New Vendee Globe leader

Compression at the front of the fleet as Banque Populaire eases ahead

Friday November 16th 2012, Author: James Boyd, Location: none selected

Another drama-laden day in the Vendee Globe, including the terrible news of the dismasting of Sam Davies' Saveol last night... Thankfully Sam is fine, but the incident occurring just after a 40 knot squall had passed through and being out in the middle of the Atlantic with the broken mast attempting to punch its way through both the boat's hull and deck, must have been terrifying. On a technical note, the incident further tarnishes the record of wingmast/deck spreader rigs in the IMOCA 60 class. So far with the news that Louis Burton on Bureau Vallee has also announced his retirement following his trawler collision, so 20% of the fleet has so far dropped out of the race - so much for our hopes of seeing less carnage in this Vendee Globe...

Aside from this the big news of this morning is that the Vendee Globe has a new leader...

Image above courtesy of Expedition with GRIB files from Predictwind

Positions at 0800 UTC

Pos Skipper Boat Lat Long Spd Crs Spd Dist DTF DTL
          1 hour av   24 hour av      
 1 Armel Le Cléac'h Banque Pop 25°09.42'N 25°57.92'W 10.9 kts 239° 12.3 296.3 22444.6 0
 2 François Gabart MACIF 25°14.98'N 25°21.62'W 10.8 kts 238° 10.4 249.5 22449.2 4.7
 3 Bernard Stamm Cheminees 25°21.05'N 25°38.41'W 7.6 kts 240° 11.6 279.4 22455.6 11
 4 Alex Thomson Hugo Boss 26°15.47'N 25°00.61'W 9.5 kts 225° 13.4 321.6 22509.6 65
 5 Jean-Pierre Dick Virbac 26°27.16'N 25°37.33'W 8.1 kts 212° 12.8 307.1 22521.7 77.1
 6 Jérémie Beyou Maitre CoQ 26°39.71'N 24°51.92'W 11.6 kts 223° 12.7 303.6 22533.8 89.3
 7 Vincent  Riou PRB 26°38.66'N 26°27.22'W 12.0 kts 211° 11.6 277.3 22535 90.4
 8 Mike  Golding Gamesa 26°53.29'N 20°51.77'W 12.8 kts 217° 11.3 270.6 22565 120.4
 9 Jean Le Cam SynerCiel 27°07.21'N 20°29.99'W 12.0 kts 220° 10.1 242.8 22581.9 137.3
 10 Dominique Wavre Mirabaud 27°43.33'N 23°17.86'W 12.1 kts 215° 14.2 340.5 22600.3 155.8
 11 Arnaud  Boissières Akena Verandas 28°12.95'N 19°44.66'W 11.6 kts 229° 11.3 270.5 22653.8 209.2
 12 Javier Sanso Acciona 29°30.40'N 16°22.96'W 11.5 kts 177° 10.8 258 22771.9 327.3
 13 Tanguy  Delamotte Initiatives Coeur 32°22.16'N 18°25.27'W 12.5 kts 210° 8.2 197.8 22911.7 467.1
 14 Bertrand De Broc Votre nom 34°08.19'N 23°36.64'W 14.7 kts 198° 12.6 302.8 22983.8 539.2
 15 Samantha Davies Saveol 34°00.61'N 18°41.90'W 2.8 kts 135° 4.2 101.7 23005.3 560.7
 16 Zbigniew Gutowski  Energa 35°21.00'N 24°35.12'W 13.3 kts 214° 11.7 281.1 23055.2 610.7
 17 Alessandro Di Benedetto Team Plastique 36°13.85'N 17°18.28'W 11.9 kts 234° 5.3 127.3 23149.9 705.3
RET Louis Burton Bureau Vallée Struck by a trawler. Damaged rigging          
RET Kito  De Pavant Groupe Bel Struck by a trawler. Boat holed          
RET Marc Guillemot Safran Titanium keel broke            

Generally over the last 24 hours there has been a substantial compression within the fleet as the front runners sail into light winds.

