Vendee Globe: Le Cam around the Horn

As Virbac Paprec 3 suffers a broken strop on her forestay

Tuesday January 8th 2013, Author: James Boyd, Location: none selected

The Vendee Globe leaders are this morning up to the latitude of the River Plate, separating Argentina from Uruguary, as Jean-Pierre Dick on Virbac Paprec 3 has lost ground after he experienced a holy heart failure moment yesterday when the strop holding the forestay to the deck broke. Meanwhile fifth placed Jean le Cam on SynerCiel has Cape Horn within sight.

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 35°31.82'S 37°41.13'W 13.6 33° 13.2 10.2 244.1 5345.3 0
 2 Armel Le Cléac'h Banque Pop 36°03.91'S 39°40.88'W 11.2 54° 9.4 9.9 237.6 5410.3 65
 3 Jean-Pierre Dick Virbac 42°12.44'S 39°54.22'W 11.2 34° 11 6.8 162.9 5756.3 411
 4 Alex Thomson Hugo Boss 41°32.73'S 50°30.30'W 15.3 356° 12.9 11.3 270.8 5923.2 577.9
 5 Jean Le Cam SynerCiel 55°58.22'S 67°26.36'W 14.5 101° 14.5 13.5 323 7013.5 1668.1
 6 Mike  Golding Gamesa 54°43.25'S 74°21.34'W 12.2 84° 10.9 14.7 351.9 7260.9 1915.6
 7 Dominique Wavre Mirabaud 55°53.99'S 76°35.24'W 12.9 118° 11.9 14.3 342.6 7320.6 1975.3
 8 Bernard Stamm Cheminees 55°49.51'S 77°09.47'W 12.5 117° 11.6 14.3 343.1 7340.1 1994.8
 9 Arnaud  Boissières Akena Verandas 55°48.73'S 83°51.13'W 10.9 70° 9.7 13.2 316 7564.3 2219
 10 Javier Sanso Acciona 55°49.70'S 84°42.03'W 9.9 75° 9.2 12 288.6 7592.5 2247.2
 11 Bertrand De Broc Votre nom 53°06.08'S 121°38.87'W 13.5 100° 13.1 14.2 340.4 8938.5 3593.2
 12 Tanguy  Delamotte Initiatives Coeur 50°43.05'S 129°10.56'W 15.4 96° 15.2 13.5 324.8 9229.4 3884
 13 Alessandro Di Benedetto Team Plastique 50°36.98'S 149°56.19'W 17.1 92° 16.4 15.7 375.9 10055.2 4709.9
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)            

Despite the weather complications yesterday that in theory should have benefitted Armel le Cleac'h on Banque Populaire in the west, leader Francois Gabart on MACIF continues to slowly sail away from his long term rival. At every sched since yesterday morning, MACIF has been faster and over the last day has added another 6 miles to his lead, now up to 65 miles.

The leaders are now into more regular conditions to the west of the St Helena high on course on port tack in northwesterly breeze with MACIF once again in better pressure. Gabart continues to hold the east, although the lateral separation between the boats is now down to around 60 miles.

Over the next two days the St Helena high is set to remain in position so the further north the two boats sail the more they will be headed, the wind veering into the north and then the northeast. A maxi-multihull crew would sail into the west side of the high and tack out on a lifting shift, but Gabart and le Cleac'h will also be trying to stay far enough from the centre of the high to remain in good pressure. 

Jean-Pierre Dick had a lot on his hands early yesterday morning when his forestay became detached from the deck. At the time the strop broke, Virbac-Paprec 3 was sailing upwind in 30 knots of wind, with two reefs in mainsail and the staysail up. Jean Pierre immediately put the boat downwind to stabilise the rig allowing him to replace the strop. Dick appears to be entering a ridge emanating from the area of high pressure over the South American continent, however his 10-11 knot boat speed, similar to the race leaders indicates he is still in breeze.

