Vendée Globe: South Atlantic Anxiety
Wednesday, December 28, 2016 8:46 AM
After losing nearly two days of his Vendée Globe lead over Alex Thomson (Hugo Boss) the frustration looks set to continue for Armel Le Cléac'h (Banque Populaire VIII) today as he sails through a wide band of lighter winds in the South Atlantic, east of Uruguay.
That second placed Thomson will slow when he too reaches this wide ridge of high pressure seems inevitable. In the meantime it is expected that Le Cléac'h will lose more small miles from his lead which stood at 281 miles on this morning's 0400hrs UTC report. But these conditions are typical of how the South Atlantic looks right now for the leading pair. Consider that the Friday night before Christmas, Banque Populaire VIII was 818 miles ahead of Hugo Boss and it has been a testing period for the French skipper who has finished twice in successive Vendée Globe races.
In third place, some 912 miles behind and just passing to the east of Isla de los Estados (Staten Island), Jérémie Beyou has been slowed since he passed Cape Horn yesterday on Maître CoQ. He should be able to pick up a moderate westerly breeze off the Lemaire Strait.
Winds generated in a storm to the SE of New Zealand are particularly violent with gusts in excess of seventy knots, although fortunately none of the competitors are directly affected. The six skippers, who waited (Bellion, O'Coineen, Boissières, Roura, Amedeo, Wilson) are now in a moderate SW'ly air stream close to the Auckland and Campbell Islands. Cape Horn is the next time they will see land and that is 5000 miles ahead of them. Conrad Colman (Foresight Natural Energy) around a thousand miles ahead of this group may still be caught by this southern storm, but the New Zealander has put his foot down and it looks likely the low will dive down to the Antarctic. The skipper and his boat are nevertheless in for some punishment, but should get through it in 36 hours. The Hungarian Nándor Fa (Spirit of Hungary) will touch the northern edge of it on Wednesday morning but will avoid the worst winds closer to the eye of the storm.
Conditions are very different for Louis Burton (Bureau Vallée), who is progressing well in a front with a northly wind close to Point Nemo, the point that is furthest from land in the middle of the Pacific. With less than a thousand miles to go to Cape Horn, the duo formed by Jean Le Cam (Finistère Mer Vent) and Yann Eliès (Quéguiner-Leucémie Espoir) are taking advantage of manageable conditions with slightly confused seas in a moderate southerly breeze. They are expected to round the tip of South America at the start of the weekend, while for Jean-Pierre Dick (StMichel Virbac), liberation from the Pacific is expected a day earlier, as he is pushed along by a good westerly air stream.
The Dutch skipper Pieter Heerema (No Way Back) continues to look for a solution to his autopilot problems, stalling his race off the south west of Australia. He has dropped to last place of the 19 skippers still racing and is now to the north west of a nasty low-pressure area to the south of Australia. This system is also affecting Didac Costa (One Planet-One Ocean), who is sailing upwind towards the NE in a thirty knot easterly wind.