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Displaying items by tag: Vendee Globe

Britain’s Pip Hare is looking for a benevolent small weather window in the depths of the South Pacific Ocean to allow her to replace the port rudder of her IMOCA Medallia after she discovered a crack in its stock (the shaft which locates into the hull of the boat). It is a complicated operation which the 45-year-old solo Vendée Globe skipper practised at the dock in Les Sables d’Olonne, France before the solo non-stop race around the world started on November 8th 2020, but which will be made much more difficult in one of the most hostile and loneliest areas of the southern oceans.

“The crack is in the stock between the deck and the hull, just underneath where the quadrant attaches and every time the pilot was going to move the rudder the crack was getting a little bit worse. I have no choice but to change the port rudder. If I continue sailing hard the stock will fail under load in a matter of hours.” Hare reported, “Naturally I am completely devastated about this failure and what it means to my race but the only thing to do right now is to put the racing on hold and focus on solving this problem to keep both me and Medallia safe.”

In her message the 45-year-old from Poole, Dorset, added,

“I am devastated but I am also accepting. This has happened and it cannot be changed. The only action now is to deal with the problem in the best way possible and then move forwards from there. I am hugely proud of my performance to date. It has been a total joy to race this intensely for 59 days and it will be a total joy to get back into the race when I am finished. I had a few tears but not many because this problem is a big one and there is only one way to deal with it - which is a total focus of energy on solving it and staying safe. I will never forget the fact I was 15th for so long and when I get back to racing again, whenever that may be I will do my very best to claw my way back up the fleet again for now I have just hit pause.”

Her team say that Hare is looking to a potential break in the weather during the small hours of tomorrow (Thursday) morning, when the operation might be possible.Medallia’s boat captain Joff Brown explains the procedure:

“The problem really is in getting the old rudder off because it is buoyant and so sinking it to get it out it is not easy to get a lot of leverage from the bottom. But it is something we had practiced in Les Sables d’Olonne before the start and so I think that gives Pip a bit of confidence in what she has to do. But the problem is the sea state has to be reasonably flat because when the rudder is angled and heels then there is more strain on the bearings. At the dock this whole process might take an hour or so but in seas like this it can take much more. But Pip is very focused and determined. There is a small weather window around 0100hrs (UTC – when it is still daylight for Pip) but if not then it could be a couple of days waiting. She is resigned to the situation and I am sure will deal with it and get on with what she has to do.”

Medallia had a new spare rudder built by Jason Carrington Boats just before the boat was delivered to Les Sables d’Olonne. According to Brown this a standard procedure which he has practiced pre-start by previous skippers Dee Caffari and Rich Wilson previously using a method devised by Conrad Humphreys in 2004-5 where 50-60kgs of anchor chain is lowered below the rudder to help drop it out. See video here

Medallia was lying in 15th in the Vendée Globe fleet and still making just under eight knots under reduced sail. Alan Roura who is 16th is around 20 miles behind.

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Escaping first out of a high pressure which had slowed the leading four boats, Vendee Globe leader Yannick Bestaven the skipper of Maître Coq has gained over 200 miles on the solo skippers immediately behind him. The 48-year-old from La Rochelle has the biggest lead of the race yet at 440 nautical miles, ahead of Thomas Ruyant (LinkedOut) who passed Charlie Dalin (Apivia) again today, the French duo match racing only 12 miles apart today some 400 miles SE of Mar del Plata, Argentina.

Bestaven, freshly shaved and looking bright, said: "It's great to have been able to pass the high-pressure zone, I was able to gain some miles and then make good speed, it hasn’t been bad at all. I am satisfied with that, but when I look at what is going to happen ahead of me... I feel like the bungee cord is going to snap back and those behind me will start closing the gap. I hope there will be enough wind, as I only have a few tens of miles of advantage left. But I can’t let it stress me, I’m going to have to keep a cool head because I am going to lose a lot of ground again.”

He joked, “I don't know who has been in charge of the weather during this Vendée Globe, but I’m telling you, we need a new meteorologist! It looks like everything has been working against us being able to arrive quickly back in Les Sables d'Olonne! The situation is very complicated, there are some lows which will suck up all the wind. Forming a strategy is difficult, because different models are showing different things. I don't think that anyone really knows how it's going to play out, but we'll have to be on top of it. I'm going fast but I'm also resting a lot to make sure I have my eyes wide open during the difficult 24/48 hours ahead, and be able to make the most of the wind that there is. I’ll have to approach at low a speed in the north to pick up on new winds. It will be a bit "Figaro-esque” and I know I have experts behind me. It won’t be a walk in the park! I’m going to try to make some real headway towards the end goal.”

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(Vendée Globe Day 59 - Leader 750 miles east of Puerto Santa Cruz, Argentina) Rested and fully energised in beautiful sunshine, climbing north up the South Atlantic, the mercury rising and sailing in a moderate breeze, Vendée Globe leader Yannick Bestaven’s strategic choices may prove better than his off quay rendition of a Jonny Hallyday classic, but with a margin of over 170 miles – and at times peaking at over 20 knots earlier today, the 48-year-old skipper of Maître Coq IV had every reason to be in full voice in a video he sent today.

