The Transat bakerly 2016 sets sail

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Among the first to show in 10-12 knot southwesterly breeze, as the fleet headed out to sea, was the Multi50 Fenêtrea-Cardinal skippered by Frenchman Erwan Le Roux who ripped across the startline flying-a-hull ahead of two Ultimes, the bright green Sodebo skippered by  Thomas Coville and the blue-hulled MACIF, skippered by François Gabart.

After their first night at sea the 25 boats in The race are spread out over 100 miles ofocean, with the leaders now well into the Bay of Biscay.

At the head of the fleet the three-strong Ultime class are powering their way southwards towards the northwest tip of Spain, looking to benefit from downwind conditions that could propel them west towards America.

Fourteen hours into the race, the overall lead was being disputed by Thomas Coville on Sodebo and Francois Gabart on Macif who were just a couple of miles apart and romping along at over 20 knots of boatspeed.

Speaking on the satellite phone from on board Sodebo early this morning, Coville was in good spirits and said he had no doubt that south was the best option in a race more usually associated with the shorter, but more brutal, northern route.

“In fact, in recent days, we see that the southern route is somewhat less exposed than the northern route,” said the Sodebo skipper. “With the north affected by the ice gate (an exclusion zone imposed by the race director to ensure competitors avoid icebergs) which will force people to turn south, this southern route has advantages.”

Looking back on the start on Monday afternoon in Plymouth Sound, Coville said it had been a tricky getaway close to the breakwater and during the passage of a weather front. “We had to make the right sail choice before leaving and there was lots to think about – I did not want to take too much risk; I wanted to do it properly,” he said.

“Francois (Gabart) was a little early on the startline and had to bear away and then we were next to each other just like a classic race – it was magical. He gradually pulled away but it was nothing dramatic,” added Coville. The two giant trimarans raced on in sight of each other into Monday evening until they lost touch passing the island of Ushant off the French coast.

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