Vendée Globe: Rich Get Richer, Big Time
Published on November 21st, 2016
(November 21, 2016; Day 16) – The door leading to a fast passage in the South Atlantic slammed firmly shut on the Vendée Globe fleet today, punishing all those behind the top seven boats.
While the frontrunners continued to rack up the miles in perfect conditions, blasting towards the Cape of Good Hope at speeds of more than 20 knots, life was about to become miserable for those hoping they could stay in touch.
As forecast, the St Helena High has engulfed the chasing pack in light, changeable winds, condemning those caught in it to days of frustration and slow progress in the mid South Atlantic.
The breakaway group, still with British skipper Alex Thomson at its head, continues to forge ahead and is due to reach the Cape of Good Hope, the next waypoint on the solo round the world race and the gateway to the Southern Ocean, by Friday.
But the 21 sailors behind the lucky seven must now resign themselves to spending more than three days extra getting to the milestone some 2,000 nm away. By the time they reach the southern tip of South Africa they will be more than 2,000 nm behind the leaders.
Leading the charge for the ninth consecutive day, Thomson is still registering speeds of more than 20 knots from his yacht Hugo Boss despite losing one of its two foils in an apparent collision two days ago. Even more impressive is that, after initially losing around 50 nm to closest rivals Armel Le Cléac’h and Sebastien Josse, Thomson’s distance of 496 nm over the past 24 hours has now increased his lead.
“Alex is resisting well, keeping up high speeds at these angles,” said Josse, skipper of Edmond de Rothschild. “He has plenty of wind, but we need to take care of the foils like we take care of the boat. If we’re doing twenty knots we’re happy, so why push it? We have seen that the boat can reach peak speeds of 25 knots, but now is not the time for that.”
From his position in ninth, French skipper Jean Le Cam echoed Josse’s thoughts on Thomson’s prospects. He said: “I saw that Hugo Boss had broken a foil. It’s obvious that the time will come when he has to pay the price for that. So there are six of them contending for victory a fortnight after the start. Statistically, it has to be one of them.”
Le Cam has problems of his own. Now more than 1,000nm off the pace he is among the majority of the fleet facing days of torment trying to pick their way south through a series of high pressure systems. Their only hope lies in a depression forming in the south west that could bring them more stable winds in a few days’ time. “The gap between the leader and the tail end is crazy,” Le Cam added. “We’re going to be 2,000 miles behind by the time we reach the south. For those behind us, it’s going to be horrible.”
Unfortunately for American sailor Rich Wilson, the oldest skipper in the race at 66 years old, he is one of those behind Le Cam. “There’s really no telling what’s going to be happen. It’s going to be a toss of the dice whether one can get to the south east.”
Ranking (Top 5 of 29 as of 22:00 UTC)
1. Hugo Boss, Alex Thomson (GBR), 18770 nm to finish
2. Edmond de Rothschild, Sébastien Josse (FRA), 88.91 nm to leader
3. Banque Populaire VIII, Armel Le Cléac’h (FRA), 97.89 nm to leader
4. Safran, Morgan Lagravière (FRA), 170.16 nm
5. PRB, Vincent Riou (FRA), 189.57 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