The weather modelling is quite unreliable where the race leaders are – as they proved on the descent of the Atlantic some five weeks ago – but there seems to be a chance that Bestaven might be able to wriggle out of a high-pressure system and escape from his pursuers on a small depression which would slingshot him north. The next 48 hours will be key.

At the same time as Bestaven was lapping up the sunshine, enjoying the benefits of leading the fleet into escalating temperatures, 750 nautical miles behind Germany’s Boris Herrmann was wrestling with some of the toughest moments of his race on SeaExplorer - Yacht Club de Monaco. At some 150 miles from his fourth racing rounding of the Cape, Herrmann tore the leech of his mainsail and so had to sail all the way past the horn only under his J3 – small headsail, dropping to be 10th at the Cape, the passage of which, he reported later, he hardly noticed in the 40-45 knots winds.

Exhausted after the marathon repair, Herrmann reported late this afternoon, “I am happy to have got around the Horn but I hardly noticed it. I was just fully focused on repairing my mainsail. South of Cape Horn at 140 miles something like that I knew there was quite a bit of wind coming, 45-50 and I was going down through the sequence J3 and two reefs and was about to take the third reef and the leech of the sail caught the shrouds.”

He explained, “Luckily I was able to repair it. And that makes me really happy. It was complicated because it was structural, I had to dry and clean two layers up there in 45 knots of wind, it was pretty hairy on deck and I suppose it was well intentioned, but I finished today in the sunshine in the Atlantic. And now it is finally great to be in the Atlantic, sunshine, lighter winds and blue skies. And I have a mainsail up and that is just great.”

From early this morning there was an unprecedented number of boats passing Cape Horn in short order. Four solo skippers passed Cape Horn in a period of less than four hours. Between 0240hrs UTC on Monday morning when Damien Seguin (Group APICIL) rounded and 0401hrs Tuesday morning when Isabelle Joschke (MACSF) rounded in 11th, eight IMOCA skippers rounded the famous Cape Horn and passed back into the Atlantic after over one month in the Southern Oceans.

At 0016hrs UTC last night it was the first Horn rounding in the career of Maxime Sorel (V and B Mayenne), 3hrs and 58 minutes after Jean Le Cam whose seventh time it was. Italy’s Giancarlo Pedote (Prysmian Group) rounded 55 minutes later at 0112hrs to become the first non-French skipper in ninth.

At 0227hrs UTC Boris Herrmann of Germany fighting his problems made his fourth racing passage of his career rounding in tenth position on Seaexplorer-Yacht Club de Monaco, 1hr and 15 minutes after Pedote.

Then at 0401hrs Isabelle Joschke crossed Cape Horn for the first time in her ocean racing career. Racing MACSF she was just 1hr and 34 mins behind Herrmann.

Next to pass, and certain of mean, nasty Cape Horn conditions will be Clarisse Crèmer (Banque Populaire X) this evening followed by Armel Tripon (L’Occitane en Provence).

Second-placed Charlie Dalin (Apivia) took time to reflect on the two different worlds, after his first time in the Southern Ocean:

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Charlie Dalin (Apivia) became the second Vendée Globe skipper to round Cape Horn at 0439hrs early this Sunday morning, the 36-year-old French skipper who originates from Le Havre, passing much closer than leader Yannick Bestaven (Maître Coq IV) did some 14 hours and 56 minutes earlier.

Fighting his way north in 30-35 knot winds on his Verdier designed IMOCA Dalin was just six miles offshore of Cape Horn, passing during the hours of darkness.

But the first timer in the ‘big south’ – as yesterday was Bestaven - completed his initiation as a Cape Horner by calling the keeper of the lonely lighthouse at the end of the world and passing on his thanks and his regards, while quietly savouring the intense relief, the satisfying moments of deliverance into the ‘home’ Atlantic Ocean.

Dalin sounded a tiny note of regret. That he had led at two of the race’s three Great Capes and not the third is contrary to his methodical, empirical mathematician’s mind - his ideal of completing the set.

But if anything it will add fuel to Dalin’s desire to get back on terms with Bestaven during what promises the climb back up the Atlantic that looks set to be every bit as complicated – big picture strategy and small time tactics – as was the descent out of the Saint Helena high into the Roaring Forties five long weeks ago.

“It’s just bliss. A great moment. I am also happy to no longer have the big seas that have been with us us for several days ” said Dalin who described himself as a ‘perfectionist and an optimalist, someone who will always do the best I can with what I have’ before he started his first ever round the world race back in Les Sables d’Olonne. Dalin has had to deal with a compromised port foil bearing which caused him to cede the lead to Bestaven back on December 16th, though he did have the lead again momentarily on Christmas Day.

Bestaven, who is pushing for a more easterly route to the east side of a building high pressure, was almost gushing as he relived his relief during the hours since Cape Horn,
“In my life as a sailor, that was the biggest storm I have ever seen. Mad seas, such as I have never seen so big, and gusts of 60 knots. It’s a huge relief now because it’s been so hard ”.

Bestaven looked drained said on the French Live today. “When I got into the calm I was totally knocked for six, I was really exhausted.”

