Vendée Globe: JP Dick in the Bass Strait, north of Tasmania
Wednesday, December 14, 2016 8:22 AM
JP Dick in the Bass Strait, north of Tasmania
The first Vendee Globe skipper ever to race through the Bass Strait, Jean Pierre Dick (St Michel-Virbac) was 45 nautical miles north of Devonport - half way across the north coast of Tasmania at 0400hrs UTC this morning. Dick was making 16kts and is expected to exit the Strait, and the shelter of Tasmania, between 0800hrs and 0900hrs UTC.
The French skipper has elected to sail a course over 400 miles north of the rhumb line, the usual track, as he seeks to avoid a violent storm which is now passing to the south of him. Dick, a solo skipper who is lying in seventh place on his fourth successive Vendee Globe and has twice won the two handed Barcelona World Race around the world, was expected to have a team helicopter fly over him early this morning, his first sight of other human life since he left Les Sables d'Olonne on Sunday 6th November.
The skipper of StMichel-Virbac has lost fifty miles to Yann Éliès (Quéguiner-Leucémie Espoir), who preferred to heave to, when the wind got above fifty knots and waves exceeded eight metres… The beneficiary of this big blow was Jean Le Cam (Finistère Mer Vent). He initially slowed down heading towards New Zealand, then gradually hoisted more sail, when the worst had gone by. From being 300 miles behind Jean-Pierre Dick, Jean Le Cam is this morning sixty miles ahead and only fifty miles behind Yann Éliès.
The two leaders are meanwhile sailing in a moderate NW'ly air stream, which is set to weaken considerably throughout the day. There is a 200 mile gap between Armel Le Cléac'h (Banque Populaire VIII) sailing on the edge of the exclusion zone and Alex Thomson (Hugo Boss) three degrees furtehr north and this could lead to a real separation. A wind hole is sliding in front of them and they are likely to be slowed significantly after midday. The British sailor hopes to make it across the calm zone and reach a small low moving around the edge of the huge Pacific high…
In third and fourth places, Paul Meilhat and Jérémie Beyou are starting to feel the effects of the same big, southern storm with northerly winds in excess of thirty knots. Meilhat, the skipper of SMA passed a few miles north of Auckland Island - where Marc Guillemot stopped to make repairs in 2008. On Maître CoQ Beyou chose to sail south of the island. Fortunately the low pressure system, which deepened in the Tasman Sea is now tending to lose its intensity, but it will affect these two skippers from around midday to late tonight (European time). It will press them eastwards for the next 36 hours, allowing them to gain back some ground from the frontrunners, Armel Le Cleac'h and Alex Thomson now 1200 miles ahead, to their east.
For the rest of the fleet sailing between Cape Leeuwin and South Africa, the weather is very typical for Southern Ocean, a westerly wind for Louis Burton (Bureau Vallée) in ninth place in the front of the main pack. He is followed by Stéphane Le Diraison (Compagnie du Lit-Boulogne Billancourt) and Nándor Fa (Spirit of Hungary) under the influence of an increasingly active low pressure system sliding down under the Crozet Islands towards the Kerguelens, offering a powerful northerly air stream for the coming hours. At the rear, Didac Costa (One Planet-One Ocean), Romain Attanasio (Famille Mary-Étamine du Lys) and Sébastien Destremau (TechnoFirst-faceOcean) are already behind the front in a moderate SW'ly flow, before another southern low moves in on on Thursday evening…
Arnaud Boissières (La Mie Câline):
“I took the decision to gybe yesterday evening. I had been putting it off for two days because of the low moving in. I didn't want to get trapped by the exclusion zone. I have gybed earlier than my routing software was advising, just to be safe. During the night I was in a line of squalls with the wind going from 20 to 43 knots. I reduced the sail and don't have enough up for twenty knots, but too much for when it's forty knots. I'm trying to look after the boat and equipment.”
Romain Attanasio (Famille Mary-Étamine du Lys):
“Yesterday was a windy day, a bit different from when I left Simon's Bay. That was good to allow me to tidy things up after my pit stop. But over the past few days, the wind has got up to 30 knots. I'm waiting for the next low to arrive. My repairs look like they are holding out. On the port tack, the boat is a little harder to control, as the rudder is a bit shorter. At the moment, it's not that comfortable, as the wind is coming around and the confused seas are hitting me on the beam.”