Vendée Globe: It All Comes Down to This
Published on January 17th, 2017
(January 17, 2017; Day 73, 22:00 FR) – Vendée Globe leader Armel Le Cléac’h has seen his margin over second-placed Alex Thomson slowly slip away as the solo round the world race enters its final 500 miles. Adding to the moment, there is nothing simple about their approach to the finish.
Despite already reaching the latitude of the finish line in Les Sables d’Olonne, France, they are being forced to sail much further north due to an anticyclone currently blocking their path home. The routing the pair must follow could take them as far north as the Scilly Isles, an archipelago off the coast of Cornwall in the south-west of Britain, before they can tack and finally point their bows towards the finish.
In the last 24 hours, Hugo Boss skipper Thomson has scythed nearly 33 nm off Le Cléac’h’s advantage, and was on his heels at 22:00 going 10.2 knots compared to the Frenchman’s 9.4 knots. Thomson’s hopes of becoming the first Brit to win the Vendée Globe in its 27-year history lie in tactics, namely the precise moment to tack and head for Les Sables.
Although the advantage is now firmly with Banque Populaire VIII skipper Le Cléac’h, the race will not be over until the finish line is crossed. Indeed, in the 2004-05 Vendée Globe fellow Brit Mike Golding lost his keel 50 nm from the finish line and had to limp home in third place at two knots. The current ETA for the leaders is Thursday, with the routing suggesting Le Cléac’h will cross the line between 1200 and 1400 local time followed closely by Thomson.
Ranking (Top 5 of 29 as of 22:00 FR)
1. Banque Populaire VIII, Armel Le Cléac’h (FRA), 435 nm to finish
2. Hugo Boss, Alex Thomson (GBR), 42.2 nm to leader
3. Maître CoQ, Jérémie Beyou (FRA), 813.53 nm
4. StMichel-Virbac, Jean-Pierre Dick (FRA), 1722.89 nm
5. Quéguiner – Leucémie Espoir, Yann Eliès (FRA), 1822.52 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