Vendée Globe: Cape Horn on Friday
Published on December 22nd, 2016
(December 22, 2016; Day 47) – After clocking 373 nm in the past 24 hours, Armel Le Cléac’h is expected to lead the eighth edition of the Vendée Globe solo round the world race around its most feared but most universally welcomed landmark, Cape Horn, tomorrow around midday.
The French skipper should pass the notorious southernmost tip of South America with the biggest lead since January 2001 when Michel Desjoyeaux led English skipper Ellen MacArthur by some 600 miles.
However, given how the ensuing seven days saw Desjoyeaux’s lead over MacArthur in early 2001 cut to some 140 miles in the sticky South Atlantic high pressure system, as that edition of the race effectively re-started there, hope will continue for second placed Alex Thomson on Hugo Boss.
The only British skipper in this race struggled today with a very disorderly small low pressure cell which has slowed him still more while Le Cléac’h has remained relatively speedy. At 600 miles behind Banque Populaire VIII, Thomson may find himself racing upwind, albeit on his favoured starboard tack tomorrow before finally making back some ground after Le Cléac’h passes the Horn.
For Le Cléac’h, it will be the third time in successive editions of the Vendée Globe that he has rounded the Horn in the top three.
In 2008-9 he was third behind Roland Jourdain and eventual winner Michel Desjoyeaux. And in the last edition he was just two and a half hours behind victor François Gabart. In the 2004-5 race, Vincent Riou lead Jean Le Cam around Cape Horn by 15 hours and went on to win. Desjoyeaux led Roland Jourdain in early 2009 by nine hours and won the race ahead of Le Cléac’h after Jourdain’s keel bulb dropped off south of the Azores.
After Alex Thomson established a new record for the stage from Les Sables d’Olonne to the Cape of Good Hope, on November 24, some five days and one hour faster than the mark set in 2012 by Le Cléac’h, there looks set to be little in the way of significant net gain or loss on that advance since.
A relatively fast Indian Ocean has been followed by a passive, complicated Pacific and so Le Cléac’h seems likely to pass in somewhere around 47 days. On this schedule Le Cléac’h should reduce the record of Francois Gabart by a matter of five days and some hours.
At this same time on the first day of 2013, Gabart had slashed four days and nine hours off his mentor Michel Desjoyeaux’s mark set in January 2009. Thomson will be buoyed by the expectation that the weather after Cape Horn does finally look a little more complicated for the race leader, who has enjoyed particularly smooth, assured transition periods, not least managing to multiply a margin of some 15 or so miles to the comfortable cushion he looks set to round Cape Horn by.
Paul Meilhat continues to plough a forlorn furrow northwards into lighter winds after his keel ram cracked. In third place at the time of the incident, his team have found a solution, a replacement from Maître CoQ, the sistership which the SMA skipper spent 25 days racing alongside, and which raced as Le Cléach’s Banque Populaire in 2012, duelling around the globe with MACIF which is the compromised SMA.
Their plan seems to be to send a team to fit the replacement ram and SMA continue her course unclassified. Meilhat has not officially retired and is now ranked in seventh position.
After a few very fast days on his foils since passing New Zealand Jean-Pierre Dick – who finished fourth in the last edition, is now up to fourth and 270 miles ahead of his closest rivals. But he has run into a ridge of high pressure. Yann Eliès (Queguiner-Leucémie Espoir) and Jean Le Cam (Finistère Mer Vent) have regained around thirty miles on JP Dick, while Jérémie Beyou (Maître CoQ) has accelerated. The South Pacific has its ups and downs, winners and losers, but this morning’s life enhancing consolation for JP was a pod of dolphins dancing around his boat.
Ranking (Top 5 of 29 as of 18:00 FR)
1. Banque Populaire VIII, Armel Le Cléac’h (FRA), 7324 nm to finish
2. Hugo Boss, Alex Thomson (GBR), 600.74 nm to leader
3. Maître CoQ, Jérémie Beyou (FRA), 1450.67 nm
4. StMichel-Virbac, Jean-Pierre Dick (FRA), 1983.58 nm
5. Quéguiner – Leucémie Espoir, Yann Eliès (FRA), 2204.24 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
December 18, Day 43 – Thomas Ruyant, Le Souffle du Nord, UFO collision
Source: Vendee Globe