Dalin, also speaking on the Live today smiled broadly, “I celebrated by putting up more sail (laughs). I passed close to the islands, the rocks no doubt, it was the first land I had seen since the islands of Trinidad. I had forgotten that it existed after so many days. The continental shelf was parallel to the swell and the wind, so I didn't notice any difference in the sea state. On the other hand, I had to get offshore a bit so that I did not end up in the windshadow.”

Talking of the change of regime, Dalin, “Jean Luc Bernot always tells us that we have to change our mode after Cape Horn, I'm going to do that. It's a good thing to be back in the Atlantic. I'm happy to have finished with the Pacific. It's a new phase of the race. I've been working for a few days now on the strategy for the climb back up, there are quite a few things going on.”

A complicated South Atlantic….Again!

Now the strategy for the climb back to the Equator is all about looking long term. The initial strategies seem to see Bestaven going east to get round the east of the anticyclone and Dalin trying to work west to get through the initial light phase earlier. Dalin – looking like he will pass inside Staten Island through the Le Maire Straits - will gain initially but the real outcome would not be seen for more than ten days when they finally get back to the trade winds of the Saint Helena anticyclone.

Sébastien Josse, weather consultant to the Vendée Globe explains, “We see this high pressure going east and so for Maître Coq he has to stay to the right, to the east of the high pressure but it is moving quite fast but he can end up parked in this area of light winds. He has to manage the high pressure but to stay to the east and in ten days it is about catching the trade winds of Saint Helena. So it is a hard job to make a strategy for the long term.”

He adds, “There is a lot of work right now ahead of them, one high pressure, one low pressure and a high pressure to get to the Trade Winds and beyond that to the Doldrums. So the next 14 days will be hard, intense work for the two leaders.”

The mountain ranges in southern Chile rise to more than 3,000 meters and the islands of Patagonia have peaks of nearly 1,000 metres. In the W’ly wind there can be very many areas of light winds especially closer to the land. And even though weather modelling has improved a lot here, the reality on the water is often different from the models. And as Dalin notes today, they are out of big ocean mode and back into regatta mode, from maintaining high, safe average to fine tuning, sleeping less and trimming more, looking for every marginal gain.

A high pressure system is developing now from the coast of South America, north of the Falkland Islands. It will then gradually extend to the AEZ forcing the second group to cross it or make a big detour to the east, but with no real certainty of finding any extra wind.

Christian Dumard, the weather specialist who works in tandem with Josse, confirms, “There are two possible options, to the follow the direct, shortest route north and try to push through the high before it expands too much, or to go east in search of more wind which is the better long term option.”

Thomas Ruyant (Linked Out) and Damien Seguin (Groupe Apicil) are neck-and-neck in their race to be third at Cape Horn, Seguin a matter of five or six miles closer to the rock (14:00 ranking). With 195 nautical miles to go the pair should round in quick succession Monday morning, and might consider a late breakfast back in the Atlantic…..

Ranking at 17:00

1. Yannick Bestaven [Maître CoQ IV] —> 6,815.71 nm from the finish
2. Charlie Dalin [ Apivia ] —> 68.48 nm from the leader
3. Thomas Ruyant - [ LinkedOut ]—> 357.91 nm from the leader
4. Damien Seguin [ Groupe Apicil ] —> 359.9 nm from the leader
5. Benjamin Dutreux [ OMIA Water Family ] —> 553.27 nm from the leader

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Alone, surfing north eastwards in the grip of stormy winds and seas, passing 85 miles south of the famous solitary rocky islet, the huge whoop of delight from 48 years old Vendée Globe leader Yannick Bestaven when he finally passed Cape Horn this afternoon marked in an instant his victorious end to the relentless Southern Oceans and the start of the 7,000 miles climb homewards to Les Sables d’Olonne.

When Bestaven doubled the mythical lighthouse- at 13:42hrs UTC this Saturday afternoon 55 days and 22 minutes after the Vendée Globe start on Sunday 8th November, it concluded a remarkably successful first time in the Southern Ocean.

A past winner of the Mini-Transat and twice victorious in the two-handed Transat Jacques Vabre in Class40, Bestaven – who had never raced south of southern Brazil before - has been in the top three of the fleet since the Kerguelen Islands and took the lead just before the longitude of Tasmania. He has consistently sailed fast on his well prepared and reliable 2015 VPLP Verdier design which he has preserved to ensure he starts the Atlantic climb with his boat and set up at 100% of potential or close to it.

As he rounded he was more than 160 miles ahead of second placed Charlie Dalin (Apivia) with third placed Thomas Ruyant about 458 miles, or one day behind Bestaven’s cheers were as much of relief, successful deliverance from a very intense few days racing hard on the front of a low pressure system with his lead and his boat intact. The passage across the Pacific was punctuated by four days around Christmas in very light winds when there seemed to be a chance Bestaven and Dalin might be caught, but Bestaven - who grew up in Arcachon to the south of the French Atlantic coast – sailed impeccably, always pushing hard on fast, direct courses along the Antarctic Exclusion Zone.

And doubtless Bestaven’s huge holler at the third of the course’s three Great Capes further exorcised the ghost of his one and only previous Vendée Globe attempt, when he was dismasted in a brutal Biscay storm only 24 or so hours into the epic 2008 race.

