Vendee Globe: MACIF passing Recife

Thomson hanging in there, as the route ahead is blocked by high pressure for le Cam and Golding

Monday January 14th 2013, Author: James Boyd, Location: none selected

Francois Gabart and MACIF continue to pile on the miles over second placed Armel le Cleac'h on Banque Populaire as the second wave, led by Jean le Cam on SynerCiel, are about to have their way ahead blocked by a significant area of high pressure.

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 07°01.89'S 30°15.53'W 16 355° 14.6 17.2 412.2 3596.1 0
 2 Armel Le Cléac'h Banque Pop 11°28.40'S 30°37.27'W 16 15.4 17.2 414 3855.5 259.4
 3 Jean-Pierre Dick Virbac 19°21.78'S 30°19.81'W 17.3 356° 16.3 14 335.2 4302 705.9
 4 Alex Thomson Hugo Boss 19°59.60'S 36°06.58'W 10.4 22° 10.4 10.3 246.6 4443.1 847.1
 5 Jean Le Cam SynerCiel 36°30.39'S 40°47.43'W 11.1 17° 11 10.1 243.4 5455.1 1859
 6 Mike  Golding Gamesa 37°46.28'S 38°38.51'W 12.2 20° 12.2 12.7 303.6 5487.4 1891.3
 7 Dominique Wavre Mirabaud 41°35.30'S 41°55.48'W 14.4 13.6 13.3 318.4 5756.5 2160.5
 8 Arnaud  Boissières Akena Verandas 41°34.85'S 42°49.62'W 13.9 13.4 12.5 299.3 5772.3 2176.2
 9 Javier Sanso Acciona 42°53.49'S 38°50.36'W 16.3 30° 16.1 13.1 315.1 5777.3 2181.2
 10 Bertrand De Broc Votre nom 55°48.16'S 71°26.60'W 13.7 87° 13.5 11.6 278.7 7148.5 3552.5
 11 Tanguy  Delamotte Initiatives Coeur 56°28.67'S 75°56.25'W 14.5 81° 14.4 14.8 355 7298.1 3702.1
 12 Alessandro Di Benedetto Team Plastique 56°22.90'S 100°49.39'W 15.2 131° 13.4 14.8 355.5 8117.3 4521.2
RET Bernard Stamm Cheminees Ran out of fuel after hydrogenerator problems (9 Jan)      
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)            

MACIF this morning is coming up to the latitude of Recife, the point furthest east in Brazil, with just a day left of sailing before she reaches the Equator. As the Vendee Globe leader has headed north so the wind has contined to free, veering into the southeast, but over the course of today is set to lighten, finally allowing Armel le Cleac'h on Banque Populaire the opportunity to claw back some miles. While the numbers above indicate the two leaders to be level pegging on speed, in fact over the last four hours Banque Populaire has been a knot faster, he'll need to do better than this if he is going to make any significant inroads into MACIF's 259 mile lead. Then there is the Doldrums where in theory there is another opportunity, only at present these are looking minimal, centred around 4°N.

Behind, the battle for third place continues between Jean-Pierre Dick on Virbac Paprec 3 and Alex Thomson on Hugo Boss. After closing on the race leaders last week, Dick is back to being more than 700 mile astern of MACIF, but in his race against Thomson has more than double his lead over the last 24 hours, now up to 141 miles from 65 yesterday morning. A giant separation of 328 miles remains on the water laterally between the two boats with Thomson in the west seeing the wind veering enough for him to get past Recife on a close reach, as Virbac is broad reaching NNW on a converging course, sailing five knots faster than his rival. Conditions will even up over the course of today as the wind continues to veer, freeing up Hugo Boss, but Virbac is likely to remain the faster boat for at least another day.

Among the 'oldies' an excellent race is developing with Mike Golding on Gamesa having done a fine job reeling in Jean le Cam on SynerCiel, the two boats now at the latitude of Buenos Aires. Considering that le Cam was at one point more than 500 miles ahead of him back in the Pacific, Golding is now just 32 miles behind in terms of distance to finish (we reckon its more like 50 miles, but still it's close...).

The major issue for these two, as well as the trio behind them, is that the South Atlantic is in a transitional phase with the main body of the St Helena High due east of them, and another giant high lying off the Argentine coast to their southwest. These two highs are attempting to join up, leaving a very tricky area of light winds between them and it is this area that lies directly in front of this group, with no apparent resolution to the weather scenario in the foreseeable future (the highs unite only for another area of high presure to develop off Argentina  later in the week and the situation repeating itself). So le Cam and Golding look set to have at least two days of pain with very little wind until they can get into the first of the trades to the southeast of Rio.

Le Cam revealed that he thinks he may have broken a rib somewhere around the time he was passing New Zealand. He has been in contact with the Vendee Globe race doctor and has been on painkillers: "Things are great, no bacteria problem for me! Physically speaking, I’m fine. Mentally, though, I’m not sure! (he laughs) I may have cracked a rib in the New Zealand area, or at least I got some sort of injury there, and it hasn’t completely healed yet. It’s still painful, especially when I’m lying on my side to sleep. The temperature is just perfect right now, not too cold, not too hot. I’m wearing a T-shirt and I may need a fleece jacket if I go outside, because of the wind. I’m north of the roaring forties now."

This morning Golding reported: “It is slow and looking quite messy ahead. The weather files are not matching at all and that is frustrating. I am still moving a bit but the angles and wind strength really are leaving me between sails in terms of the crossovers at the moment.

“We are kind of trundling along okay, but it is not quick. I have about 14-15 knots of breeze but when it will stabilise is anyone’s guess. I can see it is going to be like this for a while, for several days. It is not looking as clear as it was before, so I just have to wait and be patient and see when we get some weather files that agree. It is the not knowing which is more frustrating just now.

“Otherwise I am fine. It is warming up a bit and so I am out of my mid-layer bottoms and I am going to have a really good clean up soon.”

The conditions make it look like something of a lottery as to whether Golding or le Cam comes out on top over the next few days. However what seems very probable is that the three boats behind - Dominique Wavre on Mirabaud, Arnaud Boissieres on Akena Verandas and Javier Sanso on Acciona 100% EcoPowered will have the opportunity to play catch up. Between this group there is some variation in tactics with Mirabaud and Akena almost neck and neck (Mirabaud is just 16 miles ahead) taking more of a westerly route, while Acciona is heading east.

Back in the Pacific Bertrand de Broc on Votre Nom Autour du Monde and Tanguy de LaMotte on Initiatives Coeur are both due to pass Cape Horn in the next 24 hours.

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