As the 8th racing day dawns, Arkema 4 is clocking up great speeds. “The conditions are very pleasant and we’ve got our speed back! We’re taking turns at the helm every two hours and are giving it our all to catch up. We’re fired up, even though we’re being sprayed “à la Kärcher” on board!” says Quentin who never before had spent so much time competing in a race on board a craft of this kind. A pleasure he fully appreciates and on a par with his commitment to the race.
Round and round the islands…
“The Ocean Fifty’s are magical boats. Arkema 4 is especially great to experience. I'm discovering things constantly,” continues the youngest skipper in the category, in accelerated learning mode within a very homogeneous Ocean Fifty fleet. This is evidenced by the changes of leader and the ongoing game of musical chairs across the rankings, with gaps appearing as quickly as they disappear. The islands on the course are in fact always conducive to new twists and turns.
After Madeira and the Canary Islands, the boats are passing the Cape Verde archipelago this Monday morning. “This is another tricky passage on the course. You mustn’t get trapped in windless zones. But swells can also produce bursts of speed. So you have to choose your route carefully,” explains Quentin, on the lookout in this tactical game, which has already enabled Arkema 4 to regain ground. As a result, Arkema 4 has moved up one place in the rankings as it is now sailing around the islands.
Going flat out for our two-handed crew!
This bodes well at the start of this second week of racing in a chasing position. “After rounding Cape Finisterre, we spent time tinkering to solve electronic problems. We couldn't keep up with our competitors, and that's when the gap started to deepen. The major positive point of the weekend is that we managed to solve the problem with the means we had on board. It's a rather pleasant feeling, even though we could have done without it. But it’s part of the game of offshore racing which remains a mechanical sport,” adds Lalou Roucayrol’s companion, who can count on the strength of their partnership. “We’re going flat out, the atmosphere on board is excellent, and, with the way we operate, it’s all going very smoothly.”
Another plus for the weekend, the good sensations of gliding and fine steering to gain a few extra knots at every moment, which can make all the difference. “We’re very much at the helm, as soon as the wind gets above 12-14 knots. It's especially great to steer downwind, and it would be a real shame to let the autopilot get the credit for it!” agrees Lalou, who still takes as much pleasure from sailing a multihull in this Transat race even though it is marked by unusual conditions. “No storms, no gusts of wind, a never-ending Bay of Biscay, and unstable trade winds... It's true that I had never sailed across the Atlantic before in the middle of summer!” jests the skipper who has already chalked up ten participations in this great classic autumn race.
And soon, the Doldrums…
But rather than looking in their rearview mirrors, the two co-skippers are indeed focused on what lies ahead, looking for opportunities to get back into the game. Soon, they will have to negotiate the Doldrums, this transition zone famed for its high unpredictability and its ability to roll the dice again and again.
“The challenge lies in positioning yourself well and finding a way through that appears the least active. It’s a tricky place, with the risk that the leading boats will sneak ahead. But they could also remain stuck, giving us a great opportunity for a come-back,” says Quentin, who is about to approach this awkward passage, a real gatekeeper to the southern hemisphere into which he will soon venture for the first time... “In any case, we’re not letting go of anything, we’re pushing the boat to more than 100% of its potential”. And that's all that matters...