Vendée Globe: All Glamour at the Front
Published on November 22nd, 2016
(November 22, 2016; Day 17) – The phrase ‘the rich get richer’ has rarely been more fitting than when describing the current state of the Vendée Globe fleet in the third week of the solo round the world race.
The gap between the seven frontrunners and the 21 skippers trying desperately to keep up with them has turned from a gully into a chasm. Jean Le Cam on Finistère Mer Vent in eighth place is now 1543 nm off the lead and 579 nm behind seventh position.
Life could not be much better for those at the head of the fleet, with winds of more than 30 knots transforming their 60ft IMOCA yachts into waterborne rockets blasting south east at top speed. The frontrunners, led by Alex Thomson’s Hugo Boss who had the biggest 24 hour tally of 492.4 nm, are due to arrive at the Cape of Good Hope, the southern tip of South Africa and the gateway to the Southern Ocean, on Friday, four days ahead of schedule.
The only one in that leading group not smiling is 2004-5 Vendee Globe winner Vincent Riou, who retired from racing today with damage to the keel of PRB. Frenchman Riou had been in fifth, the highest placed non-foiling boat, when he discovered fatal damage to the part of the boat that connects the keel to the hull. More details here.
But while the rich get richer, it stands that the poor get poorer. And those in the middle of the Vendee Globe fleet are among the hardest up, snared by the St Helena High with little sign of her relinquishing her grip.
“It’s something of an understatement to say it’s a bit tough,” explained French sailor Kito de Pavant, languishing in 12th place over 2,000 nautical miles off the pacesetters. “I’ve been stuck in this wind hole since yesterday evening, and I can’t do anything about it.”
At the 2200 UTC rankings the Bastide Otio skipper was making just 4 knots, a stark comparison to the 20+ knots the top three were racking up. De Pavant is not alone in his troubles as more than half the fleet was doing less than 10 knots.
“Of course it’s not the Champs-Elysees with lots of joy on board,” StMichel Virbac skipper Jean-Pierre Dick confessed. “I’m quite nervous that I’m losing more distance to the leaders but I can’t do anything now. The next couple of days I’m going to go to the south so I can get more wind. At this speed I will need a lot more time to go round the world. I’m going to go very south and try to catch the new depression in the right position.”
Riou was tonight making for Cape Town, South Africa, some 1,000nm to the east, to carry out repairs to PRB before sailing back to France. In a cruel twist of fate the damage occurred on the 14th day of racing, the exact same point he was forced to retire from the 2012-13 Vendee Globe.
Riou is officially the second skipper to retire from the Vendee Globe following Bertrand de Broc who also suffered keel damage earlier in the race. Tanguy de Lamotte is sailing back to Les Sables with damage to his mast but has not yet retired from racing.
Ranking (Top 5 of 29 as of 22:00 UTC)
1. Hugo Boss, Alex Thomson (GBR), 18291 nm to finish
2. Edmond de Rothschild, Sébastien Josse (FRA), 96.35 nm to leader
3. Banque Populaire VIII, Armel Le Cléac’h (FRA), 100.4 nm
4. Safran, Morgan Lagravière (FRA), 286.63 nm
5. SMA, Paul Meilhat (FRA), 462.06 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