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After cutting off part of his damaged port foil LinkedOut solo skipper Thomas Ruyant is back in full race mode, chasing runaway Vendée Globe leader Charlie Dalin who has escaped into the Roaring Forties, surging eastwards towards the longitude of Cape of Good Hope now with a cushion of 300 miles.

Ruyant cut two metres from the tip of his damaged foil in a perilous operation which was made easier by the unusually clement wind and sea conditions in the South Atlantic. His speeds will be compromised on starboard gybe especially during the ensuing month in the southern oceans but the skipper from north of France is determined to all he can to mitigate any loss of performance.

“Thomas is moving well now and wants to get as far south, to cross the fleet before he gybes over and it is good to see him back in the race at almost full potential. In terms of numbers it is difficult to estimate how much his potential will be compromised, the designers and team are working on estimations to what the new polars would be but the boat is compromised we don’t have the righting moment that we used to, but whether that is ten percent or twenty per cent we don’t know yet. It might be two or three or four knots when the boat is being used at full potential.” Team Manager Marcus Hutchinson suggested on the Vendée Globe Live programme at lunch time today.

With more than 300 miles of a lead Charlie Dalin will be able to modulate his speed in the south on the Verdier designed Apivia. He was averaging more than 20kts at times today, now racing at around 41 degrees south, he gybed at around 0800hrs this Friday morning at around 50 nautical miles north of the Antarctic Exclusion Zone – the virtual ice barrier that the solo racers must stay north of. With around 1300 miles to go to the longitude of the Cape of Good Hope, Dalin should cross on Monday morning.

Finally clear of the sticky clutches of the South Atlantic high pressure the main peloton seem to have been gifted a great weather situation, not least Louis Burton (Bureau Vallée) and Sam Davies (Initiatives Coeur) who were first to break south three days ago. They are lined up on the face of a low pressure system which should catapult them east to close with slightly more wind pressure than their closest rivals to their north. But there is the enduring prospect of a fast, close race between the boats placed second to tenth today.

Yannick Bestaven is fourth this afternoon on Maitre Côq, 14 miles up on Kevin Escoffier (PRB) who in turn is 14 miles ahead of Boris Herrmann (Seaexplorer-Yacht Club de Monaco) 18 miles clear of ARKEA PAPREC sailed by Sébastien Simon. Further to the south Burton and Davies are 12 and 50 miles behind Simon.

Burton continues to impress. The skipper from Saint Malo is on his third Vendée Globe. His boat won the race in 2016-17 in the hands of Armel Le Cléac’h and Burton’s team had already organised its purchase before it had crossed the finish line last January. He trains independently of the IMOCA training groups at Port La Fôret and Lorient and works to a limited budget, such that the VLP-Verdier design is in the same configuration as when Le Cléac’h triumphed four years ago.

In his wake, Sam Davies is getting ready for a change in her conditions aboard: “We’re off now on the conveyor belt. I have been telling myself that this may be the last time we see blue skies for a while, as they are not very common in the Southern Ocean. The solar panels are being fully charged. I’m spending a lot of time outside to stock up with vitamin D before the South.”

There was a similar atmosphere with Kevin Escoffier (PRB), 5th in the fleet on a slightly more northerly route: “The world will be changing for us tomorrow. We’ll be sailing ahead of the front. We’re going to have to be fast to stick with it for as long as possible. You have to know exactly when to gybe in relation to the front to get in the right place for the low-pressure system forecast for 1st December. It will be slamming a bit more with winds forecast in excess of forty knots and heavy seas according to the charts. I cleaned up the boat to get ready for this ‘New World’ ahead of us in the Forties and the Indian Ocean. My next shower will probably involve using the kettle.”

Meanwhile Alex Thomson took the chance last night to further consolidate his repairs on HUGO BOSS before he heads into the big south. But this morning he had the black and pink machine hammer down averaging over 20kts. He is 11th, 661 miles behind Dalin this afternoon. Front of mind will be memories of 2016-17 when he was 819 nautical miles behind Armel Le Cléac’h at Cape Horn but closed that gap to finish 16 hours behind in second place.

“It feels good to be focusing back on the race again and chasing the leaders into the Southern Ocean” Thomson said. “There is a long way to go but I’m feeling good and looking forward to heading downwind finally where I think we’ll really see what HUGO BOSS is capable of”.

