MACIF still dominates drag race south

As personal match races develop in the Vendee Globe

Thursday November 15th 2012, Author: James Boyd, Location: none selected

It has been a fast 24 hours for the Vendee Globe front runners having crossed into the strong northwesterly breeze on the opposite side of the front. Yesterday afternoon the majority of the fleet was back on course, the leaders hitting speeds into the 20s. After the significant tactical differences in how best to tackle the ridge and then the front, it will come as little surprise that MichDes' protege, Francois Gabart on MACIF, has come out smelling of roses, his lead of 40 miles at 0800 yesterday morning, now up to 56 miles 24 hours on.

Image above courtesy of Expedition with GRIB files from Predictwind

Positions at 0800 UTC

Pos Skipper Boat Lat Long 1 hour av   24 hour av   DTF DTL
          Spd Crs Spd Dist    
 1 François Gabart MACIF 28°17.56'N 22°11.03'W 14.8 223° 17.1 409.7 22639.4 0
 2 Bernard Stamm Cheminees 29°17.33'N 22°50.46'W 16.8 210° 17.4 416.7 22695.8 56.4
 3 Armel Le Cléac'h Banque Pop 29°18.58'N 22°57.48'W 14.6 205° 16.5 394.8 22696.6 57.2
 4 Vincent  Riou PRB 30°38.95'N 23°49.55'W 16.7 210° 16.5 396.7 22774.3 134.9
 5 Jean-Pierre Dick Virbac 30°51.68'N 22°39.44'W 17.5 207° 14.9 357 22790.6 151.2
 6 Alex Thomson Hugo Boss 30°59.13'N 22°07.90'W 16.6 204° 15.2 364.4 22800.4 161
 7 Jérémie Beyou Maitre CoQ 31°05.38'N 22°04.03'W 17 203° 14.5 347.3 22806.9 167.6
 8 Jean Le Cam SynerCiel 30°40.93'N 18°18.34'W 15.9 194° 12 287.4 22814.2 174.8
 9 Mike  Golding Gamesa 31°01.13'N 18°47.57'W 14.2 213° 11.6 278.8 22828.5 189.1
 10 Arnaud  Boissières Akena Verandas 32°25.52'N 17°52.53'W 13.7 196° 9.1 218.9 22921 281.7
 11 Dominique Wavre Mirabaud 33°04.55'N 21°06.74'W 14.5 200° 12.9 308.6 22930.8 291.4
 12 Javier Sanso Acciona 33°31.43'N 18°11.00'W 8.6 140° 8.9 213.7 22981.9 342.6
 13 Tanguy  Delamotte Initiatives Coeur 35°07.81'N 16°15.20'W 10.3 197° 8.5 204.7 23098.1 458.7
 14 Samantha Davies Saveol 35°41.39'N 18°25.36'W 11.4 181° 6.6 158.3 23106.8 467.4
 15 Alessandro Di Benedetto Team Plastique 37°30.17'N 15°10.85'W 10.4 277° 7.6 183.2 23249.1 609.8
 16 Bertrand De Broc Votre nom 38°46.99'N 21°09.65'W 14.8 184° 12.4 298.6 23270.7 631.3
 17 Zbigniew Gutowski  Energa 39°38.06'N 22°11.56'W 11.7 199° 9.4 226.6 23317.1 677.8
 18 Louis Burton Bureau Vallee 41°49.30'N 11°23.07'W 10.5 53° 11.8 283.1 23549.6 910.2
RET Kito de Pavant Groupe Bel Rammed by fishing boat, impact damage         
RET Marc Guillemot Safran Titanium keel broke            

At the latest sched MACIF continues to lead the charge south, now at the latitude of the Canaries, but being the most easterly of the frontrunners, MACIF is sailing out of the strongest breeze and it is likely that those to the northwest will be able to take some more miles out of the race leader over the next hours.

Last night Gabart confirmed: "Unfortunately the wind has eased, so it is not at the same pace as yesterday. Shame...It was really nice."

At present Armel le Cleac'h on Banque Populaire and Bernard Stamm on Cheminees Poujoulat are jockeying for second place, not just in terms of DTF, but on the water. They have now pulled out a 74 mile lead on Vincent Riou on PRB, who's track is still some 75 miles off to starboard of them. However some 95 miles astern of Banque Pop and Cheminees Poujoulat the fastest speeds over the last hours have been recorded on Jean-Pierre Dick's Virbac Paprec 3, still enjoying the stronger breeze, associated with the depression receding into the leaders' rear view mirrors.

