Vendée Globe: No Rest for the Wicked
Published on January 3rd, 2017
(January 3, 2017; Day 59, 18:24 FR) – The ability to repair at sea is absolutely fundamental to completing the Vendée Globe solo round the world race. Michel Desjoyeaux, the only skipper to twice win the legendary singlehanded race, which forbids any kind of outside assistance, often speaks of the skipper needing to be able to deal with one battle each day – one fix, one problem – to stay competitive on the 24,500 miles course from Les Sables d’Olonne to Les Sables d’Olonne.
Of the 18 skippers still racing on Day 59 of the race, four different solo skippers are having their self-reliance and repairing skills tested, some of them in extremis.
Conrad Colman has made a temporary fix, re-attaching his flailing forestay to the bow of his Foresight Natural Energy using a lashing which he managed to secure despite 50kt winds and huge seas. Some 1300 miles west of Cape Horn, Colman has been making slow, but steady progress to the north east this Tuesday afternoon after the most challenging period of his race yet.
The pin, which secures the primary forestay, is reported to have been lost during a vicious storm between Sunday and Monday. When the forestay broke free his headsail quickly unfurled and the 34 year old Kiwi-American’s boat was held on its side for several hours in huge seas and violent gusts of over 60kts.
“He currently has the sail shredding itself in the wind as a flag from the top of the mast but the risk of dismasting has reduced,” his shore team reported earlier today. “He managed to get out to put a length of 12mm dyneema as a supplementary stay from mast head to bowsprit and has 2 other lower forestays in place and a triple reefed main.”
The exhausted skipper told Race Direction that there came a point where he had just closed himself inside the boat and left it to take care of him. He has been recovering since. Colman is reported to have a replacement pin which he will try to replace when the winds reduce sufficiently. This is no simple task.
Eleven hundred miles west, in 13th place, the race’s youngest skipper Alan Roura, 24, had to take emergency action last night when he broke one of his rudders on La Fabrique when it was struck by an object in the water. He was able to stop and replace it with a spare relatively quickly, in spite of the 40kts winds.
In 15th, due south of New Zealand, Didac Costa, the Spanish skipper of One Planet One Ocean, is running out of sails. He has had to drop his mainsail after tearing it. He anticipates it will be some time before he can have conditions suitable to make the required repair.
The stress of negotiating the narrow entrance to the bay at Port Esperance in the south of Tasmania, where Sébastien Destremau is making a short pit stop, nearly proved too much. The French skipper struggled with the pressure and admitted he found himself ‘crying like a baby’ for 15 minutes when he felt he could not pick up the required mooring under sail – as required by the race rules. He made an initial U-turn and headed back to sea despite his desperation to check over his rigging before the passage of the Pacific to Cape Horn. The manoeuvring proved successful and Destremau has climbed his rig, discovering that he has to make a carbon composite repair to a spreader.
“The stress level to come all this way and try to get in with no charts, no detailed charts – there are rocks and fish farms – and it is very narrow channel – I did not like it,” Destremau recalled today. “It was a nightmare. I even turned around this morning and said ‘I am not going in’. I thought ‘I can’t do this, I am going to smash this boat on the rocks. And believe it or not, I was so tired, so desperate, so disappointed that I cried. I was on the deck crying like a baby. I thought I am going to sail away and just take my chances. And good luck to me in the Pacific. I cried for a good 15 minutes. That was how tired and stressed I was. But now the boat is tied up I am good. I am fine.”
At the front of the Vendée Globe fleet Alex Thomson in second is 190 miles behind leader Armel Le Cléac’h. The British skipper of Hugo Boss has struggled at times to find the best of the light, fickle tradewinds.
Said le Cléac’h, skipper of Banque Populaire VIII, “The trade winds are not very well established. We’re heading north on the right tack. After tacking several times to get the right angle, we’re making headway and should get some more wind tomorrow. For the moment, we’re playing around with the squalls and clouds. We’re trying to find the best route to les Sables d’Olonne, but it’s not easy. It’s the same for everyone, as we are under the influence of the high. We’ll see the state of play after the Doldrums, which are the next hurdle I hope to have a good lead to be able to tackle the Doldrums with a clear head.”
In third, Jérémie Beyou has gained more than 400 miles on the leaders since the Pacific. Now 400 miles, or about one day behind Thomson, Beyou was making 17kts this afternoon to the leading duo’s speeds of eight to nine knots.
Three times winner of La Solitaire du Figaro Beyou said: “I have narrowed the gap a little. It had been a while since I was less than 1000 miles from the leaders. It was largely down to the weather. That has cheered me up. When I’m in good weather, I can use my phone or get data down to the computer. Sometimes it takes 3 or 4 hours to get one file. On some days I have managed to get one or two and on others none at all. I don’t have any major worries on Maître CoQ and can use all my sails. I managed to sleep last night and recharge my batteries, which is good as it has been very lively since Cape Horn. It isn’t over yet, as I have a transition to deal with in a few hours from now. I don’t know how that is going to go. If things work out, I’ll be upwind after that along the edge of the high. I’ll then have stronger winds to the Equator.”
Ranking (Top 5 of 29 as of 22:00 FR)
1. Banque Populaire VIII, Armel Le Cléac’h (FRA), 4295 nm to finish
2. Hugo Boss, Alex Thomson (GBR), 197.69 nm to leader
3. Maître CoQ, Jérémie Beyou (FRA), 590.72 nm
4. StMichel-Virbac, Jean-Pierre Dick (FRA), 1354.28 nm
5. Quéguiner – Leucémie Espoir, Yann Eliès (FRA), 1407.16 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
January 1, Day 57 – Enda O’Coineen, Kilcullen Voyager-Team Ireland, dismasted
Source: Vendee Globe