Published in Vendee Globe

At the same time as Alex Thomson euphorically announced this morning that ‘the BOSS is Back’ in the Vendee Globe Race after the British skipper completed four days and nights of structural repairs to the inside of the bow of HUGO BOSS, his French rival, second-placed Thomas Ruyant and his team are deciding what to do about the damaged port foil on his LinkedOut. Despite their respective challenges to win the Vendée Globe being compromised for the moment, both skippers remain highly motivated.

The danger in leaving the damaged foil as it is, is that it may break off and cause collateral damage to the hull of his IMOCA or indeed the outrigger support rods. Laurent Bourguès, technical director of Ruyant’s TR Racing has assembled a Task Force group comprising the designers, engineers and builders who collaborated in the production of LinkedOut’s V2 second-generation foil. So designer Guillaume Verdier is working with Antoine Koch the foil specialist, François Pernelle, who is head of the TR Racing design office, and marine design engineer Hervé Penfornis. This brains trust are in charge of the next steps for skipper Thomas Ruyant who is 120 miles behind the leader and still in the throes of escaping from the light winds of the South Atlantic high.

“First we need to evaluate accurately the structure of the damaged foil," explains Laurent Bourguès. "Guillaume Verdier performs all the calculations to assess the level of stress safe for a foil of which the shaft structure is compromised. And therefore, in the next few hours we need to work out the acceptable level of risk to hold to a foil which is now unusable. Thomas has withdrawn it as much as it comes in but at certain angles of heel, reaching on starboard tack, part of the foil is dragging in the water and so is subject to considerable stress, especially at high speed. In the event of it breaking we then worry about collateral damage at the level of the outrigger tie rod. If this risk seems too great to us, Thomas will have to cut the foil. He has all the tools to do so. It is up to us, to recommend where to cut it either in its widest part, flush with the hull, or nearer the tip. We are talking with other teams who have suffered this kind of damage so we can give Thomas all the answers very quickly. "

His team say Ruyant is fully prepared to get on with his race with just a single foil. They said today ‘His determination to do very well is entirely intact. He knows that statistically, his starboard foil is more important than the port side. Even without a foil, his LinkedOut is very powerful, with its ballasts system in particular capable of providing all the power needed on starboard tack to perform despite the loss of the foil. He will re-learn the boat again, play with the cant of the keel and his sail combinations in order to stay in the heart of the Vendée Globe action.”

Thomson is back in the thick of the action after taking four days repairing. He is in eighth place this afternoon and in the middle of a well-established pack of boats, circling the west side of the high-pressure system and fighting to pull back miles on Sébastien Simon (ARKEA PAPREC) to his east, and Sam Davies and Louis Burton who are quicker than him in the west where there is more breeze. Briton Davies and Saint-Malo based Burton – whose father is Welsh – are nicely positioned now to catch the fast-moving eastbound weather systems first.

Almost all of the lead group seem set to finally be liberated from the clutches of the South Atlantic high pressure and the light winds which have plagued progress since Monday. In a few hours times, they should finally be clear and into 25-30kts downwind conditions.

"In six hours time, the sailors will see a complete change in conditions racing on the front of a low from around noon tomorrow," explains Christian Dumard, weather forecaster for the Vendée Globe. “There will be big miles to be made provided you stay in the front to be pushed at high speed all the way to the Kerguelens."

Sébastien Simon said “You have to stay focused so as not to miss out otherwise you will miss the train. It will be a very important moment."

Now with more than 120 miles in hand over compromised Ruyant, Charlie Dalin on APIVIA will be the very first to sail down to the latitude of the Roaring 40s. He will cross 40° South tonight.

Stephane Le Diraison, skipper of Time for Oceans has been pressing hard over the past four days in unstable south-easterly trade winds and his reward is 160 miles gained back on La Fabrique of the Swiss skipper Alan Roura. Both are racing 2007 Finot-Conq designs retro fitted with foils. Le Diraison’s boat started life as HUGO BOSS and has yet to finish a Vendée Globe in three successive starts as HUGO BOSS, Energa and last time with Le Diraison as Compagnie du Lit, Boulogne-Billancourt. Roura’s boat was second in the 2008-9 race as BritAir and but was first to abandon in 2016 in the hands of Bertrand de Broc.

