Vendee Globe: Three way fight for first
Three weeks and one day into the Vendee Globe and impressively over the last 24 hours we have had three changes of leader. Armel le Cleac'h and Banque Populaire recovered first place from Jean-Pierre Dick's Virbac at the final sched yesterday, only for Dick to regain it oviernght, while at the latest sched Francois Gabart, who led for the first week of the race on MACIF, is now a nose in front.
Positions at 0800 UTC
|1hr aver||24hr aver|
|3||Armel Le Cléac'h||Banque Pop||40°02.63'S||06°53.98'E||19.3||88°||18.9||17.5||419.2||18317.8||12.2|
|5||Alex Thomson||Hugo Boss||38°37.71'S||04°20.30'E||16.3||87°||15.7||16.1||386.2||18450.7||145.1|
|6||Jean Le Cam||SynerCiel||39°10.93'S||00°18.70'W||12.6||98°||12.6||13.9||334.6||18654.7||349.1|
|10||Arnaud Boissières||Akena Verandas||34°35.62'S||16°20.68'W||4.8||199°||0.4||7||168.8||19470.3||1164.7|
|11||Tanguy Delamotte||Initiatives Coeur||30°43.48'S||20°16.45'W||10.3||184°||4||7.4||177.7||19749.3||1443.7|
|12||Bertrand De Broc||Votre nom||34°23.25'S||25°43.69'W||6.3||152°||5||8.3||199.2||19899.7||1594.1|
|13||Alessandro Di Benedetto||Team Plastique||24°42.35'S||26°18.22'W||11||189°||4.4||9.3||224.1||20206.4||1900.8|
|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)|
However this is a dangerous time. The front has now passed ahead of all the boats, Banque Populaire riding it for the longest, but with the wind shift into the southwest (and now on into the south) so the boats have all gybed, but they will be racing through a substantially more confused seas and it was in a similar scenario to when both Gitana Eighty and Mike Golding's Ecover dismasted in the last race.
So has there been a drop pace? Yes, but not much with the leaders still beam reaching at a solid 18-19 knots as opposed to speeds into the early 20s they were making ahead of the front
Next stop is the western end of the first icegate, which at the latest sched is 225 miles away from MACIF. The gates are a virtual line the boats must pass north of somewhere along their length. At present, with the wind having backed all the way into the south, there is no incentive to get south and all the leaders look set to fulfil the requirements of the first gate with ease.
With the frontrunners last to be overtaken by the front, the rich have been getting richer again with, for example, Alex Thomson and Hugo Boss' deficit on the leader having increased by almost 50 miles to 147 at the latest sched. It has been marginally worse for the 'oldies' in the second wave, with Mike Golding on Gamesa having lost 65 miles, but less than Jean le Cam on SynerCiel who has lost 94, Golding now back to being within 15 miles of the French legend.
This morning Golding reported: "It was a bumpy night with some good fast surfs, but then you slow down as the wind eases again, the sea state is strange and so it is not easy to push any harder. When it eases down you think about changing sails up and then it comes back hard, so it is not easy just now. We are really just sailing ahead of this system and not quite able to outrun it.
"The reality is the new breeze will come in from the south and so I really should have committed to get down there for it, but then when you are doing 17 knots towards the gate then that is not easy. I’ll have to put the bow up at some point. But the routing has me doing what I am doing.
"It is difficult because we have lost a bunch of miles and not gained them back. It is frustrating because you see some of the speeds on the skeds, more than 20 kts sked to sked, and we have not been able to do that, but in saying that I think they have had different weather and in fact they have not taken that many miles. But it is a little bit demoralising.
"The new breeze comes in from the south and then we should eventually be able to get some downwind sailing. With this 90° reaching, the boat is heeled, it is horribly wet on deck, yes the miles are quick and you don’t have to do too much for them, but downwind the boat is flatter and you can do stuff around the boat. And looking ahead to the next gate we will arrive with another high. This is one of the problems with the ice gates is that you cannot get far enough south to get away from this."
Behind the top eight progress across the latter section of the South Atlantic is proving more troublesome with an area of high pressure having set up in their path. Javier Sanso on Acciona 100% Eco Powered, for example is now to the east of the high struggling upwind on port tack on a course taking him towards Cape Town and at the moment has little prospect of getting south without making a very costly tack. But his predicament is rosy compared to that of Arnaud Boissieres on Akena Verandas who has just been nailed by the high and at present (and for the foreseeable) is going nowhere slowly. Behind them Bertrand de Broc on Votre Nom Autour du Monde and Tanguy de la Motte on Initiatives Coeur are wisely taking the more circuitous but faster route around the western side of the high.