Vendée Globe: Playing the Wind Game
Published on December 11th, 2016
(December 11, 2016; Day 36) – The fact that the time and distance that separates Alex Thomson from Vendée Globe race leader Armel Le Cléac’h has more than halved in 24 hours is of little real consequence to the British skipper as he sets up for the strong winds brought along by a second successive low pressure system and then a messy area of high pressure thereafter.
The track of the depression has altered enough to force the French skipper, who has led the Vendée Globe now for over one week, to gybe and move back to the north-east. As he slants back towards the course of his British rival, Le Cléac’h’s margin has reduced again, from a comfortable 195 miles last night to less than 80 miles today.
In the past 24 hours, Thomson has gone 454.4 nm compared to 315.8 nm by Le Cléac’h, but Thomson (Hugo Boss) is unmoved by the gains. It is the outcome after this new low, which is of more interest. Speaking as he emerged from a brutal two days in the Tasman Sea and the Pacific, this afternoon, still in a ‘mere’ 30kts of breeze, he outlined:
“We just have to look and see what the situation is like after this second low. Armel is a little further east than me, so he should cross through it quicker, but then he will be held up in the middle in the light airs like me and then it depends on the wind angle when we all come out. I think where we are at the moment is irrelevant. We have to look further ahead.”
Some 1,200 miles behind perennial leader Le Cléac’h, both third placed Paul Meilhat (SMA) and Jéremie Beyou passed the theoretical midway point of the course today. Jean-Pierre Dick (St Michel-Virbac) and Jean Le Cam (Finistère Mer Vent) have crossed Cape Leeuwin. Passing in eighth in 34d 07h 08m Le Cam is exactly three hours faster than the race record pace set by François Gabart in 2012.
At 57 years old on the optimised Farr design which won the Vendée Globe as Foncia in 2008 and triumphed in the last Barcelona World Race when he raced with Bernard Stamm the redoubtable, incorrigible Le Cam is four days and 9 hours quicker than his time on Synerciel in 2012. Dick is two days and one hour faster than in 2012.
More from Thomson: “I still have 30 knots of wind. It’s coming more from the south now, so I’m heading more towards the low pressure, aiming to go through the top of it, out the other side and into some warmer air hopefully. I have no problems right now. The boat is good except for a few little leaks. Much as I am not looking forward to going on the non-foiling side (port gybe) it will be nice to be on port and getting some warm air.”
Ranking (Top 5 of 29 as of 22:00 FR)
1. Banque Populaire VIII, Armel Le Cléac’h (FRA), 10889 nm to finish
2. Hugo Boss, Alex Thomson (GBR), 72.92 nm to leader
3. SMA, Paul Meilhat (FRA), 1364.86 nm
4. Maître CoQ, Jérémie Beyou (FRA), 1483.66 nm
5. Quéguiner – Leucémie Espoir, Yann Eliès (FRA), 1907.79 nm
Race details – Tracker – Ranking – Facebook – VendeeGlobe TV
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.
November 12, Day 7 – Tanguy de Lamotte, Initiatives Coeur, masthead crane failure
November 19, Day 14 – Bertrand de Broc, MACSF, UFO collision
November 22, Day 17 – Vincent Riou, PRB, UFO collision
November 24, Day 19 – Morgan Lagravière, Safran, UFO collision
December 4, Day 29 – Kojiro Shiraishi, Spirit of Yukoh, dismasted
December 6, Day 31 – Kito de Pavant, Bastide Otio, UFO collision
December 7, Day 32 – Sébastien Josse, Edmond de Rothschild, foil damage
Source: Vendee Globe