Vendée Globe: A Strategic and Tactical Chessboard

Published on December 15th, 2016

(December 15, 2016; Day 40) – At the front of the Vendée Globe fleet, the Pacific is not being very helpful to the leaders, with Armel Le Cléac’h covering just 295.2 nm in the past day. The weather files may provide them with plenty of data, but out on the water, it is not so easy to find your way out of such conditions.

The high, which settled in the middle of the Pacific is slowly moving towards Cape Horn. Le Cléac’h along with second place Alex Thomson may have spent a lot of time figuring out where to go, but they are still held up in this shallow low and unable to find the westerly winds. They may not exactly be stopped, but their progress is certainly slow and that is set to continue this weekend.

Le Cléac’h can take it easy, as not only is the heavy weather behind him and there is no change in the near future, but he has also widened the gap to nearly 400 miles over Thomson. In the words of the Breton sailor, that is the precise distance he believes is required to feel relaxed and look ahead rather than having to spend time checking his rear view mirror.

That more or less corresponds to a day of sailing, meaning he can adapt his trajectory keeping his rival in his wake. Banque Populaire VIII’s decision to move further north is not just due to the proximity of the Antarctic Exclusion Zone which the skipper has been close to for the past couple of days, but also because the situation looks more favourable further north than down at 50°S and because the British sailor is 200 miles above him.

This is the sort of tactic you would expect from a former Figaro racer, who is determined to keep hard at it until the finish. It is true that there are still nearly 10,000 miles to the finish and the first goal has to be rounding Cape Horn in front and preferably a day ahead of his nearest rival. With an ETA of Christmas or Boxing Day, it looks like he could achieve that as Hugo Boss is not so well placed to hop onto the edge of the high, which is just a few dozen miles ahead of the blue boat, but over a hundred from the black one.

Once again, Armel Le Cléac’h should be able to hammer another nail home picking up northerly winds and extending his lead. However, we are not talking about rocket speeds, just that touch more on the pedal with the wind backing westerly this weekend and then southerly with a low-pressure system that will find it hard to slide towards Cape Horn.

While the chasing pack behind still has much ground to cover, they are making progress in these persistent light winds in the middle of the Pacific. Nearly half way between New Zealand and Cape Horn means the pack, led by rookie Paul Meilhat (SMA), are slashing their distance to the two leaders.

Meilhat was 1300 nm behind the second placed British skipper five days ago. The difference between the two is now 841 nm.

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Ranking (Top 5 of 29 as of 22:00 FR)
1. Banque Populaire VIII, Armel Le Cléac’h (FRA), 9609 nm to finish
2. Hugo Boss, Alex Thomson (GBR), 373.81 nm to leader
3. SMA, Paul Meilhat (FRA), 1214.24 nm
4. Maître CoQ, Jérémie Beyou (FRA), 1240.91 nm
5. Quéguiner – Leucémie Espoir, Yann Eliès (FRA), 2208.5 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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