Another Vendee Globe trawler collision

As the west starts to come good for Banque Populaire and PRB

Wednesday November 14th 2012, Author: James Boyd, Location: none selected

This morning the southerly boats, including Vendee Globe leader Francois Gabart on MACIF, are feeling the pain as they get stuck in the ridge (as opposed to what is being shown in the map above). However the big news is that a second boat has been struck by a trawler. On this occasion the victim Louis Burton on Bureau Vallee (the former Delta Dore) who reported it at 0310 UTC this morning. Her young Parisien skipper is okay but damage has been sustained to one of Bureau Vallee's shrouds.

Whereas Groupe Bel was T-boned, the blow was more glancing for Bureau Vallee, which at the time was about 400 miles west of Lisbon. The skipper was asleep in the cockpit with his AIS and radar both active. At the time he was making around 18 knots with 32 knots of southwesterly wind in limited visibility.

Image above courtesy of Expedition with GRIB files from Predictwind

Positions at 0800 UTC

Pos Skipper Boat Lat Long Spd Crs
          1 hour aver     24 hour aver      
 1 François Gabart MACIF 34°22.81'N 18°33.52'W 12.2 266° 3.2 8.9 213.3 23028.4 0
 2 Armel Le Cléac'h Banque Pop 35°12.64'N 19°30.70'W 15.3 215° 13.8 8.1 193.3 23069 40.6
 3 Bernard Stamm Cheminees 35°12.20'N 18°31.92'W 9 247° 5 8.2 195.8 23077.1 48.7
 4 Jean Le Cam SynerCiel 35°03.02'N 15°57.91'W 9.5 267° 2.9 7.3 174.8 23097.2 68.8
 5 Mike  Golding Gamesa 35°22.73'N 16°52.15'W 11.8 262° 4.3 7.4 178.8 23105 76.6
 6 Jean-Pierre Dick Virbac 36°08.83'N 19°22.70'W 11.7 215° 10.5 7.9 190.8 23125.5 97
 7 Arnaud  Boissières Akena Verandas 35°25.55'N 15°22.41'W 9.9 265° 3.4 5.8 140.3 23126.8 98.4
 8 Jérémie Beyou Maitre CoQ 36°11.45'N 18°46.67'W 14.3 216° 12.8 7.9 190.4 23133.1 104.7
 9 Vincent  Riou PRB 36°24.08'N 19°54.62'W 12.3 230° 9.1 7.8 186.4 23136.5 108.1
 10 Alex Thomson Hugo Boss 36°27.70'N 18°58.34'W 14.8 226° 11.9 8 191 23147.4 119
 11 Javier Sanso Acciona 37°03.89'N 18°39.36'W 12.7 205° 12.3 7.3 176.2 23185.7 157.3
 12 Dominique Wavre Mirabaud 37°39.48'N 18°14.84'W 8.7 240° 5.7 7.5 180.1 23224.3 195.9
 13 Samantha Davies Saveol 37°30.47'N 16°02.45'W 9 238° 6.5 6.1 145.4 23238.7 210.3
 14 Tanguy  Delamotte Initiatives Coeur 37°27.26'N 13°09.29'W 7.3 250° 4.5 5.3 127.2 23275.3 246.8
 15 Louis Burton Bureau Vallee 39°05.61'N 16°26.78'W 14.2 64° -8.7 3.3 79.2 23326.4 298
 16 Alessandro Di Benedetto Team Plastique 38°47.45'N 11°39.58'W 6.1 249° 3.9 6.3 151 23374.7 346.3
 17 Zbigniew Gutowski  Energa 42°37.36'N 19°07.63'W 10.2 261° 3 10.9 262.6 23511 482.6
 18 Bertrand De Broc Votre nom 42°27.64'N 16°44.42'W 15.9 252° 7.7 11 264.7 23520.5 492.1

That the Vendee Globe has seen a second collision with a trawler (we thought the ocean was a bigger place?) is certain to awaken the old bugbear of singlehanded ocean racing - the inability of skippers to comply with Rule 5 of the ColRegs which states that 'Every vessel shall at all times maintain a proper look-out by sight as well as by hearing as well as by all available means appropriate in the prevailing circumstances and conditions so as to make a full appraisal of the situation and of the risk of collision.'