Le Diraison, who had to retire into Australia after his mast broke on the last edition of the race, was in great form today, smiling "I'm happy to see that I managed to pick up a bit on those in front of me and I have recovered about 100 miles on the lead group. Yes it is a good bit of a charge on for me. This motivates me, I absolutely want to stay in the same weather system as those in front, so we must not give up now..I need to seize all the chances that come my way.”

Despite making important repairs to her pushpit, Isabelle Joschke (MACSF) has also managed to stay on track with an average of over 16 knots over the past 4 hours. Finally, there are only two IMOCAs left in the northern hemisphere: 2020 sisterships DMG Mori Global One and Charal which is entering the Doldrums.

Published in Vendee Globe
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While lying in second place in the South Atlantic in the Vendee Globe Race, some 72 nautical miles behind leader Charlie Dalin (Apivia), Thomas Ruyant last night sustained damage to the port foil of his IMOCA LinkedOut. He had to stop for a short period to assess and says he will now be unable to use the foil on the port (left) side of his boat for the remainder of the race.

Thomas Ruyant is managed by Irish man Marcus Hutchinson as Afloat's WM Nixon describes here.

Ruyant told his team that it was around 0200hrs UTC this morning while he was resting inside his boat LinkedOut, that he was awoken by a loud noise outside the boat. He did not, however, feel any shock to the boat. But on inspecting the boat with his headtorch he immediately noticed major cracks in the "shaft" of his port foil. Ruyant immediately stopped the boat and sailed downwind to further inspect the damage.

Thomas RuyantThomas Ruyant - massively disappointed the port foil (visible on the left behind the skipper) is now unusable

"I was about 120° to the wind, I was sailing at about 20 knots when I heard this loud noise" reported Ruyant this morning. "I don't really have an explanation. I have brought the foil in all the way so that it doesn't drag in the water. In daylight, I was able to inspect the foil and it's OK at the top and speaking with my team and the architects it seems safe. There is no water coming in and the foil well itself is undamaged. But the foil itself is cracked in a number of places. The structure of the foil is compromised. I am waiting for the designers' analysis to see if I should cut it."

Ruyant is massively disappointed. He was close to the leader Dalin and having a great race so far. Although shocked, the LinkedOut skipper is staying positive:

"I am second in the Vendée Globe. Since Sunday small problems have built up which I managed to deal with, but which really are topped by this damage. I carry on racing nonetheless even if I am a bit handicapped with only one foil. But I am comforting myself in the knowledge I still have my starboard foil, which is statistically the most important for a round-the-world race. The course is still very long. I'm continuing, I’ll hang on in there!”

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Day 16: Charlie Dalin, Vendée Globe leader since yesterday morning, confirmed that he is in full ‘inshore mode, fighting for every metre I can gain,’ as he tries to break through to the southern ocean low-pressure train which should finally catapult him eastwards towards the longitude of the Cape of Good Hope which the leaders should pass during the night of Sunday into Monday.

As Afloat's WM Nixon pointed out earlier, for all of the predictions that the fast new generation foilers would surely break Armel Le Cléac’h's 74 days 3 hours record, on this schedule they will already be four days behind 2016-2017’s pace. In fact Dalin is on the same stretch of South Atlantic which yielded a 24 hour ‘record’ for Alex Thomson in 2016-17 but which could not be validated because he did not break it by one full mile. The 36-year-old solo skipper of Apivia observed wryly today, “I had expected this stage of the South Atlantic to be one of the fastest sections of the round the world race. And I am missing out.

"I imagined the South Atlantic to be the fastest round-the-world zone, and well it's missed! I think this is one of the biggest challenges I have had right now, I work at the routing, I watch the wind shifts on the forecasts and sail by feel in terms of the wind I have at the moment and in front of me. I am not strict with any one model or idea, I try to take into account all the different parameters to pick my best course and where to gybe. I'm happy, we're doing well, but these coming days are set to be full of manoeuvres, sail changes and strategic thinking as I deal with a rapidly changing dynamic situation. We should get into the stronger winds in about 48 hours, so I'm setting up for that. "

Dalin has done well against his French rival Ruyant, constantly eking out miles on Ruyant to be some 70 nautical miles ahead of LinkedOut.

