Vendee Globe: Leaders at the Azores
The leaders in the Vendee Globe are this morning negotiating the Azores as Hugo Boss and Virbac Paprec 3 are starting to round the high while in the battle for fifth place SynerCiel and Gamesa are up to speed, hightailing it towards the Equator.
Positions at 0800 UTC
|1 hour aver||24hr aver|
|2||Armel Le Cléac'h||Banque Pop||37°07.27'N||27°15.48'W||15.1||14°||11.3||12.8||308.1||1263.5||98.6|
|4||Alex Thomson||Hugo Boss||30°16.17'N||36°03.36'W||12.2||34°||11.8||14||336.6||1862||697|
|5||Jean Le Cam||SynerCiel||02°38.60'S||30°53.56'W||16.8||17°||16.8||14.9||357.2||3361.1||2196.2|
|8||Arnaud Boissières||Akena Verandas||12°35.17'S||33°43.43'W||9.7||336°||6.9||7.3||175.3||3978.8||2813.9|
|10||Bertrand De Broc||Votre nom||16°30.08'S||33°34.62'W||2.6||13°||2.6||10.1||242.8||4196.7||3031.7|
|11||Tanguy Delamotte||Initiatives Coeur||21°17.24'S||35°29.34'W||6.2||316°||2.7||12.8||306.4||4503.6||3338.6|
|12||Alessandro Di Benedetto||Team Plastique||35°30.31'S||39°30.57'W||8.1||39°||7.8||8.1||193.3||5376||4211|
|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)|
Now to the north of the high the race leaders are into stronger southwesterly breeze and have been gybing downwind. MACIF was heading north but gybed back just off the south coast of the Azores island of Terceira and at the latest is now through the gap between Terceira and Sao Miguel. Meanwhile Banque Populaire has just gybed north which should see her clear the eastern end of Terceira. Over the last 24 hours Banque Populaire skipper Armel le Cleac'h has managed to get his deficit on MACIF back below 100 miles...just.
While the leaders are dead downwind at the moment, the wind will veer into the northwest for them over the next 24 hours as they get into the northeast quadrant of the high allowing them to head directly towards the finish, only for the wind subsequently to back into the southwest meaning they will be dead downwind again in building breeze, as they approach Cape Finisterre and the Bay of Biscay.
Yesterday Francois Gabart reported: "I’m pretty happy with my route and my current position. The wind is favourable and I’m on the right side of the anticyclone. The sea is very calm, there are 15-17 knots of wind and the temperature has dropped a little. The weather is perfect, I wish it could stay like that until the end, but I‘m afraid it’s going to change.
"I saw a boat last night, but there were more yesterday, and pretty close to me, too. But I think as we get closer to the Azores, there will be more traffic. Unfortunately, it’s not only big cargo ships but also smaller fishing boats. Hopefully, they’ll have their AIS on. I know there are some whales in the area, too, but even when you’re careful, there’s not much you can do about them.
"I’ll definitely be careful, I won’t take risks. I haven’t really taken any, but I’ll take even less now! I’ll keep things simple, I won’t try to go too fast to gain half a mile or something. Things would be different if Armel were ahead of me, but he’s not, so I’ll make sure we surf nicely and smoothly."
Behind Alex Thomson on Hugo Boss continues to close on keel-less Virbac Paprec 3, his deficit down to 81 miles. At present both boats are rounding the western edge of the Azores high and this has allowed them to start putting some east into their heading.
Jean-Pierre Dick still hasn't announced if he is going to retire into the Azores or continue on to the finish (we hope the latter). Dick's decision will probably come down to the weather, which in the height of winter, with endless depressions rolling east across the North Atlantic, isn't ideal to nurse his unstable boat back to France. Big blows (40 knots or so) are expected to come through on Saturday night, followed by another on Tuesday morning. On the other hand Dick has been sailing for two days now without a keel on his boat and he will be getting a good feel for how his boat behaves without the keel but still with her daggerboards and with around 8 tonnes of water ballast parked in the bilge.
Alex Thomson shared his thoughts on this yesterday: "Jean-Pierre has 2,000 miles left before the Vendée Globe finish line and with the weather forecasts we have for that geographical area he is in, I don’t know if he can carry on and sail all the way to Les Sables d’Olonne without a keel. I’m not sure he will actually try to do it but he hasn’t abandoned the race yet. He’s probably going to make a decision soon, but it will definitely be difficult to carry on in his current situation. But I’ve never sailed a boat without a keel, so I don’t know what it is like and how complicated it is. I can just assume."
Back in the South Atlantic after a week of wallowing in no breeze or on the wind, Jean le Cam and Mike Golding are trying to remember how to reach in more than 15 knots of wind. SynerCiel and Gamesa are the two fastest boats in the fleet at the moment as they approach the Equator. Both boats are erring to the east lining up for their Doldrums crossings and look set to cross the Equator at around 30°W. It's hard to see exactly where the Doldrums are at present. To the west they are around 1°N, while to the east they are around 2°N.
This morning Mike Golding reported: "Conditions have, at long last, stabilised and last night I enjoyed a long sleep, recharging my batteries for the next hemisphere - crossing tomorrow hopefully. In the back of the increasingly sparse larder I have saved a special bottle, a somewhat battered looking bottle of Mumm, I intend to enjoy it fully - so it is now cooling wrapped in a damp cloth out in the wind!
"SynerCiel is quicker in these conditions and we are now too close for the relative EWNS position to make any significant difference. There's not much I can do except watch him claw out a few miles today. Less than a month ago after some technical problems, SynerCiel was over 450 miles ahead, so it's great to be back alongside him."
Behind them, Dominique Wavre on Mirabaud has picked up speed, entering the trades, and Arnaud Boissieres on Akena Verandas and Javier Sanso on Acciona 100% EcoPowered will be getting into more favourable conditions today. Of interest is that while these boats have been suffering over the last few days, Bernard de Broc on Votre Nom Autour du Monde has been on a charge up the South Atlantic. From being 475 miles adrift of ninth place 48 hours ago, this is now down to 193 miles. However de Broc has now sailed into a hole and at the sched is the slowest boat, having made just 2.6 knots over the last hour.
Yesterday de Broc reported: "Things are going fine right now, we’ve sailed up the Atlantic quite fast, but we still have a lot to do ahead of us. I just hope it won’t take us too long. The past five days have been great, the boat settings were really good, maybe I could have had those settings sooner…
It’s not over since we have crossed the finish line so we all know we need to stay focused until the very end. The last 500 miles can be very difficult, especially with the current conditions. We focus on making it to the finish line so of course, in a way, we do think about the end of the race.
I’m really wondering if there wasn’t something caught in my hull or keel before, because right now the weather conditions are exactly the same but I can feel the boat is doing better and I’m going faster. I hope I didn’t drag something for so long, that would be stupid…