Vendée Globe: A Complicated Climb
Published on January 4th, 2017
(January 4, 2017; Day 60, 18:13 FR) – For the Vendée Globe leaders, this eighth edition of the solo round the world race is increasingly feeling like a game of two very distinct, contrasting halves.
From the start on November 6th in Les Sables d’Olonne, the pace was fast and furious, smashing records at each key point to Cape Leeuwin and into the Pacific Ocean. Even when Armel Le Cléac’h (Banque Populaire VIII) rounded Cape Horn on December 23rd, the French skipper had an advance of five days, five hours and 38 minutes on the existing record to the legendary cape, set on January 1st 2009 by François Gabart.
But a complicated and slow climb up the South Atlantic for the leading duo, Le Cléac’h and British skipper Alex Thomson (Hugo Boss) has seen their margin against the record melt away like snow in the sun. By comparison, in January 2013 Le Cléac’h and leader Gabart had a relatively straightforward ascent of the Atlantic, pushing each other hard to the line.
As it stands this afternoon, the leaders are now only about 1150 miles or about three ‘normal’ days ahead of the existing record. And, ahead of them, while the next two and a half to three days to the Equator should see a small acceleration in ‘foiling’ conditions – 15-17kts E’ly then SE’ly tradewinds, the Doldrums look wide and active and the passage to the Canaries – at this time – is predicted to be atypical.
Once out of the Doldrums, the NE’ly trades do not look to be too reliable at the moment. And so any Christmas time great expectations that Gabart’s record would be blown apart by days now seem a little more fanciful.
Down the rank in fifth, Yann Eliès reports that life off of Buenos Aires is anything but a siesta. “It’s a bit like a battlefield out here with boat-breaking conditions in thirty knots of wind. We’re beginning to feel stressed about the gear. There are huge strains on everything. If I was all alone, I would take it a bit easier. Those with me seem to be pushing even harder.”
Conrad Colman has tacked back towards the east late afternoon today and so is believed to have completed enough of his repairs to gradually power up his Foresight Natural Energy after struggling for more than 48 hours since losing the pin which secures his primary forestay, in a major storm during January 1st and 2nd. The Kiwi skipper had less than ten knots when he set his course back towards Cape Horn which is 1300 miles away for him, and he looks set to have light conditions for some hours to come.
Ranking (Top 5 of 29 as of 22:00 FR)
1. Banque Populaire VIII, Armel Le Cléac’h (FRA), 3996 nm to finish
2. Hugo Boss, Alex Thomson (GBR), 272.37 nm to leader
3. Maître CoQ, Jérémie Beyou (FRA), 729.19 nm
4. StMichel-Virbac, Jean-Pierre Dick (FRA), 1362.33 nm
5. Quéguiner – Leucémie Espoir, Yann Eliès (FRA), 1425.91 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