Vendée Globe: Pecking Order to Finish
Published on February 1st, 2017
(February 1, 2017; Day 88, 17:26 FR) – Louis Burton (Bureau Vallée) has made good speeds through his penultimate night at sea and should secure seventh place in the Vendée Globe around daybreak tomorrow, Thursday morning. Further down the course, Arnaud Boissières crossed the Equator today to leave six skippers in the South Atlantic.
After 88 days of racing it may seem like most of the long established hierarchy is set to remain in place but places can and will still change before the finish line in Les Sables d’Olonne is reached.
The most open, closest duel remains that between Didac Costa and Romain Attanasio – now side by side 45 miles apart west to east – 450 miles offshore of Rio – scrapping over 15th and 16th. The wily Catalan Costa has stayed further east and was making a couple of knots quicker than his French rival this Wednesday afternoon.
Costa explained his thinking: “The last few days have been really intense for two reasons: one because of having Romain so close and two due to the weather. It has been very unstable, with calms, shifty winds and there have been frequent squalls. Since both our boats are from the same generation and also have very similar speeds. You really have to be all over the boat so that the other one does not escape or make a small gain. Romain’s sail appears now and again and then disappears on the horizon. I have positioned myself more to the east now so I can try to be windward when the trade winds appear. We spent the last few hours in and out of squalls. It looked like the Doldrums. I have lost count of the sail changes, the reef in reef out changes I have made.”
Though their northwards progress has been slow of late, it has been a source of worry to Rich Wilson in front. The skipper of Great American IV has lost about 300 miles to the chasing duo over the course of the last week, but that loss has stabilised for the meantime and the American skipper’s newer, more powerful Owen-Clarke design, Dominique Wavre’s former Mirabaud, should prove quicker in the trade wind sailing once he can finally get into the more regular easterly breezes. But Wilson is also flummoxed as to why he has lost so many miles to Alan Roura, the young Swiss skipper of La Fabrique. In fact, Roura has more than doubled his 150 mile lead over the last two to three days.
Wilson is just looking for a regular breeze to allow him to climb the regular northbound rungs up the Atlantic, Salvador de Bahia, Recife and then the Equator, which for him is just under 1000 miles ahead: “The fact we have been going slowly has not been anything of a motivation issue. It has just been weather which has been difficult and trying. There is no wind and there is not much we can do about it. You expend more energy in the calm weather than you do when it is blowing. You push yourself hard when you are trying to make the boat do one knot, two knots, three knots and going around in circles. We have been keeping at it that is for sure.
“Yesterday was a difficult day,” Wilson continued. “We had 15 or 16 hours going around in circles. I thought we were going to get more of the same for the next 24 hours but thankfully that has not materialised. We have crawled out of that and are making eight or nine knots now in seven or eight knots of breeze. We are pushing hard. We have lost contact now with the boats ahead and the boats behind are coming up behind us. We have a little breeze. And we went through a lot of rain squalls last night. The isobars are turning and it seems like there is havoc to be had here. We are going OK with the genoa and full main and going north. We have another couple of hundred miles to go to get to latitude of Salvador and then that is a nice milestone, then Recife and then the Equator. Then we will be back in our home ocean and that will be nice.”
Motivation and focus are not an issue for the Dutch skipper Pieter Heerema who is another skipper continuing to make steady gains. He is steadily eating into his deficit to the Attanasio v Costa match race. Five days ago, Heerema was over 850 miles behind, but that is more like 550 today. Closing down two of the oldest boats in the fleet whilst armed with the newest and potentially fastest boats still on the race course, Heerema may just be starting to believe he still might still be able to make up a place, or couple of places before his finish. Meantime Louis Burton (Bureau Vallée) had less than 165 miles to the finish line of his Vendée Globe and has taken his foot off the gas slightly to ensure he stays super prudent through his final night at sea. He is due to cross the finish line and take seventh around 0800hrs UTC on Thursday morning.
Arnaud Boissières (La Mie Câline): “I saw a sail in the distance. I called him up. They were travelling around the world as a family. It’s always nice to see someone. Or something out on the water like a whale for example. I have a favourable SE wind allowing me to sail along fairly well, but I can see in the sky that I’m getting closer to the equator and the Doldrums. I have been taking two showers a day out on the bow. So far all those who have finished I expected. Louis has a boat that has about the same potential as mine, so he has been sailing well. I’m pleased for him. Particularly as before he wasn’t very lucky in the Vendée Globe. And it’s great for his sponsor and his partner. Not long ago, I was close to Fabrice, but he went to the west and got less wind. I can see we have narrowed the gap to Conrad. If the Doldrums are kind to me, anything is possible. That motivates me and each manoeuvre is important. I brought 90 days of food with me but my partner added in a lot of stuff. I think I have enough until 17 February.”
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