The solo racer is also one of three skippers who remain on course who helped in the search for Kevin Escoffier when he had to abandon PRB on 30th November. And so while his lead over Dalin is 160 miles right now, Bestaven also is another 10 hours and 15 minutes to the good because of the allocation by the International Jury to compensate for his time taken to help in the search.

Bestaven’s passage time since the Les Sables d’Olonne start is more than eight days slower than the 47 days record pace set by Armel Le Cléac’h in 2016 and three days slower than 2012’s 52 days mark by François Gabart and one day and 15 hours faster than Michel Desjoyeaux in 2008.

"I'm stubborn, that's one of my big faults but also one of my qualities" revealed the marine engineer on the pontoons of Les Sables d'Olonne a few days before the start. "I also am very resilient. And I have a strong mind in difficult conditions ". As he has proven over the last month in the Southern Ocean where he grew in skill and stature.

Bestaven said this morning “I had to believe in my options and in my route without worrying too much about what my competitors could do. I had to be stubborn, especially when I stayed along the ice barrier. But I didn't think you could go so far into the human body to physically and mentally overcome all the stress, the cold, the damp, the loneliness. There were some magical moments and some very hard ones like when the boat broached and I was on the deck in the middle of the night wondering what the hell I was doing there."

Dalin – also a first timer - should round Cape Horn in the small hours of Sunday morning. He appears to have slowed more in the big seas and strong winds, making around 15 knots this afternoon when Bestaven seems to have pushed on at 17-19kts at times.

Meantime Briton Pip Hare has been trying to find the best solution to a failed wind wand at the top of the mast of her Medallia. She has only been able to sail on compass mode on her autopilot but this afternoon has been working to find a better solution.

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(Day 54 - 430 miles to Cape Horn this evening) Having been slowed since around 1800hrs UTC yesterday evening to evaluate and then today to make some kind of repair to his port side foil system of APIVIA, Charlie Dalin has dropped to third and lost over 120 miles to his two nearest rivals Thomas Ruyant and Yannick Bestaven. But Dalin, Vendée Globe leader for 23 days up until last night, appears to be back in race mode this afternoon, making over 14kts south eastwards towards the south Pacific Ocean.

Waves as high as a three-storey building and winds gusting to 55kts are expected over a ferocious ten-hour period for Yannick Bestaven and Charlie Dalin as they both seek to double the Horn, the last of the course’s three Great Capes, for the first time.

"A drop for me, a drop for the boat, a drop for Neptune, hoping he might be lenient with us" said second placed Charlie Dalin hopefully very early today, celebrating his arrival into 2021 by sprinkling the cockpit of his yellow hulled IMOCA Apivia with a splash of champagne, after having allowed himself a tiny sip of fizz to celebrate the New Year.

And on the 54th day of racing at 430 miles from Cape Horn, Bestaven and Dalin have made good a very successful but hard-won escape from their nearest challengers. A big jump in the last 48 hours means the duo are now closer to the Cape than the 470 miles – or approximately one day - that now separates Dalin from third-placed Thomas Ruyant.

At least this magnitude of a lead should allow them to throttle right back, settle into survival mode, and miss the worst of the malicious low-pressure system which should be at its worst during Saturday afternoon.

“It feels like it has been a very long time this South. I'm glad it’ll all be done soon. Cape Horn will be an important passage in my head. If I can get round in 3rd position, that would be great” said LinkedOut skipper Thomas Ruyant from his secure position in the bottom of his boat where he grabbed a small morsel of foie gras. Leading the chasing posse Ruyant is sailing behind the low, in a freezing SW’ly wind flow that has seen the whole group accelerate this Friday afternoon. And the pace is as unrelenting as ever once more and the distances between boats in this group are tiny. In eighth Isabelle Joschke on MACSF is in sight of Jean Le Cam – less than two miles between the two – while – in terms of distance to the Horn - there is less than a mile between Benjamin Dutreux on OMIA Water Family in fifth and Boris Herrmann on SeaExplorer-Yacht Club de Monaco in sixth.

New Year celebrations tend to be muted. On Medallia Briton Pip Hare catches a few moments for a blast of music and party popper to celebrate New Year arriving for her with the welcome position report showing she has passed Alan Roura to lie in 15th place, her best yet. And her French counterpart Alexia Barrier had time for a jig of happiness having made several key repairs not least her hydrogenerators.

Take Five

To finish any Vendée Globe is a victory in itself. But with this peloton group which is of unprecedented size – 140 miles between fourth and ninth today - and a truly exceptional level of competitiveness within that hard pressing pack, right now every mile, every place won and lost is big boost to morale. Conversely, in the freezing cold, unsettled winds behind the low, it is hard to accept losses and to constantly look only to the long game.

And at this stage all in the top ten or eleven can realistically still harbour hopes of winning, or being on the podium. But what would be the most common measure of success for this group? Podiums speak for themselves and would be the perfect result but probably most of this group left Les Sables d’Olonne with a place in the top five as their realistic target. And right at this point – because it is so tight – there is as much chance of a place in the top five as there is finishing tenth. In this field on this race fifth would be an exceptional result.

But of course just as every Vendée Globe is different so every fifth place is a unique yardstick and the way it looks now the time deltas between third and tenth can be very small.

