Menu
Allianz and Afloat - Supporting Irish Boating

Ireland's sailing, boating & maritime magazine

Alex Thomson Leads Vendee Globe by 26 Miles Thanks to Storm Theta

13th November 2020
Alex Thomson's Hugo Boss leads the Vendee Globe race Alex Thomson's Hugo Boss leads the Vendee Globe race Credit: Mark Llloyd

Alex Thomson leads the Vendée Globe by some 26 nautical miles this afternoon, first to deal with the worst of storm Theta at some 250 miles south of the Azores. The British skipper took Hugo Boss close to the centre of the system as he considered prudent, before a difficult gybe in around 40ks of wind and 5-metre seas around 1330hrs this afternoon, a move which should see him gain significantly on all but the French veteran Jean Le Cam who took a similar track.

The reward for the extra risk is sailing fewer miles than the rivals who are chasing him is being slingshotted out of the low in strong N NW’ly winds which, all going well, should net him significant miles on his fast foiling rivals.

Thomson’s nearest pursuer is 61-year-old Jean Le Cam whose ocean racing history dates back to the 1980s and who won La Solitaire du Figaro three times and finished second in the Vendée Globe in 2004-5. He is sailing a 2007 launched boat with conventional straight daggerboards and leads all of the latest generation foilers other than the radical black HUGO BOSS.

Le Cam is more than twenty miles up on the third-placed Nico Troussel on CORUM L’Épargne.

“I see them behind me these foilers. But as long they are there papy fait de la resistance (literally grandpa resists ed note 1983 french film)! I am 70 miles from the centre of the Theta depression. I am under mainsail alone, I am waiting to see what I am going to do. I always say, do not confuse speed and haste. Here I am calm, the wind rises gradually, it is useless for me to have up sail I won’t need in half an hour. That's the worst thing, you put it up you put it down put it up.

Asked on the Vendée Globe LIVE show today about his passionate public following in typical Le Cam style he quipped, “I'm glad people are with me because this is not an easy adventure. And here I am. I can't not be happy! If I'm not happy there, then I'll never be happy! So I'm happy. I ate a cassoulet this morning, I found the cassoulet to go well with a depression. It does not go with the high pressure but rather with the depression. This is our culture in Brittany. Otherwise, I have sweetbreads to make, but I'll wait a bit. "

“This is the first hors d'oeuvre of this Vendée", was Kito de Pavant’s description of storm Theta during the Vendée Live programme. De Pavant is a three times a Vendée Globe starter who has not yet finished and who had to be rescued in the Southern Ocean by the Marion Dufresne supply ship during the last edition. Seeing the pace and passion of his friend and many times adversary Le Cam. De Pavant teased, “Maybe there is still a place for old people!”

Strategies for Theta vary all the way through the fleet. First timer Clarisse Cremer on Banque Populaire X admitted to being freaked out by it. Louis Burton today said he would play it safe, setting his cursor where he feels comfortable between speed and safety. And then are those who keep smiling, like Kevin Escoffier, busy maneuvering further west in 30 knots of wind at midday.

The PRB skipper Escoffier highlighted the need to keep the hammer down as much as possible to avoid being left behind in a situation which is not so much rich get richer as the poor being left behind in a vacuum of anti cyclonic very light winds.

Escoffier said. “Water started coming into the boat just before I gybed at the depression. Here we go again! It took a fair bit of time to empty everything; the pumps are fast but it still took me 2 hours. When you discover that, after taking a little nap...Well, let’s just say there's nothing like it, it definitely wakes you up! (he says laughing) I'm currently sailing in 30/35 knots, sailing downwind. I’ve given in to losing a bit of speed so that I can shift a little to the west and remain in control. I've moved away from the optimal route, but I'm going to sail as well as I can. Alex and Jean are making a very good start to the race. I made the decision to hang back a little and I'm not alone. Charlie gybed again this morning for the same reasons. I completely understand what Alex and Jean are doing, but everyone has their own path to take. These are never easy choices! I'm going to come out of the depression early tonight. I am happy with my start to the race. This is my second solo regatta and I'm trying to do it right. I've stayed in contact with good boats with good skippers at the helm. I'm proud of that no matter what happens afterwards.”

Meanwhile, some 300 miles to the northeast, back up the track Miranda Merron and Didac Costa were among those stuck in the light winds and oily seas.

And true to the Vendée Globe’s requirement to fix at least one thing a day, Sébastien Simon (ARKEA PAPREC) took advantage of being close to the Azores to climb to the top of the mast without succeeding in completely solving the problem (damaged wind vanes). Maxime Sorel has been dealing with autopilot problems. And Louis Burton transformed the Bureau Vallée 2 saloon into a “composite workshop” to repair a crack in a bulkhead. "I'm apprehensive the next time we go upwind in heavy seas," he explained.

