Vendee Globe: Virbac Paprec 3 into the lead

As Alex Thomson's solo monohull 24 hour record is broken and possibly rebroken at the latest sched

Saturday December 1st 2012, Author: James Boyd, Location: none selected

Just before the 0400 sched this morning Jean-Pierre Dick on Virbac Paprec 3 overhauled Armel le Cleac'h on Banque Populaire to take the lead in the Vendee Globe. So three weeks into this seventh edition of the non-stop round the world race we have the top three boats within 23 miles of each other...

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
          1 hour av     24 hour av      
 1 Jean-Pierre Dick Virbac 40°06.75'S 02°12.89'W 20.3 103° 20.3 20.4 489.7 18729.4 0
 2 Armel Le Cléac'h Banque Pop 39°06.14'S 02°05.14'W 18.5 107° 18.5 18.1 433.3 18736 6.6
 3 François Gabart MACIF 40°18.05'S 02°45.53'W 19.7 91° 19.5 20.2 484.4 18752.3 22.9
 4 Bernard Stamm Cheminees 38°32.41'S 03°41.60'W 20.8 96° 20.5 19.9 477.5 18817.3 87.9
 5 Alex Thomson Hugo Boss 37°22.54'S 03°28.04'W 19.2 96° 18.9 19.6 469.2 18826.6 97.2
 6 Jean Le Cam SynerCiel 38°46.05'S 07°27.98'W 15.4 95° 15.2 15.8 379.3 18984.2 254.8
 7 Mike  Golding Gamesa 38°03.14'S 08°10.15'W 16.3 94° 15.9 16.3 390.5 19027.7 298.3
 8 Dominique Wavre Mirabaud 38°34.89'S 08°55.37'W 16.9 97° 16.7 16 383.3 19053 323.6
 9 Javier Sanso Acciona 34°55.69'S 13°00.78'W 14 110° 13.9 15.1 362.3 19311.2 581.8
 10 Arnaud  Boissières Akena Verandas 33°45.88'S 19°35.71'W 10.9 123° 10.8 11.7 281 19637.9 908.5
 11 Tanguy  Delamotte Initiatives Coeur 27°50.65'S 21°03.77'W 10.1 102° 9.6 7.6 181.4 19867.9 1138.5
 12 Bertrand De Broc Votre nom 31°04.73'S 25°24.60'W 10.4 214° -1 7.2 173.2 19973.3 1243.9
 13 Alessandro Di Benedetto Team Plastique 20°58.30'S 26°19.21'W 10.4 193° 3.6 8.5 204.5 20329.1 1599.7
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)              

Routing software is clearly getting more accurate because the outcome many have been predicting for some days now has finally come to pass this morning with Virbac edging ahead of perennial race leader Banque Populaire. As we have explained in previous reports this is simply because Jean-Pierre Dick's IMOCA 60 has been sailing for longer in stronger winds ahead of the front.

However the front is now encroaching on the leaders - already it has passed over the 'oldies' trailing the lead pack and today it is due to catch the leaders and there is a small window of opportunity for Banque Populaire to regain her lead today, as despite now being in second, she is still some 50 miles further ahead of the front than Virbac (assuming there is some accuracy in the GRIBs).

The western end of the first gate is now firmly in the crosshairs of the leaders. At the latest sched it is 650 miles away for Virbac Paprec 3. However to the west of the front the pace towards the icegate will be less frantic with the wind in the southwest and the confused cross-seas drummed up by the passing of the front. 

This morning Mike Golding on Gamesa reported how the front passed him, the wind backing into the southwest requiring him to put in a gybe - his first change of tack since entering the Southern Hemisphere: "It’s a bit of a weird feeling after so long, it feels like the world is a bit upside down but you get used to it. Everything is sloping the other way.

"I am a bit knackered, but have just had some good sleep and so am feeling quite a bit better. We went through the back of the front and had do to all sorts of manoeuvres. I am on one reef and the Solent, but have been down to two reefs. I started off last night after the gybe with the Code 3 and that was too much, then down to the Genoa and now the Solent, so it has been quite busy."

Gamesa passed very close to the island of Tristan da Cunha yesterday evening. Golding enjoyed speaking on the radio to one of the island’s senior administrators, who has been following the race closely. They chatted for a few minutes, the administrator recalling the unexpected visit of Ken Read’s stricken VO70 during the last Volvo Ocean Race.

"It was interesting because the guy knew all about the race. He was very welcoming and wished me well. I was right in close which was nice, but in the end it was actually a little fight to get around the island. And as I did the first part, the front arrived with strong winds and heavy rain and so it has been pretty full on since then. It feels good to have got the first ‘gate’ Gough Island tucked away and so focusing on the next, it looks like the routing wants me to be on the wind more, but to be honest just now when you are doing 20kts or more towards the mark then it is very tempting to just keep doing that and I’d like to get a little south again.

"Ahead the ice gates look like they can be quite divisive for the fleet. The first couple will be mainly in lighter winds, the second one especially. I am starting to wish I had made some different sails for that bit but I suppose it is the same for everybody."

Alex Thomson's solo monohull 24 hour record of 468.72 miles set in the 2003 Transat B2B was broken yesterday, by Francois Gabart's MACIF. Between 1200 UTC on Thursday and the same time yesterday François Gabart's MACIF, covered 482.91 miles at an average speed of 20.1 knots. However at the 0400 sched this has been broken again with Virbac Paprec 3 covering 498.80. Both these mileages have yet to be ratified by the World Sailing Speed Record Council. 

As Alex Thomson points out though "the new record is a little under 0.8 kt fast per hr than mine but i set mine on the sistership to Initiatives Coeur 9 years ago..."


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