In 1996 Briton Pete Goss was fifth in 126 days from six finishers in a time of 126 days, 21 days after the winner Christophe Auguin. In 2000 Dominique Wavre was fifth from 15 finishers, 12 days after the winner, the Swiss skipper having an elapsed time of 105 days. Sébastien Josse was fifth in 2004 but missed fourth by nine hours. Thirteen boats finished and his elapsed time was 93 days. Britain’s Sam Davies was fifth from 11 in 2008 but missed fourth by 20 minutes. At 95 days she was 11 days behind Michel Desjoyeaux. In 2012 it was Jean Le Cam who was fifth from 11 finishers taking 88 days for his lap of the planet, 10 days slower than Francois Gabart. But Mike Golding missed fifth by six hours. And in 2016 when there were 19 finishers it was Yann Eliès who was fifth in 80 days, six days after winner Armel Le Cléac’h. And this time, recall that Le Cam missed fifth by 30 minutes.

Ranking at 1700

1. Yannick Bestaven [Maître CoQ IV] —> 7435.33 nm from the finish
2. Charlie Dalin [ Apivia ] —> 139.66 nm from the leader
3. Thomas Ruyant - [ LinkedOut ]—> 472.83 nm from the leader
4. Damien Seguin [ Groupe Apicil ] —> 527.26 nm from the leader
5. Benjamin Dutreux [ OMIA Water Family ] —> 627.15 nm from the leader

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For the top group on the Vendée Globe simultaneously the atmosphere is electrifying, stressful and very chilly with 1300 miles to go to Cape Horn mainly because at 55°S the race remains intense for the first fourteen boats, but also because the gaps keep compressing from behind, always seeming to favour skippers chasing the leaders.

And the weather is far from simple as the conclusion of a relentless push across the Pacific approaches. The vital thing in these conditions is achieving the right balance both in terms of the physical approach - trimming and pushing the boat hard enough to not lose too many miles against the opposition – and the mental approach – keeping alert, making the right decisions at the right time and not getting too stressed about the approach of Cape Horn which will be entirely new to all of the top 13 except for Boris Herrmann (3x before), Jean Le Cam (7x before) and Louis Burton (1x before). After 52 days at sea, the solo sailors are entrenched in their rhythm, in tune with their boats and are able to achieve that short to medium-term objective.

The weather pattern that the leaders have to deal with to reach the third of the major capes of the Vendée Globe course is looking complicated. They are caught between a second low-pressure system to their north, which is set to deepen and will offer strong winds along the coast of Chile all the way to the tip of South America, and a narrow corridor of lighter, unstable winds. The frontrunners (Yannick Bestaven, Charlie Dalin and Thomas Ruyant) will need to avoid getting a hammering in 45 knots and 7m high waves, as they approach the Horn. As for those chasing them, they will have to avoid getting slowed down in an area of great instability.

Depending on where they are positioned, each skipper has to adapt their strategy to avoid suffering damage, while attempting not to lose any ground. At the front of the fleet, Yannick Bestaven, Charlie Dalin and Thomas Ruyant are accelerating to stay ahead of the front in order to take advantage of the NW’ly airstream and a more regular swell for as long as possible. Sailing on the port tack on their intact foils, Apivia and LinkedOut have managed to step up the pace today.

All three will however have to adjust their course and speeds to avoid finding themselves in the worst place at the worst time, when the second low-pressure system crosses their path.

In any case, compromise and balance between performance and self-preservation are the watchwords. This is a skill that requires patience and trying to quell any feelings of frustration but that is not always easy.

The stress inevitably mounts

“As these datum points arrive there is a heightened sense of anticipation and Cape Horn is the biggest of them all and the fact that you are past the half way point adds to the stress. But when you are really in your rhythm sometimes you feel like you can go on forever, that was the case for me. Nearly every skipper is looking now to getting out of the Southern Ocean.” Said Mike Golding in today’s English Live show, “But looking at the tracking data I think it is very stressful racing with this ice-barrier always on your right hand side. It is like sailing a coastal race where there is no actual coast. I think that is pretty stressful and if the sailors are struggling with that it is possibly a function of being jammed up against it, especially when it is tight like this in a group.”

And, though looking perky and content with her race so far, crossed the Antimeridian and ‘heading home’ Briton Pip Hare admitted today. Talking of her strategy she said, “I am really thinking about the weather and where I want to be and how much wind I want to be able to push the boat hard. There is a bit of a black art in there, even the first time in the Southern Ocean and I am applying Pip’s rule of thumb as to what the GRIB files say and what I know we will get. I guess the thing just now is there is still half way to go, there is so much ocean to go and at the beginning, I had nothing to lose and now I have something to lose. It is maybe now a little more stressful for me because I am so happy with how I am doing and I don’t want to lose this. Almost inevitably I have Koji and Charal behind and they will come back at me. But I will keep plugging away, doing my best.”

31-year-old in the middle of the Pacific

Clarisse Cremer the young skipper of Banque Populaire X celebrated her 31st birthday today near Point Nemo - in the middle of nowhere. She admitted having to negotiate with herself over and over again: "I try to be fast all the time, keeping myself safe. It's all a story of compromise between performance and keeping the emotions in check. I'm getting to know myself. It’s a real lesson in life. ”

In 12th she is trying to avoid being passed by Armel Tripon, whose black and yellow Sam Maniard foiler continues to gain on her.

