Vendee Globe: Rio wrangles

Mike Golding still on the breeze as he tries to edge past Jean le Cam

Saturday January 19th 2013, Author: James Boyd, Location: none selected

As the leaders are making solid progress across the Trades, and Hugo Boss has exited the Doldrums, so SynerCiel and, surprisingly, Gamesa are continuing to struggle to get north up the Brazilian coast.

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 15°50.50'N 29°42.22'W 14.2 352° 11.5 13 311.6 2319.3 0
 2 Armel Le Cléac'h Banque Pop 13°13.61'N 29°35.70'W 11.8 348° 9.2 11.7 292.9 2455.6 136.3
 3 Jean-Pierre Dick Virbac 07°02.73'N 30°46.21'W 13.3 346° 10.4 10.5 252.3 2820.6 501.3
 4 Alex Thomson Hugo Boss 04°12.31'N 34°22.60'W 10.6 343° 7.7 9.8 234.3 3066.4 747.1
 5 Jean Le Cam SynerCiel 20°52.73'S 38°22.63'W 10.3 328° 6 7.3 174.8 4539.5 2220.2
 6 Mike  Golding Gamesa 23°34.98'S 30°46.57'W 9.6 356° 9 7.2 172.8 4551.7 2232.4
 7 Javier Sanso Acciona 27°01.31'S 28°33.15'W 10.3 328° 7 6.9 166.2 4717.9 2398.6
 8 Dominique Wavre Mirabaud 25°10.10'S 35°52.26'W 10 51° 8.5 9.9 238.4 4729.5 2410.2
 9 Arnaud  Boissières Akena Verandas 25°44.53'S 42°37.41'W 9.4 28° 9.4 5.3 127.5 4900.1 2580.8
 10 Bertrand De Broc Votre nom 41°58.31'S 41°25.30'W 13.6 29° 13.5 13.8 331.4 5768.9 3449.6
 11 Tanguy  Delamotte Initiatives Coeur 43°45.50'S 42°51.34'W 15.2 41° 14.5 15.4 368.7 5892.3 3573
 12 Alessandro Di Benedetto Team Plastique 54°40.54'S 54°21.80'W 11.6 83° 7.3 12.4 297.7 6680.2 4360.9
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)            

Firmly into the northeast trades, so MACIF and Banque Populaire are charging up the Atlantic on a course just west of due north, with Francois Gabart's MACIF once again proving that she has the legs on the breeze, averaging more than a knot faster than le Cleac'h's Banque Populaire. We really would like to get to the bottom of whether or not this is a sail thing...

MACIF is currently passing the Cape Verde islands, some 370 miles to his east. There's going to be very little opportunity for passing lanes over the next couple of days with the next shake of the dice set to occur when the two boats round the eastern perimeter of the Azores high and can turn their bows to the finish.

The forecast is still looking like it won't be until Tuesday night when MACIF reaches the west of the high and can finally put some east into her heading. As mentioned yesterday the centre of the high is moving east at this stage and this will mean that Armel le Cleac'h should be able to save a few miles by cutting the corner more than Gabart can.

Yesterday Gabart reported: "I’m quite fine, especially regarding the weather forecast. The weather models are now saying the same thing, so it’s great. I hope I won’t have any bad news. Both on my way down and my way up, my passages through the doldrums weren’t easy. During the last days I lost some miles, I wasn’t happy. I need to remain focussed. Both the man and the boat are fine. I managed to check out the boat with the smoother conditions. I could rest a bit. Now let's go to Les Sables d’Olonne. I’m concentrating a lot at the moment, so sometime it’s complicated to speak with the outside world. I know the race will be hard until the end, the journey remains complicated. Armel is not far away. I’ve done a nice race so far, I’m happy with that and nobody could take that from me. Now, if I win it that will be the cherry on the cake."

Both Virbac Paprec 3 and Hugo Boss are now out of the Doldrums and into the northeast trades, albeit both on tracks to the west of that taken by the race leaders. Dick may have done this to keep in touch with his British rival who's currently 275 miles to his southwest. While the trades are northeasterly coming out of the Doldrums, they typically veer into the ENE as the boats get further north. At present we can't see any really benefit for Hugo Boss being east - the southwest of her rival, she's directly downwind of her. However the long long term forecast indicates the high to be moving back west by next weekend and Hugo Boss' current course could be well placed to shoot her around its western side, albeit on a much more circuitous route than the race leaders.

Yesterday Thomson shared his present ambitions for his race: “You’ve got to stay motivated and if my goal was to win, frankly right now I’d probably be a bit demotivated because it would be a bit out of my grasp. My goals at the moment are to try and finish third and to try and break 80 days. If I don’t beat 88 days (Mike Golding’s British record) then I’ve had a serious problem.”

The GRIB files showing the weather off Brazil have been lying. Compared to the race leaders who were able to close reach into the St Helena high and then tack and close reach out again on a lift that took take them past Recife (as the textbook suggests), the circulation around the high at present isn't the same with both Jean le Cam on SynerCiel and some 450 miles to the ESE Mike Golding on Gamesa, both on the breeze, the wind more northerly than the GRIBs are showing. As a result Golding still hasn't managed to overhaul le Cam and 24 hours on, he is still exactly 12 miles astern of the tenacious Frenchman in terms of DTF.

As le Cam has been tacking up the Brazilian coast, Golding has to put in a couple of hitches over the last 24 hours to stay east. Golding should start seeing the wind starting to veer into the northeast over the course of today freeing Gamesa up and he should see this welcome shift well before le Cam over by the coast. We still maintain that the British skipper will be well ahead of his French rival within in 24 hours time. 

The trio behind have also been having their share of difficulties. Contrary to what we suggested yesterday Arnaud Boissieres on Akena Verandas has been hit the hardest of the three and while technically he may be downwind to the north of a shallow depression located south of Rio, in fact he has seen very very little wind and has managed just 127 miles in the last 24 hours. Over the course of today he'll encounter his next nightmare as the wind veers into the north. Out to the east Javier Sanso on Acciona 100% Ecopowered has been following a similar strategy to Mike Golding but left his tack north a little longer. Being on the losing tack for longer has cost him 24 miles to le Cam in the last 24 hours. However the success story of this trio over this period has been Dominique Wavre on Mirabaud who seems to have found better breeze between SynerCiel and Gamesa's positions. The Swiss skipper has gained 33 miles on le Cam in the last 24 hours and is now just 12 miles astern of Sanso in terms of DTF. 


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