Vendee Globe: Half way stage

Lead duo now 500 miles ahead of third placed Virbac Paprec 3

Thursday December 20th 2012, Author: James Boyd, Location: none selected

As the leaders in the Vendee Globe pass south of New Zealand, they have reached the half way stage of the singlehanded non-stop round the world race and coming up to the end of their 40th day at sea, impressively just 4.7 miles separates the two frontrunners, Armel le Cleac'h and Francois Gabart on their VPLP-Verdier sisterships Banque Populaire and MACIF, with the lead having swapped back again overnight Banque Pop gaining the advantage again.

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 aver     24hr aver      
 1 Armel Le Cléac'h Banque Pop 51°10.29'S 167°23.51'E 19.7 101° 19.7 19 457 11647.5 0
 2 François Gabart MACIF 51°15.18'S 167°14.44'E 18.4 103° 18.4 18.5 443.6 11652.1 4.7
 3 Jean-Pierre Dick Virbac 52°11.32'S 152°31.48'E 17.9 117° 17.5 17.4 417.4 12175.4 527.9
 4 Alex Thomson Hugo Boss 49°22.29'S 144°45.18'E 11.1 80° 9.3 16.8 412 12508.7 861.2
 5 Bernard Stamm Cheminees 49°04.18'S 143°55.74'E 15.2 130° 14.6 16.1 386 12545.5 898
 6 Jean Le Cam SynerCiel 47°36.57'S 123°37.61'E 19.1 107° 19.1 13.7 329 13313.5 1666
 7 Mike  Golding Gamesa 47°18.14'S 120°19.08'E 13.7 101° 13.5 16.9 405.8 13445.6 1798.1
 8 Dominique Wavre Mirabaud 45°30.86'S 118°21.68'E 13.2 86° 11.2 17.8 427.7 13563 1915.6
 9 Javier Sanso Acciona 47°07.10'S 115°19.30'E 15.1 78° 12.8 16.6 398.3 13640.9 1993.4
 10 Arnaud  Boissières Akena Verandas 44°32.60'S 99°49.49'E 16 141° 14.5 13.6 325.8 14297.7 2650.3
 11 Bertrand De Broc Votre nom 42°37.81'S 89°54.16'E 13.5 121° 13.4 13.5 324.6 14736.4 3088.9
 12 Tanguy  Delamotte Initiatives Coeur 42°09.55'S 83°05.39'E 13.5 100° 13.2 12.5 299.5 15025.7 3378.2
 13 Alessandro Di Benedetto Team Plastique 41°43.70'S 65°04.84'E 10.4 107° 9.4 11.1 265.4 15880.1 4232.7
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)            

The lead duo is once again making the fastest speeds in the Vendee Globe in the 35 knots northwesterlies ahead of one of the two cold fronts attached to the double centred depression to their southwest. They have just passed the remote Auckland Islands, some 270 miles south of New Zealand and have around 470 miles to go until they reach the western end of the New Zealand ice gate. It looks as though they should remain ahead of the front as the depression's easterly track slows, with the wind slightly dropping over the next 24 hours.

Yesterday Francois Gabart reported: "I’m currently at 22-24 knots, and there’s a lot of noise. I’m very happy Armel didn’t sail away after the gate. Now I need to be careful and make sure I don’t push myself too hard. Sometimes, when you’re tired, you get nervous or mad really fast. I’m glad to be halfway through and to be on my way back home. I’ll try to do as good, and possibly even better, in the second half."

To regain some miles, third placed Jean-Pierre Dick on Virbac Paprec 3 has dived back to the south after passing the Australia East icegate yesterday morning. He is finally making good progress negotiating the more westerly of the two cold fronts attached to the depression, although he still doesn't have the pace of the leaders and, like the rest of the fleet, has lost to them - 34 miles in the last 24 hours. Significantly he is now more than 500 miles behind them.

Although for some reason he is slow at the latest sched, Alex Thomson on fourth placed Hugo Boss has done well since yesterday morning, negotating the same front (but further northeast) that Virbac has. Over this period Thomson has managed to fend off the advances of Bernard Stamm on Cheminees Poujoulat and is back to being 36 miles in front of his Swiss rival as the two boats pass south of Tasmania and approach the eastern end of the Australia East icegate.

Yesterday Alex Thomson reported: "I was in my bunk this morning when the pilot accidently gybed the boat in about 25 knots of wind. It was not an enjoyable moment, having your whole world turn on its side in an instant. I felt the boat start to go and jumped out of my bunk to try and get to the helm to stop it but I only got as far as the companion way before she went, and then she was on her side. It took me a while to get the boat upright again and then gybe back. I did a check around the boat and it seems that I got away with no serious damage. It is really rough out here. Very bumpy and really confused waves. I am trying not to go too fast at the moment as she starts to slam a bit."

A further 750 miles behind them and now to the south of Cape Leeuwin, 'the oldies' are all making good progress ahead of the front associated with the next depression. At present Jean le Cam on SynerCiel is in the strong band of wind and as a result is making 19 knots, the second fastest in the fleet to Banque Populaire. However the boats behind him have been faster over the last 24 hours and for example Mike Golding on Gamesa has reduced his deficit on the French legend from almost 200 miles yesterday morning to 132 at the latest sched, with Dominique Wavre on Mirabaud and Javier Sanso on Acciona 100% Eco Powered making similar gains on him.

While le Cam will regain some of his losses over the course of today the westerlies are forecast to even out across the race track over the course of today.

This morning Golding reported: "It's been a fairly quiet period, we are moving quite nicely still, but now we are lifted so we'll be gybing very shortly I think. We are almost dead downwind, so shortly gybing and it looks like we have a few gybes to do.

"It has really compressed all four of us back together, Dom 100 miles behind, Javier 100 miles behind that, Jean is 140 or something ahead, so a very tight group and it will be tricky conditions here which will rely on us being vigilant on the right gybe at the right time. It will be fairly close.

"There are some benefits to Dominique's slightly more northerly route. In the longer term, looking at the routing on the file, it depends which file you look at of course, but looking at the European file, which seems to be the most reliable at the moment, there are some possible benefits to being slightly north. On his approach to us he has benefited to another coupe of knots of wind, while Jean and I were skirting the lighter airs to the south.

"It is an improvement to be closer to Jean, but we have two boats that were a long way behind us that are closer now. It will be like how we were a few weeks ago, interesting sailing and an interesting race. It keeps it enjoyable, so from that perspective it is good. Obviously not good and disappointing to lose miles to those that you thought you had left behind. It is going to be an interesting few days."

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