Vendee Globe: Tristan da Cunha convergence

Virbac Paprec 3 closes to within 55 miles of the race leader

Friday November 30th 2012, Author: James Boyd, Location: none selected

The outcome of the varying tactics employed by the race leaders in the Vendee Globe over the last few days is now playing out, but, so far, as the boats pass Tristan da Cunha, Armel le Cleac'h on Banque Populaire has managed to hang on to the lead, despite Jean-Pierre Dick on Virbac Paprec 3 closing at speed.

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 35°48.94'S 10°11.59'W 16.6 133° 15.4 13.9 333.7 19163.4 0
 2 Jean-Pierre Dick Virbac 38°12.09'S 12°27.30'W 18.5 114° 18.3 19.3 462.7 19219.1 55.7
 3 François Gabart MACIF 38°00.08'S 12°44.75'W 21.5 120° 20.9 19.2 460.1 19235.6 72.3
 4 Bernard Stamm Cheminees 36°14.60'S 13°17.39'W 17.8 114° 17.8 15.9 382 19294.6 131.3
 5 Alex Thomson Hugo Boss 34°57.69'S 12°41.18'W 19.9 120° 19.7 13.7 328.5 19295.6 132.2
 6 Jean Le Cam SynerCiel 36°56.25'S 15°07.99'W 17.8 122° 17.4 17.3 416.3 19363.5 200.2
 7 Mike  Golding Gamesa 35°31.59'S 15°39.70'W 16.4 124° 16.1 16.3 390.6 19417.7 254.3
 8 Dominique Wavre Mirabaud 36°24.38'S 16°29.78'W 18.5 119° 18.3 17.4 416.8 19436 272.7
 9 Javier Sanso Acciona 32°17.27'S 19°32.12'W 15.8 110° 15.8 16.6 397.6 19673.3 510
 10 Arnaud  Boissières Akena Verandas 31°12.64'S 24°15.07'W 12.4 130° 12.2 13.5 323.1 19917.1 753.7
 11 Tanguy  Delamotte Initiatives Coeur 26°09.55'S 23°52.78'W 9.4 120° 9.4 9 215.8 20048.9 885.5
 12 Bertrand De Broc Votre nom 28°19.99'S 26°26.02'W 8.4 202° 1.2 11.1 267.5 20100.1 936.8
 13 Alessandro Di Benedetto Team Plastique 17°33.83'S 26°15.57'W 10.1 168° 7.5 10.4 249 20442.6 1279.2
RET Vincent  Riou PRB Damage to hull and lower shroud after collision with drifting buoy (24 Nov)    
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)              

As expected, Jean-Pierre Dick has been on the charge over the last 24 hours and has racked up an impressive 462 miles. Sailing in stronger wind ahead of the front, Dick has closed to 55 miles of the race leader, who has been converging with the southwesterly group. At the latest sched Banque Populaire is 180 miles to the northeast of Virbac, but is still sailing in less breeze and over the last four hours the race leader's average speed has been 2.5 knots less than Virbac's.

Also on the charge is Francois Gabart on Banque Populaire's sistership MACIF, who has also been converging with Virbac's track, but despite sailing a deeper angle has been sailing some two knots faster than Virbac.

But what is really impressive is the compression among the top eight boats. Just three days ago Dominique Wavre on eighth placed Mirabaud was 563 miles astern of Banque Populaire. At the latest sched his deficit is down to 272 miles.

At present for the skippers it is vital to keep the pedal to the metal as the outcome of the next 24 hours will go some way to determine their pecking order as they spend the next weeks charging east around the bottom of the globe. All the boats are currently riding the strong NNWerly winds ahead of the front approaching from the west. This front is orientated on a NNW-SSE axis so for the boats this is similar to riding a wave, the faster they can go at this stage, the longer they will ride the wave. Once the front has passed the wind backs into the southwest and due to the severe seastate that is drummed up following the 90° wind shift, the boats have to slow down.

The front is forecast (GFS) to move east by 700 miles over the next 24 hours, so if Virbac can sail at a similar pace to what she has managed over the last day, then the front should be catching up with her this time tomorrow morning. Meanwhile Banque Populaire and Alex Thomson on Hugo Boss, starting off further away from the front to the northeast, will remain in the strong favourable winds for longer. So we can expect Virbac and MACIF to eat into Banque Populaire's lead further over the next 24 hours but with Banque Populaire able to regain miles tomorrow.

Mike Golding on Gamesa is currently lying in seventh and with clear memories of dismasting in these waters four years ago, the British round the world veteran is erring on caution. He reported this morning: "To be honest we are just ahead of the front and so going at the same speed as it and so the breeze changes a bit, but in the end I set a sail plan I was happy with last night and just let the boat run, and so that was nice. It was a bit bumpy at times but we are certainly not going slow.

"One of the things now is that at these speeds, 200 miles is really nothing at all, 10 hours or so, and so as compression and expansion happens that does not feel so bad Sooner or later the front will pass over us, probably later this afternoon, and then we will get a left hand shift, we will have to gybe and it will be softer all round again. Then the route to the waypoint becomes a bit more complicated. There is another system coming through and at the moment the routing is divided. Meantime the boats to the south will stay with this pressure longer. Armel is trying to close the door on Virbac-Paprec 3 and that is costing him miles just now. But the good thing is it is all close, a pretty good race.

"The change to the Kerguelen gate is a big one, moving it 10 degrees north adds a lot of distance to the course and it looks like it will be complex there, with a high pressure around at the same time, so a strange stop start sequence may happen. But at the end of the day I’d rather take it as it comes, than be dodging ice."

Golding refers to the decision by the Vendee Globe race committee to move the ice gate to the north of the Crozet Islands (in the Indian Ocean) by some 650 miles....

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