Vendee Globe: Keel ram breaks on Maitre Coq

As the race leaders charge south to the Doldrums

Sunday November 18th 2012, Author: James Boyd, Location: none selected

Last night at 2100 UTC, Jérémie Beyou skipper of Maître CoQ, lying seventh in the Vendee Globe, noticed that there was an issue withthe hydraulic ram, operating his yacht's canting keel. As Beyou explains in the audio clip below the arm on the ram has broken where it attaches to the keel head. The French skipper has taken advantage of his proximity to the Cape Verde islands where he intends to take shelter while he attempts to find a solution.

When Beyou warned his crew shortly before midnight, he was making five knots and was 70 miles from the archipelago, where he should arrive by midday today.

Listen to Jeremie Beyou talk about this (in English) here

Meanwhile the top seven boats are now past the latitude of the Cape Verdes with Armel le Cleac'h and Banque Populaire having added further miles to their lead...

Image above courtesy of Expedition with GRIB files from Predictwind

Positions at 0800 UTC

Pos Skipper Boat Lat Long Spd Crs VMG Spd Dist DTF DTL
          1 hour av     24 hr av      
 1 Armel Le Cléac'h Banque Pop 12°47.81'N 26°39.59'W 16.7 174° 16.7 17.2 412.2 21708.2 0
 2 François Gabart MACIF 13°38.14'N 27°00.41'W 16.9 178° 16.9 17.4 417.9 21760.9 52.7
 3 Jean-Pierre Dick Virbac 13°48.17'N 27°02.74'W 18.7 185° 18.2 18 433 21771.2 62.9
 4 Bernard Stamm Cheminees 13°52.31'N 26°47.04'W 18.2 180° 18 16.3 390.9 21773.1 64.9
 5 Vincent  Riou PRB 14°16.94'N 27°20.77'W 18.7 176° 18.6 16.9 406.4 21802.3 94.1
 6 Alex Thomson Hugo Boss 14°38.66'N 27°15.15'W 18.7 190° 17.8 18 431.3 21822.9 114.6
 7 Jérémie Beyou Maitre CoQ 17°30.92'N 26°23.57'W 8.6 158° 8.2 12.5 300.5 21988.2 280
 8 Mike  Golding Gamesa 18°23.47'N 26°05.50'W 16.8 205° 14.9 14.4 345.8 22039.5 331.2
 9 Dominique Wavre Mirabaud 18°22.19'N 26°56.47'W 16.4 179° 16.3 14.8 356.2 22042.2 334
 10 Jean Le Cam SynerCiel 18°28.88'N 25°42.50'W 11.9 215° 9.5 14.3 344 22043.8 335.5
 11 Arnaud  Boissières Akena Verandas 20°19.57'N 24°53.53'W 14.6 210° 12.8 12.3 296.2 22153.7 445.4
 12 Javier Sanso Acciona 23°55.35'N 20°03.92'W 14.9 245° 8.9 12.7 305.7 22397.9 689.7
 13 Tanguy  Delamotte Initiatives Coeur 24°41.53'N 24°23.57'W 10.9 210° 9.6 10.5 253.1 22416.1 707.8
 14 Bertrand De Broc Votre nom 24°48.52'N 26°21.78'W 14.7 181° 14.6 12.8 306.1 22424.7 716.5
 15 Alessandro Di Benedetto Team Plastique 29°04.79'N 23°59.49'W 11 193° 10.8 9.3 223.3 22679.9 971.6
 16 Zbigniew Gutowski  Energa 31°34.79'N 27°10.35'W 0.7 -0.7 2 49.1 22832.9 1124.7
RET Sam Davies Saveol Dismasted (15 Nov)              
RET Louis Burton Bureau Vallee Rammed by a fishing boat, rigging damage (14 Nov)        
RET Kito de Pavant Groupe Bel Rammed by a fishing boat, hull damage (12 Nov)          
RET Marc Guillemot Safran Titanium keel broke (10 Nov)              

The frontrunners continue to make excellent speeds south through the trade winds with Banque Populaire having extended her lead from 36 miles yesterday morning to 62 miles at the 0400 sched this morning, but back down to 52 miles at 0800, now making some two knots less than the boats behind. It's not showing up on the GRIBs, but satellite wind radar images indicate that the wind drops by about 5 knots once the boats are below 14°S. So we could be in for some compression among the leaders over the course of today.

Significantly overnight, Bernard Stamm on Cheminees Poujoulat has dropped back. From being second placed, 29 miles from Banque Populaire at the 1100 sched yesterday, the yellow Juan K design at the latest sched is now in fourth place, 65 miles behind the leader. This has allowed Francois Gabart to regain second, MACIF maintaining a similar deficit on her sistership ahead of her as there was 24 hours ago. Meanwhile PRB and Hugo Boss are continuing to reduce their deficit on the race leader.

The leaders currently look like they are lining up for Doldrums crossings between 26° and 27°30W, which we think is further east than normal. At present the Doldrums appear to be between 4-7°N, so this will be the next significant tactical hurdle on the race course. 8°N is currently 285 miles down the race track for Banque Populaire meaning that she is due to enter this zone overnight tonight.

