Vendée Globe: Timing the Tides
Published on January 31st, 2017
(January 31, 2017; Day 87, 16:32 FR) – Louis Burton is likely to regulate his pace over the final 600 miles to Les Sables d’Olonne where he should finish the Vendée Globe on Wednesday night or early on Thursday morning (Feb. 1 or 2) to secure seventh place. Positioned some 350 miles to the NW of Cape Finisterre, Burton was making around 11-13kts this Tuesday afternoon.
Under no pressure at all from anyone astern of him, eighth placed Nandor Fa is 2136 miles behind. Burton’s objective is to enter the legendary channel of Les Sables d’Olonne during the Thursday morning tidal window – between 0600hrs and midday. More than likely he will seek to cross the Nouch Sud finish line around daybreak, between 0800hrs and 0830hrs local time (UTC +1hr).
Burton is the first skipper to encounter brisk conditions in the Bay of Biscay. Such is the story of his Vendée Globe, sailing consistent, average miles, suffering no significant breakdowns, storms or calms. He has raced very much in ‘splendid isolation’ and seems to have regularly been gifted excellent, regular conditions for days at a time. He managed to ride successive private low pressure systems in the Indian Ocean and so moved progressively clear of those chasing him, such as Fa and Conrad Colman who both struggled in the Pacific, for different reasons.
While the six skippers who finished ahead of him, Armel Le Cléac’h and Alex Thomson, Jérémie Beyou, and then Jean Pierre Dick, Yann Eliès and Jean Le Cam, all had very light to moderate Biscay breezes, Burton has 25kts from the south this afternoon. He gybed to point his bows towards Les Sables d’Olonne at 1400hrs this afternoon and will see 30 and more through tonight and tomorrow, finally finishing his first Vendée Globe in about 20kts.
Burton, whose father is Welsh, was the ‘benjamin’ – as the French say – the youngest skipper to start the last race in 2012, at 27 a few months younger than race winner François Gabart. But a collision with a trawler meant a damaged shroud and early retirement, his Vendée Globe dreams shattered within a few days of the start.
His consistency and the reliability of his boat are in part attributable to the fact that he and his Farr designed 2007 launched IMOCA are – as he describes it – the oldest partnership in the race. He has had the boat since 2011 and has started all the major IMOCA races since.
The Azores anticyclone has not yet finished with Nandor Fa. The only skipper in the fleet to have raced the 1992-93 edition of the Vendée Globe looked like he would emerge from the grip of the light winds today but the ridge is evolving from west to east and splitting to form two centres. It looks as if Spirit of Hungary will have 24-30 hours more of light winds before Fa can get into the regime of the low pressure systems. He is expected in Les Sables d’Olonne on February seventh.
Eric Bellion is in the NE’ly trade wind regime, headed slightly more to the west of north than the chasing tenth-placed Conrad Colman who is now out of the Doldrums on Foresight Natural Energy. Content to be making good miles northwards, Colman is having to work hard to balance his sailplan upwind. Left with just a small foretriangle and full mainsail he is very much looking forward to the breeze building which would require him to take in a reef, making for a more even balance.
Colman has been keeping up an exercise regime – squats and push ups – to try and stay fit and strong. “Because I have nothing in between the Code Zero and a very small jib I have been doing a lot more manoeuvres than normal. So I have been chopping and changing, furling and unfurling quite a lot and so that has kept me busy and active. But I have also been doing so push ups and squats and trying to keep my legs in good shape. I am an avid cyclist as you know and I want to make sure I can still be useful in cycling when I get back and not get chucked off the back of my cycling group for having chicken legs.”
The closest duel in the fleet remains the enduring tussle between Didac Costa and Romain Attanasio. The Catalan skipper on OnePlanet One Ocean, the former Kingfisher, is just over seven miles ahead of French Figarist Attanasio. Attanasio said today: “Now I have a huge area of thunderstorms ahead and am about to enter that zone. It’s not that simple. I have taken in a reef.
Didac doesn’t have an AIS working, so I can’t see exactly where he is. He’s not within sight at the moment. It’s nice to have him close, as we have been able to chat. I don’t even know whether I really met him before the race or shook his hand. We’re getting to know each other now. It’s motivating.” Dutch skipper Pieter Heerema (No Way Back) is about 610 miles behind the head to head race and has gained 150 miles on them in three days.
Eric Bellion (CommeUnSeulHomme) “I have been all the way around the world with the boat. It’s very strange, as we haven’t finished with the Doldrums and have around twelve days of sailing left or a bit less. I feel a range of emotions. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. I am very moved but also very tired, yet pleased to be here. This race is extraordinary. Both of us have given it our all. I am heading north reaching to get home.”
Romain Attanasio (Famille Mary – Etamine du Lys): “It’s great being back in the Atlantic and on the way home and the conditions are pleasant. I took my first shower for two and a half months! So I felt clean after that. In the South, it was more a question of holding on and putting up with the conditions.”
Alan Roura (La Fabrique) : “The Vendée Globe is an exceptional adventure. You laugh, you cry. You have more time to think about what is going on than when you are ashore. You get to know yourself better. There’s no one to judge you. You are alone in the world. Even in prison, it’s not the same, as you see others, but out here on a boat you’re by yourself.”
Conrad Colman (Foresight Natural Energy): “I am out of the Doldrums and into the fryer (laughs). I am upwind at 12kts and making quite good progress down the track at the moment. So I am happy to be out of the grip of the calms and the squall lines. I only came to a ‘stop’ when I was doing only one or two knots for a very short period of time. The Doldrums going north is very different beast to the doldrums going south. We are a lot further west and so the Doldrums are naturally narrower to the west because there is less of the battle between the north and south and the convergence zone. I had a number of big squalls but they really just gave me the opportunity to wash the boat down with fresh water and for me to have a shower and cool off.”
Ranking (Top 5 of 29)
1. Banque Populaire VIII, Armel Le Cléac’h (FRA), Finished, 74d 03h 35m 46s
2. Hugo Boss, Alex Thomson (GBR), Finished, 74d 19h 35m 15s (+15h 59m 29s)
3. Maître CoQ, Jérémie Beyou (FRA), Finished, 78d 06h 38m 40s (+4d 03h 02m 54s)
4. StMichel-Virbac, Jean-Pierre Dick (FRA), Finished, 80d 01h 45m 45s (+5d 22h 09m 59s)
5. Queguiner – Leucemie Espoir, Yann Elies, (FRA), Finished, 80d 03h 11m 09s (+5d 23h 35h 23s)
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