Vendee Globe: Slow left hand turn

Race leaders contemplate their South Atlantic strategies

Friday November 23rd 2012, Author: James Boyd, Location: none selected

With the trade winds slowly backing, so the leaders in the Vendee Globe have been lifted by around 20° over the last 24 hours. The boats chasing leader Banque Populaire this morning are at the latitude of Recife, the most eastern point of Brazil.

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
          1hr aver     24hr aver      
 1 Armel Le Cléac'h Banque Pop 08°55.34'S 29°22.45'W 13.1 170° 8.6 11.5 277 20678.1 0
 2 François Gabart MACIF 07°59.21'S 29°26.05'W 13.7 165° 9.9 11.9 285.3 20723.6 45.5
 3 Vincent  Riou PRB 07°41.75'S 29°31.07'W 13.3 182° 6.6 12 287.8 20740.2 62.1
 4 Jean-Pierre Dick Virbac 07°49.50'S 30°12.43'W 12.5 173° 7.7 12 287.7 20760.3 82.2
 5 Bernard Stamm Cheminees 06°31.06'S 28°37.88'W 11.6 179° 6.4 10.9 260.9 20761.4 83.3
 6 Alex Thomson Hugo Boss 06°40.12'S 29°22.53'W 10.2 176° 6 10.2 243.8 20782.4 104.3
 7 Mike  Golding Gamesa 04°43.55'S 31°30.07'W 10.7 183° 5.2 10.8 258.3 20953 274.9
 8 Dominique Wavre Mirabaud 03°31.13'S 31°09.47'W 10.6 194° 3.5 10.1 242.6 20996.2 318.1
 9 Jean Le Cam SynerCiel 03°54.99'S 31°39.92'W 11.6 191° 4.4 11.1 265.4 20996.8 318.7
 10 Javier Sanso Acciona 01°51.26'N 28°11.03'W 9.4 225° -1.3 8.7 209.7 21138.6 460.5
 11 Tanguy  Delamotte Initiatives Coeur 02°44.17'N 27°06.02'W 9 226° -1.2 7.6 182.8 21141 462.9
 12 Arnaud  Boissières Akena Verandas 02°17.12'N 29°40.44'W 9.2 245° -4.3 6 143.8 21213.7 535.6
 13 Bertrand De Broc Votre nom 02°47.93'N 29°13.93'W 5.3 229° -1.1 5.7 137.6 21221.8 543.7
 14 Alessandro Di Benedetto Team Plastique 07°25.24'N 25°54.87'W 3.8 175° 3.8 13 311.1 21382.7 704.6

The long port tack continues this morning although the bows of the leading IMOCA 60s have been swinging slowly left, the majority now on a heading slightly east of due south. Race leader Armel le Cleac'h on Banque Populaire has lost a little ground on those chasing him over the last 24 hours, with Francois Gabart on MACIF now 45 miles behind him, compared to 49 miles yesterday morning, or down from 67 to 56 miles according to our figures.

The boats in the chasing pack behind le Cleac'h are all playing out marginally different strategies as they head south with Jean-Pierre Dick on Virbac Paprec 3 now the furthest west, with Bernard Stamm on Cheminees Poujoulat fifth according to the official sched, but in reality still sixth, on a comeback, but furthest east. There is about 90 miles laterally across the race track between these two extremes with Alex Thomson on Hugo Boss taking the middle ground.

While there is currently a dangerous-looking ridge lying across the race track on a ESE-WNW axis off Salvador this is due to disappear over the next 24 hours as the race leaders see the wind continuing to back into the northwest tomorrow allowing them to pick up speed, although it is still not clear whether they will be able to 'cut the corner' in the South Atlantic, a move which, if successful, could take as much a day off their lap of the planet. 

This prospect would be panning out well if they were in a 40m long trimaran, unfortunately at present it looks that the leaders could hook into a favourable highway of favourable northeasterlies in the northwest quadrant of the St Helena high but will get dropped off the back of the high as it disappears off to the southeast once again. However at present this is too far ahead for the forecast accurately to predict the outcome.  

Behind the top six, Mike Golding on Gamesa continues to lead the next wave and has also managed to turn south. "Opportunity will come at some point but I have been losing to them," said Golding this morning.  "So it is gratifying on this most recent poll to see we are on the same heading [as the boats in front] which is encouraging as I hope I have been able to stop the rot."

Over the last 24 hours Gamesa has dropped back from 218 mile behind the leader to 274 at the latest sched. Golding continued: "I just have to be a bit brave now and consider that the opportunity to get back to the leaders will come but it is not going to be very soon. It will come. It is a bit frustrating just now but then, when I look at the guys behind me, I see I have made the same sort of big gain on them.

"Looking ahead it is messy for sure. There are a few options: one seems to be to try and cut the corner a little, to stay to the east, you are more on the wind and at the moment it looks quite risky. It looks quicker at the moment but it’s still too early to say. One of the problems just now is what waypoint you use. I am kind of playing around with it just now. It is a difficult one.

"I still have some work to do on the hydrogenerators. I am having to manually release the pressure from time to time as the blades are not feathering as they should, but overall they are great. They are not working as efficiently as they should, it is either the hydraulics or the regulator, but the boat is washing its face with them [ie the power output generated is enough to not have to use other sources] which is very encouraging. They are fantastic and you start to think of having a system properly integrated where you can deploy them from inside the hull. There is big potential."

Behind 'the oldies', Arnaud Boissières on Akena Verandas and Bertrand De Broc on Votre nom autour du Monde avec EDM projects have had a tough time in the Doldrums and have exited it into southerlies. As a result they, as well as Javier Sanso on Acciona 100% Eco Powered and Tanguy de LaMotte on Initiative Coeur, who are both further to the east, are all on a southwesterly heading and making negative VMG...

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