Vendée Globe: at top speed along the ice wall
Monday, November 28, 2016 10:20 PM
The Vendée Globe has twenty-five solo sailors still out on the racetrack and they are already launching into their fourth week of racing. For Sébastien Josse, 3rd some 474.4 miles astern of the new leader, Armel Le Cléac’h, the central theme for this Monday is the return of a solid NW’ly wind of between 20 and 25 knots; a precious ally that has been somewhat lacking throughout the weekend. Indeed, with progress stalling dramatically as he negotiated a ridge of high pressure, the skipper of the Mono60 Edmond de Rothschild has had to put in a series of gybes in light winds and just grin and bear it awaiting the arrival of the next low pressure system to come his way. Since last night, to the great delight of the solo sailor, he’s now gliding downwind at pace. As a result, at 14:00 GMT the sailor from Gitana Team had logged the best average speed over the past 4 hours at 21.2 knots, whilst the leaders were peaking at around 17 knots and his closest pursuers are making closer to 11-12 knot.
Review of a weekend of hard labour
“We’re up and running again at last! It was a long wait and the transition wasn’t easy. I had a windless wall in front of me this weekend and I had to wait for the pressure to kick back in behind,” Sébastien Josse explained early this morning for the first radio link-up of the week. In fact, whilst the two leaders were benefiting from the creation of a secondary low to escape eastwards more quickly than forecast, the sailor from Gitana Team ended up caught in the clutches of a ridge of high pressure dominated by light, shifty winds. In spite of the difficult situation, the solo sailor made multiple manœuvres – seven gybes in total between Saturday evening and Sunday afternoon – in a bid to extricate himself from the barometric ridge. “I had a bit of a rough patch for around twenty hours. I was up against a weather situation that meant I had to put in a lot of manoeuvres to make sure I was in the right place when the fresh breeze punched back in. I wasn’t able to make southing so I had to put in a series of gybes. I was a little knackered last night that’s for sure!”
Diving into the land of shadows
“There are a lot of birds, petrels, terns and albatrosses hovering around me. For now though, the seas aren’t too heavy so the entry into the Indian is fairly soft. It won’t last, but it’s pretty good just now,” Sébastien Josse said early today. A few hours later, the tone had already changed and was more reminiscent of the land of shadows, as the area was called by Titouan Lamazou, winner of the first Vendée Globe. As we can see in the video sent at midday, it’s with undisguised glee that the sailor hooked back up to the high-speed train, despite a rather inhospitable atmosphere further than 43° South:“A nice, tidy cockpit! Not great visibility – 200 metres I’d say. Temperature around 10/12 degrees. But we’re going quick, quick, quick! With all that, the winter kit’s out – mittens, hat, fleece and the little base layers. If all goes to plan, I shouldn’t really feel the cold.”
With three and a half round the worlds to his credit, Sébastien Josse knows the tune all too well. In these remote southern latitudes, more than ever, the pace is dictated by the weather and the ballet of low pressure systems that wrap around the Antarctic, punching out the rhythm like a metronome.
“Everyone plays their race according to the weather situation they have. Right now, I’m just waiting. I missed a beat with the slight damage I suffered and now I’m waiting for things to stall up ahead and then make my comeback… You can’t make up 500 miles just like that by pushing the limits and taking excessive risks solely in a bid to get back in contact. That philosophy doesn’t work on a round the world! Already, we have to focus on getting as far as Cape Horn, getting into a good rhythm and seeing if there are any weather windows on the horizon,” admitted the skipper of Edmond de Rothschild, who we have no doubt will snap up any opportunities that come the way of the latest of the Gitanas.
Ranking on 28 November at 18:00 GMT
1. Armel Le Cleac'h (Banque Populaire VIII) 16,069 miles from the finish
2. Alex Thomson (Hugo Boss) 30.33 miles behind the leader
3. Sébastien Josse (Edmond de Rothschild) 474.4 nautical miles behind the leader
4. Paul Meilhat (SMA) 884.8 miles behind the leader
5. Jérémie Beyou (Maître CoQ) 885.5 miles behind the leader
6. Yann Eliès (Quéguiner Leucémie Espoir) 1,202.25 miles behind the leader
7. Jean-Pierre Dick (St Michel – Virbac) 1,753.4 miles behind the leader