Vendee Globe: Sunday arrivals expected

As le Cam and Golding cross the Equator

Friday January 25th 2013, Author: James Boyd, Location: none selected

MACIF has 820 miles to go at the latest sched which means we are looking at a Sunday arrival for the Vendee Globe leader. Meanwhile keel-less Virbac Paprec 3 is still managing to hang onto third place and fend off Hugo Boss, as SynerCiel and Gamesa have crossed the Equator and are now tackling the Doldrums.

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 42°44.29'N 20°16.13'W 16.7 48° 15.6 14.7 353.7 820.2 0
2 Armel Le Cléac'h Banque Pop 42°04.47'N 22°32.82'W 15.5 36° 13.4 15 361 928.7 108.5
3 Jean-Pierre Dick Virbac 34°46.18'N 33°28.24'W 8.9 11° 6.4 9.3 222.5 1591.6 771.4
4 Alex Thomson Hugo Boss 35°14.17'N 34°35.01'W 14.3 360° 8.1 12.5 301.2 1620.2 800
5 Jean Le Cam SynerCiel 02°01.69'N 30°58.79'W 8.2 339° 6 11.3 272.1 3102.2 2282
6 Mike  Golding Gamesa 01°04.13'N 30°20.08'W 6.9 6.6 10.5 251.6 3141.2 2321
7 Dominique Wavre Mirabaud 05°13.79'S 31°37.18'W 12.8 16° 12.7 11.9 285.7 3521.7 2701.5
8 Arnaud  Boissières Akena Verandas 08°31.66'S 33°49.85'W 12.3 12 9.9 238.6 3753.6 2933.4
9 Javier Sanso Acciona 11°37.81'S 29°22.99'W 11.5 11 7.2 173.8 3842.2 3022
10 Bertrand De Broc Votre nom 13°58.93'S 31°29.78'W 8 57° 6.3 8 192.5 4014.5 3194.3
11 Tanguy  Delamotte Initiatives Coeur 18°06.28'S 34°45.64'W 3.4 3.2 8.1 193.6 4310.2 3490
12 Alessandro Di Benedetto Team Plastique 33°06.78'S 35°46.85'W 10.2 54° 8.4 9.6 229.6 5176.8 4356.6
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)            

Sunday looks set to be arrival day in Les Sables d'Olonne with MACIF 820 miles from the finish and making around 16 knots or around 388 miles/day. With the wind veering north of due west, the leaders have gybed north and MACIF is now up to the latitude of Cape Finisterre, albeit some 480 miles to the west. MACIF is back up to being 108 miles ahead of second placed Banque Populaire representing six to seven hours on the water. In the 2004-5 Vendee Globe Vincent Riou won the race 6 hours and 33 minutes ahead of Jean le Cam - so if le Cleac'h gets his skates on we could be on for the closest finish in the history of the race.

Weather-wise the wind is currently from just north of due west and both boats are taking the opportunity to get north before the wind backs into the southwest again tonight, a shift which they'll use to gybe on for the finish. The breeze ahead of the front is due to pick up on Saturday night, so we can expect a 'lively' finish and we might, err, stay ashore...

Behind them, Virbac Paprec 3 and Hugo Boss have taken a slightly different option rounding the high and after taking the shift allowing them to head around to the northeast yesterday have since gybed north. Hugo Boss is now to the north of Virbac Paprec, but to the west is still 28 miles behind Virbac Paprec 3 in terms of distance to finish. A big depression is currently gaining momentum to the south of Newfoundland and in the reverse of what they used to do in the Southern Ocean, Thomson is heading north into the strongest breeze ahead of this before he gybes, allowing him to surf east back on track for the finish ahead of the front. Jean-Pierre Dick's strategy is slightly different as he will be looking to gybe on to a course that takes him close to the Azores, so that he has the option of retiring, or if the weather looks clement enough he can continue on to the finish.

Yesterday Dick described his situation: "I’m in the high, so there’s only 12-13 knots of wind, in a situation that’s not easy for a boat without her keel. I can’t use large sails but the ballasts are full to keep some stability. I’ve talked to Bilou [Roland Jourdain] and Marc Guillemot, who had to experience the same situation in the past. Of course, I’d go faster if I had a keel but right now, I’m not thinking too much about my third place.

"I’ll see if I can finish the race, if the conditions allow, but I can’t take too much risk for myself, or for the boat. I should sail off the Azores coast around the 27th. There should be around 25 knots of westerly wind there and that will help me see how the boat is doing when the sea and the wind are tougher. Then I’ll try to make the right decision based on those elements and some people’s opinions. So let’s wait until the 27th.

"Sometimes I feel like I’m windsurfing - you need to completely change the way you work on the boat. I’ve talked to some boat designers who told me about the calculations they had made, helping me choose what to do and what kind of sail to use. Also, because I’ve had hook issues, I don’t want to use big sails because if they get stuck, the boat would capsize without her keel, and I would end up stuck inside my boat like Jean Le Cam in the last edition.”

VPLP's Quentin Lucet, one of Virbac Paprec 3's designers said: “Regarding Jean-Pierre Dick’s situation, it’s important to keep in mind that IMOCA 60s are obviously designed with a keel so they’re not made to sail without one. But because they have water ballast to increase the stability, we’ve made calculations to determine the stability loss due to the lost keel and we’ve come up with the conclusion that it is not as safe, of course, but it can still be alright.

"It all depends on the sea state, of course. 5m waves would be very tricky to deal with in his situation but the water ballast is very heavy, almost as heavy as the yacht herself, and that can really help. What he just can’t afford is to have increased heel, that would make his boat capsize. The safest way to sail would be to go really slow, but of course it means the skippers behind him would catch up with him and pass him. Needless to say, Jean-Pierre he doesn’t want that to happen, it’s a competition.”

Lucet confirmed to us yesterday that Virbac Paprec 3 carries 7 tonnes of water ballast.

Both Jean le Cam's SynerCiel and Mike Golding's Gamesa are across the Equator - le Cam crossed at 19.22 GMT after 75 days, 6 hours and 58 minutes of racing followed by Golding some five hours later at 00.14 GMT this morning after 75 days, 12 hours, 12 minutes and 26 seconds of racing.

We have a slightly better idea of what is going on in the Doldrums which the satellite wind radar images are showing to be between the Equator and 2°N and of course more complicated than the leaders saw. Both boats have averaged around 7-8 knots over the last hour and around the same over the last four hours and it appears that le Cam should be exiting the Doldrums and into the northeasterly trades as we write. Le Cam continues to take miles out of Golding, his lead now up to 39 miles with more to come over the next day as he gets into the stronger more stable wind first.

Behind them the boats have slowly been released from the South Atlantic quagmire with Dominique Wavre on Mirabaud and Arnaud Boissieres on Akena Verandas now up to speed, but with Javier Sanso on Acciona 100% EcoPowered still struggling.

Yesterday Wavre reported: "I’m fine, it’s very sunny and the wind is great. I have several flying fish crashing on deck and on the roof, I can really feel I’m on my way home. You get sunburnt if you stay outside too long without protection, so I go out to manoeuvre and then I immediately go back in. I’m not a big fan of eating flying fish, I can’t really cook them and they’re full of bones. But it’s ok because I have plenty of protein in what my team prepared for me. I have plenty of food left because I didn’t eat as much as I thought I would in the Southern Ocean. So I definitely have enough to go all the way to Les Sables. But I’ll still want to have a feast when I’m back! The conditions in the South Atlantic were just terrible, what I’ve experienced there is one of my worst sailing memories ever. Except maybe for my dismasting in the Barcelona World Race."

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