Vendee Globe: Passing the first icegate

The three way battle for first place continues with Armel le Cleac'h back in front

Monday December 3rd 2012, Author: James Boyd, Location: none selected

The three way fight for first place in the Vendee Globe has continued over the last 24 hours with Francois Gabart on MACIF having led all day yesterday, but with Jean-Pierre Dick on Virbac Paprec 3 back in front at the first sched this morning and now at the latest sched Armel le Cleac'h on Banque Populaire is back in the driving seat.

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 40°11.10'S 16°48.18'E 17.3 96° 17.3 18.9 454.3 17982.8 0
 2 Jean-Pierre Dick Virbac 40°59.16'S 16°36.23'E 13.1 84° 12.8 18.1 434.6 17985.6 2.8
 3 François Gabart MACIF 41°25.69'S 16°19.25'E 17.4 107° 14.8 17.6 421.3 18001.8 19.1
 4 Bernard Stamm Cheminees 39°35.81'S 14°54.11'E 14.6 85° 14.3 17.6 421.7 18073.5 90.7
 5 Alex Thomson Hugo Boss 39°01.40'S 13°01.88'E 17.3 98° 17.3 16.6 390.4 18164.3 181.6
 6 Mike  Golding Gamesa 39°47.29'S 06°23.52'E 14.6 117° 14.2 13.7 327.8 18457.4 474.6
 7 Jean Le Cam SynerCiel 40°51.94'S 05°27.13'E 15.3 118° 13.9 11.8 283.4 18488.9 506.2
 8 Dominique Wavre Mirabaud 40°03.95'S 04°26.71'E 14.5 102° 14.5 11.9 285 18541 558.3
 9 Javier Sanso Acciona 36°26.74'S 02°47.14'W 10.1 145° 8.1 9.5 227.9 18929.1 946.3
 10 Arnaud  Boissières Akena Verandas 36°09.86'S 14°41.93'W 13.6 140° 12 5.2 123.9 19472.1 1489.3
 11 Tanguy  Delamotte Initiatives Coeur 34°09.73'S 17°53.06'W 11.9 138° 10.9 10 239.1 19663 1680.2
 12 Bertrand De Broc Votre nom 37°17.26'S 21°13.06'W 16.1 116° 16 11.7 280 19744.3 1761.5
 13 Alessandro Di Benedetto Team Plastique 28°58.25'S 24°34.64'W 13.9 144° 12.8 11.3 272.1 20112 2129.2
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)              

The frontrunners are currently north of the first icegate and approaching the longitude of Cape Town - Banque Populaire is the nearest, but still 375 miles south of South African. While they may still be swapping the lead, the top three are again employing slightly different tactics. Armel le Cleac'h is continuing with his shortest route strategy and is remaining north, while Gabart and Dick have taken the opportunity of the wind veering slightly towards the southwest to spear off to the south. With the boats diverging, laterally across the race track there is now 77 miles between Banque Populaire and MACIF, furthest south. 

MACIF and Virbac Paprec 3 are repositioning south ready for the arrival of the next system - the wind is forecast to veer back into the northwest this afternoon heralding the arrival of the next front and being south means that they should be able to ride the favourable northwesteries for longer. It will be interesting to see if Le Cleac'h adopts a similar strategy over the course of today.

Behind them Bernard Stamm on Cheminees Poujoulat and Alex Thomson on Hugo Boss have both lost ground on the race leaders over the last 24 hours, Stamm dropping back from 71 to 90 miles off the leader's pace and Thomson from 145 to 181.

This morning Alex Thomson reported: "It got light at 3am this morning and it was great to see some blue sky and the see the sun rising. Right now I have 15 knots of wind from the southwest, due to go round to the west and increase this afternoon. The sea is pretty bumpy and little confused, but nowhere near as bad as yesterday. With the bumps and the heel yesterday it was very difficult to type a tweet let alone write an update, but I tried my best!

"At the moment, the rich are getting richer, the guys ahead are extending as I am from the guys behind. Once we all get into the same weather we will go the same speed until the 7th when the leaders and I will run into a high pressure, slow up and the fleet will compress again. It is like we are attached by a piece of bungy!

"All good onboard, apart from my hydro again. I got the damaged one working in the end and now it is the port hydro that is giving me grief. I am getting pretty annoyed with it now and will take the opportunity of a slight slow down today to get it working again properly. Last night I had to charge using the main engine and used up more of precious fuel onboard, there was a benefit in that the cabin was warm all night!"

The front that the leaders are awaiting is already with the 'oldies' in the second wave. Here Mike Golding on Gamesa has managed to recover sixth place from Jean le Cam on SynerCiel. Of the three, the French legend le Cam has taken the most extreme option to sweep south ahead of the front, however to the north Golding will be on a better angle to lay the icegate (270 miles away from him) after the front passes and the wind backs into the southwest.

This morning Golding reported that he had seen his first albatross of this race: "It was pretty cool to have them along and then it was followed by a stunning, clear night with a nearly full moon, it was great," Golding recalled this morning, just over 300 miles to the Aiguilles ice gate which the leaders passed yesterday evening.

"We are into the new breeze now, heading downwind and will get headed progressively to make the gate. It is a little too puffy for a spinnaker and the Code sails are never that good when you are trying to run deep. Everything is fine with the boat. I had a good look round yesterday when we flattened out. I was ready for the change. It was a lovely night, albatrosses by the boat, it feels like we are truly in the south.

"I think in the end they will shuffle all the gates and they have added another one. I have seen the detailed ice information and it is pretty clear why they have done it. There is a lot of known ice down there. They don’t want us dicing with ice and so it is better to play it safe. Quite honestly I guess the ice was there in previous Vendée Globes but now with the technology at the level it is, if you know it is there, we have the maps with dots on now, then you just can't ignore that, but I don’t imagine it is much worse than before.

"It still leaves us some options though. The gate is 300 miles long but it does look like we will be dodging high pressure for a while."

Behind them the latter part of the fleet is still contending with the St Helena high. Javier Sanso on Acciona 100% Eco Powered is managing to get southeast now the wind has veered into the southwest. Arnaud Boissieres on Akena Verandas is getting back up to speed slowly after the high rolled over his yacht yesterday. In the 24 hours leading up to the 0400 sched this morning he had made just 83 miles!

Bernard de Broc on Votre Nom Autour du Monde has taken the fast buffalo girls route around the high, but is still technically behind 11th placed Tanguy de laMotte on Initiatives Coeur who is attempting to cut the corner and sail a shorter route than De Broc in anticipation of the high moving east.

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