Vendee Globe: Forging north

As South Atlantic boats continue to wait for the trade winds to free them up

Sunday January 20th 2013, Author: James Boyd, Location: none selected

The front four boats in the Vendee Globe continue to formation fly north across the northeasterly trades, as Mike Golding is back in sixth having briefly overtaken Jean le Cam yesterday.

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 22°06.97'N 30°44.59'W 14.8 353° 10.9 15.6 366.8 2030 0
 2 Armel Le Cléac'h Banque Pop 19°07.88'N 30°53.96'W 15.3 348° 10.9 14.9 350.5 2183.6 153.7
 3 Jean-Pierre Dick Virbac 12°25.30'N 32°28.55'W 17.3 350° 13.5 14.1 338 2576.7 546.7
 4 Alex Thomson Hugo Boss 09°23.98'N 35°25.44'W 15.8 357° 13.4 13.2 317.9 2819.7 789.7
 5 Jean Le Cam SynerCiel 18°25.88'S 35°57.31'W 9.9 48° 8.8 8.4 200.7 4352.5 2322.5
 6 Mike  Golding Gamesa 19°55.32'S 32°03.74'W 10.1 339° 7.9 9.6 231.1 4363.2 2333.2
 7 Dominique Wavre Mirabaud 22°58.75'S 32°16.62'W 10.1 59° 7.6 9.9 236.7 4541.5 2511.5
 8 Javier Sanso Acciona 24°10.84'S 29°25.19'W 9.6 327° 6.3 7.4 176.8 4565.5 2535.5
 9 Arnaud  Boissières Akena Verandas 22°56.45'S 41°47.78'W 7.6 35° 7.6 7.3 174.1 4729.4 2699.5
 10 Bertrand De Broc Votre nom 36°55.03'S 41°33.43'W 11.5 343° 8.8 12.6 303.3 5492.1 3462.1
 11 Tanguy  Delamotte Initiatives Coeur 39°51.76'S 40°45.20'W 10.5 12° 10.4 10.5 251.9 5640.5 3610.5
 12 Alessandro Di Benedetto Team Plastique 51°46.91'S 49°57.85'W 14.2 19° 14 9.8 234.7 6450.4 4420.4
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)            

The leaders continue their bullet straight tracks up the North Atlantic with leader MACIF now halfway between the latitudes of the Cape Verdes and the Canary Islands. MACIF is once again proving her dominance tight reaching, adding another 17 miles to her lead over the last 24 hours, pointing slightly higher than Banque Populaire.

Yesterday Gabart reported: "I’m doing fine. There’s a lot of wind and the boat is fast today. There are a lot of waves, though, it’s very noisy when we crash against them. It’s not difficult to stay focused until the end, because it’s what we need to do, very simply.

"The weather is a little tricky, but I’ve still managed to progress well lately. I’ve been faster than the others for a few hours, but it will change soon. The key to our speed is the improved boats we sail on and the way we sail. We’ve trained hard, so it helps us all improve as skippers. We’ve also had quite favourable weather conditions explaining our speed.

"I’m slightly ahead of Armel right now but the weather is going to change and Armel will come back a little, so it’s absolutely not over. I’m not saying there’s going to be a problem, I’m saying I still need to fight and work hard. Yes, sometimes we do feel down, when something went wrong, when the weather isn’t good for us… All you can do when that happens is focus on what you have to do and it usually passes…

"It’s going to feel strange to be in the middle of a huge crowd once we’re back in les Sables. I’ll need to make sure I still have time with my family and friends. But I have a very good team and the people at Mer Agitée are used to Vendée Globe finishes and so is Michel Desjoyeaux."

Armel le Cleac'h added: "I’m holding on tight and making sure Banque Populaire goes as fast as she can through frequent settings changes. It’s not over until we cross the finish line. I’m still fighting hard, I won the Figaro race by 13 seconds, you know?

"It’s hard to tell what can explain our speed this year. Technology of course, our boats are very fast. The weather may have helped us a little bit too, even though the ice gates made the route longer. If we sail 2-3 % faster than four years ago, so the difference in the end can be a few days. This is like a marathon that has already been going on for more than two months now. Sure, there are tough moments, but we try to stay focus on our daily routines: Weather, work on the boat, etc. It’s not always easy but there’s something amazing in the end: The finish. I think I can still win, which is why I’ll give my best until the very end to try to pass François."

