the second edition of the New York Vendée Les Sables d’Olonne and Charlie Dalin (MACIF Santé et Prévoyance) not only has the lead but it appears pretty comfortable at 225 miles ahead of Boris Herrmann (Malizia-Seaexplorer) and over 400 miles ahead of the redoubtable Yoann Richomme (Paprec Arkéa) who has wriggled back into a podium position.

Charlie Dalin on MACIF Sante et Prevoyance
Charlie Dalin is working hard to make best speed whilst he still has good wind
© Charlie Dalin/MACIF

Whilst Boris is even slanted slightly west this morning, climbing round the high pressure to get to the downwind conditions, Dalin has been making good progress in relatively flat seas but the breeze will start to ease for him as he seeks to cut across the high. But the solo racer from Le Havre is enjoying these moments, a feeling no doubt heightened by having had to watch races from the sidelines last Autumn. When he returned after being the given the green light after his health issue Dalin spoke of how much he’d missed racing and the cut and thrust of competition. Never one to get carried away with emotions, he clearly felt doubly blessed when he broke away from the fleet two days ago. 

“These moments don’t happen too often in your career. It was quite incredible to see the others stuck behind the front and me heading towards the northeast at good speed. It reminds me a little of the Doldrums with Yann Eliès when I was sailing against Charal (ndlr on the 2019 Transat Jacques Vabre which they won) and also on a Bermuda 1000 Race.” Dalin said early this morning, recalling: “The break didn't appear much. I was right next to Nicolas Lunven when he was caught by the weather front again. When I saw on the leaderboard that he had luffed, I pulled the bow down to speed up and it wasn't much. Several hours later there was more and more drizzle, very low clouds and the wind started to pick up again. I accelerated quite a bit but at that point I was very close to being overtaken from the front. It really didn't amount to much at all. There were two occasions where I really started to feel the rush of the light wind and rotation just behind the boat. By pulling the bar a little and reaccelerating a little I managed to escape. Now it has sure made a nice gap.”

The race leader explains, “We are no longer in the same weather system at all, neither with Boris, nor the others. Boris choosing to make the grand tour, to pass north of the anticyclone to get to the  westerly wind. Whether he will be able to cut the corner a little shorter, we'll see, but it's definitely that’s long way off. To compensate for the distance you have to go fast. There is a huge anticyclone to the northeast of my position with a zone of light wind that spans almost the entire width of the Atlantic.” 

He details “Routine sets in. I have been on the same tack for quite some time now, with occasional reefing or shaking it out, between J2 and J3 and some sail adjustments depending on the angle and strength of the wind. I'm upwind but the sea is pretty decent. These are conditions in which my boat works well so it’s going pretty well,”

Richomme has managed to work his way to the front of the southerly group, three miles up on Sam Davies (Initiatives Coeur) in fourth whilst her British compatriot James Harayda (Gentoo Sailing Team) is in the more northerly posse in fifth. He is over 350 miles to the north of Davies now but in terms of distance to the Les Sables d’Olonne finish line there is just 13 miles of difference. Indeed considering it is Day 6 there is still just 30 miles between third and 11th which suggest that when the main body of the fleet does finish it will be very close. 

Sam Goodchild is in eighth, racing VULNERABLE constantly in sight of the winner of the first edition of this race Jéremie Beyou (Charal). The IMOCA Globe Series champion Goodchild reports, “It is cool to be in this group and going south, not 100% by choice, I wanted to keep the option open but the wind never ever came around to make a gybe. I think we have been forced this way more than we would have been liked to, but it is opening up for us. And with Jérémie (Beyou) we have had 36 hours stuck together…sometimes he is a bit faster, sometimes I am a bit faster. We have been pretty much in sight of each other most of the time. We have had a couple of chats on the VHF, nothing too exciting, not giving tips how to trim the sails (laughs), just keeping in touch and having a chat. We spent the Transat last year together – the Rétour à La Base – and here we are coming up to the Azores where we met up last time. And Jéremie is someone I have looked up to and respected for a while in the Figaro world and followed his IMOCA career for the last few years, and so to be racing alongside him is pretty cool and it can’t be a bad thing on this race..It is a good little group of boats we have here, a bunch of good people, if we are going the right way it should turn out quite well.” 

And so the route to Les Sables d’Olonne looks no clearer today than it was yesterday. There are still two or three key options but nothing is clear. As Beyou says “It’s always blocked in front. The only course that seems to work is the one via the south of the Azores. This is an option that I had ruled out before the start because it seemed far-fetched but it is ultimately the one that will open up I think. In fact, we don't really decide. We follow the wind and we go where it takes us…” 

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