Vendée Globe: Heartbreak at 40° South

Published on December 3rd, 2020

(December 3, 2020; Day 26) – After both hitting floating objects within hours of each other yesterday at the gateway to the Indian Ocean and sustaining damage to their IMOCAs, Sébastien Simon and Sam Davies are a stark reminder of the cruel fates which are randomly dealt to even the best prepared and smartest Vendée Globe skippers.

Both are heading north towards South Africa out of the worst of the strong winds and big seas, sailing slowly north to shelter and assess their possibilities of repair.

“I want to be able to continue my Vendée Globe,” said Simon, the 30 year old from Les Sables d’Olonne who won La Solitaire du Figaro in 2018. He has constant water ingress from around his foil box.

For Davies, the collision damaged the longitudinal framing which supports the keel of Initiatives Coeur. “I was sailing at speeds between 15 and 22kts and I was actually just making a hot meal after the gybe and doing the stack and everything and it was just starting to get dark,” she explained. “I hit something. I did not see anything. I did not know what it was. It was pretty much dark when it happened. But it was as if I had run aground on a rock at the time.

“The boatspeed went from 20kts to zero. The boat nosedived on the impact with the keel. I knew it was the keel. I heard a crack coming from there. I and everything else flew forwards, including my dinner which has repainted the entire inside of my boat. Everything moved. I went flying into a ring frame, luckily, because that could have been worse. It was really violent. But luckily I have just hurt some ribs. It is not serious but really painful.

“I stopped the boat, dropped the main, and went to check around the keel, the bearings and the bulkhead. The bulkhead, the main bearing bulkheads (which support the keelbox) are intact as far as I can see. The keelbearings are intact. The longitudinal structure around the keelbox is all cracked. That has taken the shock of the impact of when the boat moved, that is cracked on both sides.”

Vendée Globe Race Director Jacques Caraës, a renowned former ocean racer, empathized with the duo. “Usually when you get to the gateway to the Indian Ocean, you go into another world, in another mode,” he said. “You are reserved and back off. You have a more conservative attitude. Because the Deep South is a long tunnel, there is no other solution than to go to the end. And the exit is Cape Horn. There aren’t many safe havens. Psychologically, under these circumstances, it’s hard.”

Louis Burton, on the other hand, has shown no indication of backing off. Given the tenacity of his attack since arriving in the Roaring Forties, prepared to push his boat hard and work closer to the centre of the Southern Ocean low pressure systems, maybe his jumping the Vendée Globe start gun back on November 8th was a foretaste of the 35 year old from Saint Malo’s mindset this race.

Remarkably Burton has already served out seven hours of penalties early in this race, five hours sin-binned for jumping the start gun and a further two for a prop sealing incident, where his team did not send the required photo as directed. He also reported a near miss with another unmarked, fishing boat which had no AIS.

“The conditions are a bit complicated and not very stable,” noted Burton. “There are periods of calm allowing me to get more sail back up and the speed up. I have to do a lot of gybes in heavy seas. I did one during the night with 45 knots of wind, so have to be very careful. The sea is nasty but apart from the sea state it’s not too bad. It’s nice to be in this position in the Indian Ocean. The advantage is that it allows me to manage things and watch what is going on with the other boats behind me.”

As for what may be the floating objects in the water, it was fishing gear that knocked out Thomson’s rudder. In the area south of the Cape of Good Hope, the mixing sea currents stir up billions of tons of seawater, warm coming south from the Indian Ocean sliding along the coast of Mozambique and cold waters coming up from the Antarctic meaning a proliferation of sea mammals feeding.

Plus the region is a very busy area for commercial shipping traffic. The seas are often very big, confused and chaotic due to the Agulhas current which throws up occasional rogue waves that can carry many containers and other material into the sea.

Caraes explained the plan for Yes We Cam! is to rendezvous with the French frigate Nivôse which is a Floréal-class frigate that is on duty in the Southern Ocean. The plan is very much weather dependent as well as contingent on Jean Le Cam’s decision on any required detour.

Editor’s note: When one container ship can lose over 1900 boxes in a storm, such as what occurred recently in the Pacific Ocean, it provides some context of the problem for these competitors.

Ranking – 21:00 (GMT)*
1. Charlie DALIN, APIVIA – 16587.1 nm DTF
2. Louis BURTON, BUREAU VALLEE 2 – 146.45 nm DTL
3. Thomas RUYANT, LinkedOut – 197.97 nm DTL**
4. Damien SEGUIN, GROUPE APICIL – 371.45 nm DTL
5. Yannick BESTAVEN, Maître CoQ IV – 384.87 nm DTL
DTF – Distance to Finish; DTF – Distance to Lead

* Four skippers assisted in the rescue of Kevin Escoffier which began on Nov. 30. Their ranking order that day as of 14:00 was Escoffier (3rd), Jean Le Cam (4th), Yannick Bestaven (6th), Sébastien Simon (7th), and Boris Herrmann (8th). The Race Jury will now determine the credit for each skipper to reestablish their ranking in the race.
** Ruyant damaged port foil on Nov. 24 at 02:00.

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
Nov. 28, 2020 – Alex THOMSON, HUGO BOSS – damaged rudder
Nov. 30, 2020 – Kevin ESCOFFIER, PRB – hull damage (sunk)

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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