Despite the rain, many spectators were out this morning to see skippers leaving the 'Vendee Globe' dock in Port Olona.
For the start the sea was rough with just 6 knots of wind from the south-SW, substantially less than 15-20 knots expected. This combined with a 3m swell made for difficult starting conditions and the skippers struggled to get their boats moving off the line.
In reduced visibility thanks to the rain, after crossing the line, the fleet slowly reached with just the headsail to the first mark. Yann Eliés and Armel Le Cléac’h led the fleet around the first offshore mark.
Eagle-eyed Artemis Offshore Academy coach Marcus Hutchinson reported: “Nick led the Artemis pack round the mark in 10th, with Henry Bomby in 12th, Ed Hill 14th, Jack Bouttell 15th, Sam Goodchild 19th and David Kenefick 20th. Interestingly, after a good start Michel Desjoyeaux rounded the first mark in almost last position. On crossing the line, some of the fleet headed into stronger winds to the right of the course, Mich, Sam and David included. However, the wind then dropped off and filled in to the left where Nick was waiting.”
The first 30 miles were dispatched by the leaders in 3 hours 30 minutes at a respectible average speed of 9 knots.
To get to the first turning mark off Ile de Re required the boats to negotiate the bridge joining the island to the mainland. As Jack Bouttell explained before the start: “The pillars of the bridge that the 26 Figaros have to sail through are just 90 to 100m apart, so that should be quite entertaining. There is also quite a lot of tide that passes through there, as it's quite a narrow channel and there potentially could be a lot of wind, so it could turn from quite entertaining to nerve wracking very easily!”
At the first mark off Ile de Re, it was Yann Eliès on Groupe Queguiner Leucémie Espoir who rounded first, followed by Xavier Macaire and Skipper Hérault close behind and then Armel Le Cléac'h on Banque Populaire and Jérémie Beyou on Maître Coq.
The eldest and the youngest in the race, Gilles Le Baud on Carnac Thalasso & Spa and Benoit Hochart on Aquarius brought up the rear, 3km behind.
While the fleet rounded the Ile de Re turning mark within 20 minutes, the deltas are expected to increase over the coming hours with strong conditions forecast for tonight and into tomorrow. With 4m waves and winds gusting up to 35 knots forecast, the Race Director has shortened the course to 305 miles, or by 15 miles. Competitors will now round a buoy at the entrance of the Chenal de la Teignouse on the Quiberon Peninsula replacing the lap of Belle-Ile and Birvideaux.
The boats are now due to arrive back in Les Sables d'Olonne on Friday night.
Positions at the Pont de l'Ile de Ré mark at 1400 UTC:
1- Yann Eliès (Groupe Queguiner leucémie espoir)
2- Thierry Chabagny ( Gedimat )
3- Xavier Macaire ( skipper Herault)
4- Armel Le Cléac'h (Banque Populaire)
5- Jérémie Beyou ( Maitre Coq)
6- Morgan Lagravière (Vendée)
7- Fred Duthil (Sepalumic)
8- Jean Pierre Nicol ( Bernard Controls)
9- Nicolas Lunven ( Generali )
10- Julien Villion ( Seixo Habitat)
11- Nick Cherry (Artemis 23)
12- Ed Hill (Artemis 37)
13- Henry Bomby ( ZHIK )
14- Fred Rivet ( DFDS Seaways)
15- Sam Goodchild ( Vasco de Gama)
16- Jack Bouttell (Artemis 77)
17- Paul Meilhat (skipper Macif 2011)
18- Michel Desjoyeaux ( TBS )