Vendee Globe: Leaders reach the Doldrums
This morning Vendee Globe race leader Armel le Cleac'h on Banque Populaire has just entered the Doldrums, while the other frontrunners appear to be following him in at much the same longitude. Meanwhile Alex Thomson has been struggling to find a way to repair the link arm for his starboard rudder after it was damaged when one of his transom-mounted hydrogenerators broke on Saturday morning causing Hugo Boss to wipe out. Maitre Coq is now moored off the Cape Verde island where skipper Jeremie Beyou is contemplating how to repair the broken titanium hydraulic ram for his canting keel, which to us sounds like something which won't get fixed without outside assistance. We have since heard that Beyou has formally retired from this Vendee Globe - making 25% of the fleet having already pulled out.
Listen to Jeremie Beyou talk about this (in English) here
Positions at 0800 UTC
|1 hour av||24 hr av|
|1||Armel Le Cléac'h||Banque Pop||06°58.49'N||26°22.73'W||5.4||217°||3.7||14.6||349.7||21360.7||0|
|6||Alex Thomson||Hugo Boss||08°29.75'N||27°15.60'W||16.7||170°||16.7||15.8||378.4||21461.5||100.8|
|8||Jean Le Cam||SynerCiel||12°31.41'N||26°53.28'W||13.6||173°||13.6||15.2||363.9||21693.9||333.2|
|10||Arnaud Boissières||Akena Verandas||14°56.80'N||26°51.31'W||11.8||186°||11.5||14.2||341.7||21837.6||477|
|11||Jérémie Beyou||Maitre CoQ||16°58.82'N||25°21.64'W||0.8||137°||0.6||2.8||67.3||21953.1||592.5|
|12||Bertrand De Broc||Votre nom||19°02.60'N||26°44.10'W||12.6||181°||12.5||14.4||346.5||22081.3||720.6|
|14||Tanguy Delamotte||Initiatives Coeur||20°23.24'N||26°06.70'W||10.2||184°||10.1||11.5||275.3||22159.1||798.4|
|15||Alessandro Di Benedetto||Team Plastique||25°23.80'N||24°31.30'W||8.8||177°||8.7||9.3||222.8||22458.2||1097.5|
|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)|
Banque Populaire appears to have hit a brick wall at the latest sched, her boat speed dropped from 13 knots (at 0400) to just 5.5, with the boats astern of her still piling along at 15 knots. As a result there is some major compression happening with le Cleac'h's lead already down from 62 miles at the final sched yesterday to a mere 29 over Francois Gabart on Banque Populaire's sistership, MACIF.
Contrary to how it appeared when we last looked, this hold-up doesn't appear like it will be for long. The satellite wind radar images from last night indicate that the Doldrums has concentrated from 7°N down to just south of 6°N, which seems to tally with Banque Populaire's abrupt downturn in speed. The top six boats appear to be following Banque Populaire into the Doldrums at pretty much the same longitude of around 26°30W. In fact most have put some easting in over the early hours of this morning, so this longitude must be particularly sweet.
Aside from his entry into the Doldrums, Alex Thomson has other things on his mind, since he has been trying to jury rig his starboard rudder's link arm.
Thomson explained what happened: “I was low on battery juice so I popped the hydro down and went below to see how many amps were going in. At the time I was averaging about 18 knots and I heard a strange noise so went to the door and I could see the hydro vibrating very severely and getting worse. I realised it was going to break and rushed to pull it up but before I got there it ripped off the back of the boat and did a cartwheel and smashed the starboard tie bar. I was on port tack so the starboard rudder was not connected to anything and I knew instantly that the boat would wipe out. It did but I managed to get the boat flat and got downwind to roll up the A3 spinnaker keeping the port rudder in the water doing all the steering.”
He was forced to stop Hugo Boss for an hour with big waves smashing into the back of the boat while he changed over the bars and get the starboard rudder steering again, before he could set off again.
Together with the onshore team back in the UK, the focus of the last 24 hours has been on the repairs to enable him to continue safely:
“The bar is a very thin carbon tube about 3m long which was broken in two places, and we do not carry a spare unfortunately,” explained Thomson. “Cliff, our composite engineer, is a genius problem solver and he came up with a plan with Ross and Clarke which would splint the breaks using carbon strips. I firstly had to cut the strips with the grinder with a diamond cutting blade I have onboard. I was not looking forward to doing it because literally everything would be covered in carbon dust. I cleared the cockpit and got to work all while averaging 19 knots of boat speed. I managed to do it without cutting a finger off or cutting through the cockpit floor. Once I had finished I was covered in silver paint and black carbon dust and the cockpit looked like Cliff’s workshop! The repair sure ain’t pretty but it should be functional and was about 7 hours work all in plus some tidy up time. I was pretty knackered but pleased. It has been an amazing team effort.”
The gap between sixth placed Hugo Boss and the chasing pack is now 230 miles, up marginally from yesterday, but the three boats involved - Mike Golding's Gamesa, Dominque Wavre on Mirabaud and Jean le Cam onSynerCiel are less than a mile apart in terms of DTF at the latest sched, with Le Cam currently making the best speed in the east, Gamesa having crossed ahead of Mirabaud, sailing a slightly deeper angle.
Golding reported some unsettled breeze through the night but has stuck with a big, code sail in the 11-12 knots of wind he had early this morning: "I am sure we have the effect of some turbulence from the islands. They may be a long way off, but you can see it on the weather files, and we have been slowed and knocked. I have stuck with the Code sail rather than the Genoa for the moment and I think the other two have been on Genoa, and in fact I saw Dominique last night and he was."
Golding appears to be lining up for a more westerly crossing of the Doldrums: "They have been sailing a different angle and I have been wondering if they are lining up to cross the Doldrums in a different place. That kind of shakes your confidence and you go back and look at everything again but it looks OK where I am headed. The leaders should go in today and to be honest it is now looking OK for them and they should not lose too much.
"Overall I feel like I am getting down the track nicely now. I am very much into my routine with the boat. I don’t feel like I have made any big errors and I am now sailing the boat OK. It is a little bit of a surprise to see Dominique up here at this stage, but good on him, he got the entry to the high and the low pressure right and is going well."