Vendee Globe: Another man down?

Leaders set to slow today as PRB has a collision and Stamm reveals sail damage

Saturday November 24th 2012, Author: James Boyd, Location: none selected

The leaders in the Vendee Globe are this morning at the latitude of Salvador de Bahia, which many of the skippers know well as the one time finish port of the Transat Jacques Vabre. With the leaders having enjoyed a little more breeze so they have extended relative to the rest of the fleet with, for example, Alex Thomson on Hugo Boss back to 139 mile behind the race leader, as ever Armel le Cleac'h on Banque Populaire, at the latest sched, from 104 a day ago.

Of concern is what will happen to PRB, following skipper Vincent Riou's report, hot off the press, that his yacht has just suffered a collision with a buoy. More here

Image above courtesy of Expedition with GRIB files from Predictwind

Positions at 0800 UTC

Pos Skipper Yacht Lat Long Spd Crs VMG Spd Dist DTF DTL
          1hr aver     24hr aver      
 1 Armel Le Cléac'h Banque Pop 13°44.11'S 28°27.09'W 11.9 179° 6.9 12.2 293.8 20433.3 0
 2 François Gabart MACIF 13°08.27'S 28°59.19'W 13.4 168° 9.7 12.9 310.2 20480.8 47.5
 3 Jean-Pierre Dick Virbac 12°48.32'S 29°27.39'W 11.6 163° 9 12.6 302.1 20514.3 80.9
 4 Vincent  Riou PRB 12°10.96'S 28°51.17'W 4.1 196° 1.4 11.3 272.1 20516.7 83.4
 5 Bernard Stamm Cheminees 10°54.46'S 28°04.81'W 10 167° 7.6 10.8 254 20541.9 108.6
 6 Alex Thomson Hugo Boss 11°06.80'S 29°04.55'W 12.5 166° 9.6 10.9 262.1 20572.5 139.1
 7 Mike  Golding Gamesa 09°03.27'S 31°42.87'W 9.9 181° 5.7 10.8 260 20769.1 335.7
 8 Jean Le Cam SynerCiel 08°23.74'S 32°21.09'W 11.6 185° 6.1 11.3 271.8 20823.7 390.4
 9 Dominique Wavre Mirabaud 07°36.01'S 31°39.28'W 9.2 192° 4 10.3 246.7 20831.1 397.7
 10 Javier Sanso Acciona 01°32.21'S 29°37.15'W 10.4 180° 5.9 9.2 220.9 21031.4 598
 11 Tanguy  Delamotte Initiatives Coeur 00°29.68'S 29°01.02'W 9.5 198° 2.9 9.4 225.4 21058.1 624.7
 12 Arnaud  Boissières Akena Verandas 00°47.24'S 31°16.80'W 9.6 179° 6.6 8.7 208 21128.6 695.2
 13 Bertrand De Broc Votre nom 00°52.72'N 30°56.05'W 8.7 212° 0.6 6.4 153.9 21194 760.6
 14 Alessandro Di Benedetto Team Plastique 05°58.77'N 26°34.45'W 7.8 188° 7.2 4 95 21305.1 871.7
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)              

Compared to their situation 24 hours ago, there has not been a great deal of change for the frontrunners this morning with them making similar speeds and on a similar course, just east of due south. 

We wait to hear what 2004 Vendee Globe winner Vincent Riou will be able to do concerning the damage to PRB, which sounds like it may be holed. Fortunately conditions are theoretically reasonablly good (in terms of the temperature and how wet it is) to effect a repair. Personally Riou is also more than capable of carrying out this work, provided he has enough material on board he can salvage. But with the whole of the Southern Ocean ahead???

Yesterday Bernard Stamm revealed that Cheminees Poujoulat had been struggling to keep up with the lead group because he has been unable to use his genoa which was damaged in the Doldrums.

The Swiss skipper described what happened: “The sea was pretty chaotic and in a windless area, the boat was shaken really hard, one of the centreboards went up and it tore up the genoa. In order to keep going, I had to take a route that goes further east than the others, otherwise it would have slowed me down a lot.”

Stamm has also been busy taking care of an autopilot issue and so hasn't been able to sleep much lately. “I'll soon be done with the repairs, the end of he punishment is coming.”

Conversely Alex Thomson has succeeded in repairing the hydrogenerator which snapped off Hugo Boss' transom earlier in the week. “The hydrogenerator is back down and working, which is relief. It’s nice to be able to concentrate on something other than fixing stuff. It was a really fiddly job; drill, clean, screw, while you’re doing that stuff at a 30° of heel.

“I’ve been struggling a little bit over the last 24 hours to keep the speed up, but now I’ve got a more wind. There’s no question the guys at the front will slow a little bit as they get further down towards the ridge, but in these conditions the leading boats are a little bit quicker than I am.”

For the race leaders conditions are forecast to get lighter today as they enter the northwest side of the St Helena high  which will see the wind back into the northeast. This is set to cause a compression in the fleet over the next 24 hours. However they are tantalisingly close (around 550 miles at present for Banque Populaire) to a band of strong favourable northerlies ahead of a front, associated with a depression currently centred almost 1,000 mile southeast of Rio.

As the leaders pass Salvador, so the 'oldies' behind them are off Recife, at the easternmost point of Brazil. Jean le Cam on SynerCiel has taken up a position furthest east, although he is still 150 miles from the Brazilian coast. However Mike Golding continues to be on the offensive - having added another 11 miles to his lead over le Cam, his advantage now up to 54 miles. However Golding will also have Alex Thomson in his sights and unfortunately in this particular battle he has lost 26 miles over the last day, his deficit now up to 196 miles.

This morning Golding reported: "I have just been doing one or two jobs around the boat, a few little leaks to be dealt with. There were a couple of little leaks in the engine bay and one at the interceptor. And I have been doing some work on the watermakers to have them working as efficiently as they should.

"Otherwise it has been soft and flukey which is a bit of pain when you want to get south fast. I’m sailing with no ballast, on the genoa, so I have to monitor it very closely because if you get a knot or two more wind, you are on your ear. Looking ahead the weather picture around the high is still complicated but the routing is relatively straightforward just following the rotation around the high pressure. There are not many options now.

"At 14 days in I am really nicely settled in with the boat, feeling good. The trade winds have not let us get soft so I am in good shape. Now I am just looking forward to getting into the south. Let’s just go and do it!"

If the second wave's deficit is significant, the gap between the oldies to the next group is more so - around 330 miles between Domnique Wavre's Mirabaud and Javier Sanso on Acciona 100% Eco Powered. of these boats all are now into the southern hemisphere except Bertrand de Broc's Votre nom autour du Monde and backmarker Italian Alessandro Di Benedetto on Team Plastique, who is still suck in the Doldrums

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