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Vendée Globe Day 49: Thomson's festive dinner at Cape Horn?

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Arnaud Boissieres, La Mie Caline
Arnaud Boissieres, La Mie Caline

Day 49: Thomson's festive dinner at Cape Horn?


As Queen Elizabeth II delivers her 64th Christmas Speech at 1500hrs GMT, addressing the British nation and the 52 member states of the Commonwealth, Alex Thomson, the British skipper lying second in the Vendée Globe solo round the world race should be passing Cape Horn.


The terrorist threat, the election of Donald Trump as President Elect in the USA and Brexit are among the topics which concern Britons and the Queen may allude to in her annual Christmas address, but the Hugo Boss skipper Thomson has one item on his agenda: the release from the painfully complex Pacific and the stress of the lonely, hostile seascapes of southern oceans, and getting north into the Atlantic, heading for the finish line in pursuit of leader Armel Le Cléac'h. “I cannot wait to get to Cape Horn.” “I am really looking forwards to getting there.” “Cape Horn can't come soon enough.” Thomson has been relishing the ‘big left turn' for days. His daring stunts with his IMOCA 60 have rendered him an internet sensation, not to mention that over ten million people have already watched him doing his ‘day job' filmed passing the Kerguelen Islands on December 1 but his Christmas Day passage of Cape Horn could not have been better timed. He should round about 50 or so hours after the leader Armel Le Cléac'h (Banque Populaire VIII). Le Cléac'h has been slowed since he rounded, now negotiating light, variable airs which are taking him east of the Falkland Islands. Thomson has gained more than 200 miles since Friday evening and this afternoon was making 21kts, fully foiling on his favoured starboard gybe, while the race leader was making 12kts.

The South Atlantic, northwards to Rio, is pock-marked by small transition zones which at the moment look like they will keep Banque Populaire to the east. Thomson is looking forwards to Rio from where he expects to be on his foiling tack, starboard. He noted today that he has managed to retract the stump of his snapped foil back into its housing. “I am going to have to wait until Rio to get on to starboard tack and then from Rio, most of the way home will be on starboard.” Thomson said in his own Christmas message, “Now it is a straight run in to the Horn and I should be there on Christmas Day. I am really looking forwards to getting there. I had a problem yesterday all the wind readings, sailing on wind angle, for some reason all the wind readings, the wind speed and direction readings were all rubbish, so the pilot could not drive and so all night I had to be up tending to the boat sailing upwind in 35kts of wind, it was not the best of nights. But the wind does seem to be working now. It is a bit of a concern going forwards. If I can steer on compass that is great. But steering on wind angle is very important if I am upwind, or downwind sailing with a spinnaker, then wind angle is very important. The good news is that Mr Stump, the stump of a foil, I tried to pull into the boat yesterday and it came in and so there is nothing now sticking out and slowing me down. I have not had to cut it off. I have not had to risk anything, so I am very, very happy about that.”

Festive Fever

The biggest and best Christmas present will be Thomson's Cape Horn. He will connect with his young family as he passes close to Cape Horn. But with no major weather situation affecting the fleet right now, festive cheer has been plentiful among the 19 skippers still actively racing. Eric Bellion and Alan Roura met up 350 miles south of Tasmania and sailed enough close enough to each other to sing a Christmas duet. More significantly they have pledged to join Irish skipper Enda O'Coineen who has no computers now, to negotiate a big depression which is expected Tuesday, to sail as a triumvirate.

Conrad Colman, the first New Zealand skipper to compete in the Vendée Globe, passes the longitude of New Zealand on their Christmas Day. Colman admitted he had mistakenly already eaten his Christmas dinner: “Being alone on the ocean has been reality for weeks now, but now it is nice to be here and enjoying a little Christmas cheer. It would be nice to at the beach enjoying a barbecue with my family as well. I have only 20kts of wind and that feels like a flat calm compared to what we have had. But Christmas Day I will just crack on. It is hard to celebrate on your own. I will trim the sails and wind some winches, get splashed in the face. It will be just like any other day. I think we miscounted and I have already had my Christmas dinner! So I have a small bottle of Champagne and will have that, but nothing too special. I am a little bit cold but I am very, very happy to be here in the Southern Ocean at this special time.”


Sébastien Destremau anticipates a short pit-stop in Australia or Tasmania to double check his rig before he takes on the Pacific.

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