Vendée Globe: Bold Boss Takes Lead

Published on November 12th, 2016

(November 12, 2016; Day 7, 22:21) – Alex Thomson has taken the lead at the head of the Vendée Globe fleet making the bold decision to pass through the Cape Verde Islands.

At 1700hrs UTC the British skipper of Hugo Boss made two successive gybes close to the south side of the island of Santo Antao and emerged with the race lead. At the same time Armel Le Cleac’h, who took the lead from Thomson last Tuesday evening, had to gybe to the west after getting to within 10 miles of the high land on its west coast.

Le Cleac’h then gybed back alongside rival Vincent Riou (PRB) – just two miles apart – and the French duo who train together at the Pole Finistere Course au Large centre are now duelling side y side behind Thomson. On the 2100hrs UTC position report this Saturday evening, nearly one week into the course, Thomson was polled faster over the four hours until the report but was slightly slower on the 30 minute speed gun.

Meantime Tanguy de Lamotte who reported a problem at the masthead of Initiatives Coeur has backed off to seven knots whilst he seeks a solution.

Report at 18:15:
Thomson up to second place in the Vendée Globe, the speed advantage of his Hugo Boss telling in the NE’ly trade winds. But the coming hours will be fascinating, as the leaders of the 29-boat fleet play out their respective strategies for the passage of the Cape Verde Islands, and may determine the order and time differentials for the 450 miles that remain before the hurdle which the Doldrums – the ITCZ – represent.

Sailing aerial images of the IMOCA boat Hugo Boss, skipper Alex Thomson (GBR), during training solo for the Vendee Globe 2016, off England, on September 16, 2016 – Photo Cleo Barnham / Hugo Boss / Vendée GlobeImages aériennes de Hugo Boss, skipper Alex

Thomson’s electrifying speeds have returned him to second, 24 miles behind Armel Le Cléac’h who has lead for four days, since overhauling Hugo Boss on the 1700hrs ranking last Tuesday. The British skipper had made 479 nautical miles in 24 hours today, not far shy of the solo monohull record set in the last Vendée Globe by winner François Gabart at 534 nautical miles. The record for Les Sables to the Equator, Jean Le Cam’s 10 days 11 hours 28 mins set in 2004-5, may well be under threat.

Sébastien Josse (Edmond de Rothschild) in fifth and third placed Vincent Riou (PRB), now 12 miles behind Thomson, have taken a course slightly more to the west, trying to avoid the worst of the wind shadows created by the high volcanic mountains of the island archipelago. The island furthest to the north-west, Santo Antao, has two mountains nearly 2,000 metres high and this high ground disturbs the flow of the NE’ly trades for nearly 100 miles downwind. The course taken by Le Cléac’h appeared to be taking him within 10 miles of the island. But this first island is only 12 miles long so it looks to be a calculated risk. Alex Thomson confirmed this morning that he will pass through the islands, taking advantage of any acceleration of the breeze caused by the high ground, but will also have to recognise the zones of unsettled air. Rookie, Morgan Lagraviere (Safran) looked to be lining up to follow in the wake of Thomson’s Hugo Boss, but gybed hard west at 1330hrs this afternoon, losing miles to Riou and to his rivals to the west.

“There is quite a big wind shadow behind these islands so there is some jiggery pokery to be done,” said Thomson this morning.

“I am on the edge of the sail plan that I have so the boat requires constant attention to make sure I don’t broach or gybe or go down a wave too hard. You have to always look after the boat to make sure nothing happens.”

The magnificent seven, Le Cléac’h, Thomson, Riou, Lagraviere, Josse, Jéremie Beyou (Maitre CoQ), and rookie Paul Meilhat (SMA) are moving further clear of Yann Elies (Quéguiner-Leucemie Espoir) in eighth but Elies had found an extra gear on the former Safran and was making 21kts this afternoon.

The Doldrums, which the leaders are expected to reach tomorrow night, do not look too active, nor too wide. A narrow band around 30W exists, which is reckoned to be only about 60 miles wide and may prove the optimum zone to transition through to the southern hemisphere.

But the pace and intensity of the foiling boats especially, is a tough environment for the skippers. Jéremie Beyou – no stranger to hardship – commented today:

“Like a Solitaire du Figaro for the past week which is great. It’ll be intense until we pass Cape Verde then cooler. It’s been quick since the start and we’re bunched up. You really have to be on top of the trimming. 20-30 knots this morning – really powered up at times – between 19 and 30 knots, so trimming is pretty hard. It’s an unbearable racket – you can’t live with it. If you don’t put your headphones on, 20 minutes later you can’t stand any more. I slammed off a wave and lost one set the other day. It vibrates through the whole boat. Goes right through your body.”

The race between a posse of very experienced international skippers, the hard-core Super 60s, remains close and exciting, albeit a few miles behind the leaders. Nandor Fa (Spirit of Hungary) and Rich Wilson (Great American IV) are lined up on the same latitude, albeit 75 miles apart. Both have already completed one Vendee Globe apiece. But in that same match is Koji Shiraishi (Spirit of Kukoh) and Stephane Le Diraison (Compagnie de Lit-Boulogne Bilancourt) on the Groupe Finot-designed former Hugo Boss.

Le Diraison and Wilson had a pleasant email exchange two nights ago when they passed close to one another, sailing with each other’s nav lights clearly visible for a period.

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Ranking (Top 5 of 29 as of 22:00 UTC)
1. Hugo Boss, Alex Thomson (GBR), 22302 nm to finish
2. PRB, Vincent Riou (FRA), 17.55 nm to leader
3. Banque Populaire VIII, Armel Le Cléac’h (FRA), 17.68 nm
4. Edmond de Rothschild, Sébastien Josse (FRA), 37.71 nm
5. Maître CoQ, Jérémie Beyou (FRA), 46.34 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.

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Source: Vendee Globe

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