Already by the 2000 sched last night MACIF's lead of 50 miles in the morning had evaporated with Armel le Cleac'h on Banque Populaire having closed to within two miles of Francois Gabart's yacht with Bernard Stamm on Cheminees Poujoulat also in contact, just 8 miles behind the leader in third. Overnight the west has remained marginally better with Banque Pop maintaining an average speed almost a knot faster than MACIF to take the lead at around 2300, although the two sisterships have since converged on to a similar course.

This morning Le Cleac'h reported: "It has clearly softened and mellowed. The temperature is going up and the wind has rarely exceeded 15 knots over the last 24 hours. I took the opportunity to accumulate some sleep. I will gybe before noon to head for the Doldrums and I certainly will not be the only one ... But I'm not focussing on what my competitors will do: it is a straight line and the winds are not very powerful. We'll have to wait until we get to the latitude of Cape Verde to adjust our course to the Equator.

"The trade winds between the Canaries and the Cape Verdes should not exceed 12-15 over the next few days. There will still be large variations in wind strength and direction, and large cloud formations on the way. The Doldrums don't seem too active or too wide. We need to be vigilant on the approach to the Doldrums, but there is no major strategic options to be seen there yet."

The next wave of boats have also gained ground and in particular, we're pleased to report, Alex Thomson on Hugo Boss, now up to fourth place from sixth 24 hours ago, having regained almost 100 miles on the race leader, although this is partly due to Thomson's silver rocket being on the left side of the course and furthest south. Vincent Riou and PRB's performance, still on the right side of the course, for some reason hasn't paid and they have only managed to take 45 miles out of the leader over the same period. Between the Jean-Pierre Dick on Virbac Paprec 3 and, slightly behind, Maitre Coq, are also looking solid.

Behind them Mike Golding on Gamesa and Jean le Cam on SynerCiel remain locked in their own personal battle out to the east and this morning Golding has gained the upper hand, moving into eighth place, 17 miles ahead of the French legend.

This morning Golding reported: “We are in the Doldrums…..well not exactly….but it feels like it. There have been some big wind shifts, bit changes in wind strength and I have a line of rain coming towards me now, I am not sure what it is bringing me.

"The good thing I suppose is that I have never stopped, but I did end up spending a couple of hours going upwind. I have had to cross the trough somewhere and so it is a little narrower here but I would prefer to be over where the others are. The files showed the breeze should have been lifting me and so to have ended up upwind is a bit frustrating.

"I had a little problem with the halyards earlier when I put the genoa up and it did not go in the lock properly so I got a bit of a rope burn on my hands.

"It seems like my course has been a series of steps, like a sawtooth really but that is just what I have had. I’m going to try to hook to the west as the day goes on but I think I’ll be in this light stuff for most of the day. It’s a bit frustrating.

"I feel so sorry for Sam [Davies who was dismasted last night on Saveol, but is safe and unhurt]. Is she ok? She was right in the worst of it at the wrong time. A great shame for her and the race."

Behind them, Javier Sanso on Acciona is not heading to Madeira (this was wrong information apparently...) but is instead heading for the Canary Islands to find shelter so he can sort out his mainsail headboard problems and to recover the main halyard from the top of the mast.

Since early yesterday morning he has been sailing without his mainsail. This morning Sanso reported: "Today has been pretty entertaining preparing all the material to go up the mast tomorrow in the shelter of the Canary Islands. I just need some sheltered water without waves for a few hours and I think I'll be back again at 100%. I've been able to sleep a full two hours... a real luxury!

''The weather here is more similar to the South Indian Ocean than the north of the Canaries but, well, that's what we have. The energy generator systems are working perfectly despite the harsh weather conditions. I’m sailing just with a foresail and it's a little strange to see this red and white bird with just one wing. But she'll soon be able to spread both wings again. It's just a question of a little more time and we can get back sailing again with full performance."

Tanguy de LaMotte on Initiatives Coeur, who's been taking the long road south to the east, has just shaved Madeira this morning. Currently the fastest boat in the fleet is Bertrand de Broc on Votre nom autor du Monde (formerly the new race leader's BritAir), still in the big winds to the west of the depression.

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