Vendée Globe, day 103: It ain't over 'til it's over
Thursday, February 16, 2017 4:40 PM
Vigilance is required all the way to the finish line of the Vendée Globe. Solo skippers often talk of the last miles being the most difficult and the most stressful. After finishing in ninth place on Monday night Eric Bellion confirmed that he was on the point of giving up within 48 hours of the finish line because he was exhausted, had no power and could not hoist his mainsail because of a twist in his halyard.
The skippers who have yet to finish are only too aware of the fate of Conrad Colman, the New Zealand skipper who was dismasted last Friday less than 800 miles from the finish. Fabrice Amedeo, who is due to finish in 11th place on Saturday morning today had a salutary reminder that the race is not over until the gun sounds on the finish line at the Nouch buoy off Les Sables d'Olonne. Just after passing the busy shipping lanes off Cape Finisterre, Amedeo came within minutes of a collision with an unidentified freighter.
Amedeo told the Vendée Globe HQ this lunchtime:
"During the night I passed north of the TSS off Cape Finisterre. There were a lot of cargo vessels around there. There was one that was coming straight for me. I was only doing four knots, as there was no wind. I called him on the VHF, but he didn't answer. Even though I launched a safety alert. I called up the maritime centre to inform them that I was ten minutes away from a collision. The ship finally passed several hundred metres behind me. It was the biggest scare in my Vendée Globe."
Arnaud Boissières was less that 40 miles from the finish line this afternoon but it was the lack of wind which was making it hard to determine whether he would cross the line and come straight into his home harbour or whether he would remain at sea for one last night. The Les Sablais skipper is determined to come in with his boat directly to the dock. He will take tenth place. Boissières was making less than five knots while the beaches of Les Sables d'Olonne had dozens of visitors and locals enjoying warm sunshine on the expansive sands in scenes more reminiscent of summer than mid February. The solo racer who is due to finish his third consecutive Vendée Globe has a French bakery chain as his main sponsor:
"I realise how lucky I am and how privileged I am to complete the round the world voyage. This time is different Each voyage is different. This time I set off from nothing. I had no boat, no partner. But I wanted to get back out there. My pitch was that I had already done two Vendée Globe races and they had a huge effect inside the companies. I wanted to share that with others. With people inside the firm. In September, we took out about 150 people on my boat. Everyone was thrilled. I was happy to be able to share that with them. They followed me around the world and can look back and say they sailed with Arnaud.”
Alan Roura (La Fabrique) is now due Sunday and still has the best weather forecast to the finish line of the three skippers who will finish between now and the end of the weekend. Rich Wilson sounded upbeat and positive that he was passing through the Azores this morning, one of the training areas he sailed to during his preparatory phase, sailing initially with Graham 'Gringo' Tourrell when he first sailed across the Atlantic and then with Dee Caffari: "Today we ended up going outside of Faial. We had thought about going in between Faial and Pico, which we did during our training trip. During the training times we worked (with Tourrell and with Caffaro) on sail manoeuvres and procedures for manoeuvres. Being from the US there are no other Open 60s to train with and to see how things are done onboard, it was really useful working with Graham Tourrell. In the US there aren't any Open 60s so you don't have any ideas about how to run the boat. With Graham Tourrell and Dee Caffari, I got some useful ideas. The both emailed me several times and told me told me to keep going. We're almost there. 1300 miles to go. Closer but not there yet. 1300 miles in the North Atlantic. Making no predictions. We're just going along and I'm trying to tend to the boat. This race has been so grey, so it's nice to see the sun, which is unusual. We've had some nice starry nights. Usually in the trade winds, there are clouds."
Meantime Conrad Colman is still making slow but meaningful progress towards Les Sables d'Olonne under his jury rigged Foresight Natural Energy. Average speeds are between three and four knots and he has 670 miles to the finish line.