NY-Vendee: Enduring the Depression

Published on June 3rd, 2016

(June 3, 2016; Day 6) – This morning in the New York – Vendée (Les Sables d’Olonne) Race presented by Currency House and SpaceCode, there was a brief respite from 36 hours of gale force headbanging for race leader Alex Thomson. At around 0900 the British skipper was able to gybe his yacht Hugo Boss southeast, away from the centre of the giant depression he’s been sailing into for the last two days.

But now that Thomson is heading away from the ‘great circle’ route (ie the shortest distance) to the Les Sables d’Olonne finish line, still some 1300 miles away, his lead has plummeted, down from a high of 102 miles at 2030 UTC last night to 42 miles at 1300. As Thomson forewarned yesterday: “The lead I have at the moment means nothing…”

However now Hugo Boss is heading away from the depression’s centre, the wind will build once again until this evening (UTC) when the centre of the depression is forecast to shift south leaving Thomson in more benign southwesterlies, a beneficial wind shift that will lift him on to a better course towards the finish.

Astern the wily Sébastien Josse on Edmond de Rothschild has pulled into second ahead of Jérémie Beyou’s Maître CoQ. Over this morning the two boats have diverged with Josse sailing a hotter angle, further north, than his three time Solitaire du Figaro winner opponent. Both boats are due to put in gybe imminently.

Josse reported: “It is been a boneshaker for the last 36 hours, but it’s almost time for a gybe and, in 20 hours, it will get better when we leave this depression behind. It’s not particularly nice on the foils.”

The leaders are due to reach Les Sables d’Olonne early next week, but a large question mark hovers over exactly when, thanks to a large windless zone off France’s Atlantic coast at this time. As Josse warns: “We will get becalmed and there’ll be a general regrouping, so there is still a lot left to play for.”

Almost 500 miles to the south-southwest of Edmond de Rothschild and sailing in around 15 knots of wind, PRB is on course for the Azores, still around 450 miles away where skipper Vincent Riou expects to make a pitstop tomorrow afternoon. There he will tackle PRB’s leak and power issues. “I have not managed to fix the leak,” Riou reported. “I can’t quite seal it – it is not dramatic, about a bucket of water every hour, but I need to monitor it, because the leak is around the engine and systems.”

For power, Riou is at present using his hydro-generator and is trying to conserve energy. Personally he is finding it frustrating to be in ‘delivery’ mode rather than racing, but “I’m not unhappy – I am on my boat!”

In seventh place, verging on sixth, Japan’s Kojiro Shiraishi is having the race of his life. He’s following his own route, originally similar to that of Josse and Beyou, until gybing south yesterday.

“Lying seventh is amazing, but it is more because other guys had misfortunes,” Shiraishi admits. The New York- Vendée (Les Sables d’Olonne) is the three time round the world sailor’s first occasion singlehanding his newly acquired boat (formerly Josse’s BT in the 2008 Vendee Globe and Thomson’s Hugo Boss in 2012). “The boat is very fast! I’m not used to having this fast a boat. It’s only been two months since I purchased her and one and a half months since I took ownership. I’m grateful for all my crew members and friends, because without them I wouldn’t have come this far.”

For Shiraishi, it is vital that he finish, hence the reason for his gybe south. “I feel that if I go too fast I will break something. My main goal for this race is to qualify for the Vendée Globe. This is the last and only race to do this. Heading a little more south I should avoid strong wind and high waves.”

The race-within-a-race for the five boats bringing up the rear of the New York- Vendée (Les Sables d’Olonne) has taken an upturn with all of the boats now finally pointing their bows in the direction of Europe and now making double digit speeds. Taking the most extreme southerly route is Jean-Pierre Dick on board StMichel-Virbac who this afternoon is down to the latitude of North Carolina. This group has also found some breeze with StMichel-Virbac making 15 knots, albeit from the unfavourable south (she has no foil on her port side). However the wind is due to veer into the west this evening, and downwind StMichel-Virbac lack of a port foil should be less of an issue.

RANKINGS – 3 JUNE 2016 AT 16.30 BST:

1. Alex Thomson (Hugo Boss) : 1 317.8 nm to the finish
2. Jérémie Beyou (Maître CoQ) : +37.0 nm behind leader
3. Sébastien Josse (Edmond de Rothschild) : +39.9 nm
4. Tanguy de Lamotte (Initiatives Cœur) : +199.8 nm
5. Paul Meilhat (SMA) : +199.9 nm
6. Vincent Riou (PRB) : +373.3 nm
7. Kojiro Shiraishi (Spirit of Yukoh) : +393.8 nm
8. Fabrice Amedeo (Newrest-Matmut) : +527.3 nm
9. Jean-Pierre Dick (StMichel-Virbac) : +1 282.3 nm
10. Yann Eliès (Quéguiner-Leucémie Espoir) : +1 301.3 nm
11. Conrad Colman (100% Natural Energy) : +1 308.5 nm
12. Morgan Lagravière (Safran) : +1 309.4 nm
13. Pieter Heerema (No Way Back) : +1 320.7 nm
14. Armel Le Cléac’h (Banque Populaire VIII), abandoned racing

Race detailsTracker

Background: Fourteen solo skippers started the NY-Vendee Race on May 29, a 3100 mile course from New York (USA) to Les Sables d’Olonne (FRA) in the IMOCA 60 monohull class. For some skippers, this is the last opportunity to qualify for the Super Bowl of their sport — The Vendee Globe.

Source: IMOCA Ocean Masters

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