The Vendee Globe usually turns into a series of groups of boats, but it is slightly odd for this to have happened so early in the race. The second wave, which we will call the 'oldies', comprising Dominique Wavre on Mirabaud, Mike Golding on Gamesa and Jean le Cam on SynerCiel, has seen all three boats gybe south yesterday morning, with the latter two boats converging with Mirabaud. The latter two are still on the easterly side of the race track, with all three now within four miles of one another in terms of DTF. Gamesa, which is a nose ahead, is still some 47 miles east of Mirabaud.

Golding reported this morning: “It’s been nice and steady pushing the boat hard under spinnaker and the boat is going well. It is warm, a bit humid but we have 18-22kts of wind and it is fast sailing. I have had the chance to catch up on some of the main chores, so I have cleaned out the bilges, there was some water up front which I have dried up. And I am trying to get my head round how to optimise the hydrogenerators a bit better. They are probably giving me only about half the power output they should, they are not as efficient as they should be. The problem I think is the blades are not pitching well enough, so that needs sorting. I am certainly running the engine less (to generate power) but the solar panels are doing a good job.

“I am looking ahead to the entry to the doldrums which looks like it is about a day and a half away, but we are flying down there at good speeds. I might get the chance to get some miles back there. I am a bit uncomfortable at the gap there is to the group. It is a bit nerve racking. I’d like to get back with them but I am not going to worry about it at this stage. I am good alongside Jean at the moment, but I kind of feel I’d like to be forward a bit.

“I think it is hard to match the speeds that are coming out of the new boats and Alex is very good at piling on the miles in a drag race like this so I am not surprised he is up there. But then there is just so far to go and we all know that a lot will happen. I am not going to get panicked.

“I have finished the oranges and I have three apples left. I have a couple of packs of bacon left that I need to probably use. The bread is starting to get a bit crumbly. So the main meal of the day is freeze dried now. To be honest it tastes OK but the thing to do is just not be influenced by what it says on the packet. Don’t believe what it is and just enjoy it for what it tastes like rather than what it should be.”

Behind the oldies another group is forming between Acciona, Tanguy de LaMotte on Initiatives Coeurs and Bertrand de Broc on Votre nom autour du Monde, although Initiative Coeurs is likely to be left in the wake of the two newer boats. 

Javier Sanso and Acciona are on the charge out of the Canary Islands, the Spanish skipper having found shelter on the northeast coast of Tenerife to make his trip aloft to recover his main halyard and broken headboard. Unfortunately so sheltered was the spot that he was becalmed until 0200 UTC on Saturday.

“At 2000hrs the boat was tip-top to get back into the race again 100%,” Sanso said. “The problem was that my sheltered spot in Tenerife had me trapped until 0400hrs in the morning when I was finally able to move out towards the south and then gybe west. I had to go to find some sheltered water in Tenerife to be able to go up the mast without too many waves. The problem was that once situated behind Tenerife there was absolutely no wind at all and a real swell. So after two frustrating hours waiting and trying to get closer in to land, I made an attempt to go up the mast with quite a large swell, the boat almost drifting and without any kind of steering.

“Each time I went up a metre I was like a sack of potatoes swaying from one side to the other. When I got to the top, 30 metres above the boat, I have to admit that there was a really beautiful view and I found a way of not being shoved all over the place; a good thing since I was really at a limit with the strength I had left. I managed to fix the line to the track that was there happily waiting for me at the top of the mast.

“It really was a shame because I hadn’t been forcing the boat and had been up with the second group of boats, really well placed after three pretty intensive days. But hey, now it’s time to make up for the time lost. This is a very long race.”

Sanso is not the only skipper to have faced difficulties above decks. Oon board Energa (the Finot-Conq former Hugo Boss) Zbigniew 'Gutek' Gutkowski on Energa, also faces a trip to the top his mast to release the gennaker wrapped around his forestay.

Gutek, who has been suffering a software failure in the two autopilots he has taken with him from the start of the race, described the accident: “It’s a consequence of the autopilot malfunction,” he said. “Yesterday afternoon I hoisted a bigger sail, because there was a light winds zone approaching and I wanted to avoid it. So I took the risk to not lose more miles to the boys at the front of the fleet. Unfortunately the autopilot couldn’t manage steering with the big sail up, so I was steering by hand. After quite a long time, at around 0200hrs I decided to put the sail down and switched the autopilot on for a moment to prepare everything. But unfortunately after couple of seconds the boat made a Chinese gybe [where the boat is at the wrong angle to the wind and the sail twists in opposite directions top and bottom and causes a wipe out], and the consequences I have on the mast now.

“The only option is to climb up the mast and cut everything off. But it is also risky. Every free piece of rigging flying round can cause the mast damage.

“But, you know, when I was steering by hand, it was really great. Energa was going so fast, so easy, ticking 17, 20, 22 knots, it was wonderful, the boat is fast and beautiful and I love it.”

Meanwhile, Sam Davies reached Funchal Marina in Madeira on Saturday morning aboard her mast-free Savéol.

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