Behind, Virbac Paprec 3 and Hugo Boss have both lost around 45 miles to the leader over the last 24 hours, with almost no change in the separation between the two boats - currently 243 miles. However the two boats are very slowly converging - compared to the leaders, Hugo Boss is sailing higher and Virbac Paprec slightly lower.

Yesterday Jean-Pierre Dick reported: "The autopilot went crazy last night as I was sleeping, and Virbac Paprec 3 suddenly tacked. It happened very fast, in two seconds, and in situations like these, you just jump out of your sleeping bag, wondering what's going on. I was back in my initial route not even ten minutes later, but it was definitely something to do it all in 25 knots of wind. I had to throw away all the preserved cheese and dried meat I had. I tried to eat some yesterday, but they had gone bad, I guess it's because of the many temperature changes. I still have freeze-dried food, of course, but i'm getting tired of it. I've picked my favourites, which means in the end I'll have the ones I don't like left. I just can't wait to eat a good steak!"

Back in the South Atlantic the next wave of boats continues to have a torrid time on the wind, with the breeze still having not veered into the northeast. Yesterday mid-afternoon Mike Golding on Gamesa, still out to the east, briefly overhauled Jean le Cam's SynerCiel to take fifth place, but, still hugging the Brazilian coast, le Cam had recovered fifth by the final sched yesterday after he had tacked back away from the coast. The two boats are currently converging now separated by 237 miles.

Golding has between stuck between a rock and a hard place with more breeze but more headed if he errs to the west, the wind lighter but more lifted to the east.

This morning the British solo sailing legend reported: “It is still pretty horrendous just now although the wind has stabilised, but for me it is heading just now which is not ideal and there is not much I can do about that. I have only so much runway, I will probably go east again in about six or seven hours. I am not worried about Jean, I am just sailing my own race. But the writing is on the wall for him. I am not too worried about him.

“It is better than it was yesterday when I had squalls all the time. I had up to 30 knots which is a lot when you are set up for 15. The seas are still choppy and awkward, not like bone crunching, but just awkward. I don’t know why it is so bad but it feels like this has gone on forever. I saw what Jean was saying about the South Atlantic and I do agree that we really have sailed the hard yards now and hope that the last bit, the North Atlantic, is kind to us.”

Le Cam as usual was in more poetic mood yesterday: "It’s been such a hard race for me. I’m like a soldier training in the mud, crawling under barb wire, with the general making it even difficult for me. I have never seen the South Atlantic Ocean like that… It’s been going on for three days so I’m waiting for the situation to change. I’ve been very unlucky since New Zealand, I’m the World Champion of bad weather conditions. I’m currently in a pinball machine where my boat is the ball! Last night, I was asleep and an alarm went off. It was two boats in the area. After checking everything was all right, I suddenly had a craving for sausages, so I had one with crisps!"

Le Cam is currently on port but will get headed in the next fews hours and will tack to the north, although this won't be adequate to get him past Recife. The welcome veering of the wind still remains some way to the north for Mike Golding, but as he says he will probably put in another hitch to the east today and I'm pleased to see he's as confident as we are that he will be past le Cam and away by the time he passes Recife, still 700 miles to his north. 

If le Cam went in close to the shore at Rio, Arnaud Boissieres on Akena Verandas should be smelling the suncream wafting off the beach by now. According to the GRIBs he's downwind in good conditions, but there is no evidence from his performance - as he's the slowest in this group of boats. Meanwhile Javier Sanso on Acciona 100% EcoPowered continues to follow Mike Golding's track, having tacked on starboard slightly further to the east, as Dominique Wavre on Mirabaud to soon to across ahead of Acciona on port.

Yesterday Boissieres reported: "It may not be the Copacabana Beach or some other fancy spot in Brazil, but here is what I've been experiencing for the past 24 hours: Oil rigs with boats watching over them. At night, they have light halos around them that you can see from far away. The wind was light last night, not to say absent, but it was back a little before dawn this morning. What a relief! Getting past the corner here is going to take forever, but the routing is pretty optimistic. If I keep going like this, I may reach Rio by the end of the evening but sorry, the Ghanabara Bay people won't get to see my beautiful bird with colours like Brazil's. I haven't planned on stopping there. It's tempting, but I'm afraid I can't, I have a chorizo to take care of! Everything's fine on board. It feels like I'm out of the no-wind tunnel soon so between naps and manoeuvres."


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