The issues on Virbac-Paprec 3 have played into the hands of fourth placed Alex Thomson on Hugo Boss who has been able to take 100 miles out of Dick's lead over the last 24 hours, now 166 miles astern of the Frenchman in terms of DTF. Hugo Boss is now in fact to the north of Virbac Paprec 3 but is taking a very different route up the south Atlantic, currently some 468 miles to the west of Virbac.

Generally it is good long term strategy to get east in the South Atlantic in order to get into a favourable position when the wind veers into the northeast to the northwest of the high. Thomson is playing a more dangerous game tactically but is currently the fastest of the four leaders. Thomson is aiming for a favourable band of southerly breeze behind a localised depression exiting the coast of southern Brazil tonight which should serve to slingshot him north tomorrow, so this will provide a further opportunity for the British skipper to take miles out of Virbac.

Fifth placed Jean le Cam has rounded the Horn in the course of us writing this. He rounded the Horn at 07:19:14 UTC, 58 days 19 hours 17 minutes and 14 seconds after setting out from Les Sables d'Olonne, but six days 12 hours 58 minutes and 20 seconds astern of race leader Francois Gabart on MACIF. The French legend will no doubt have been crossing himself having passed the spot when his boat's keel fell off in the race four years ago and he was rescued from the upturned hull of his yacht by fellow competitor Vincent Riou. Now past the Horn it will be interesting to see if le Cam chooses to sail up the Strait of LeMaire. The wind direction is favourable for this.

Behind, Mike Golding and Gamesa is closing on the Chilean coastline and in the westerly breeze will shortly gybe for the Horn, still 253 miles away at the latest sched.

Golding, star of the Today program this morning, reported: "It is squally now again and I am just being careful. It went quiet for a time and I gybed just at the 0400 sked. I am about 60 miles off the coast. I’d like to have been a bit closer but if you are in there and you get a windshift you can look very average very quickly. It is so changeable. So I am just keeping going and taking it a bit carefully."

As to the Cape Horn rounding that lies ahead, he added: "It looks like I will go around in about 25 knots of wind then there is a little quiet patch in the Le Maire Strait and then my routing takes me east of the Falklands. I am very aware that this will be my last solo passage of the Cape. There are many things I am doing which might be for the last time but I am fine with that. I have had such a good run, I have nothing to complain about. I would like to enjoy it this time and get the weather to do so. It would be nice for it to be special.

"It is good to have caught those miles on Jean [le Cam]. Suddenly when you look ahead to the Atlantic you can still imagine some attrition. For me and Jean there will be the high to negotiate and the Doldrums, there should be some opportunities. I don’t think the race over yet, there will some attrition among those in front of me. Of course we all have our own problems but what I have is containable, I need to take care and not take risks."

Dominique Wavre on Mirabaud and Bernard Stamm on Cheminees Poujoulat are currently on the opposite gybe and are approaching the latitude of Cape Horn, still 313 miles away for Mirabaud. They will have to gybe back to the northeast which will be an opportunity for Mike Golding, soon to be lining up for his Horn rounding overnight tonight, to put some miles on them. Wavre has done a good job to fend off Stamm on his potentially faster boat, although Stamm's performance is sure to have been reduced due to the power issues he's experiencing on board.

While just 20 miles separate Mirabaud and Cheminees Poujoulat so Javier Sanso on Acciona 100% EcoPowered and Arnaud Boissieres on Akena Verandas are also locked in their own private battle.

Yesterday Sanso reported: “Yesterday I could see Akena briefly on my bow; the first thing I have seen in two months other than whales, water and birds. It was good to meet up with someone at these latitudes. On Sunday I let Cali past me so he could take a photo of Acciona astern as I knew it would make him happy (it’s a joke!). He overtook me because he has had ten days with good weather conditions, he has made good tactical decisions and because I have had a few issues on board. But I’m not making excuses. Yesterday, we spoke on the VHF and had a bit of a laugh. I congratulated him on his progress but I hope he has stopped now and it will be my turn to go into the lead.”


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