Vendée Globe: Christmas Prayers in the South Pacific
Published on December 14th, 2016
(December 14, 2016; Day 39) – According to the current weather models, the two Vendée Globe solo round the world leaders Armel Le Cléac’h and Alex Thomson should be at Cape Horn at Christmas. But faced with probability of sailing on port tack for almost all of the remaining 3000 miles to the legendary ‘corner’, Thomson has been making his preferences clear in case Santa Claus might be making any stops in the Indian Ocean.
After snapping his starboard foil on November 19th, Thomson suffers a speed deficit in the moderate to fresh wind strengths on port gybe, and is rather hoping for an early Christmas present. Right now the Pacific Ocean is living up to its name for the two leaders, British skipper, Thomson is close to 300 miles behind leader Armel Le Cléac’h and has been racing in less than 10kts of breeze for some of today. Le Cléac’h covered 311.7 nm in the past 24 hours.
The harsh reality is that he will likely have to wait until Rio before he can spend any sustained period on his favoured gybe, and hopefully pulling miles back on the French pacemaker Le Cléac’h.
“In terms of the race, and winning the race, every mile you lose is significant,” Thomson said. “Armel is a long way away from me right now. I am not really racing him. I am racing myself and trying to make the boat go as fast as possible. We will see what happens. At the moment to be truthful I am not going to catch up the miles I have lost in the next couple of days. Maybe if the wind gods are with me I can pull back a few miles, generally here the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.”
He added: “I am concentrating on getting myself and the boat in the best possible condition for the final surge. I am just looking forwards to getting round Cape Horn, Christmas Day or Boxing Day will be nice, but really I just want to get off Rio, get off port tack and on to starboard.”
The leading duo look set to have just one small low pressure system to negotiate early in the weekend but before then mainly light winds in a messy, mixed up zone of high pressure. Reported regularly in the French media as Welsh, Thomson considers himself British, laying the Welsh or English matter to rest today: “I am British. My parents are both English. I was born in Wales. And my great grandfather owned a house where Murrayfield the Scottish rugby ground is. So I am bit of everything!”
Notable was how Jean Pierre Dick became the first Vendee Globe skipper ever to race through the Bass Strait. Dick emerged from the Bass Strait this morning after electing to sail a course over 400 miles north of the rhumb line, the usual track, as he seeks to avoid a violent storm which is now passing to the south of him.
Rivals Yann Eliès and Jean Le Cam stayed further south and bore the brunt of some seriously big seas and winds, winds to 60kts and an unruly breaking swell of nearly eight metres at times. Dick has dropped a place to Le Cam but was back at full charge this afternoon, angled back to the south east. From being 300 miles behind, Jean Le Cam was this morning sixty miles ahead of Dick and only fifty miles behind Yann Eliès, currently directly south of Tasmania.
Dick reported: “It’s always strange getting back to civilisation, seeing earth and saying that we were in the Roaring Forties just a few days ago. Suddenly you are back in civilisation and it’s a bit of a shock. It’s quite emotional going through the Bass Strait. It’s incredible to experience that in the Vendée Globe! I’m just passing Barren Island. It’s very impressive with the wind getting up to 40 knots. There are steep seas. I decided to furl the headsail, as it was a bit hairy with the sandbanks around here. I’m now going down towards New Zealand to get back into the Southern Ocean. I have been busy navigating my way around over the past 24 hours and had to spend some time at the nav station. You only get this sort of excitement in the Vendée Globe. I saw the coast of Tasmania and Clarke Island, which looked amazing.”
Ranking (Top 5 of 29 as of 22:00 FR)
1. Banque Populaire VIII, Armel Le Cléac’h (FRA), 9842 nm to finish
2. Hugo Boss, Alex Thomson (GBR), 296.76 nm to leader
3. SMA, Paul Meilhat (FRA), 1282.35 nm
4. Maître CoQ, Jérémie Beyou (FRA), 1332.69 nm
5. Quéguiner – Leucémie Espoir, Yann Eliès (FRA), 2323.98 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.
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