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Vendee Globe Record Possibilities Challenged by South Atlantic's Cussed Moods

24th November 2020
Charlie Dalin's Apivia currently leads the Vendee Globe Charlie Dalin's Apivia currently leads the Vendee Globe

Before the 33 boats went off from les Sables-d'Olonne on November 8th to start the Vendee Globe, there'd been much talk of the possibility of reducing Armel le Cleac'h's notable record of 74 days established in the 2016-2017 event.

It was thought that, as the eight new-generation IMOCA 60s in the fleet have now moved several stages forward in their development of foils, some really sensational average speeds for significantly long periods could see the circuit time brought below 70 days, and 60 days became a theoretical possibility.

But right from the start, with obtuse conditions making the first stages getting out of the Bay of Biscay a messy business where le Cleac'h had made a clinical one day exit, the fleet was struggling. And now in the south Atlantic, the leaders are at least a day and a half behind the 2016 time, and the forecasts seem to suggest that a great big relatively windless area is determined to keep re-positioning itself to get between them and the strong westerlies which blow beyond the horizon, far to the south of the Cape of Good Hope.

Thus in the current big picture, the more cynical might think the famous headland could be more appropriately re-named the Cape of Fat Chance. But those who have actually endured the heaven and hell which is experienced in even the shortest offshore race will have felt their sympathies totally engaged by the challenges faced by lone skippers who all have had their preparation plans and timing knocked askew by the pandemic.

Despite that, on Sunday the leading boat Hugo Boss, with Alex Thomson seemingly at the apex of his twenty years of devotion to this one great event, was streaking along in front. But as the days had gone past, it had become increasingly clear that Thomas Ruyant in LinkedOut was finding extra speed, and early Monday morning he took the lead.

When the going was good – Alex Thomson's Hugo Boss at the startWhen the going was good – Alex Thomson's Hugo Boss at the start.

In doing so, he may have pushed Thomson that bit too hard, for soon afterwards Hugo Boss was stopped, with a forward bulkhead needing repair work. Thomson has since lost at least a day putting it partially right with grinders and glue and dust and God knows what else. So anyone who thinks this is a celebrity sailing joyride would do well to imagine what it's like down below, right up forward with the boat bouncing on the open ocean, and you in a fume-filled space in tropical temperatures desperately trying to create a vital repair.

As it is, with the pace which had been set by the three leaders, Thomson's shore team had insisted he get some real sleep – or as real as it could be in the circumstances – before they'd talk him through the repairs.

But meanwhile, although Thomas Ruyant had his moment of glory in storming past Hugo Boss when the latter was still at full speed and seemingly in full health, LinkedOut's skipper knew that he also had an Appointment with Destiny as soon as they reached an expected area of light winds, as he'd to go aloft to the top of the 28-metre mast to sort out a J2 halyard and lock problem.

They reached the soft patch and up he went, still with a good lead-in hand on next-in-line Charlie Dalin in near-sister Apivia. But time aloft in a windless area in mid-ocean is not at all a period of calm and contemplation. He got the job done but was bruised and battered when it was finished, and though he was soon moving again as the breeze re-gathered strength, Charlie Dalin – on whom the smart money in France has been from the start – seemed to be getting it all together in more effective style. He came through Ruyant at 0430 yesterday (Tuesday) morning, and since then hasn't put a tactical or performance foot wrong to stretch into a 70 mile lead on Ruyant, while in this cut-and-thrusting race of races, Alex Thomson is now back in eighth, 500 miles off the lead

The pain of it all can be traced by backing up on the tracker here

Meanwhile, we've a pithy explanation for the name of Thomas Ruyant's Marcus Hutchinson-managed boat:

LinkedIn is for the Haves who want to Have More

LinkedOut is for the Have-nots who want to Have a Chance.

Racing for the Have-Nots – Thomas Ruyant's LinkedOutRacing for the Have-Nots – Thomas Ruyant's LinkedOut

Published in Vendee Globe
WM Nixon

About The Author

WM Nixon

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William M Nixon has been writing about sailing in Ireland for many years in print and online, and his work has appeared internationally in magazines and books. His own experience ranges from club sailing to international offshore events, and he has cruised extensively under sail, often in his own boats which have ranged in size from an 11ft dinghy to a 35ft cruiser-racer. He has also been involved in the administration of several sailing organisations.

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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

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