Vendee Globe: Blustery Pacific

Leaders slow as Bertard Stamm is on a charge as the International Jury reopen his case

Sunday January 6th 2013, Author: James Boyd, Location: none selected

Heading up the South Atlantic the Vendee Globe leaders have been getting a dose of headwinds as the Pacific remains extremely challenging with gale force gusts for the competitors still en route to Cape Horn.

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 François Gabart MACIF 42°26.75'S 42°24.83'W 9.8 24° 9.8 8 192.9 5812.4 0
 2 Armel Le Cléac'h Banque Pop 42°19.98'S 45°00.76'W 10.1 51° 9.1 7.5 181 5853.8 41.4
 3 Jean-Pierre Dick Virbac 45°40.33'S 45°13.79'W 10.4 46° 9.7 12.8 308.2 6038.9 226.5
 4 Alex Thomson Hugo Boss 49°37.37'S 55°29.60'W 13.1 31° 13.1 10 239.3 6446.6 634.2
 5 Jean Le Cam SynerCiel 56°10.19'S 85°49.11'W 15.1 82° 14.6 13.4 320.6 7627 1814.6
 6 Mike  Golding Gamesa 52°43.78'S 94°01.79'W 17.2 96° 16.5 15 360.4 7957.1 2144.7
 7 Dominique Wavre Mirabaud 52°45.66'S 96°14.81'W 18 96° 17.2 15.7 378 8030.8 2218.4
 8 Bernard Stamm Cheminees 53°17.53'S 96°58.28'W 17.8 97° 17.2 16.8 404.2 8043.4 2230.9
 9 Javier Sanso Acciona 53°35.25'S 100°32.34'W 14.1 122° 13.9 13.9 334.6 8156.3 2343.9
 10 Arnaud  Boissières Akena Verandas 53°16.33'S 100°37.23'W 16.2 111° 16.2 15.8 379.7 8165.9 2353.4
 11 Bertrand De Broc Votre nom 49°34.37'S 137°12.42'W 14.3 148° -10.1 12.6 303 9584 3771.6
 12 Tanguy  Delamotte Initiatives Coeur 49°02.84'S 144°17.89'W 12.9 44° 11.6 14.6 358.5 9818.8 4006.3
 13 Alessandro Di Benedetto Team Plastique 51°51.49'S 167°21.58'W 12.4 72° 11.9 15.9 380.9 10711.6 4899.1
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)            

Set to wave goodbye to the Roaring Forties today, the leaders duo continue to see their advantage over the rest of the fleet diminish as they find themselves on the wind making 10 knots to the southwest of the St Helena high. The east-west separation between the two boats has narrowed from 175 miles yesterday since Banque Populaire tacked back to the northeast and is now down to 115 with MACIF still in the east. Both boats are now heading NNE/NE on port in order to get east to avoid a bubble of high pressure emanating from the River Plate estuary over the course of tomorrow.

Yesterday Armel le Cleac'h reported: "I’m satisfied with my current position, it’s exactly what I chose to do. I’m sailing my own race regardless of what François is doing, or JP, who doesn’t have the same weather conditions anyway.

"It’s still pretty cold at night but still, you can tell we’re getting closer to warmer zones. The weather conditions have been tough since we rounded Cape Horn, the sea was really rough, the roughest since the start, really. The past 36 hours have been very demanding, I’ve had a lot of things and manoeuvres to take care of, and some sleep to catch up with, too! So I didn’t have time to shave. But I’ll shave before I reach Les Sables, no worries!

"I love solo sailing, this time is different from four years ago because there’s a close fight, which will hopefully last until Les Sables. I’m glad we managed to avoid major issues, it’s been a fast race, we’re getting closer to home and hopefully, we’ll be there by the end of the month."

Over the last 24 hours, third placed Jean-Pierre Dick on Virbac Paprec 3 has reduced his deficit on the leaders by almost a third, taking 100 miles out of them, now 226 miles astern, but overnight the light blue boat has come on the breeze and slowed to a similar speed to the leaders.

150 miles northeast of the Falkland Islands, Alex Thomson on Hugo Boss seems to be taking a different strategy to the leaders and has opted for more of a westerly course to get up the South Atlantic. Hugo Boss is currently in the northwesterlies ahead of a Southern Ocean depression and these look set to provide the British skipper with a further rollercoaster ride for the next 24-48 hours with the front associated with the depression set to cross Hugo Boss tomorrow night.

Yesterday Thomson reported: “I’m doing good. Rounding Cape Horn solo for the first time in my career also brought very different conditions, much milder. I haven’t had a chance to clean up a bit or to shave yet, though. I’ve had hydro-generators issues for the past month and hopefully, I’ll get a chance to work hard on them in the near future. I really need to because I don't have enough fuel to finish the race if I don't so I’m focusing on sailing the boat in a way that will allow me to make it to the finish line, I don’t get to look at the others’ routes, positions ad choices too much.”

Thomson added that he had laminated the hydrogenerator and was expecting to complete the repairs in the next few days.

Back in the Pacific Jean le Cam on SynerCiel at the latest sched has 620 miles to go to Cape Horn. He's taken a southerly course since crossing the Pacific East icegate, partly to avoid the strongest winds associated with the depression rolling through to the south of him, however even so the French legend reported seeing 45 knots overnight. "This is war," he said.

This morning (UTC) with the wind backing into the southwest, le Cam gybed SynerCiel and is now following a similar track to the race leaders, heading on a course that will initially take him slightly north of the Horn. In addition to the ice threat, this is also because by tomorrow morning, the centre of the depression is forecast to move northeast, effectively barring the way for le Cam to get to the Horn. Fortunately this situation will be relatively shortlived as come Tuesday morning the depression is set to merge with a larger depression centred over the top of the Antarctic Peninsula. For le Cam it is going to be one lively Cape Horn rounding.

Behind the competition between the sixth to tenth placed boats continues to hot up with the distance from Mike Golding on Gamesa in sixth back to Arnaud Boissieres on Akena Verandas in 10th place now down to 208 miles. All five boats have now passed through the Pacific East icegate, the final one before Cape Horn, and are making the best they can in the gale force blustery WSW to westerly breeze.

As Boissieres reported: "The wind varies from 18 to 43-45 knots, and it’s not easy to establish the ideal sail plan without risking the equipment. The rest is complicated too! I dream of being dry and on my veranda!"

Some north-south separation is developing between the boats with Gamesa and Dominique Wavre on Mirabaud staying north, Boisseries and Javier Sanso on Acciona 100% EcoPowered diving south and Bernard Stamm on Cheminees Poujoulat in between.

The big threat at the moment is Stamm's powerful Juan K design which is made for these big conditions. To give some impression of the degree to which the Swiss skipper is outperforming his rivals, over the last 48 hours Stamm has reduced his deficit on Golding from 210 miles down to 86 at the latest sched, and is poised today to relieve Dominique Wavre of seventh place. Over the last four hours Cheminees Poujoulat has been sailing a knot faster than Mirabaud and two knots faster than Gamesa. Will Stamm over take Golding by the time the boats reach the Horn?

Over the no small matter of Stamm's potential disqualification from the Vendee Globe, the International Jury has now received the written testimony of Professor Marine Khoromov, and has decided reopen the investigation of Case No. 4 under the sailing rule 66. This sets out that the Board may reopen a hearing when there has been a significant error, or when a new significant fact becomes available. The jury do not consider they made a mistake, but believe that this testimony offers a significant new fact.

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