Vendée Globe: Victory within Grasp
Published on January 18th, 2017
(January 18, 2017; Day 74, 22:00 FR) – British sailor Alex Thomson today conceded that his chances of overhauling Vendée Globe leader Armel Le Cléac’h on the home strait were slim, despite narrowing the gap to just 35 miles. In the last 24 hours Thomson, 42, has halved Le Cléach’s lead of 70 miles but as the pair prepared to enter the final 300 miles of the solo round the world race this afternoon he said the advantage was now firmly with his French rival.
Thomson revealed that for several days now he has been battling problems with the wind instruments on his cutting-edge 60ft race boat Hugo Boss, which in turn have prevented the yacht’s autopilot from working properly. In spite of knocking miles off Le Cléac’h’s lead overnight he said he had not slept for two days and was now dangerously tired.
Speaking to the Vendée Live show today Thomson said his thoughts were on getting Hugo Boss’ anemometers working again rather than the impending finish in Les Sables d’Olonne, France. “I don’t think I can catch Armel,” he said. “The routing is very clear, we will go nearly to the Scilly Isles, wait for a left shift and when it comes we tack.
There are no real options for me any more; I think my options have run out. It might be possible to catch a few miles but it’s difficult for me at the moment. Until I can get my autopilot driving on a wind angle it’ll be very tricky in the conditions I have. I can’t imagine another few days like the last couple of days. I don’t have any tension about the finish. I have tension about trying to make the autopilots work. I’ve got an anemometer in my hand and I’m trying to splice wires. I don’t care about the finish right now, I just want to sleep.”
Le Cléac’h, runner-up in the past two editions of the Vendée Globe, might now be odds-on favourite to claim his first race win but he was not taking anything for granted as he prepared to tack and head down the west coast of France to Les Sables. The race mantra of ‘to finish first, first you have to finish’ will be ringing in his ears as he sails into his final night at sea in 74 days.
“For the moment I’m holding my own against Alex,” the 39-year-old Breton said, “but the final 24 hours are going to be complicated. I’m going to have to be careful as there are a lot of dangers, we have been seeing fishermen and cargo vessels since yesterday. I’ll be passing the tip of Brittany tonight, then going along the south coast of Brittany. I have to remain cautious to avoid doing anything stupid.” Le Cléac’h is expected to cross the finish line between 1300 and 1900 UTC tomorrow, barring any mishaps, with Thomson following suit around four hours later.
The race tracker will update hourly once the leader gets to within 100 miles of the finish, and live streaming will begin 30 minutes from the line. For more information on how to follow the arrivals click here.
Third-placed Jérémie Beyou said his routing software has calculated that he should arrive in Les Sables on Sunday evening, around three days behind the leaders. “Over the past few days I have been faster than expected,” said Beyou, whose podium position is secure for now with fourth-placed Jean-Pierre Dick trailing him by more than 1,000 miles.
“The seas are not as cross and are more manageable. I’m trying not to think of the finish, as I still have the Bay of Biscay to deal with, and it’s not looking very cooperative, as there won’t be much wind, so I won’t be advancing very quickly.” Seventh-placed Louis Burton will be the next skipper to cross into the northern hemisphere. At the 1400 UTC position update he was just 20 miles south of the Equator.
Tune into Vendée Globe Live tomorrow at 1200 UTC at http://www.vendeeglobe.org/en/ where host Will Carson will be joined by French offshore sailing legend Loick Peyron.
Jérémie Beyou, Maître CoQ: “Things aren’t going too badly today. I’m trying to slip in between the trough and the ridge of high pressure. I’m just coming out of that corridor with 20 knots of wind. Wind charts are a great decision-making tool, but when you don’t have them, you have to observe things around you. I can see the general pattern. For the finish, I’m looking at Sunday evening, but it’s hard to predict, and will depend on the wind conditions in the Bay of Biscay.”
Eric Bellion, CommeUnSeulHomme : “Yesterday I suddenly got thirty knots of wind, which I hadn’t seen on the charts. Today I have light airs. There are times when it’s hard and I wonder what the hell I’m doing here and then times, when I enjoy it. When I see how far I have come, I can see how lucky I am. Even becalmed last night, I didn’t want to be anywhere else. Why have I moved to the west? It’s down to the weather. Because of the currents, I didn’t go through the Le Maire Strait, then climbing back up north, I found myself close to the coast trying to avoid a high.”
Ranking (Top 5 of 29 as of 22:00 FR)
1. Banque Populaire VIII, Armel Le Cléac’h (FRA), 243 nm to finish
2. Hugo Boss, Alex Thomson (GBR), 57.6 nm to leader
3. Maître CoQ, Jérémie Beyou (FRA), 711.03 nm
4. Quéguiner – Leucémie Espoir, Yann Eliès (FRA), 1859.5 nm
5. StMichel-Virbac, Jean-Pierre Dick (FRA), 1860.07 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