Obviously skippers are not keen on collisions and typically manage their sleep according to their surroundings - if they are close to shore or busy shipping lanes as they have encountered off Cape Finisterre and the coast of Portugal earlier this week, then they either don't sleep or typically are supposed to stick their head out of the hatch every 10 minutes or so when they are in a sleep period to ensure to ensure that they aren't about to be run down.

In addition singlehanded boats have been fitted over the years with a number of electronic aids to help them prevent collisions. There are radar target alarms for example, active radar target enhancers (such as Activ'Echo or Sea-Me) making their yacht look like a liner on another vessel's radar display and most recently AIS. Under IMO regulations AIS has been mandatory fit since the end of 2004 'on vessels over 300 gross tonnage engaged on international voyages, cargo ships of 500+ gross tonnage not engaged on international voyages and all passenger ships irrespective of size.' Having a working Class B (ie leisure) AIS unit on board has been required equipment on IMOCA 60s for several years now and is also a requirement in the Vendee Globe Sailing Instructions. What isn't included is when it is mandatory to have the AIS switched on (which is specified in the Barcelona World Race SIs).

But this is besides the point - that this has occurred twice in the first four days of the Vendee Globe indicates there is a problem. One wonders how much skippers in the Vendee Globe are relying on aids, in particular AIS, to enable them to sleep soundly when in fact they should only be viewed as aids and they should be attempting to maintain a more rigourous watch. One can imagine that in an insurance dispute the solo IMOCA 60 skipper would not have a leg to stand on.

If anyone has any thoughts on this, please post below

Back to the race...

At present whether 'west was best' has yet to pan out as the scenario is taking longer to conclude than the forecast indicated yesterday. What is clear though is that while all of the boats have experienced a very light patch associated with the ridge that has now receded into mainland Europe (there is now another ridge extending southwest from Gibraltar) race leader Francois Gabart on MACIF slowed to 8.6 knots at yesterday morning's 1100 sched and again overnight, but most tellingly, over the last 24 hours MACIF has averaged 8.9 knots, substantially the highest across the fleet.

Judging from his course, Gabart is at present attempting to get through the front and into the favourable northwesterlies on the opposite side. Between the 0400 and 0800 scheds this morning we have seen the westerly group crack off to the southwest now they are through the front. This afternoon they should be into the strongest band of 30+ knot northerlies that will propel them south and this is where the westerly boats like Banque Populaire and PRB will regain some ground on MACIF. Already between the 0400 and 0800 scheds race favourite, Armel le Cleac'h on Banque Populaire has overtaken Bernard Stamm on Cheminees Poujoulat to move up to second.

Mike Golding on Gamesa continues to be the leading Brit, holding fifth place, having lost fourth to Jean le Cam on Synerciel overnight. A busy night required Golding to work through the sailplan, from downwind sails in light airs to upwind in stronger breezes associated with the on set of the front. Golding says it is still unclear how he and the other four skippers who have stayed more to the south will do against the group to their north.

“It is okay this morning, a bit bumpy and upwind now. We are through the worst of the light winds and have about 20kts now. It is not too bad. It is hard to see what the outcome against the boats in the north will be. To be honest I have not really run their routing – it is what it is. Their rotation is faster [closer to the centre of the low, the breeze will turn NW quicker] but I don’t see much in it.

“It was an OK night, busy, going from kite to A3 to genoa to Solent and from full main to one reef to two reefs, so I am a bit tired. It has been a long session and now I am cat napping at the nav station.”

Alex Thomson on Hugo Boss is continuing to enjoy a close, boat for boat battle with Jérémie Beyou on Maitre Coq. Racing near identical Farr designs the duo were sparring less than half a mile apart yesterday evening, crossing close to each other. Since then Beyou has speared off on to more of a southwesterly course as Thomson has continued west hoping to get into the building northerly sooner.


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