Vendee Globe: Golding poised to regain fifth

As Alex Thomson takes on the Doldrums

Friday January 18th 2013, Author: James Boyd, Location: none selected

The Vendee Globe leaders are this morning upwind on starboard tack into the northeasterly trades. Virbac Paprec 3 and Hugo Boss have crossed the Equator while Mike Golding on Gamesa is closing once again on Jean le Cam's SynerCiel in what could be his killer blow for fifth place.

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 10°51.21'N 28°40.72'W 12.8 351° 10.7 11.6 278 2561.4 0
 2 Armel le Cleac'h Banque Popalaire No  position              
 3 Jean-Pierre Dick Virbac 03°13.39'N 29°00.50'W 9.3 330° 5.8 9.9 236.5 2992 430.6
 4 Alex Thomson Hugo Boss 00°45.51'N 32°32.42'W 9.9 337° 6.8 12.5 300.8 3208.6 647.2
 5 Jean Le Cam SynerCiel 23°19.35'S 40°05.45'W 7.8 75° 4.8 6.2 148.7 4711.5 2150.1
 6 Mike  Golding Gamesa 26°15.98'S 31°55.91'W 8.8 339° 6.9 7.6 182.5 4724 2162.6
 7 Javier Sanso Acciona 29°25.62'S 30°06.76'W 9.8 54° 7.7 10 240.1 4878.7 2317.3
 8 Dominique Wavre Mirabaud 27°37.93'S 39°21.10'W 10.6 53° 9.2 7.9 190 4934.7 2373.3
 9 Arnaud  Boissières Akena Verandas 27°43.37'S 43°29.24'W 6.4 345° 5 6.9 164.6 5027.4 2466.1
 10 Bertrand De Broc Votre nom 46°32.54'S 45°45.41'W 15.3 43° 14.6 12.2 292.4 6095.4 3534.1
 11 Tanguy  Delamotte Initiatives Coeur 48°41.47'S 48°09.53'W 15.7 30° 15.7 12.4 298.8 6254.3 3692.9
12 Alessandro Di Benedetto Team Plastique 55°25.72'S 62°55.84'W 12.3 95° 6.7 13.2 316.9 6887.3 4326
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)            

Since exiting the Doldrums yesterday, so both MACIF and Banque Populaire have put some extra west into their otherwise northerly heading. There is no position for Banque Populaire at the latest sched but at 0400 she was 106 miles behind MACIF, compared to 44 miles yesterday, the race leader extending away again over his rival being the first to get into the building trade winds.

The skippers will be feverishly running their routing back to Les Sables d'Olonne and while they will spend the weekend fetching across the northeasterly trades, the Azores high centred around the latitude of Madeira and extending its reach east around the middle of next week, it is likely (and MACIF's current course confirms this) that they will be aiming to round the west side of the high in favourable winds. This will require the boats to sail most of the way to the Azores before (probably on Wednesday) they can hang a right towards the finish line in 20 knot SSWerly winds to the north of the high.

Yesterday Armel le Cleac'h said: "I’m getting out of the Doldrums. I’m sailing front wind now, I’m okay. Last night there were some clouds, with rain and some time no wind. But in the big picture I did well. I hope I be able to use this great crossing for the finish. Everything remains possible, the game is open. I’ll try to find the opportunities to come back on François. Maybe I won’t be able to come back now, but in a few days I might be able to do something. The journey is still long and there are many dangers on our way to Les Sables d’Olonne.We have a nice sail when there is no wind (Code 0), I used it for my Doldrums crossing. It worked well...I have a few strategies in mind, especially with the Azores anticyclone. I’ll do my best to come back. The first objective is completed (getting closer to François) now the next one is to fight for the win."

