Vendée Globe: Thomson crosses Equator

Published on November 18th, 2020

(November 18, 2020; Day 11) – The complicated weather patterns of the first week, not least the high proportion of upwind sailing and multiple frontal systems put paid to any hopes of the Vendée Globe’s 9 days 7 hours and 02 minutes passage record between Les Sables d’Olonne and the Equator being broken.

Nevertheless it was the record holder himself Alex Thomson (HUGO BOSS) who crossed the equator into the South Atlantic at 1319hrs UTC leading the fleet today with around 79 miles in hand at that time over second placed Thomas Ruyant (LinkedOut).

The British skipper’s elapsed time to the Equator this time is 9 days 23 hours and 59 minutes. His routing since the start on November 8 has been excellent and his passage through the storm Theta, which gave him this lead, has been met with widespread approval among past Vendée Globe winners.

As he passed through the 350 nautical miles convergence zone, Thomson experienced shifts and changes in wind pressure and had a notable slow down last night but this morning he was well into the SE’ly tradewinds pointing towards the northeaster tip of Brazil with the wind forward of the beam, likely under full main and J2 headsail.

The weather charts offer some promise for the race leader. The Saint Helena high pressure system which dominates the weather systems in the South Atlantic, is displaced to the east slightly with a low pressure to its west thus creating a corridor of SE’ly airstream which – as things stand – would allow the leaders to chart a more direct, fast course to the south east.

The scenario is not dissimilar to the last edition when only three boats were able to cut the corner like this, Thomson leading Armel Le Cléac’h at the time.

Regardless of the medium term prospects, the South Atlantic trades usually benefit the leader who is blessed by progressing into the stronger winds first at reaching angles which open and allow the skipper to ease sheets.

“I think that in general all the new boats will be about the same in terms of speed at these tight reaching angles but the gain to the leader is usually from getting south into the better breeze first being able to go progressively faster,” noted Ross Daniel, Technical Director at the Alex Thomson Racing Team. “Alex has been quiet today, I am sure getting as much rest as he can after the Doldrums.”

With the dismasting and retirement of Nicolas Troussel, he is not expected to reach the Cape Verde islands before Novemeber 20. His loss to the race is significant, not least as much was expected from him and his new boat, but at 44 years old this was finally his chance to match the exploits of the close sailing buddies of his youth, Armel Le Cléac’h and Jérémie Beyou.

Twenty years ago this talented trio trained and sailed together on Morlaix Bay under the guidance of Hugues Imbert, director of the Carantec club and Bruno Jourdren. Beyou, Le Cléac’h, and Troussel – three teenagers who went on to win six from ten La Solitaire du Figaros, two each.

Way back, before the 2016 race, Beyou remarked how it would be fantastic if Nico made it too in 2016, so they would all be back together again. This Vendée Globe should have been Troussel’s time but lady Vendée luck has this time kicked him, and his teenage friend Beyou in the teeth. It will certainly take the Breton sailor some time to get over his disappointment.

The Doldrums have been kind so far. People may remember Charal being stuck here for three days in the 2019 Transat Jacques Vabre, which led to the boat missing out on victory in Brazil. With the Doldrums, you never know what is going to happen and a change may just be a cloud away.

“Forecasting where a squall will develop in the Doldrums is a bit like guessing where the first spurt of steam will come out of a saucepan,” explains meteorologist Jean-Yves Bernot.

The group behind the British HUGO BOSS sailor is speeding into the lion’s den hoping that they will not be swallowed up.

“I’m a few miles from the Doldrums. Things were moving along quickly during the night and I get the feeling the Doldrums won’t be slowing me down that much either. It looks like a simple convergence cloud between the SE’ly and NE’ly trade winds. Looking at it optimistically, I think I may get out of here in a few hours,” said a hopeful Sébastien Simon aboard his foiler, ARKÉA PAPREC, averaging twenty knots this lunchtime.

Ranking – 21:00 (GMT)
1. Alex THOMSON, HUGO BOSS – 21183.7 nm DTF
2. Thomas RUYANT, LinkedOut – 60.96 nm DTL
3. Charlie DALIN, APIVIA – 84.28 nm DTL
4. Jean LE CAM, Yes We Cam! – 113.23 nm DTL
5. Kevin ESCOFFIER, PRB – 179.91 nm DTL
DTF – Distance to Finish; DTF – Distance to Lead

Race detailsBoat typesTrackerRankingYouTube

The Vendée Globe is the only sailing race round the world that’s solo, non-stop, and without assistance, and it was all systems go for the 9th edition on November 8. Beginning in 1989 with 13 entries, the start line in 2020 had 33 skippers taking off from Les Sables d’Olonne, France.

The development of the IMOCA Class toward foiling will see these boats hurl themselves around the world, teetering on carbon skates through inhospitable regions, chasing the record set in 2016-17 by Armel le Cléac’h of 74:03:35:46.

2020-21 Attrition
Nov. 16, 2020 – Nicolas TROUSSEL, CORUM L’EPARGNE – dismasted

Participation history:
1989-90: 13 boats at the start
1992-93: 15 boats
1996-97: 15 boats
2000-01: 24 boats
2004-05: 20 boats
2008-2009: 30 boats
2012-2013: 20 boats
2016-2017: 29 boats
2020-2021: 33 boats

2020-21 Entries
Fabrice AMEDEO: NEWREST – ART & FENÊTRES
Romain ATTANASIO: PURE – BEST WESTERN
Alexia BARRIER: TSE – 4MYPLANET
Yannick BESTAVEN: MAÎTRE COQ IV
Jérémie BEYOU: CHARAL
Arnaud BOISSIÈRES: LA MIE CÂLINE – ARTISANS ARTIPÔLE
Louis BURTON: BUREAU VALLÉE 2
Didac COSTA: ONE PLANET ONE OCEAN
Manuel COUSIN: GROUPE SÉTIN
Clarisse CREMER: BANQUE POPULAIRE X
Charlie DALIN: APIVIA
Samantha DAVIES: INITIATIVES-CŒUR
Sébastien DESTREMAU: MERCI
Benjamin DUTREUX: OMIA – WATER FAMILY
Kevin ESCOFFIER: PRB
Clément GIRAUD: COMPAGNIE DU LIT / JILITI
Pip HARE: MEDALLIA
Boris HERRMANN: SEA EXPLORER – YACHT CLUB DE MONACO
Ari HUUSELA: STARK
Isabelle JOSCHKE: MACSF
Jean LE CAM: YES WE CAM !
Stéphane LE DIRAISON: TIME FOR OCEANS
Miranda MERRON: CAMPAGNE DE FRANCE
Giancarlo PEDOTE: PRYSMIAN GROUP
Alan ROURA: LA FABRIQUE
Thomas RUYANT: LINKEDOUT
Damien SEGUIN: GROUPE APICIL
Kojiro SHIRAISHI: DMG MORI
Sébastien SIMON: ARKEA – PAPREC
Maxime SOREL: V AND B – MAYENNE
Alex THOMSON: HUGO BOSS
Armel TRIPON: L’OCCITANE EN PROVENCE
Nicolas TROUSSEL: CORUM L’ÉPARGNE

Source: Vendée Globe

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