"I have super favourable weather up to Cape Horn," Tripon admitted on the French show, “I will try to take this opportunity to stick in my limits. But you have to press. There is still a very high level of commitment from everyone! My goal is to keep coming back while saving my boat. It’s a balance to be found, you have to be careful 

Vendee Globe Ranking: 17:00

1. Yannick Bestaven [Maître CoQ IV] —> 8329.06 nm from the finish
2. Charlie Dalin - [ APIVIA ] —> 106.82 nm from the leader
3. Thomas Ruyant [ LinkedOut ] —> 200.35 nm from the leader
4. Damien Seguin [ Groupe Alpcil ]—> 205.33 nm from the leader
5. Jean Le Cam [ Yes We Cam! ] —> 277.4 nm from the leader

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(Day 52- 1450 miles to Cape Horn)  A nasty low-pressure system is converging with the Vendée Globe leader Yannick Bestaven (Maître Coq IV) and could require him to slow significantly to avoid winds in excess of 40-knots and big seas. But Bestaven is under pressure from behind too as the peloton of nine are compressing, closing mileage and pushing hard. Damien Seguin, multiple Paralympic champion is sailing immaculately and is up to third, increasingly taking the race to Dalin who is now less than 70 miles ahead. The chasing group have closed more than 150 miles in recent days. Leader Bestaven is expected at Cape Horn on Saturday.

Seguin is up to third on his Groupe Apicil, the best position yet for the Paralympic champion sailor who has never considered that having no left hand has ever compromised his ability to be competitive in any racing fleet. His accurate, precise routing, gybing down the Antarctic Exclusion barrier has placed him inside Thomas Ruyant, nearly nine miles ahead of the solo skipper of LinkedOut. And in terms of direct distance on the water Seguin is less than 40 miles from Charlie Dalin (APIVIA).

"Sequin has never considered that having no left hand has ever compromised his ability to be competitive in any racing fleet"

His years of Paralympic medal-winning rigour and discipline are complemented by an excellent all-round ability. At 12 he was fascinated by meteorology. He has been top-level competitive in the short, sharp inshore sprints of the Diam24 Tour Voile, long-distance in the Class 40 and in the Figaro class. He modified and prepped his Finot Conq design in Jean Le Cam’s boatyard, advised and mentored by Le Cam himself. Incidentally his seat on his IMOCA – retrieved from a dusty corner at Le Cam’s – is off the 2008 Vendée Globe winning Foncia.

A tired, but extremely focused Seguin said today: “Here I am, dreaming of being in the top 5 at Cape Horn! That would be crazy! But it’s what I'm really going to try to do. I still need about seven days to get there. It will be by Sunday or Monday I think. But this last week before Cape Horn is going to be tough. The models all see different things. We'll see...I am managing to rest but it's not always easy to eat. I've been eating a lot of cold food lately, but I have just had a hot meal. The last few days in the light wind zone have been complicated. It was very unstable, and I found it particularly difficult to rest. I came out of it exhausted. And after that I attacked the transition, and I had to do it quickly. The boat was pounding against the sea a lot! It was really difficult. I can’t say for now whether it’s been the most difficult part of this Vendée Globe. The Indian was also difficult because I had a lot of technical problems. But here, it’s more the sailing conditions that have been complex.”

Seguin suggests, “ People have been saying that the foilers are going to accelerate, and it might well be on this climb up the Atlantic. We'll see... In any case, at Cape Horn it won't be over. We know that this particular ascent has often been full of surprises. But for the moment, I'm focusing on this mythical Cape!"

Young shared Vendee Globe dreams

One thing the second and third placed skippers, Dalin and Seguin, share in common is their youthful dreams of racing the world’s oceans. Their young minds were seeded when they were very little, each seeing the stars of the solo and short handed racing and their fantastic machines up close and personal – a few years apart - in the respective backyards of their childhood.

For Dalin, 35, that was hanging round the Transat Jacques Vabre docks after school in his native Le Havre. Seguin, 41, grew up in Guadeloupe where he saw his heroes of the time winning the Route du Rhum solo Transatlantic race.

Seguin told the Vendée Globe website before the start:

“When we moved to Guadeloupe we went to the finish of the Route du Rhum in 1990. I didn't know anything about it but everyone was talking about it. It was a revelation. I remember these giant boats, the great sailors who were being asked for autographs. Florence Arthaud, Mike Birch, Alain Gautier, Laurent Bourgnon...they were like rock stars. I wanted to do that very same thing, to follow in their wake. My initial project was to do the Route du Rhum. In 1998, I had a difficult choice to make: either I embarked on a Mini project or I started an Olympic programme. Pushed a bit by the National Sailing School I chose the second option, as I knew it would provide a good structure and foundations to get more into ocean racing. Then after four Olympics, it was the right time to change direction first in the Figaro, then into IMOCA. "

And Dalin recalled pre-start, “And at home on Le Havre every two years I would find myself always in among the Transat Jacques Vabre boats, dreaming. I went to admire the racing machines at the start, then I followed the race through the radio, the newspapers. And of course through sailing magazines. That’s how I discovered the Mini Transat in Voiles & Voiliers. I spent hours looking at the smallest details in the photos. I remember a double page spread from Seb Magnen's boat which won the Mini twice in a row. I don't know how many hours I looked at this picture imagining myself in its place.”

