Vendee Globe: Another man down

As seven boats are penalised for wrongly crossing the traffic separation scheme off Finisterre

Thursday November 22nd 2012, Author: James Boyd, Location: none selected

Another dramatic 24 hours in the Vendee Globe with a further retirement bringing the tally up to six, while seven boats have been penalised  for contravening the traffic separation scheme off Finisterre earlier in the race.

Image above courtesy of Expedition with GRIB files from Predictwind

Positions at 0400 UTC

Pos Skipper Boat Lat Long Spd Crs VMG Spd2 Dist DTF DTL
          1hr aver     24hr aver      
 1 Armel Le Cléac'h Banque Pop 03°39.10'S 28°50.87'W 9.5 194° 3.3 11.3 272 20903.3 0
2 François Gabart MACIF 02°32.60'S 28°41.24'W 11 211° 0.7 11.7 279.7 20949.3 46
 3 Bernard Stamm Cheminees 01°39.72'S 27°43.16'W 7.9 202° 1.9 9.8 235 20954.9 51.6
 4 Vincent  Riou PRB 02°17.23'S 28°33.47'W 10.4 203° 2.1 11.2 268.4 20956.6 53.3
 5 Jean-Pierre Dick Virbac 02°28.61'S 28°57.26'W 10.6 204° 2 11.7 281.6 20962.4 59.1
 6 Alex Thomson Hugo Boss 02°04.79'S 28°41.86'W 10.9 212° 0.5 11.2 267.7 20971.5 68.2
 7 Mike  Golding Gamesa 00°06.68'S 29°51.20'W 10.5 215° 0 10.2 244.8 21107.2 203.9
 8 Dominique Wavre Mirabaud 00°46.24'N 29°16.98'W 8.3 211° 0.8 8.5 203.1 21127.7 224.4
 9 Jean Le Cam SynerCiel 00°38.44'N 29°34.46'W 9.5 217° -0.2 8.8 212.3 21132.3 229
 10 Arnaud  Boissières Akena Verandas 04°11.45'N 27°52.85'W 0.9 186° 0.7 6 143.3 21239.1 335.8
 11 Bertrand De Broc Votre nom 05°10.03'N 27°38.34'W 9.9 180° 8.9 11.6 279 21282.1 378.8
 12 Javier Sanso Acciona 05°50.72'N 26°33.63'W 13.8 176° 13.6 16 383.2 21297.1 393.8
 13 Tanguy  Delamotte Initiatives Coeur 06°28.93'N 26°19.78'W 12.3 179° 12.2 13.6 327 21331.1 427.8
 14 Alessandro Di Benedetto Team Plastique 13°15.36'N 26°56.18'W 12.5 171° 12.5 12.9 310.5 21737.8 834.5
RET Zbigniew Gutowski  Energa Autopilot failure (21 Nov)              
RET Jérémie Beyou Maitre CoQ Broken hydraulic ram (19 Nov)            
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)            

Poland's Zbigniew 'Gutek' Gutkowski skipper of Energa (the Finot-Conq-designed former Hugo Boss) announced his retirement yesterday at 1230 UTC after days trying to find a fix for his autopilots.

Now almost 2,000 miles behind the leader, Gutkowski had been sailing east, running tests on his two autopilots after his wipe out on Saturday. He said that electronic issues and the autopilots have been a problem from the start and he and his team have been working with the system's makers to find a fix.

“Today I need to officially announce what I’ve been thinking about for days,” Gutek said. “Being brave is not only about fighting, it is also about knowing where to stop. I know I did everything I could, working on my electronics issues for many days. I know my team and friends did their best as well. And I am extremely grateful for the huge support I got. But I can’t carry on like that. When there is big wind and when the boat is going over 15 knots the autopilot starts to live a second life, doing whatever it wants.

“Having no autopilot means I can’t race, and if I can’t race, I have to retire. When I joined the Vendée Globe I was not interested in being the 15thth skipper to finish. That’s a tough decision, one of toughest in my life. But that’s Vendee Globe, that’s the power of the ocean and you can’t fight it.