Alex Thomson (fingers and toes crossed...) on Hugo Boss continues to do well, locked in a personal match race with Jeremie Beyou on Maitre Coq, the two 2008 generation Farr designs (Beyou's boat was MichDes' 2008 winner) very evenly matched. Overnight Thomson has pulled up from eighth to sixth place, now just over six miles ahead of his rival.

This morning Thomson reported: "“I had a good night last night, with a just a few light patches, but we’re now back into stronger winds and going quite fast. I’m pretty pleased with my position this morning, happy to be keeping pace with Virbac Paprec and keeping some separation between Mike and Jean Le Cam over to the east. It seems that Maitre CoQ and I are getting very cosy on this race and I think I could be seeing a lot more of him over the next 23,000 miles! I managed to get quite a lot of sleep last night, probably about four hours broken up across the evening which has left me feeling much better this morning, more refreshed than I have since leaving Les Sables on Saturday – although am still pretty snotty! The conditions are quite squally at the moment, with gusts up to about 27 knots but the temperatures are definitely improving and it should start to get warmer quiet quickly now as we make our way further south. I’ll have to cook up the rest of my bacon before it gets too hot!”

Another personal battle is going on among 'the vets' holding eighth and ninth place, currently half way between Madeira and the Canaries. Having followed MACIF on the southerly route past the ridge earlier in the week, Mike Golding's Gamesa and Jean le Cam's Synerciel are both on a track to the east even of the race leader, with Le Cam 15 miles ahead.

Golding commented this morning: “It was a bit of a proverbial fight to be honest in the night. I got hit by a big squall in the night and brought the bow down to take the pressure off the boat and it stayed with me for a lot longer than I expected and so I ended up sailing low for quite a long time which was not what I would have wanted, probably losing 20 miles. It’s not ideal.

"On top of that we are more headed [sailing a lower course] than the files showed, and so we are pushing hard. That might come to be an advantage in the future when it does go softer. But at the moment we are chasing the pressure south.

"I am sure that the three skippers here, Arnaud Boissières, Jean Le Cam and myself, have all been hit by these squalls. And there have been light patches too. Now I have 26kts of wind, the sea state is better and so we are not slamming. We have flashes of doing 18-19kts but the average is a bit less. I am just hunkered down keeping the speed up, getting through this and into the lighter stuff beyond.

"There are no problems with the boat, it is going well. Nominally everything is working, but it is quite hard to get round the boat in these conditions to see how everything is.”

Meanwhile Arnaud Boissieres on Akena Verandas has just shaved the western side of Madeira, which is also where Spanish skipper Javier Sanso on Acciona 100% EcoPowered is heading. Heis putting into Madeira to gain shelter why while he attempts to fix the top of his boat's headboard. Yesterday this broke while he was sailing in 30 knot winds and four metre seas. Inconveniently the halyard attached to the headboard is also now at the masthead.

Last night Sansó explained: "This afternoon while I was sailing without any problem, the part that attaches the mainsail into the mast track broke. I can’t do anything until the weather improves and í can go up the mast to get the part and the main sail halyard back. Once I am back down it will just take me a few hours until I am back sailing again. The worst thing will be the 48 hours that I am going to lose. But this is a tough and long race and there is still a lot to be done".

The boats that should be experiencing their 'yeehaa' moment at present are the back markers Energa and Bertrand de Broc's Votre Nom Autour du Monde. They are currently to the northwest of the depression and have a fine runway of strong favourable winds ahead of them. Energa skipper Poland's Zbigniew Gutkowski explained his early course west after passing Cape Finistere had in fact been due to his having multiple electrical problems and his alarms were not working. It is hard enough to sleep at the best of time in a shipping lane, but without alarms the anxiety is too great.

Over the course of today the leaders will see the wind veering into the northeast as they get out of the clutches of the depression and into the more traditional trade winds. This shift will happen sooner for the boats in the east (like MACIF). All the skippers will now be eyeing up the Doldrums, still some 1400 miles away for MACIF.

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