Vendée Globe: Nearly Record Setting Pace

Published on November 19th, 2016

(November 19, 2016; Day 14) – Vendée Globe leader Alex Thomson was today on the brink of smashing the solo 24-hour distance record – a feat that would give the flying Brit even more of a boost in his bid to win the famed solo round the world race.

Hugo Boss skipper Thompson covered an incredible 531.5 nautical miles in the 24 hours leading up to 1100 UTC position update, notching up an impressive average speed of 22.1 knots in the process. The huge distance fell just short of the existing record set by reigning Vendee Globe champion François Gabart in December 2012 when he sailed 534.48nm in 24 hours through the Southern Ocean.

But Thomson’s shot at the coveted record is far from over – the perfect conditions caused by a low pressure system that is currently firing the frontrunners south at scorching speeds are set to continue for several days more. For Thomson, spearheading the race from his position slightly south of closest rivals Armel Le Cléac’h and Sébastien Josse, things are only going to get quicker.

Despite the incredible 24-hour distances Hugo Boss has been notching up, Ross Daniel, technical director of Alex Thomson Racing, insisted Thomson’s main focuses were protecting his lead and keeping his foiling IMOCA at full throttle.

“When I spoke to [Alex] this morning and told him he was close to the record he hadn’t actually realised,” Daniel said. “He’s not out there to set records, he’s just sailing the boat as normal. If he does break a record it’s a bonus but it’s not what he’s trying to do. Obviously when you’re sailing at those sorts of speeds it becomes quite stressful. It’s not that easy to relax and he didn’t get much sleep overnight, so he was hoping to catch up on some today.”

Rather than feeling any resentment at losing his record, Gabart – who is not competing in this edition of the Vendee Globe – tweeted his support with a message that read: “Bye bye record 24h!” before telling Thomson to: “Take care and have fun”.

Second-placed Le Cléac’h lost another 20 miles to Thomson today as the gap between the pair expanded to 125nm, but the Banque Populaire VIII skipper was also having to constantly look over his shoulder for the threat of Josse in third place. Josse reeled in Le Cléac’h, runner up in the last edition of the Vendee Globe, to narrow the gap between the pair to just five nm at 1400 UTC.

Vendee Globe first timers Morgan Lagravière and Paul Meilhat were enjoying a scrap of their own in fifth and sixth, with Meilhat’s SMA doing an impressive job hanging on to the coat tails of Lagraviere’s foiling Safran. It might be all smiles in the front pack but life in the peloton is about to get worse. A second centre to the notorious St Helena High is developing right in the path of the group led by Yann Eliès, who now lies some 624 nm adrift of Thomson in eighth. The door that welcomed the race leaders through is about to slam shut, trapping the chasing pack in light winds and rendering them powerless to stop the gap growing further.

Veteran skipper Bertrand de Broc this afternoon took shelter in the lee of Fernando de Noronha, a South Atlantic island chain off the coast of Brazil, to inspect damage caused when he hit an object off the coast of Portugal. De Broc dived underneath MACSF and was able to see some damage but couldn’t establish what it was before he was forced to board his drifting boat. It is thought he will anchor to allow him to dive for longer.

Meanwhile Dutch competitor Pieter Hereema was relishing the ‘champagne sailing’ on offer in the south easterly trade winds. Despite being in 24th place, the 65-year-old was high in spirits as he forged a path south on No Way Back.

“It’s fine, beautiful weather – beautiful sailing conditions,” he said. “It’s a shame it’s all upwind but that’s what it is in this part when you want to go south. I’m enjoying it very much and I hope in a few days to be able to crack the sheets and have a little bit of an easier angle to sail. This part here is not what the Vendee Globe is famous for – this is champagne sailing. The race is not only about big waves, freezing cold and 45 knots of wind. It’s a long race and there are many more weeks to come that will be more difficult and more uncomfortable.”

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Ranking (Top 5 of 29 as of 15:00 UTC)
1. Hugo Boss, Alex Thomson (GBR), 19861 nm to finish
2. Banque Populaire VIII, Armel Le Cléac’h (FRA), 125.57 nm to leader
3. Edmond de Rothschild, Sébastien Josse (FRA), 130.86 nm
4. PRB, Vincent Riou (FRA), 190.88 nm
5. Safran, Morgan Lagravière (FRA), 228.68 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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