“I cannot go without an autopilot in the Southern Ocean, that is impossible. I need to keep the boat in one piece I don’t want to lose it and maybe my life in the Southern Ocean. It’s like driving at night on a road you don’t know, a road with many turns, surrounded with trees. Suddenly your lights go off and you can’t slow down. How many chances do you have to survive? That’s what is happening with my autopilot, if you replace the road and the trees with the ocean and the waves.”

Following a protest from both Hugo Boss and the Race Committee, seven skippers have been penalised by the International Jury for the way they sailed in or through the Finisterre Traffic Separation Scheme. The jury's decision is as follows: Synerciel, Mirabaud, Acciona, Initiatives Cœur and Energa have been given a two-hour penalty. Gamesa has a 30-minute penalty and Virbac Paprec 3 has a 20-minute penalty.

These penalties will have to be carried out on the water (rather than being applied at the finish) before today at 2300 UTC. Which will be a good opportunity to catch up with some sleep.

Given the marginal legality of singlehanded offshore racing, as skippers are unable to maintain a look-out in accordance with rule 5 of the ColRegs, it seems crazy that skippers should further flaunt these rules by wrongly crossing shipping lanes. If they behaved in this way in the shipping lanes in the Channel, particularly off Dover, they would be prosecuted, as Safran skipper Marc Guillemot has found out to his cost.

Just prior to the latest sched, Mike Golding on Gamesa became the seventh boat to cross the Equator and into the southern hemisphere. 

The times for the top six were:

1. Armel Le Cléac'h (Banque Populaire) at 07:30 21 Nov, after 10d 19h and 18m
2. François Gabart (MACIF) at 12:11 after 11d 9m
3. Vincent Riou (PRB) at 12:12 after 11d 10m
4. Jean Pierre Dick (Virbac Paprec 3) at 12:25 after 11d 23m
5. Alex Thomson (Hugo Boss) at 14:36 after 11d 2h 34m
6. Bernard Stamm (Cheminées Poujoulat) at 15:37 after 11d 3h 35m

...indicating just how close MACIF, PRB and Virbac Paprec 3 are on the water still, all still within sight of one another.

This morning the speeds of the frontrunners appear to be much the same as they were 24 hours ago with the boats close reaching south  n port tack. Saying this there has been a marginal separation of the boats over this period with Banque Populaire adding 10 miles to her lead, from 26 to 36 miles ahead of MACIF according to the official figures, although more realistically she is now more like 67 miles ahead.

According to our numbers (to a point off Brazil), Virbac Paprec 3 holds third, just over 2 miles back from MACIF, with PRB a further 14 miles behind, and another 11 back to Hugo Boss, currently holding fifth place. Bernard Stamm on Cheminees Poujoulat has dropped off the pace a bit for some reason and is 34 miles behind Hugo Boss by our reckoning, in sixth place, although according to the official figures he lies third, by virtue of being furthest east among the front runners.

Having exited the Doldrums during the last 24 hours, the trio of 'oldies' in the second wave have been the biggest losers over the last 24 hours. Of the three Mike Golding on Gamesa has lost the least, although this is also due to Dominique Wavre on Mirabaud and Jean le Cam on SynerCiel carrying out their penalties. Our numbers have Gamesa 206 miles behind Banque Populaire. Gamesa is currently furthest west in the fleet and her skipper must be keeping his fingers crossed that the southeasterly trades start backing, so he can start putting some more south into Gamesa's heading otherwise he's going to be shaving the coast of Brazil.

Golding also took his penalty overnight of 30 minutes. "I’m not happy about it, but it’s done," he said this morning. It’s been a very slow and frustrating night, with the wind very headed and consequently I have not made much VMG (velocity made good, or net speed in the direction of the finish). I am back on the Solent headsail, whenever I was on the Genoa I just seemed to be on my ear too much. When it is right it was fine."

In around 12kts of wind this morning, Golding reflected that the leading boats ahead of him were almost certainly in better, stronger breeze: "I’m afraid that is the way of it just now and it will likely continue. The trade winds here are right down a lot, there is not much holding them. My fear is that the mileage to the leaders grows again over the next 4-5 days that it is going to be like this."

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