Vendée Globe: Hunter Now the Hunted
Published on December 24th, 2016
(December 24, 2016; Day 49, 22:00 FR) – Due to the light westerly winds which have been with him since he rounded Cape Horn, the Vendée Globe leader Armel Le Cléac’h has taken a passage close to some of the small islands of Tierra del Fuego and this morning was passing just seven miles to the east of Isla de los Estados (Staten Island from the Dutch Stateneiland).
The pacemaker has bleeding miles to the pack, covering just 190.2 nm in the past 24 hours. He has decided to pass east of the island and not through the Le Maire Straits. Meantime British challenger Alex Thomson (Hugo Boss) is on his favoured starboard gybe, since tacking yesterday afternoon, and is now in 20kts of S’ly becoming SW’ly breeze and has been averaging 17kts. Consequently Thomson has made back 60 miles or so on Le Cléac’h overnight and should continue to gain. He is still on schedule to pass Cape Horn during the afternoon of the 25th.
Four sailors are expected to round the Horn by next Friday. 1600 miles behind Armel Le Cléac’h, Jérémie Beyou (3rd on Maître CoQ) is sailing in a nortehrly wind, which is pushing him along at almost twenty knots. Jérémie should continue to take advantage of fine conditions in the days ahead. There will be a gybe to do on Sunday evening or Sunday night and he is expected to pass Cape Horn at midday on Tuesday. Still in fourth place Jean-Pierre Dick (StMichelVirbac) can see Yann Eliès (Quéguiner Leucémie Espoir) and Jean Le Cam (Finistère Mer Vent) catching him. All three were becalmed in a wind hole last night. Jean-Pierre should be the first to pick up some more wind, while Yann and Jean will have to wait until this evening to get going again. The gap is therefore likely to open up again. Dick is expected to reach Cape Horn on Thursday with Eliès and Le Cam there the following day…
Louis Burton (Bureau Vallée) is continuing to race well in the middle of the Pacific. It is however going to be a tricky day with an area of low pressure moving down towards him. This morning he is likely to feel the effects of a N/NE’ly air stream blowing up to 40 knots… In the middle of this low, Nandor Fa (Spirit of Hungary) will be in calm conditions all day. He will cross the International Date Line today at around 0900hrs UTC. In fact that means the Hungarian skipper will miss out on having Christmas twice only by a matter of two or three hours. Conditions are set to become rougher for the Hungarian in around 36 hours with a windy end to Christmas Day.
Life is great for Conrad Colman (Foresight Natural Energy), the fastest in the fleet over the past 24 hours (sailing 351.5 miles). He will be passing to the south of New Zealand, where he was born. Further back, six skippers are about to enter the Pacific and cross the halfway point. Arnaud Boissières (La Mie Câline), Eric Bellion (CommeUnSeulHomme) and Alan Roura (La Fabrique) are within twenty miles of each other. Eric Bellion has made up for his penalty of one hour after breaking the seal on his mooring chain. Boissières, Bellion and Roura are making the most of a manageable NW’ly wind. But as Eric Bellion explained this morning, they will be slowing down to let the worst of a low-pressure system go by between New Zealand and the Antarctic Exclusion Zone. These three, as well as Irishman, Enda O’Coineen (Kilcullen Voyager Team Ireland) will be entering the Pacific this afternoon. Slightly further back than the others, Rich Wilson (Great American IV) and Fabrice Amedeo (NewrestMatmut) will be leaving the Indian tomorrow. There has been a slight change at the rear of the fleet, as Didac Costa (One Planet One Ocean) has overtaken Pieter Heerema (No Way Back). The Spaniard and Dutchman are in strong winds on heavy seas less than 200 miles from Cape Leeuwin. Romain Attanasio (Famille Mary Etamine du Lys) and Sébastien Destremau (TechnoFirstfaceOcean) are more than 500 miles further back.
Conrad Colman (Foresight Natural Energy): “The weather will continue to be comfortable, at least on the southern ocean scale of possibility, until after I am clear of the sunny summer holiday celebrations going on in my birth country of New Zealand but as Kiwis will be digesting on the beach I’ll be gearing up for another battle royale with a huge big depression on the 28th. With 45 knots forecasted in the middle and gusts that can be 20% over that, it looks like a nasty piece of work. However I have plenty of time to prepare and position myself out of the firing line. Now that I’ve come to enjoy 30kts of wind I don’t need give myself occasion to get used to 50!”
Nandor Fa (Spirit of Hungary): “I was just thinking about how one learns to live much more economically out here. You only move as much as you have to and you use just enough of everything, only the amount necessary. This relates to everything including water, toilet paper, tissues, sometimes I even limit my thoughts so that I don’t over-think for no reason. I decided to take down the broken reacher. I fought with the task, it took serious energies from me. The major issue is that its structure is coming apart because it’s a very old sail. This is the second one of my sails, whose career has come to an end. I was hoisting the A3, when I saw that we were about to pass Campbell island. Tactically, the coming days are going to be difficult, and we are going to go slower until the 27th. Then I’m supposed to have another train to get on. Until then: patience and a lot of work.”
Eric Bellion (CommeUnSeulHomme): “Taking part in the Vendée Globe was with the aim of finding harmony between three elements: me, the boat and the sea. That harmony is gradually being achieved. I didn’t decide at any one point to go faster. It just happened naturally. I feel more and more at ease on my boat. Gradually I don’t feel as apprehensive. I’m more relaxed and that means I can accelerate. My boat didn’t suffer any damage in the first half, although I remain cautious. I’m slowing down for now, as there is a nasty low coming down from Tasmania.”
Attrition: Four days after announcing damage to his SMA, Paul Meilhat officially informed the Race Directors at 1439 UTC this afternoon that he is retiring. Paul contacted his team on December 20 to inform them of damage to his keel ram, when he was in third place in the rankings. He is now heading for French Polynesia and is expected to reach the islands on 28th or 29th December. Also retiring is Stéphane Le Diraison, a result of a dismasting yesterday on his Compagnie du Lit – Boulogne Billancourt.
Ranking (Top 5 of 29 as of 22:00 FR)
1. Banque Populaire VIII, Armel Le Cléac’h (FRA), 6740 nm to finish
2. Hugo Boss, Alex Thomson (GBR), 576.57 nm to leader
3. Maître CoQ, Jérémie Beyou (FRA), 1312.92 nm
4. StMichel-Virbac, Jean-Pierre Dick (FRA), 2033.78 nm
5. Quéguiner – Leucémie Espoir, Yann Eliès (FRA), 2258.12 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
December 24, Day 49 – Stéphane Le Diraison, Compagnie du Lit – Boulogne Billancourt, dismasted
December 24, Day 49 – Paul Meilhat, SMA, keel ram failure
Source: Vendee Globe