Vendée Globe: Safety First
Tuesday, December 13, 2016 7:56 AM
The three skippers in the Vendee Globe solo round the world race who are having to avoid the worst of the violent Southern Ocean storm all are deploying different strategies. Two, Jean Le Cam in eighth and seventh placed Jean-Pierre Dick are headed in different directions as they outrun the worst of the winds nearest the centre of the low, while Yann Eliès in sixth has hove to and slowed right down - to just two or three knots at times - to hold a position which should ensure the strongest winds pass to his north.
Armel Le Cléac'h has come off much better than Alex Thomson in the low-pressure system that was holding them up. The Breton sailor has regained the lead he previously had over the British sailor. Banque Populaire VIII is almost 175 miles ahead of Hugo Boss, or around a hundred miles more than 48 hours ago and almost as far ahead as three days ago. The battle for third place continues between Paul Meilhat and Jérémie Beyou. Jérémie has regained around thirty miles from Paul in the past 24 hours, but SMA is still just over 85 miles ahead of Maître CoQ. Both of them have managed to get ahead of the deep low. They already have a lead of 800 miles over Yann Eliès in fifth place and this figure will grow because of the storm blocking those behind.
For the meantime the prudent trio, Dick, Eliès and Le Cam have put performance to one side and are prioritising looking after their boat and themselves. Jean-Pierre Dick has chosen to go a long way north. He has said he will pass through the Bass Strait between Tasmania and Australia, but the recent weather files show the low moving east faster than predicted and the area of strongest winds - 50-60kts - passing to the south of Tasmania this evening. Dick may not, therefore, have to go all the way but will be monitoring progress of the system as accurately as he can. Jean Le Cam has slowed and stayed south, looking to pass under the bullet of violent winds but still has 30-35kts of wind this morning. He may be the one to gain the most here, but only in relation to Eliès and Dick and not the others. Eliès has sailed just 120 miles in the past 24 hours, while Jérémie Beyou covered 380. The cost is high. In terms of the race itself, the situation clearly gives an advantage to the boats out in front.
Thomas Ruyant (Le Souffle du Nord pour le Projet Imagine) may also make gains narrowing the gap, even if he is still some 600 miles behind Jean Le Cam this morning. The same is true for Louis Burton (Bureau Vallée), who is in front of the pack in the Indian Ocean and should be the next to cross the longitude of Cape Leeuwin in two days from now. Back around the Kerguelens, they are preparing to deal with another low-pressure system, which is why some skippers like Eric Bellion and Pieter Heerema are starting to head further north. What they are about to face is certainly not as nasty as what is developing south of Tasmania, but it will be far from comfortable. Eric Bellion is playing it safe, telling us “I prefer to sail a greater distance than face 55 knot gusts with 6-8m high waves.”
Eric Bellion (Commeunseulhomme):
“Conditions aren't that good and keep changing with winds going from 25 to 40 knots. I'm starting to head further north. It's not really the right direction, but I have to deal with the low-pressure system that is arriving. This low coming from South Africa is a long way north, so it means we have to go a long way back up to get around the top. I gybed at around one, as it looks like being very aggressive. I'm doing what any good sailor would do – looking after my boat and sailing as best I can. I just got knocked down and there was a real mess with the sheets, so I had to go out on the bow to sort that out. But hey, this is the Vendée Globe and we are in the Indian! Everyday you have your toolkit out. The Vendée Globe is a race by elimination and you can't put off dealing with any problems, as you know the next day you'll have something else to deal with. I have my doubts at times, telling myself I have another two months of this and wondering what I'm doing out here. But at the same time, this is the reason why we are here and I really want to continue. Cape Leeuwin is the only major cape missing from my list of major capes and I'm doing my best to get there.”
Sébastien Destremau (TechnoFirst faceOcean):
“Good news. 25 knots of breeze with a TWA at 140degres. The waves are now coming from astern and it should be more comfortable. We could obviously carry more sail area and less water in the ballast. But I prefer to be safe rather than sorry. Bad news. As we broke another two hydrogenerator blades yesterday, we have decided to customise one of the strong propellers we have in stock. They are very strong and made to work well under 10knots so we decided to cut each blade and take off 20% of their surface area. (Less surface area=less rotating speed) For the moment it works a treat and we are charging very well however there is no doubt that we are very vulnerable in the energy department So we are seriously thinking about building some sort of propeller with what resources we have aboard.”