Vendée Globe: Into the mouth of the wolf

Published on December 8th, 2020

(December 8, 2020; Day 31) – For the leaders of the Vendée Globe, the very difficult conditions in an Indian Ocean depression are the most challenging of the race so far.

Fatigue accumulated over one month of racing is less noticeable when motorway conditions roll out in front of a skipper and his or her IMOCA yacht, but right now in winds of 35-55kts and big seas, the combination of tiredness and continuous stress makes small technical jobs hard, and big jobs seem impossible.

A period of fast sailing yesterday and into last night, averaging close to or just over 20kts, has seen Charlie Dalin extend his lead out to 250 nautical miles – his biggest margin yet as he has now led for nearly half of the race’s duration so far.

While the Apivia skipper was ripping out some fast miles at the leading edge of the front, nearly all of his rivals who are chasing in his wake, either had technical problems or slowed to reposition themselves relative to this particularly malicious looking 800 mile wide system which has over 60kts or wind and eight metre waves near its center.

Technical problems have meant living near the front of the peloton has meant to survive a war of attrition. Autopilot problems have beset Louis Burton (Bureau Vallée 2) and Damien Seguin (Groupe Apicil) and both have slowed periodically and lost places because of this. Seguin has suffered since two nights ago and dropped from third to seventh. Burton has gone from second to fourth.

“Yesterday was a very complicated day for me,” admitted Seguin. “I was so fatigued, I was feeling low, and I was in a bit of a shambles. But I managed to rest a little, things are going much better, the conditions for sailing are a little better. Even if I am not moving very quickly because I am in backed off a bit, at least I am going in the right direction and I’m still in the game.

“In these situations I have complete confidence in my shore team to find solutions, to help me implement them in the boat. It’s never easy because you’re in a competition and you always have the feeling that every mile lost is a real tragedy. In fact, we must put it into perspective, this is such a long course. We have to keep going and get back into racing mode as soon as I can.

“Mechanical problems are an integral part of ocean racing, it is a mechanical sport. I remember the transatlantic races, especially the Route du Rhum with a lot of energy worries where I had really struggled. I am used to fixing things on boats.

“I know I can go a little bit in the red when it comes to problem solving. Yesterday was a bit extreme, I was really tired but luckily I have people on the team to help me keep my spirits up and to push me to see things in a positive way because it is not easy all the time! ”

Meantime it is Yannick Bestaven (Maître CoQ) who has done well and is up to third. “I feel like I have lived several different slices of life in a very short time.” Bestaven is on his second Vendée Globe but never made it into Day 5 on his first one in 2008. “So much has happened in such a short space of time, you would just never imagine it.”

Although the one month elapsed represents a little less than half of the record times predicted before the start, only 38% of the course has been completed. Right now the leaders are in the middle of the Indian Ocean while four years Armel Le Cléach had already passed Cape Leeuwin (on the south-west tip of Australia).

Since the start from the French coast, the weather has never really been good for a fast race, especially in the Atlantic. There were no long surfs in the trade winds and no reaching conditions in flat-ish seas to see the fast foilers reel out the 500+mile days that were expected of them.

“At this stage in the Vendée Globe, after a month of racing, it’s quite incredible to have eleven boats within 600 miles in the Indian Ocean with so many different design generations all represented,” said weather consultants Sébastien Josse and Christian Dumard.

“Between the 2020 generation LinkedOut in second and fifth placed Dutreux’s OMIA Water Family, there are 12 years or three Vendée Globe generations but they are only 200 miles apart. That is really, nothing! It’s less than half a day in some conditions.”

Tonight will be the toughest of the race for Dalin with winds over 50kts at times, while second placed Thomas Ruyant has slowed for periods to avoid the worst of the system.

Bestaven described his life on board as like “animal” living conditions inside Maître CoQ IV. “I retracted the foils because the shocks are so violent. I just sail in all directions. I do everything to not be ahead of the routing, so as not to throw myself into the mouth of the wolf .”

This system is a very deep depression and from Bestaven to Sorel (11th), there are nine to have slowed down to allow this depression to move south. Apivia and LinkedOut are already too far east to avoid it, with Dalin already experiencing harsh conditions this afternoon with 40 knots of crosswinds prompting him to slow at times to protect himself and his boat.

Ranking – 21:00 (GMT)*
1. Charlie DALIN, APIVIA – 14879.8 nm DTF
2. Thomas RUYANT, LinkedOut – 253.09 nm DTL**
3. Yannick BESTAVEN, Maître CoQ IV – 362.16 nm DTL
4. Louis BURTON, BUREAU VALLEE 2 – 362.77 nm DTL
5. Benjamin DUTREUX, OMIA-WATER FAMILY – 431.3 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 – rudder damage
Nov. 30, 2020 – Kevin ESCOFFIER, PRB – hull damage (sunk)
Dec. 4, 2020 – Sébastien SIMON, ARKEA PAPREC – foil damage
Dec. 5, 2020 – Sam DAVIES, Initiatives-Cœur – keel damage (collision)

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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