A common stepping stone

The more modestly priced, but highly competitive Class 40 has proven a stepping stone on the pathway to the IMOCA and to this Vendée Globe. Six years ago in Guadeloupe the Route du Rhum Class 40 was won by the Spanish sailor Alex Pella but the class was populated by many of today’s Vendée Globe racers, notably Stéphane Le Diraison who finished fourth, Miranda Merron was sixth, Yannick Bestaven, seventh, Damien Seguin eighth, Fabrice Amedeo ninth, and Giancarlo Pedote 10th. Also racing were Maxime Sorel, Alan Roura, Arnaud Boissières and Nicolas Troussel.


Vendee Globe Ranking 17:00 hrs

1. Yannick Bestaven [ Maître CoQ IV ] —> 8,641.07 nm from the finish
2. Charlie Dalin - [ APIVIA ] —> 167.9 nm from the leader
3. Damien Seguin [ Groupe Apicil ] —> 230.25 nm from the leader
4. Thomas Ruyant [ LinkedOutl ]—> 237..96 nm from the leader
5. Jean Le Cam [ Yes We Cam! ] —> 254.94 nm from the leader

Published in Vendee Globe
Tagged under

On the Vendée Globe front line the Christmas truce is over. Days of light winds and mild temperatures have been summarily replaced by 30-35 knot winds. Deep reefed sails are the order of the day. It is cold, miserable and wet with freezing South Pacific water sluicing the decks.

As the leading duo Yannick Bestaven (Maître Coq IV) and Charlie Dalin (APIVIA) pass Point Nemo today, the loneliest point on the Southern Ocean - the Furious Fifties offer a rude reminder why they are so called.

From Point Nemo it is nearly 2,000 miles to Cape Horn where deliverance waits. This stage, to the Horn, is about remaining prudent, preparing perfectly for the Cape and knowing the timing of the weather transitions as accurately as possible.

“There is so much contrast with yesterday I almost cannot remember how it was, I cannot remember yesterday it seems.” Said seventh-placed Boris Herrmann wistfully today. “Now we are back to a normal Southern Ocean ambience sailing at 17 knots in 30kts of breeze. We are dealing with a low-pressure system and the contrast is just amazing.”

On his 50th day at sea the German skipper, who stands a fighting chance of being the first ‘Cape Horner’ (he has been round three times) among a group of first-timers at the Cape next weekend mused, “It takes a strong mind to take it all, you are always being thrown into new situations. Better not to think about it too much. Sometimes I think I think too much about the boat. If could let go a bit more I could sail a bit faster…. but looking up I am anxious all the time. In the bunk I am sleeping only 15 minutes. Maybe I should just let it go, and go faster.”

He continues, “But I want to reach Cape Horn in one piece. I have a boat at 100% and very few of the others can say that. So let us get through the week without losing too many miles, but certainly without breaking anything.”

Mike Golding, four times Vendée Globe racer, says this is one of the toughest parts of the course mentally, “But it is essential to keep doing what they have been doing, getting through each day, one day at a time, without pushing too hard, just staying in the rhythm and looking after the boat. The sense of anticipation grows and grows for those who have not been round the Horn before but there is so much can be gained and lost just after, it is important to be there in the best shape mentally and physically.”

Golding adds, “In fact if there is a little more compression, as we might expect, then anyone in this main group can be on the podium in Les Sables d’Olonne. It is that open. Right now I am impressed by Boris and his approach and especially by Isabelle Joschke who has really come into her own. Like Boris she has a largely unbroken boat, she’s in the play. And don’t discount Jean Le Cam. He is ‘steady Eddie’, you never hear of his problems because whatever he deals with, he just gets on with..”

Joschke in fifth is still struggling with the cold, which she does not like at all, and like Herrmann is taking time to re-adjust to the rude return to fast, wet and hard sailing, “Last night it was really slamming and crashing, I even got seasick again because I was not used to the movement again.” Heavily fatigued Joschke was trying to grab some rest before adding more sail area to her charge.

Rest was high on the agenda too for Benjamin Dutreux. The tenth-placed 30-year-old Vendée skipper of OMIA-Water Family has climbed the mast of his IMOCA to release his J2 headsail which had split near the top. The climb was extremely tough, after he reported that he was’ thrown around like a rag doll being smashed between the sail and the mast’.

“And now I have to repair the sail and a few other things, so it is not good for my morale, really,” Dutreux told the French Vendée Globe live show today, his face wracked with fatigue and stress.

Leader Yannick Bestaven was not short of wind - were he in need of any more puff to blow out his 48 candles on his birthday. He had 40 knots of wind at times in front of the depression though with crossed seas which made progress less than comfortable. But the Vendée Globe leader for 12 days has opened more than 50 miles on second-placed Charlie Dalin over the last 24 hours. Maître CoQ IV's lead is now 133 miles over APIVIA which has been closer to the centre of the depression. Thomas Ruyant is third on LinkedOut, now 150 miles behind Dalin and 31 miles behind Damien Seguin (Groupe Apicil) who has consistently been the quickest of the top 10 today.

