Vendée Globe: At the Center of the Low

Published on December 12th, 2016

(December 12, 2016; Day 37) – Alex Thomson found himself as the slowest in the entire Vendée Globe fleet between 5 and 9 this morning, totally becalmed in the centre of the low that he was trying to round via the north at 50°00 S, while leader Armel Le Cléac’h was battling it out 120 miles further south at 52°03. They were both slow this morning, but Banque Populaire VIII found the wind earlier than Hugo Boss.

During that 4-hour period, Armel Le Cléac’h managed to keep up an average speed of 10.3 knots, while Alex Thomson was down to 4.4 knots with speeds occasionally down to less than 2 knots and a VMG that was practically nil between 0700 and 0730 hrs for example. All in all a slow day with Le Cléac’h covering just 298.3 nm in the past 24 hours.

The result is that the British sailor has lost a lot of miles to the Breton, whose lead has now grown again to over 140 miles, which is more or less the double it was yesterday evening. However, Alex Thomson was back up to speed again at 1100 hrs to around 12 knots, while Armel Le Cléac’h has been slowed. We are going to have to watch the movement of the low, which could upset things for either of them.

In the other duels in the Vendée Globe, we can see that those being chased are warding off the attack of the chasing boats. Yann Eliès (Quéguiner-Leucémie Espoir) has been on level pegging in the battle over the past 24 hours with Jean-Pierre Dick (StMichel-Virbac), but for both of them and Jean Le Cam, the main question for the moment is how to deal with the big storm that is approaching in the next 48 hours.

Said Jean-Pierre Dick, “The safety of the boat and the sailor comes before the race. This is a very powerful low and will last for three days from tomorrow with winds above 45 knots reaching 60 or even 70 at times. The seas will be huge with waves in excess of ten metres. There’s no way we are going into that as the situation is dangerous.

“There are two major options. Either we slow down before the low staying close to the exclusion zone, but the risk is that the seas will be very heavy, if the direction of the low changes. Or you go through the Bass Strait, which means more sailing, but less wind and calmer seas.” It is this second option between Tasmania and Australia that Jean-Pierre has chosen. “I shall be going through the Bass Strait. There are too many uncertainties via the south. In the next few hours, we’re going to have to forget the rankings and try to be reasonable. I’m going for maximum safety.”

Yann Eliès and Jean Le Cam, the other two affected by this storm from tomorrow, have not yet made up their minds, but they must be wondering about the same matter too.

In the rest of the fleet, Paul Meilhat (SMA) is hanging on to his place on the podium. He even sailed twelve miles more than his challenger Jérémie Beyou (Maître CoQ), who is having to work hard to try to win back third place. If they keep up this fast pace, they should remain ahead of the forecast low.

Said Paul Meilhat, “A dull and rainy day after some sunshine yesterday. The seas are still heavy but the wind should ease this evening. With Maître CoQ we should get ahead of the severe gales. Getting past New Zealand looks complicated, as a high will be blocking our route. We will probably have to go some way north to get around the small low-pressure areas developing around it. In a few days we may get some calms to allow us to check everything on board and do some little repair jobs.”

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Click image for active map showing weather systems.

Ranking (Top 5 of 29 as of 22:00 FR)
1. Banque Populaire VIII, Armel Le Cléac’h (FRA), 10591 nm to finish
2. Hugo Boss, Alex Thomson (GBR), 143.79 nm to leader
3. SMA, Paul Meilhat (FRA), 1309.42 nm
4. Maître CoQ, Jérémie Beyou (FRA), 1412.63 nm
5. Quéguiner – Leucémie Espoir, Yann Eliès (FRA), 2050.15 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.

Retirements:
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

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Source: Vendee Globe

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