Vendée Globe: First Big Test for the Foilers

Published on November 17th, 2016

(November 17, 2016; Day 12) – The extraordinary step up in performance of the new generation of foiling IMOCA monohulls at the front of the Vendée Globe is evident today as Alex Thomson added more miles to his lead in reaching conditions in which his Hugo Boss clearly excels.

Covering 484.1 nm in the past 24 hours, even the British skipper, who has led the solo round the world race since last Saturday night, admitted today he is deeply impressed at the speed of his VPLP-Verdier design in the 16 to 19kts trade winds in which he has been fast reaching in today, some 300 miles east of Salvador de Bahia.

“I am just looking at the statistics. It is pretty amazing to be on a boat which in 16-17kts of breeze I can average 22kts. It is good for me. The breeze has finally come left a bit to allow Hugo Boss to lift up her skirts a little bit and go a bit faster. I am enjoying it.

“I have a bit more breeze for a few hours and then it will lighten up and drop a little bit before tomorrow when we will start a real fast, fast dash for three or four days towards the Cape of Good Hope.”

As the leaders seek to meet the leading edge of a fast moving low pressure, connecting off Cabo Frio, north of Rio, where a fast train ride awaits them south east towards the Cape of Good Hope, will Thomson be able to pull off The Brazilian Job? This fast moving low will be the first, big sustained South Atlantic test for the new foiling IMOCAs and the stamina and drive of their skippers.

“I guess we are going to find out how strong these boats are now,” the Hugo Boss solo skipper quipped. “This is going to be the first big test for the boats. I am imagining a wind angle of about 120 to 125 degrees true, sailing in 23-26kts of wind. Depending on the wave conditions, that is what will decide how fast the boats go. To be honest, if it was flat water in those wind conditions, my boat could average over 30kts. With waves, I don’t expect to be going much faster than I am now, to be honest 22-24kts maybe.

“Today I will prepare the boat a little, a re-tidy up, a re-stack, and I will try and get as much sleep as I can in the next 24 hours. I have a little composite job to do, just to make sure everything really is ready, make sure my sail plan is correct for when it comes, make sure my contingencies are ready, make sure I am fresh to be able to hit the turbo button when it arrives.”

Although the passage to the Cape of Good Hope is likely to be at record pace, Thomson also pointed out today that the loads on his boat – and the others around him – are as much right now with full sail area and max load. Indeed he already indicated that proportionately smaller sail area will be required in stronger wind strengths.

“It is as demanding now (as it would be in more wind). I have been sailing in 16kts I was averaging 22kts. Now I am in 17-19 and averaging 24kts, we do not need a lot of wind. The more wind, the more waves, the slower you go.”

Armel Le Cleach, who has slipped from second to third, recognizes Thomson’s speed: “Alex is fast! He’s on the attack. But there’s still a long way to go. I’m sailing my own route. I’m not really watching his average speed. I’m focusing on my boat’s potential. A lot is going to happen. He had a nice crossing through the Doldrums. I’m going to have to keep up the pace not to get left behind.”

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Ranking (Top 5 of 29 as of 22:00 UTC)
1. Hugo Boss, Alex Thomson (GBR), 20753 nm to finish
2. Edmond de Rothschild, Sébastien Josse (FRA), 89.04 nm to leader
3. Banque Populaire VIII, Armel Le Cléac’h (FRA), 92.44 nm
4. PRB, Vincent Riou (FRA), 123.67 nm
5. SMA, Paul Meilhat (FRA), 195.92 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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