Vendée Globe: Complex Descent Favors Experience
Published on November 10th, 2016
(November 10, 2016; Day 5) – It might be early days in the Vendée Globe, but 2004-5 race winner Vincent Riou already sees the writing on the wall.
While Riou has craftily moved PRB up to second position in the shifty north winds of 10-12 knots, his IMOCA is configured with classic, straight daggerboards – not the foil boards – and he expects to soon be at a disadvantage.
“In these conditions we can make the difference,” observed Riou. “But in the coming days, it’s going to be for the foilers.”
Riou sees the ‘foilers’ – such as Banque Populaire VIII (Armel Le Cléac’h), Safran (Morgan Lagraviere) and Edmond de Rothschild (Sébastien Josse) – will be quicker as the fleet moves into the stronger, trade wind drag racing conditions which are set to prevail almost to the Equator some 2000 miles down the track.
After passing the island archipelago of Madeira this morning, the leading group are under gennakers, accelerating steadily towards the latitude of the Canary Islands which are 145 miles south of leader Banque Populaire this afternoon.
While Riou has proved that sailing smart can overcome his boat’s deficiency, Alex Thomson is showing that no amount of speed from his foiler Hugo Boss can overcome bad tactics.
Positioned in seventh, Thomson has been out faze since gybing toward shore after Cape Finisterre on day two. Separating from the fleet, he lost distance being on the outside of the clocking northerly, and has since been too slow to react to the oscillations. Where Riou shows a smooth southerly descent, Thomson’s track is a zig-zag.
The Catalan skipper Didac Costa, who suffered water damage shortly after the start of the Vendée Globe on Sunday, was forced to return to Les Sables d’Olonne. Having now repaired the damage to the electrical system on his One Planet One Ocean, he set sail again today at 1140hrs UTC crossing the line between the Nouch S buoy and a GPS point. He is 1134 miles from the leader and 770 miles from his nearest rival, Sébastien Destremau.
Since the engine and batteries were flooded after a ballast tank pipe leaked water, the Catalan and his team have been hard at work in Port-Olona. The generator was replaced with a new alternator, “a fast track solution, which means more frequent charging and more fuel than initially planned”. Several other elements, including a desalinator, have been replaced on the boat.
Everyone has been pulling together to lend a helping hand over the past few days. “Nothing would have been possible without the help and support of the other teams and the fire officers in Les Sables d’Olonne, who gave us a lot of their time and energy. I am now really motivated to get back in the race. I need to complete this voyage to thank all these people who helped me,” said the skipper before casting off.
The boat has been ready since yesterday, but Didac Costa had to wait for the weather to improve before setting off. The front which swept across the Bay of Biscay generated 30-35 knot NW’ly winds and 3-4 m high waves. The One Planet One Ocean team took a look at the sea state this morning and could see it had eased since yesterday, but they had to wait until high tide this lunchtime to head out of the famous harbour entrance in Les Sables-d’Olonne.
In the coming days, the skipper is expected to cross the Bay of Biscay in a NW’ly for around twenty hours before having to deal with headwinds until he reaches Cape Finisterre. “We could have waited for finer weather, but Didac is in a hurry to get going and didn’t want to set sail in the dark,” explained Jordi Griso, the team manager.
“I had time to sleep yesterday and took a look at the race yestrday evening to see what was going on.” Now it’s my turn, but I’ll remain cautious, although trying to be quick, because my main goal is to complete the round the world voyage.” Didac has stowed 105 days of food on his boat, but the team says they have added a few surprises, in particular for his birthday on 22nd December, when Didac will be 36.
Ranking (Top 5 of 29 as of 22:00 UTC)
1. Banque Populaire VIII, Armel Le Cléac’h (FRA), 23134 nm to finish
2. PRB, Vincent Riou (FRA), 2.38 nm to leader
3. Safran, Morgan Lagravière (FRA), 22.97 nm
4. Maître CoQ, Jérémie Beyou (FRA), 26.55 nm
5. SMA, Paul Meilhat (FRA), 28.38 nm
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.
Source: Vendee Globe