Published in Vendee Globe
Afloat.ie Team

About The Author

Afloat.ie Team

Email The Author

Afloat.ie is Ireland's dedicated marine journalism team.

Have you got a story for our reporters? Email us here.

We've got a favour to ask

More people are reading Afloat.ie than ever thanks to the power of the internet but we're in stormy seas because advertising revenues across the media are falling fast. Unlike many news sites, we haven’t put up a paywall because we want to keep our marine journalism open.

Afloat.ie is Ireland's only full–time marine journalism team and it takes time, money and hard work to produce our content.

So you can see why we need to ask for your help.

If everyone chipped in, we can enhance our coverage and our future would be more secure. You can help us through a small donation. Thank you.

Direct Donation to Afloat button

The 2020/2021 Vendée Globe Race

A record-sized fleet of 33 skippers will start the ninth edition of the Vendée Globe: the 24,296 nautical miles solo non-stop round-the-world race from Les Sables d’Olonne in France, on Sunday, November 8 at 1302hrs French time/1202hrs TU and will be expected back in mid-January 2021.

Vendée Globe Race FAQs

Six women (Alexia Barrier, Clarisse Cremer, Isabelle Joschke, Sam Davies, Miranda Merron, Pip Hare).

Nine nations (France, Germany, Japan, Finland, Spain, Switzerland, Australia, and Great Britain)

After much speculation following Galway man Enda O’Coineen’s 2016 race debut for Ireland, there were as many as four campaigns proposed at one point, but unfortunately, none have reached the start line.

The Vendée Globe is a sailing race round the world, solo, non-stop and without assistance. It takes place every four years and it is regarded as the Everest of sailing. The event followed in the wake of the Golden Globe which had initiated the first circumnavigation of this type via the three capes (Good Hope, Leeuwin and Horn) in 1968.

The record to beat is Armel Le Cléac’h 74 days 3h 35 minutes 46s set in 2017. Some pundits are saying the boats could beat a sub-60 day time.

The number of theoretical miles to cover is 24,296 miles (45,000 km).

The IMOCA 60 ("Open 60"), is a development class monohull sailing yacht run by the International Monohull Open Class Association (IMOCA). The class pinnacle events are single or two-person ocean races, such as the Route du Rhum and the Vendée Globe.

Zero past winners are competing but two podiums 2017: Alex Thomson second, Jérémie Beyou third. It is also the fifth participation for Jean Le Cam and Alex Thomson, fourth for Arnaud Boissières and Jérémie Beyou.

The youngest on this ninth edition of the race is Alan Roura, 27 years old.

The oldest on this ninth edition is Jean Le Cam, 61 years old.

Over half the fleet are debutantes, totalling 18 first-timers.

The start procedure begins 8 minutes before the gun fires with the warning signal. At 4 minutes before, for the preparatory signal, the skipper must be alone on board, follow the countdown and take the line at the start signal at 13:02hrs local time. If an IMOCA crosses the line too early, it incurs a penalty of 5 hours which they will have to complete on the course before the latitude 38 ° 40 N (just north of Lisbon latitude). For safety reasons, there is no opportunity to turn back and recross the line. A competitor who has not crossed the starting line 60 minutes after the signal will be considered as not starting. They will have to wait until a time indicated by the race committee to start again. No departure will be given after November 18, 2020, at 1:02 p.m when the line closes.

The first boat could be home in sixty days. Expect the leaders from January 7th 2021 but to beat the 2017 race record they need to finish by January 19 2021.

Today, building a brand new IMOCA generally costs between 4.2 and €4.7million, without the sails but second-hand boats that are in short supply can be got for around €1m.

©Afloat 2020

Featured Sailing School

INSS sidebutton

Featured Clubs

dbsc mainbutton
Howth Yacht Club
Kinsale Yacht Club
National Yacht Club
Royal Cork Yacht Club
Royal Irish Yacht club
Royal Saint George Yacht Club

Featured Brokers

leinster sidebutton

Featured Associations

ICRA
isora sidebutton

Featured Webcams

Featured Events 2021

vdlr21 sidebutton

Featured Sailmakers

northsails sidebutton
uksails sidebutton
quantum sidebutton
watson sidebutton

Featured Chandleries

CHMarine Afloat logo
osm sidebutton
https://afloat.ie/resources/marine-industry-news/viking-marine

Featured Marinas

dlmarina sidebutton

Featured Blogs

W M Nixon - Sailing on Saturday
podcast sidebutton
mansfield sidebutton
BSB sidebutton
wavelengths sidebutton
 

Please show your support for Afloat by donating