Vendee Globe: Storm forecast for next weekend

As Jean le Cam and Mike Golding are set to cross tacks

Monday January 21st 2013, Author: James Boyd, Location: none selected

The leaders in the Vendee Globe continue to keenly watch how the forecast for the remainder of their race is going to pan out, the front duo hoping that they can get into Les Sables d'Olonne before they are stuck by storm force winds, forecast to arrive in the Bay of Biscay on Sunday night.

Image above courtesy of Expedition with GRIB files from Predictwind

Positions at 0800 UTC

Pos Skipper Boat Lat Long Spd Crs VMG Spd2 Dist DTF DTL
          1 hour aver     24hr aver      
 1 François Gabart MACIF 27°01.84'N 31°49.07'W 9.2 342° 4.5 12.5 300.6 1837.2 0
 2 Armel Le Cléac'h Banque Pop 24°26.17'N 32°18.36'W 11.2 351° 7.4 13.7 327.8 1971.8 134.6
 3 Jean-Pierre Dick Virbac 18°20.95'N 33°10.25'W 13.7 352° 10.1 14.9 357.9 2293.6 456.4
 4 Alex Thomson Hugo Boss 14°42.13'N 35°45.28'W 12.5 360° 10.4 13.3 318.7 2558.1 720.9
 5 Jean Le Cam SynerCiel 16°30.94'S 32°17.72'W 7.3 36° 7 10 238.9 4173.3 2336.1
 6 Mike  Golding Gamesa 16°47.19'S 31°32.51'W 10.3 346° 8.7 7.9 190.5 4175.1 2337.9
 7 Dominique Wavre Mirabaud 20°16.31'S 31°37.52'W 7.4 12° 7.4 6.9 166.5 4375.6 2538.5
 8 Javier Sanso Acciona 21°38.34'S 30°42.13'W 4.4 66° 2.9 7 168.2 4438.7 2601.6
 9 Arnaud  Boissières Akena Verandas 20°23.04'S 39°18.47'W 8.5 28° 8.4 8.6 206.8 4532.2 2695
 10 Bertrand De Broc Votre nom 31°40.74'S 39°06.99'W 14.9 26° 14.8 14 336.7 5155.4 3318.2
 11 Tanguy  Delamotte Initiatives Coeur 35°36.77'S 40°11.15'W 7.9 37° 7.6 10.7 256.4 5394.3 3557.1
 12 Alessandro Di Benedetto Team Plastique 48°15.48'S 45°03.81'W 9.6 28° 9.6 11.8 283.4 6176 4338.9
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)            

The lead duo has slowed over the last 24 hours. From averaging around 15 knots yesterday morning, they are now down to 9-11 as they fall into the lighter winds to the south of the Azores high, with first placed Francois Gabart on MACIF suffering more being further to the north, closer to the high. As a result Armel le Cleac'h and Banque Populaire have managed to close by 34 miles over this period, with more expected to come today. MACIF continues to steer a course slightly higher than Banque Pop.

At the latest sched MACIF is due west of the Canary Islands and looking at the weather chart above appears to be aiming directly at the centre of the high. However while the centre of the high is currently to the west of the Azores, its centre is forecast to shift some 400 miles to the ESE over the next 24 hours, so the track of the two race leaders is set to make use of the favourable following winds on the west side of this.

After a light day today, Gabart should see the wind starting to free up and veer into the southeast tomorrow morning and he'll then continue north to get clear of the high before turning  his bow northeast for the finish. This will probably take him through the middle of the Azores sometime on Wednesday night. From here he looks set to continue running downwind until the wind starts to veer into the northwest approaching Cape Finisterre. The forecast is showing there to be a small ridge ahead of MACIF around this time, but as usual Gabart is blessed and it looks set to dissolve before he reaches it, as the winds back into the southwest again and build, making for speedy finish into Les Sables d'Olonne on Saturday night/Sunday morning.

Conditions look more challenging for Armel le Cleac'h in second for while he may be able to make up some ground rounding the western edge of the high over the next 48 hours, the forecast currently has him be nailed by 70 knot winds to the south of a severe depression (952mB at its centre) due to rumble across the Bay of Biscay on Sunday night. The Bay of Biscay is bad at the best of times thanks to the seas churned up by the continental shelf but if this forecast proves true we may see Banque Populaire having to stand off until the worst of the conditions have blown through. Thankfully it is a long way off and the forecast this far out isn't that accurate...

Behind, Alex Thomson on Hugo Boss has lost a few more miles to third placed Jean-Pierre Dick's Virbac Paprec 3 over the last 24 hours, his deficit now up to 264, 20 miles more than yesterday. Both boats continue to converge, Hugo Boss now 170 miles to the west of Virbac's track. Hugo Boss remains more pressed but at the latest sched, while she was slower through the water than Virbac, her VMG was better. There is at least 48 hours more of the same to come for both boats, both set to follow the leaders around the west side of the high.

The battle of the South Atlantic is hotting up. Over the last 24 hours Mike Golding on Gamesa has continue to tack up the band of pressure some 400 miles off the Brazilian coast but in this time, Jean le Cam on SynerCiel has done a long port tack leg out to join him. The two boats are now separated by just 40 miles on the water, but just over 1 miles in terms of DTF, and we'll know by the next sched who has crossed ahead.... At the latest sched Golding is the faster by some 3 knots.

For these two, the wind is still more north than northeast, and as the St Helena has disappeared off towards South Africa, so the wind has annoyingly also decreased, further compounding their journey north.

Over the last week and a half they have lost around 800 miles to the leaders and yesterday Golding commented on his situation: "I’m just trying to get out of here like Jean. The reality of it is that is has been a shocking few days and taken forever to get into the lift and we still have some more manoeuvres ahead of us, so we are not out of it yet. I don’t see an appreciable lift really until tomorrow evening, so we still have a little bit to do – hopefully a day, day and half, we should be able to make some more direct progress.

"Normally you are able to find one course that you can lay for a good period, then with one or two manoeuvres you get lifted towards Recife and then you are off. This is quite exceptional, being affected by the middle low pressure, seems to have bent the trades. It’s not proving easy whether you are inshore or offshore. I think my position is good in the long run, but Jean is doing a very good job of mitigating his losses. But I think in the end, I should get the lift but I’ve still got some work to do that and Jean’s pretty canny and using the middle low to his advantage quite well."

We can expect a good race from these two boats over the next few days. They will get into the southeasterly trades eventually but these look set to be relatively light (10-15 knots) compared to what the leaders enjoyed.

Behind both Javier Sanso on Acciona 100% EcoPowered and Dominique Wavre on Mirabaud are following Golding's example out in the east, but are at present in worse shape, Sanso having made just 2.4 knots over the last 4 hours. Meanwhile Arnaud Boissieres on Akena Verandas has finally sneaked past Rio and at present just off Vitoria is following a similar track to le Cam, slow but making substantially better progress than his rivals out east.


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