Vendée Globe: Swings and Roundabouts
Monday, December 12, 2016 9:03 AM
Seven hundred miles east of South Island New Zealand and some one hundred miles apart, Armel Le Cléac'h and Alex Thomson are working through the centre of a low pressure system, playing out their respective choices at the front of the 22 boat Vendee Globe fleet. As they transit the changing breezes at different times - largely a first in first out scenario - there will be some small gains and losses, but the biggest concern for the British skipper Thomson may be the seven or eight days ahead of him racing on port tack when his damaged foil leaves him disadvantaged against his long time rival.
Conventional routing based on equal speed potential places the two leaders almost equal after several days of racing in the NW'ly breezes they will have. But that does not account for Thomson's evident speed deficit due to his damaged foil. After a relatively benign spell around midnight UTC, making 6-10kts Armel Le Cléac'h was just over 70 miles ahead of Alex Thomson this morning.
Yesterday evening it was third placed Paul Meilhat's turn to enter the Pacific and early this morning Jérémie Beyou did the same, crossing the longitude of South East Cape, Tasmania. Everything is going well for the skippers of SMA and Maître CoQ, with relatively stable, fresh winds (20-25 knot NW'lies). They will probably not be affected by the very big area of low pressure which will concern the three boats behind them. Yann Eliès, Jean-Pierre Dick and Jean Le Cam will be battling it out tomorrow in this low, which stretches from Tasmania to New Zealand generating 50-55 knot winds tomorrow morning for Quéguiner-Leucémie Espoir,and then tomorrow afternoon for StMichel-Virbac, and later for Finistère Mer Vent. Thomas Ruyant, who has just gybed after sailing a long way north to avoid having to carry out too many manoeuvres to avoid the Antarctic Exclusion Zone, is likely not to be affected by this system, while Yann, Jean-Pierre and Jean look likely to be facing the sort of conditions, which have contributed to the legend of the Vendée Globe.
In 15th place Enda O'Coineen (KIlcullen Voyager-Team Ireland) is just 18 miles ahead of Alain Roura (La Fabrique). The Irish skipper has had his problems and has, once again, been given to wondering 'why am I putting myself through this?' "It's tough, it's cold, it's wet and to think I did it with my own ' free-will'.... to live on the edge with constant challenges. The mind boggles, 'tis bonkers. Aboard Kilcullen, a mirror would have been useful. A sheet was jammed around the rudder and I could not see how or why. It was dangerous to the rudder and would not come clear. It would have been handy to look around the edge to see the problem. In the end, we did an Alex Thomson. Namely canted the keel the wrong way and hardened the sails for the boat to heel and go more upwind. She was remarkably steady going along at an angle of about 60 degrees. Then I climbed out over the stern and stood on the aft ledge and the port rudder was clear out of the water which I was able to stand on. "
Romain Attanasio (Famille Mary-Etamine du Lys) : “Obviously things are better than a few days ago. Since yesterday I have had dream conditions – flat calm seas, 15-20 knots of wind. I'm making the most of that, as I know it won't last. But the weather looks good to Crozet, with no storms arriving… I'm a bit scared of breaking something else and I'm sailing with one reef in the main, but that is only normal after what I have been through. Five days ago, I thought I was going to have to retire and explain to everyone that it wasn't possible to carry out repairs and spend the next month sailing the boat back to Brittany. Whereas I'm now back in the race and sailing in excellent conditions, so I'm feeling really good. Without wishing to exaggerate, I did a little ‘Yves Parlier'. Now I have got two months of sailing ahead of me.”
Enda O Coineen (Kilcullen Voyager Team Ireland): “This is hard. So that I can never, ever do something like this again, I will sign a legal binding document and give it to somebody in trust so that they can stop me from ever, ever, ever again doing something like this. That said, I am thrilled to have survived this far. Our next landmark is the Kerguelen Islands, about 600 miles East. I am contemplating whether to pull in there to sort out my halyard problems and climb the mast.”