Vendee Globe Ranking at 17:00

1. Yannick Bestaven [Maître CoQ IV] —> 9,256.64 nm from the finish
2. Charlie Dalin - [ APIVIA ] —> 133.32 nm from the leader
3. Thomas Ruyant [ LinkedOut ] —> 284.7 nm from the leader
4. Damien Seguin [ Groupe Alpcil ]—> 315.72 nm from the leader
5. Jean Le Cam [ Yes We Cam! ] —> 360.03 nm from the leader

Published in Vendee Globe
Tagged under

(Day 49 - One week to Cape Horn) Yannick Bestaven (Maître CoQ IV) shows again today why he is the leader of the Vendée Globe as he has positioned himself well to take the best advantage of a long-awaited low-pressure system which will finally break up the southern Pacific Ocean stalemate. Slow, tactical sailing has largely prevailed for nearly 1,500 nautical miles and some five days of racing.

Bestaven’s optimal upwind course sees him clip the corner flag of the Antarctic Exclusion Zone as the new weather system breathes life back into his attack, allowing him to slant slightly more to the south, passing some 300 miles south of Point Nemo tomorrow

The solo racer from La Rochelle has today opened another handful of miles on second-placed Charlie Dalin (APIVIA) not least because Dalin’s unfortunate timing, as they are still upwind, on the new weather system has required him to tack back to the north in order to make the corner of the ice barrier.

Bestaven should celebrate his 48th birthday Monday with the perfect gift, seeing his lead increase still further, as he crosses the low into fast reaching conditions. Adorned with relatively flat seas in front of the system he might press the accelerator hard on Maître CoQ IV or simply enjoy the fast birthday ride on his VPLP-Verdier design which was launched as Safran for the last Vendée Globe.

The leader has more than 22 years of ocean racing under his belt, his first major success being winning the Mini Transat in 2001.

When Bestaven won the Mini Transat in 2001 the runner up was the amateur British skipper Simon Curwen who drove a wedge between the victor and his third-placed pal Arnaud Boissières.

Friends Boissières and Bestaven – who grew up together in Arcachon – had identical twin Nivelt designs which proved extremely potent. The current Vendée Globe leader won both legs of that Mini Transat, actually, the first sailor ever to do so after Arcachonnais mentor Yves Parlier did - but Parlier was penalised 16 hours on the first leg. He was a major influence on the early sailing career of Bestaven.

“Building your own boat and crossing the Atlantic alone is unforgettable.” Bestaven told the Vendée Globe website before the start, “My career happened little by little, but in particular thanks to the influence of Yves Parlier who took me on board with him. But the Mini-Transat was a real eye-opener. Winning the Mini Transat was transformative, winning both stages and therefore the race on a boat that I built myself. You can hardly do more at that stage of your career.”

Brit Brian Thompson actually led the second stage to Salvador de Bahia but chose to stay offshore overnight to stay with the breeze whilst Bestaven went along the shore to win. Thompson finished sixth and Sam Davies 11th.

A typically virulent low-pressure system is forecast to converge from the north-west, coinciding with the leaders projected rounding of Cape Horn on January 2nd. Presently the weather files predict 45kts averages which would surely require the two leaders -at least- to throttle back and time their passage of the notorious rocky islet better.

“I was sold a Pacific experience of fast surfing and smooth downwind sailing. But is has been like climbing a mountain. So now the idea is to continue down towards the Ice Zone to get closer to the centre of the low. We then cross it and pick up the wind shift on the other side, with fairly strong winds, 40-knot gusts. We’ll be the first to take advantage of that, so that should - if the charts and forecasts are right - propel me as the leader eastwards, towards Cape Horn. So if everything works out as forecast, we should be at the Horn in 6-7 days around the 2nd January. For the moment, we have to be patient. Here it’s cold and wet. If that appeals to you, come and join us aboard Maître CoQ in the South Pacific.” Bestaven said today.

The chasing pack of ten is, to all intents and purposes, now eleven. Louis Burton (Bureau Vallée 2) is in contact with the peloton, 60 miles behind tenth-placed Benjamin Dutreux (OMIA-Water Family) who struggled yesterday with a problem with his J2 headsail, which as yet remains unresolved and will require a mast climb at some point. There is a question whether Burton will be able to hold on to the back of the same low pressure as the peloton.

Nonetheless, the shape of January’s race up the Atlantic is taking shape this week. It seems unlikely that it will be restricted to a Bestaven v Dalin match race such as has decided the 2012 and 2016 races. If the second pack can – as predicted – be within striking distance at the Cape then this is still anyone’s race to win.

Ranking at 17:00

1. Yannick Bestaven [Maître CoQ IV] —> 9,256.64 nm from the finish
2. Charlie Dalin - [ APIVIA ] —> 100.92 nm from the leader
3. Thomas Ruyant [ LinkedOut ] —> 313.73 nm from the leader
4. Damien Seguin [ Groupe Alpcil ]—> 365.49 nm from the leader
5. Jean Le Cam [ Yes We Cam! ] —> 376.14 nm from the leader

Published in Vendee Globe
Tagged under
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