Sailing in the shadows - looking for the lifts
Overnight the RORC Caribbean 600 fleet has spread out across the course, most boats now lying between Saba and Tintimare north of St Martin. Rambler has set a blistering pace and is fast approaching Basseterre in Guadeloupe - the crew must be looking towards setting a new monohull course record. The trade winds remained very constant throughout the night which saw the fleet working their way past the islands of Nevis, St Kitts, Eustatia and Saba. Aegir reported fluky air on this leg and several yachts including Ocean Seven and Selene gybed away from the land in search of more consistent air. The North part of St Kitts is broad and high - wind shadow can affect the whole area on the rhumbline between Nevis and Saba. Clearly some yachts gained or lost out here depending on the wind phase. Being closer or further out can profit either way but being further offshore usually pays.
The beat up to St Bart's from Saba, never a comfortable one, is where part of the fleet are now engaged and it is interesting to see the differing options boats are taking. British Soldier has chosen to close the St Martin coast in one large tack, presumably looking for shallow water with less current and calmer seas. Heavier yachts beating hard close to the rhumbline look to be doing better with Lila, EHO1 and Hydrocarbon at the head of a series of Class 40's including Fitz and Ocean Warrior. Behind them the two 40.7s including Coyote will be having a bumpy and wet bash upwind in the increased swell - there is little option for them other than to tough it out staying close to the rhumbline as they slowly make their way up towards St Bart's. Boats already around St Bart's the first time are enjoying a short period of flatter water with down wind sailing - Concise has set an excellent benchmark leading the Class 40's ahead of Venomous (Whitbread 60) and just behind Selene (Swan 80).Several boats are in the Anguilla Channel, hugging the coast between Marigot and Anse Marcel, looking for the lifts off the St Martin headlands as they beat up to Tintimare. OysterCatcher is having a close tussle with Lee Overlay and Ambersail all just a few miles ahead of well-placed Tonnerre. Windrose has chosen to lie further off and is working the Anguillan coast - she is likely to want to tack less than the smaller more manoeuvrable yachts. Jazz has broken away from her competition, having rounded Tintimare well ahead, and is in hot pursuit of the leading boats. The big reaching leg from St Martin to Guadeloupe and Les Saintes is around 160 miles and really the first opportunity in the race for the crews to "down watch" and get some proper rest. Sojana has sailed superbly for a 115ft Superyacht and is now enjoying a blistering reach in pursuit of Leopard 3 who is fast approaching the coast of Montserrat. Sailing down "the wrong side" of Montserrat does not seem to be an option this year and boat speed is what is required. Aegir however is currently sailing slightly lower than Vela Veloce and the multihull Phaedo is snapping at her heels while rounding St Bart's for the second time on their way down to Guadeloupe. This race is by not over by a long way - there are tactical areas to negotiate around Guadeloupe and Desiderade after Les Saintes - but Rambler looks comfortable in the "battle of the giants" at this stage. Those behind have no immediate tactical options other than to look to their boat speed.