Vendée Globe: And Now There is Six

Published on December 30th, 2016

(December 30, 2016; Day 55, 18:05 FR) – No solo or short-handed sailor has completed as many round the world racing miles as Jean-Pierre Dick in the last decade. The French skipper, who took up solo racing in 2002 after winning the fully crewed Tour de France a la Voile, rounded Cape Horn for his fifth time racing this morning at 0634hrs UTC.

In the pre-dawn half light, with the familiar silhouette of the iconic rock barely visible, and in strong breezes, Dick passed into the Atlantic Ocean in fourth place in his third Vendée Globe.

Since 2005 when a dogged, determined Dick finished sixth in his first Vendée Globe with no virtually no power, the soloist who originates from the Mediterranean also completed the 2012-13 race in fourth place but also won back to back Barcelona World Races in 2008 and 2011.

Dick may be masking any disappointment that he is not vying for a podium place as he was in 2012-13 before he lost his keel some 2450 miles from the finish line, but the 51 year-old well knows that the climb back to Les Sables d’Olonne often proves the toughest part of the race, when boats and skippers are tired.

“There was a lot of wind and you feel that bit of stress when you carry out manoeuvres,” said Dick this morning. “I really enjoyed seeing the legendary Horn. There is always a certain relief, as we have been in the rough stuff for a month and have been cold and wet all the time. I managed to make out the Horn in the half-light.” He added: “My first Horn was back in 2005 and I got hit with 35 knots of wind and my boom was being repaired on the deck. In the 2011 Barcelona World Race with Loïck Peyron we got to within a couple miles. We were like two kids.”

Jean Le Cam rounded Cape Horn in fifth place at 1548hrs UTC, a skipper who is also on his third Vendée Globe rounding of the Cape with Yann Eliès also getting round Cape Horn for the first time at 1656 hrs UTC.

Since emerging into better breeze first thing this morning Armel Le Cléac’h has seen his advance over Alex Thomson once again increase, covering 217 nm in the past 24 hours compared to Thomson’s 128 nm. When Thomson (Hugo Boss) reported in to Race HQ this morning he said he was making just 2.4kts of boat speed, but he is expected to get out of the worst of the light airs this Friday evening.

Of his huge 800 miles comeback since last weekend, Thomson said: “It’s the luck of the draw, isn’t it.” He remains in good humour, even considering he expects the advantage to continue with his French rival, who he says will likely always lead into the stronger, more lifted breeze. When he spoke he was struggling to keep his sails always filled because of the gentle rise and fall of the Atlantic swell, some 550 miles SE of Rio.

“At the moment the sea state is pretty flat, there is some swell, the boat is rocking up and down a bit, so whatever way you do get on is very quickly lost in the little swell as the boat lurches,” said Thomson. “But, a little bit more wind and a flatter sea we will be off like a robber’s dog. I am not really going very fast and I don’t imagine I will go very fast today at all, I have to wait for the high pressure to come past me, I will lose some of the miles I have been gaining. But I should not lose eight hundred and so that is OK.”

Of his rebound back to be within 30 miles, Thomson said: “It was the luck of the draw. It could just as easily be Jérémie catching up to me or I could have been Armel going another eight hundred away from me. It is the luck of the draw. We got close but Armel has always been in front, he was always going to get to the other side of the high pressure before me. And he will extend away. But it means I am going to be closer than I was. It gives me some hope and some chance to be in contention.

“The target is to be in contention at some point up the Atlantic, close enough to have a chance at the title coming into the finish. But that is a long, long way away. I will need to have some luck with the weather. The chances of making a remarkable comeback are quite slim but to be this close is much better than being eight hundred miles away.”

Thomson added: “My communications are not great. I am able to get some weather. I have to try to get the one working satellite dish in the right orientation to see the satellite. I am not getting every single forecast. I am getting one a day. Now I am pointing more north I have good reception. I am trying to make some gains to get better wind information. Less than four knots we are parked. At four and a half, five, six knots you are going, depending on the angle. So at six knots wind speed you can be doing eight knots boat speed.”

Enda O’Coineen confirmed by satellite phone this afternoon that he had struggled to get an anchor hold in Pegasus Bay and had left to rest and reassess his options. The Irish skipper of Kilcullen Voyager Team Ireland said he had been blown around because he cannot drop his main fully because of the damaged mast track on his IMOCA. During the 2000-1 race when Yves Parlier anchored to repair his mast, he too reported problems holding anchor in the heavy weed.

