Vendee Globe: Heading for LSD

MACIF and Banque Populaire makes their turns around the high

Wednesday January 23rd 2013, Author: James Boyd, Location: none selected

MACIF and Banque Populaire have overcome another psychological hurdle overnight and having now turned their bows towards the Les Sables d'Olonne finish line, still some 1450 miles away for race leader MACIF. Meanwhile back in the South Atlantic Jean le Cam has managed to hang on to fifth as he and Mike Golding have done a horizon job on those behind.

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 35°03.79'N 30°20.81'W 9.6 6.6 10.6 255.2 1457.1 0
 2 Armel Le Cléac'h Banque Pop 33°32.64'N 31°46.48'W 10.7 51° 10.7 11.5 275 1568.8 111.6
 3 Jean-Pierre Dick Virbac 27°07.27'N 35°47.32'W 8.9 348° 4.9 11.3 272.1 1980.6 523.4
 4 Alex Thomson Hugo Boss 24°44.11'N 37°05.55'W 15.9 355° 10.7 13.7 329.1 2132.2 675.1
 5 Jean Le Cam SynerCiel 08°14.74'S 32°55.07'W 13 23° 13 11.2 267.7 3718.3 2261.2
 6 Mike  Golding Gamesa 08°44.57'S 32°32.39'W 12.1 11.5 10.7 256.9 3738.4 2281.3
 7 Dominique Wavre Mirabaud 13°58.24'S 31°39.44'W 9.4 340° 7.3 8.3 200.1 4016.8 2559.7
 8 Javier Sanso Acciona 16°54.08'S 27°20.09'W 8.8 310° 3.8 6.1 145.9 4113.4 2656.2
 9 Arnaud  Boissières Akena Verandas 15°18.78'S 34°48.18'W 7.9 45° 7.2 7.9 189.8 4154.1 2697
 10 Bertrand De Broc Votre nom 20°08.00'S 35°27.48'W 10.5 20° 10.5 14.9 357.1 4438.1 2981
 11 Tanguy  Delamotte Initiatives Coeur 26°20.73'S 36°15.48'W 9.1 15° 9.1 12.6 301.7 4803 3345.9
 12 Alessandro Di Benedetto Team Plastique 38°38.89'S 40°23.62'W 8.4 327° 4.8 12.7 304.1 5566.7 4109.6
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 yesterday lunchtime MACIF has been making a gradual right hand turn to the northeast as she has moving into the northwestern quadrant of the Azores high. Banque Populaire has followed with a similar move and as anticipated has managed to cut the corner slightly, however both boats appear to still be in lighter conditions and downwind are only making 9-10 knots. We're slightly surprised that MACIF has made the turn so early as if Gabart had carried on further north he'd be into better breeze. However part of this decision one imagines was to keep a tight rein on Banque Populaire, which with the high shifting south/east, has for some days now looked able to cut the corner.

Over the last 24 hours, MACIF has again put miles on Banque Populaire, her lead now up to 111 mles (from 95) in terms of DTF.

Over the next 24 hours the high is forecast to shift slightly south, dragging the stronger southwesterlies south with it which the lead duo will see (MACIF will get into them first as she's further north) as they speed through the Azores or to their south (the southeasterly island of Sao Miguel is currently 277 miles away from MACIF).

While much of the passage up the Atlantic to date has been about VMG upwind, the next few will be about VMG downwind and it will be interesting to see if Gabart still has the edge in this. MACIF's ETA to the finish still appears to be sometime on Saturday night/Sunday morning.

Keel-less Virbac Paprec 3 is doing a good job of hanging on to third place, although Hugo Boss has closed from 216 miles behind to 151 at the latest sched. Without the keel Dick is not unable to sail as high (Virbac's got daggerboards, hasn't she?!) and so her track is further converging with Hugo Boss'. There is still no word from Dick about whether he will retire into the Azores or attempt to continue to Les Sables d'Olonne. One imagines he is getting the feel for how seaworthy Virbac is without a large piece of lead to hold her upright, while looking at if there is a favourable forecast to get him back to France.

While the third placers in 2004 and 2008 both finished the race 'sans keel', in 2004 Mike Golding lost Ecover's keel only 50 miles from the line, while Marc Guillemot's Safran was 1000 miles out from the finish. Virbac Paprec 3 is currently 2000 miles out which is obviously a considerably bigger risk.

Back in the South Atlantic, champagne corks have been opening on SynerCiel and Gamesa as both boats have been ended the torment of the last week and now into easterly breeze have managed to get as far north as Recife. Annoyingly for Mike Golding, his French nemisis has done a fine job of hanging on to fifth place and Golding's easterly strategy, that appeared to be a winning one, hasn't yet reaped the dividends he'd hoped for. There is of course the Doldrums ahead and an easterly position should benefit the British skipper once through into the northeasterly trades on the other side.

At the latest sched Gamesa was 20 miles astern of SynerCiel in terms of DTF. At present the Doldrums appear to be located around 2°N, but this could change over the 48 hours it will take Gamesa and SynerCiel to reach them.

Significantly since being freed up, both SynerCiel and Gamesa have been piling on the miles over those chasing them. For example over this period SynerCiel has gained 85-110 miles on the three boats chasing over the last 24 hours, as they remained tackling the light conditions southeast of Salvador de Bahia.

Yesterday le Cam reported: "The weather conditions are finally getting better. It’s like going from the MacDonald’s to a three star restaurant. I was dreaming about this moment. But finally when you get these conditions you almost have to force yourself to enjoy the moment. You have to remain humble and enjoy what you have."

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