The Vendée Globe 2020: attack is the best form of defence
Thursday, December 31, 2020 6:38 PM
After more than one month in the Southern Ocean at under 800 miles to Cape Horn for Charlie Dalin (Apivia) who is 133 miles behind leader Yannick Bestaven (Maître CoQ IV), it is increasingly likely that the leading pair will round Cape Horn, the mythical rock within hours of each other between Saturday night and Sunday.
Equal credit is due to both Vendée Globe skippers who have pressed hard and fast over the last 24 hours to stay ahead of a fast-moving low-pressure system. While their nearest rivals – a chasing pack of nine – are now on the other side of the depression and so the pair are banking some big gains as they continue to profit from the fast ride towards Cape Horn.
Both Dalin and Bestaven have been on the edge for some hours, averaging over 20 knots at times and made 24 hours runs close to 500 miles. Behind them the pack have been engulfed by the centre of the low or a cell of high pressure which has left them with much lighter winds.
It would be a dream situation for the duo for the first days of 2021 were it not that they will have a very tough rounding of the Cape - the first for both of them - with winds of 40-45kts and seas expected to be up to seven metres.
And in this case the best form of defence is attack. Going fast with the system opens more options for both as they monitor the evolution and the passage of the low-pressure system arriving from the north west, set to brush the west coast of Chile and impact on the leaders just at Cape Horn. With torrential rain squalls expected and big seas there is unlikely to be any time or opportunities for the first time Cape Horners to enjoy the moment.
"I have been surfing at 30 knots," said Dalin today, sporting a black eye after slamming his head into the companionway when his IMOCA ploughed into a wave and slowed suddenly. He is 150 miles to the north of Bestaven, “We have had to push not to get caught up It would be good to be have just the one tack pass Cape Horn as the routing suggests and I think I am due to go past at night, but hopefully I do not have to slow down too much because the winds forecast around the Horn are due to be really strong. We will have to see when the timings are a bit clearer. I would love to see the famous rock but am certainly not going to do a detour to catch a glimpse if I can’t see it!”
Dalin, speaking on the French show today added, “I am trying to not go too fast, but yesterday I had to speed it up, it was important because Thomas, Damien and everyone have been caught up by a front and I am chasing on one so needed to keep up the pace and put my foot down on the pedal to keep ahead. The front should not catch me up if all goes to plan; the lighter breeze is behind me, but thankfully my foiling IMOCA allows me to go fast in certain conditions. You tend to nosedive a bit because you have the swell from behind. By having been able to keep ahead of the font I have managed to stay with a more north, north-westerly and stronger breeze than Thomas (Ruyant) for example).”
Damien Seguin is back up to third on Groupe APICIL now over 85 miles ahead of Ruyant who has continued to stay north. The LinkedOut skipper has been enjoying good conditions to accelerate on the edge of the large secondary depression which will soon overtake him and leave him scrapping with the second group.
From third placed Seguin to Italian Giancarlo Pedote in 11th, the New Year will hardly be noticed, no champagne and streamers are likely. Trapped in a bubble of light unstable airs everyone tries to find the best way out and to set up for their next system: Benjamin Dutreux, Boris Herrmann, Jean Le Cam, Isabelle Joschke and Maxime Sorel gybing close to the ice barrier; Louis Burton and Giancarlo Pedote routing.
An evening almost like any other
If New Year’s Eve is marked then it will be notionally. A welcome special dinner, perhaps a small sip of wine and WhatsApp with home or with friends to mark the transition to 2021.
“New Year is like any other day when you are on the race.” Remarked 2016-2017 race winner Armel Le Cléac’h on the French Live show today.
Observing the times and speeds relative to his 74 days record on the last edition he noted:
“The weather has been quite unusual on this edition, particularly when you analyse the key passages, and you look at the time it has taken compared to the last edition. They are more like those of the 2004 or 2008 race for example. But the objective is not to break a record, although everyone discusses on the pontoons it before the start. It is above all a race and we have here a beautiful one that is full of suspense because we have nearly ten boats who are going to be racing side by side up the Atlantic.”
He concluded, “Despite it being tough, hard, long and cold, you can see that the sailors are really enjoying being at sea. It is the first time I have followed it so closely from shore.”
And on the day Britain moves out of Europe, Pip Hare overhauled her French rival Arnaud Boissières to lie in 16th place, just 46 miles behind Switzerland’s Alan Roura (La Fabrique) who raced Hare’s IMOCA on the last race but has upgraded to a foil assisted IMOCA for his second Vendée Globe.