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Vendée Globe: Brutal! Thomson and Le Cléach Should Escape Tasman Low Today

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Alex Thomson and his Hugo Boss
Alex Thomson and his Hugo Boss

Vendée Globe: brutal!

Thomson and Le Cléach Should Escape Tasman Low Today



“It's brutal. Absolutely brutal. I do wonder why I do this sometimes - said Alex Thomson - what happens if the structure fails? What happens if you hit something?

“It's now when your mind starts to wander. What happens if the structure fails? What happens if you hit something? It is much harder to deal with the whole thing in the pitch black.”

British skipper Alex Thomson pulled no punches in his powerful, succinct description of his battle to get clear of a tough depression to the South of New Zealand. Battling 35-45 knot winds, gusts over 50, and huge seas, Thomson speaks of how Hugo Boss is crashing from 30-knot surfs to a sudden, jarring halt as it ploughs into yet another wave trough.

On a course which is now 100 miles to the north of Vendée Globe race leader Armel Le Cléac'h and about 170 miles behind, Thomson expects the buffeting to reduce later today. He looks set to pass to the north of Auckland Island, one of the two final islands before nearly 5,000 miles of lonely, hostile seas to be crossed to Cape Horn. Le Cléac'h had been slowed to around 15 knots early this morning, Thomson still making around 19. Around the middle of today the winds for the leaders will finally back to the west and Thomson should benefit first.

But there will be little time to recover before another low hits them. On Monday a powerful depression will descend from the north, with warm tropical air spinning to the cold south. This may be a defining period for the leaders. If they were to stay too far to the south, pressed against the Antarctic Exclusion Zone, they would be forced to sail upwind.

Behind the leading duo, the Vendée Globe fleet are working a train of five different depressions now evident in the Southern Ocean as far back as the Cape of Good Hope, which Spanish skipper Didac Costa should pass today. After making his rudder repairs in Simon's Bay, South Africa, Romain Attanasio (Famille Mary-Étamine du Lys) should be back on the Vendée Globe racecourse today. And while mental toughness in extreme conditions is being tested aboard the leaders' IMOCAs so too are these difficult hours for Sébastien Destremau at the back of the fleet. He is experiencing the opposite extreme, struggling in light airs as his nearest rival Costa escapes, reeling off miles eastwards.

Louis Burton (Bureau Vallée) in ninth place has been keeping a sharp eye out as an iceberg has been spotted to the North of the Kerguelen Islands. This chasing pack is being caught up by a new front, as is the case for Arnaud Boissières (La Mie Câline) who has made the most of a lull to repair his mainsail cars.

South of Australia, Paul Meilhat (SMA) holds third with a 150-mile lead over Jérémie Beyou (Maître CoQ), racing in a moderate W'ly breeze towards the Furious Fifties. Yann Éliès (Quéguiner-Leucémie Espoir) crossed the longitude of Cape Leeuwin on Friday evening and Jean-Pierre Dick (StMichel-Virbac) has just crossed some eleven hours later.



Louis Burton (Bureau Vallée):

“We're going quick, quick, quick, quick! I'm around 150 miles to the North of the Kerguelen Islands: there's a fair amount of wind (40 knots) and heavy but relatively manageable seas. The problem is that there's an iceberg that's been spotted not very far from my position: I'm fast approaching it. We've estimated a zone where it's likely to be drifting… In principle, it's a piece of ice measuring around thirty metres, which has been identified by the satellite images, because it's a zone being monitored for illegal fishing. I'm heading due East because if everything goes to plan, I ought to pass within just a hundred miles or so of the archipelago. It's a bit of a detour, but I should still manage to hold onto the low pressure system that's pushing me along for the next two to three days. I have a NW'ly breeze ahead of the front with up to 45 knots: it's stronger than the weather charts had predicted. It's complicated carrying a fair amount of sail as the wind is shifty with the gusts. Right now, I'm under two reefs and small gennaker, but I'm going to dump the latter… It's very wet and very cold: I'm kitted out like a mountain dweller. In any case, I'm happy with my progress over the past few days. The boat still needs a few odd jobs to be done on her but it's okay: there's work on a daily basis. The nights are very short fortunately and every day the sun rises a little earlier… You barely have time to finish your dinner and it's already day! There's very low cloud and it's very grey: we're doing well at the end of the world though I'm a bit isolated.”

Arnaud Boissières (La Mie Câline):

“It's the second time the mainsail cars have given up the ghost! I kept them loose all night and I've just replaced them now. I modified the system for fixing the lashings and with all that going on I've slipped behind the front and now there's no longer much breeze… And it's raining! I'm soaked.”

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