Behind, Jean-Pierre Dick on Virbac Paprec 3 crossed the Equator at 10:02 UTC yesterday, while Alex Thomson on Hugo Boss crossed at 0255 UTC this morning, after 68 days 14 hours and 53 minutes at sea. While Virbac crossed at 28°45W, Hugo Boss crossed at 32°34W, some 225 miles to the west. The satellite wind radar images indicate that the Doldrums have shifted slightly south from when the leaders passed through, now around 2-3°N and from this and the fact she has turned her bow more to the west between today's first two scheds, the indication is that Virbac Paprec 3 is through and into the trades. Dick's left hand turn may also be an attempt to cover Thomson. While Dick has been slowed in the Doldrums, so Thomson has taken 67 miles out of Dick in the last 24 hours, his deficit now down to 216 miles.

We wait to see how Hugo Boss fares in the Doldrums. The satellite wind radar information is a little sketchy for where she is and unfortunately it may be that she experiences a 'double Doldrums' - the first at 2-3°N, the second at 4-5°N.

Yesterday Thomson reported: "I’m looking forward to getting into the northern hemisphere, I’ve got about 180 miles to go and I’ll be catching probably for a little while so that’s good. It’s going to be interesting to see what happens in the North Atlantic.

I’ve taken some pain over the last four or five days. I made some gains off the semi-permanent front off of Rio, but since then I’ve been bleeding. At some point it was going to stop and now it seems to be good. So, I feel positive, optimistic for the future and if I get a lucky break up the North Atlantic maybe there’s a podium place still available. I’ve had squally weather pretty much all the ways along (the coast) apart from yesterday. I am going to be crossing the doldrums tomorrow afternoon and to me it doesn’t look like it’s going to be too bad and the area should be fairly small. There’s always the possibility, when we come out of the doldrums I’m going to be further west, hopefully I’ll have slightly more lifted breeze but on the other hand the guys to the east have better reliability. At the moment it looks like all of us are going to be crossing the Azores high pretty much north of where we are, I don’t think there’s going to be an eastern route right now, so those guys will have the ability to come down to me. So, it really does depend on whether the high pressure holds the boats in front up and allows me to get to them, that’s going to be the deciding factor."

Back in the South Atlantic, the battle to pass Rio is hotting up. Jean le Cam on SynerCiel tacked east just 50 miles short of Rio de Janiero yesterday lunchtime, while on the east side of the race track, Mike Golding on Gamesa tacked to the north mid-afternoon yesterday. Gamesa tacked around 90 miles to the west of where the race leaders made the same manoeuvre to get them north and one wonders whether Golding may have made the manoeuvre prematurely. However the main issue is to get past SynerCiel and claim fifth and we can expect this to happen this morning, with Golding just 12 miles behind in terms of DTF at the latest sched and with a VMG 3 knots better than his French nemesis. Despite the two boats being on converging tacks, there is still 470 miles between them laterally across the race track. See Mike Golding's latest blog here.

Behind le Cam and Golding, Javier Sanso on Acciona 100% Ecopowered has done a good job in following Golding's tactics and he is heading further east and should tack to the north at some point today. 154 miles behind Golding, one wonders if Sanso might also take out le Cam over the next 48 hours...

In the west, Arnaud Boissieres on Akena Verandas has been lucky. The Rio deadend is offering a small opportunity of release with a depression forming to the south of Rio providing following winds, albeit light ones, to exit east. Dominique Wavre on Mirabaud meanwhile is due south of SynerCiel and is just starting his long tack out to the east.

This morning Wavre reported:  “I am fine, I’m doing OK, but I am really annoyed! All five of us are struggling with this very difficult weather system right now. The wind conditions are generally light and completely unpredictable, and don’t reflect any of the simulations. Consequently I am having to completely rely on my sailing instincts as opposed to my instruments. In any normal situation, we work with simulated routing, but considering that the wind is not what is forecast, I can’t trust the simulations at all.

“This said the race that our group is having is brilliant; completely absorbing and very intense! As the wind is changing all the time it is almost impossible to sleep. I take a reef, I shake it out, I fill the ballast, I empty it, I trim, I ease…it never stops! And these conditions are likely to last quite a bit longer as this high pressure area hasn’t settled yet.”

At the back of the fleet, Italian backmarker, Alessandro di Benedetto and Team Plastique, passed Cape Horn at 1731 UTC yesterday.



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