1730hrs, 21 June 2018
The last five yachts still on the track in the multinational Groupama Race continue to face the toughest battles in the 654 nautical mile race around New Caledonia which began on Sunday June 17 off the capital Noumea.
Injecting some humour into the closing hours as fatigue sets in for both competitors still racing and organisers, race director Denis Thompson says those five crews still at sea are getting the most value for their entry fee.
All of the Australian, New Zealand and French multihull and monohull crews have dealt with huge wind shifts, pressure from 30 knots to nothing, and dark nights. In addition to these challenges the second half of the fleet faced extended periods of drifting around in the South Pacific on day two, a lull that resulted in the withdrawal of four of the original 23 starters.
Now, the majority of the fleet are tucked up at Port Moselle harbour enjoying the race village festivities and the tail-enders are short tacking into the breeze, 10-12 knots out of the south, along the reef on the island’s western side.
In a Thursday June 21 afternoon report from the Australian skipper of the French Young 11 Dove-Defi des filles, Lisa Blair, said “this has been a pretty difficult race, it has lived up to its reputation. I knew we would have light conditions, now we’ve finally hit the southerly tradewinds but they are forecast to go to the sou’east, so it’s going to be on the nose.
In the spirit of Ausssie competition she added “we have decided to have a race within a race with Wings and the last boat on handicap from the northern point to the finish has to buy the other crew a bottle of red wine.”
Blair became the first woman to sail around Antarctica solo in 2017 and when asked to compare the two stretches of ocean she said, “we’ve had 30 knots of wind in the Groupama but nothing compared to Antarctica, and the sea has been calm. It’s still tiring with so many changes in the conditions. It’s hot by comparison, I’m wearing a quarter of the layers.
“It’s been beautiful sailing around New Caledonia. We spent the first day-and-a-half sailing close to land inside the reef and it was breathtakingly beautiful. It’s amazing place, one day I’ll have to come back here with my family and do some cruising.”
French boat L’humain et la Nature – Ultra Violet finished Thursday at 5.05pm local time leaving five heading south to the finish line.
The last three yachts on the tracker are pushing to meet the time limit of 6pm Saturday June 23 when all crews will be welcomed at the official race prizegiving to take place at the hotel Chateau Royal for the trophy winners.
- Dove-Defi des filles videos (French speaking) are at https://www.youtube.com/user/groupamaracenc/videos
- Leaderboard http://yb.tl/Leaderboard/ncgr2018
By Lisa Ratcliff/OCC