Vendee Globe: Alex Thomson speed machine
The last 24 hours has seen Vendee Globe leader Armel le Cleac'h and Banque Populaire extend their lead up to 53 miles yesterday afternoon but as the front has passed over them, so those behind have caught up dramatically.
Positions at 0800 UTC
|1 hr aver||24 hr aver|
|1||Armel Le Cléac'h||Banque Pop||39°54.93'S||33°43.42'E||16.4||97°||16.1||16.8||403||17226.8||0|
|5||Alex Thomson||Hugo Boss||42°31.11'S||30°29.65'E||21.8||102°||20.7||18.5||445||17384.3||157.5|
|7||Jean Le Cam||SynerCiel||41°40.45'S||20°19.55'E||12.7||112°||12.1||13.4||322.2||17835.1||608.3|
|10||Arnaud Boissières||Akena Verandas||40°18.97'S||02°25.64'W||17.7||105°||17.6||15.2||364.6||18869.4||1642.6|
|11||Bertrand De Broc||Votre nom||40°13.33'S||05°01.78'W||17.8||102°||17.8||17.2||412.3||18988||1761.2|
|12||Tanguy Delamotte||Initiatives Coeur||39°10.10'S||05°40.16'W||17.7||105°||17.7||15.9||380.5||19029.3||1802.5|
|13||Alessandro Di Benedetto||Team Plastique||35°59.14'S||18°22.36'W||10.8||145°||9||10.2||244.6||19662.1||2435.4|
|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)|
Among the leaders Francois Gabart on MACIF regained second place from Jean-Pierre Dick and Virbac Paprec 3 at the mid-afternoon sched yesterday and at the latest report is just 12 miles behind race leader Banque Populaire - close after three and a half weeks of non-stop racing. However still on the charge is Bernard Stamm on Cheminees Poujoulat. He (and behind him Alex Thomson on Hugo Boss) has chosen to spear off to the southeast, but he has been fast and has taken yet more miles out of the leader, down from 70 miles yesterday morning to 41 at the latest sched.
But the prize for top speed goes to Alex Thomson. For the last hour Thomson has been sailing 3 knots faster than the other frontrunners, although he has dropped well south of the great circle to the ice gate.
The reason Stamm and Thomson have been diverging from the leaders is that the forecast has an area of high pressure rolling eastwards towards the leaders over the course of the next 24 hours. While the lead trio, if they maintain their present speeds, should be able to stay ahead of the high long enough to reach the western end of the next ice gate, just over 400 miles away from Banque Populaire at the latest sched, Stamm and Thomson, if they held the same course as the leaders, would find themselves stuck in the middle of the high. Going south, should allow them to remain in favourable following breeze while the high is to the north of them.
But looking how this is going to pan out, the leaders should be able to make the best of this as they will round the western end of the icegate and then shoot south to avoid the clutches of the high. Unfortunately Stamm and Thomson don't look like they will be so lucky as they could do with the high moving east a bit faster so that they can reach into gate in the northwesterlies on the southwest side of the high. At present though it looks like as they attempt to get to the gate, the high will still be in residence making for a slow rounding.
Behind, conditions are hopefully improving for 'the oldies'. Last night Mike Golding reported from Gamesa: "A really horrid 24hrs running/reaching in dreadful, huge waves. The boat has, and still is, taking a serious pounding in these conditions. Only small things have actually broken such as the gennaker furler drum which detached itself from its stowage position and has done some damage to the bow – probably only cosmetic but there could be some delamination – I’m not concerned as this is a strong bit of the boat. One of the daggerboard covers has come off and broken which means the forward leeward ballast fills and needs continual emptying. The leak in the transom is much worse and I had a good amount of water building up which, with the bouncing and pounding, has leapt over into the next bulkhead – I could shut the door but I like to see what’s happening.
"Everything else, keel system, rig sails deck gear and me have taken real punishment: this is a true Cape of Good Hope experience - and there is no escaping from it. It’s just a function of the wind and massive seas which are so large because of the Agulhas current which is setting against the wind. The water is warm and has both flying fish (normally unseen in the South) and Portuguese Man-O-War jellies in it – worth dodging when they arrive in the cockpit trailing stingers everywhere!
"The predicted fleet compression looks now like it will become a serious extension by the lead pack – disappointing - I need to work the boat to the max, inspite of the conditions - just in case the high comes in slower/faster and allows me to squeeze through. Seems doubtful now – but still worth a go."
Meanwhile the backmarkers are 'enjoying' riding the northwesterlies ahead of their first Southern Ocean cold front.