Quotes:

Conrad Colman (Foresight Natural Energy): “After writing previously that my strategy with the big depression had worked out as planned, I received one final reminder that mother nature plays by her own rules. Running in 25-30 knots of wind with nice surfs on the swells, I was keeping watch and was happy with how I had played my hand when…. WHAM! The boat went over onto its side. The gust was over in less than a minute but had spiked at 50 knots and had ripped the jib from luff to leach. Day brought less wind but the sea was still highly agitated from the storm. As soon as I prepared to climb the main halyard, the flailing tentacles of the broken sail wrapped themselves around it and jerked it violently in all directions. Even my body weight on the rope couldn’t calm it. Heading for the top of the sail, 25 meters off the sea, lower parts of the sail captured my new climbing rope and started pulling me from below. I was now stuck, unable to go up or down. Eventually I was able to pull in enough slack to move up again, but each gain in height was now accompanied by a fight with the line. Finally at the top of the sail, I was able to cut the lashing to liberate the sail.”

Romain Attanasio (Famille Mary-Etamine du Lys): “Water came into my boat and triggered my distress beacon. I have hidden it away in my pressure cooker, as it will keep sending or six days. I had a horrible night with water everywhere. There’s a unit outside where you can get the beacon out easily in an emergency and I think the beacon must have damaged its housing. The time I sorted it out, I had a lady from the Australian rescue services asking whether they needed to send a rescue team. This morning I tried to make crepes to change from freeze dried food, but they just wouldn’t cook, although I did manage to eat them. I’m pleased to be here even if the weather isn’t making things easy. Each time there is a hurdle to get over, I get held up and those ahead of me get away from me. The Indian is hard and complicated. I can’t wait for the Pacific.”

Sébastien Destremau (TechnoFirst-faceOcean): “Conditions are fine with twenty knots of wind on the beam. It’s much better than it has been when the boat was slamming a lot. Conditions should remain favourable to New Zealand. I should be able to make gains in the right direction without pushing too hard. Christmas and the New Year are a bit tough. This hasn’t been the best week of my race. You really feel alone at this time of year. Everyone else is celebrating, getting presents, drinking and here we are all alone. I intend to stop in New Zealand to carry out a thorough check-up, unless I get close to Tasmania, in which case I’ll stop there. But conditions are currently good to New Zealand, whereas in a few days from now they won’t be.”

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Ranking (Top 5 of 29 as of 22:00 FR)
1. Banque Populaire VIII, Armel Le Cléac’h (FRA), 4991 nm to finish
2. Hugo Boss, Alex Thomson (GBR), 146.28 nm to leader
3. Maître CoQ, Jérémie Beyou (FRA), 1104.91 nm
4. StMichel-Virbac, Jean-Pierre Dick (FRA), 1829.32 nm
5. Finistère Mer Ven, Jean Le Cam (FRA), 1987.11 nm

Race detailsTrackerRankingFacebookVendeeGlobe TV

Background:
The eighth Vendée Globe, which began November 6 from Les Sables d’Olonn, France, is the only non-stop solo round the world race without assistance. Twenty-nine skippers representing four continents and ten nations set sail on IMOCA 60s in pursuit of the record time set by François Gabart in the 2012-13 race of 78 days, 2 hours and 16 minutes.

For the first time in the history of the event, seven skippers will set sail on IMOCA 60s fitted with foils: six new boats (Banque Populaire VIII, Edmond de Rothschild, Hugo Boss, No Way Back, Safran, and StMichel-Virbac) and one older generation boat (Maitre Coq). The foils allow the boat to reduce displacement for speed gains in certain conditions. It will be a test to see if the gains can topple the traditional daggerboard configuration during the long and demanding race.

Retirements (10):
November 12, Day 7 – Tanguy de Lamotte, Initiatives Coeur, masthead crane failure
November 19, Day 14 – Bertrand de Broc, MACSF, UFO collision
November 22, Day 17 – Vincent Riou, PRB, UFO collision
November 24, Day 19 – Morgan Lagravière, Safran, UFO collision
December 4, Day 29 – Kojiro Shiraishi, Spirit of Yukoh, dismasted
December 6, Day 31 – Kito de Pavant, Bastide Otio, UFO collision
December 7, Day 32 – Sébastien Josse, Edmond de Rothschild, foil damage
December 18, Day 43 – Thomas Ruyant, Le Souffle du Nord, UFO collision
December 24, Day 49 – Stéphane Le Diraison, Compagnie du Lit – Boulogne Billancourt, dismasted
December 24, Day 49 – Paul Meilhat, SMA, keel ram failure

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Source: Vendee Globe

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