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Vendée Globe, Day 70: Burton to lead across the Equator

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Vendée Globe: Day 70, Burton to lead across the Equator
Vendée Globe: Day 70, Burton to lead across the Equator

‘Considering the speed that phenomena evolve in the Doldrums a little luck is always needed’ - Vendée Globe meteo adviser Christian Dumard annexes his prediction for the Vendée leaders’ passage of the ICTZ with a warning.

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Even with all of the tools and assimilated knowledge, no doubt enhanced during last winter and spring’s lockdown learning phase in Europe, the passage of the Inter Tropical Convergence Zone’s unexpected squalls, prolonged calms under clouds, and variable, shifting winds – is always a time of high tension for Vendée Globe skippers.

But for the tightly matched leading group of six skippers, time micro-analysing the latest files, data and images, is every bit as important as keeping the boat fast.

On the latest models the doldrums are more active than expected. The critical convection zones have grown and become more numerous. The skippers need to watch the evolution and the movement of these cells which are not small isolated squalls, They can quickly and unexpectedly grow to be several tens of miles or even several hundred miles.

To monitor these the skippers use real time satellite images which show large clusters of clouds. Forecast models have improved a lot and can model areas with light winds better now, as well as the areas with the risk of heavy rains. Big clouds usually mean heavy rain, wind convection and calms are possible with strong gusts at the edge of the clouds. They can look to thunderstorm forecasts from the European Prediction Center. This index has only been available for a few years. They can and will look at currents that can bring warmer waters which create more convection and as well convectivity indices provided by the models.

Weather expert Dumard notes, “The models are not all created equal. The finer the mesh the better the forecast. It must also take into account the temperature of the water as well. In this game, the data from the European model (ECMWF) which offers a resolution of 9 km, available to the public on Windy, is often the most efficient.”

Charlie Dalin and Louis Burton have a west-east separation of just 25 miles late this afternoon. In fact Burton is further north than the nominal leader Dalin on Apivia while the skipper of Bureau Vallée 2 is quicker all the time as the two yellow-hulled IMOCA’s reach northwards in an SE’ly trade wind at speeds around 19-20kts.

At the time of writing it was probable that Burton would lead across the Equator early this evening, marking something of a triumphant return after the skipper lost miles to the peloton repairing at Macquarie Island and going on to round Cape Horn in ninth more than 550 miles behind Dalin. And it will be the second time in consecutive races that this boat has led the Vendée Globe back into the northern hemisphere after 2016-17 winner led, en route to victory.

Computed to be just a couple of miles apart in terms of distance to the finish line at Les Sables d’Olonne’s Nouch Sud buoy, the two leaders saw Germany’s third placed Boris Herrmann re-adjust his track to the west overnight and this morning. He has picked back up to speed, pacing Burton at just over 20kts, but still promoting speculation that Herrmann might not, after all, have all his sail inventory intact.

Speaking of Herrmann on this afternoon’s Vendée Globe Live show in English Charlie Dalin said: “He is positioning for the doldrums and maybe the scenario afterwards, the doldrums will be a bit less active further west but after that it is harder to say, but we will see who is right in 36 to 48 hours. We will see. We should be out or nearly out. I believe he has a full foil and is a strong contender in to the finish but I don’t believe any boat is at 100 per cent of its potential. I don’t believe he will be at 100 per cent, everyone will have their problems, sails, electronics, hydraulics. I think everyone has some problem at this stage of the race."

Destremau (Merci) forced to retire
Sébastien Destremau, the skipper of the 26th placed IMOCA Merci, has been finally forced to abandon his attempt to complete his second Vendée Globe.

Destremau, the 46 year old skipper from Toulon, has had a succession of problems since he was in the North Atlantic, most recently in the Indian Ocean with his autopilots and his steering system.

Although he was this afternoon less than 60 nautical miles from Dunedin, South Island New Zealand, the skipper of Merci plans to continue to Christchurch where there are better facilities to repair. After his consecutive problems he was nearly 7,500 miles behind the leader, but more particularly Destremau was nearly 2,000 miles behind 25th placed Ari Huusela

Sam Davies Cameo Appearance
A somewhat unexpected surprise for Vendée Live viewers today was a cameo appearance from Sam Davies who gave a brief update from Initiatives Coeur. Davies had to retire into Cape Town but restarted and is continuing her circumnavigation outwith the Vendée Globe, sailing close to Alexia Barrier recently

"It is nothing like being in the Vendée Globe and frustrating to be so far behind but it is amazing to continue the adventure and to continue to be here especially for Initiatives Coeur and all the children I am helping. I have had a lot of feedback and I know we have raised a lot of money since I restarted in Cape Town.

I have been in touch with Miranda (Merron) we have a little ritual to get together on WhatsApp and we have both a few beers on our boats and choose Friday nights to drink a beer together on WhatsApp. I have been in touch with Alexia as we are in close together and in the same weather systems so it is nice to have people around me. It was lonely having started again from Cape Town but it is better now.

It is really hard to motivate myself, yes, especially when the group I imagine I would have been with went around Cape Horn and headed off up the Atlantic as I was just then into the Pacific and so there was an ocean between us.”

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