Jean Le Cam maintains his third place, still outpacing a posse of younger foiling IMOCAs on his 2007 Farr design. On today’s “Vendée Live”, speaking to his friend Roland ‘Bilou’ Jourdain, Le Cam was typically phlegmatic on the subject of age. At 61 he has sailed smart and solidly, always routing for smooth trajectories, good average speed and the shortest distances sailed.

Behind Le Cam in fifth and sixth Yannick Bestaven (Maitre CôQ IV) and Germany’s Boris Herrmann (SeaExplorer-Yacht Club de Monaco) were racing within sight of each other just a couple of miles apart. Sam Davies (Initiatives Coeur) and Louis Burton (Bureau Vallée 2) have both broken away from this group, gybing onto a more direct southwards track to try and catch the eastbound train of stronger breezes earlier but from a position further back to the west. At the moment current routings have the peloton two days behind at Cape of Good Hope.

The Doldrums remain active and frustrating for the group of seven IMOCAs near the back of the fleet. Finnish airline pilot Ari Huusela (STARK) was trying to remain cool and focused after being kept in a holding pattern by very light and changeable winds which he today said had taken him on at least one full 360 degree turn. Nearby Miranda Merron (Campagne de France) finally found out why her boat had been slowed, discovering a plastic bag round her keel. In the same area of the Doldrums Sébastien Destremau has been wrestling with a complete loss of hydraulic oil pressure in his keel ram which has left the head of his keel swinging free. He was looking to cannibalise another piece of piping to repair the cylinder leak and meantime had reported he had temporarily secured the keel.

Meantime Alex Thomson continues to complete his repairs to HUGO BOSS now in eighth place this evening 550 miles behind Charlie Dalin. The Brit remains steadfastly upbeat considering the structural repairs he has had to make to an area just behind the bow, the silver lining being the benign conditions, just what the leader Dalin was today complaining about.

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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

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On a sequence of gybes stepping downwind underneath the Saint Helena high-pressure system in the South Atlantic, Charlie Dalin (Apivia) became the new leader of the Vendée Globe yesterday. He outmanoeuvred his close rival Thomas Ruyant (LinkedOut) and went on to build a 20 mile lead as they slalom towards an area of lighter and variable winds which bar the breakaway duo’s passage to the roaring forties which are still some 600 nautical miles to their south.

Charlie Dalin topped the standings on one position report earlier in the race, but he is one of ten different leaders since the solo non-stop race round the world started on Sunday 8th November. As the duo lead at the latitude of Itajai, Brazil they have more than 250 miles in hand over third placed Jean Le Cam (Yes We Cam), although the wily, persistent veteran Le Cam is more than holding his own.

Dalin and Ruyant, who both originate from the north, from the Channel coast of France, may yet see two areas of high pressure join together to make the course south extremely tricky. As the top group try to find the best routing through a complex weather pattern, at 16-18kts boatspeed this afternoon, British skipper Alex Thomson remains purposely slowed in light winds, more than 350 miles north west of the leaders. He is 48 hours into dealing with a complicated series of repairs to the main central longitudinal support beam towards the bow of his HUGO BOSS.

The British racer sent a detailed video of the damage today, emphasising, “The problem is fairly significant. The central longitudinal is broken in several places. The good news is we carry so many materials to fix this kind of thing, c plates, solid panels, and even girders, we have plenty of materials to fix it and the other bit of good news is that I am not in the Southern Ocean. I am in the middle of the Saint Helena High and so have good conditions to be able to do the job and the other good news is I feel super positive and happy to crack on to get this job done and get back in the race as soon as possible. So I don’t feel sad. It could take another day or so to do the repair and the engineers and designers are absolutely confident the boat will be as strong if not stronger than before.”

From his position 120 miles off the African coast, Jérémie Beyou offered his British counterpart his support today. The French sailor should have been Thomson’s main rival on this race but while Thomson repairs, Beyou is chasing the fleet still 600 miles behind back marker Kojiro Shiraishi and 3000 miles behind Dalin. Their Vendée Globes are now massively different to what they hoped for.

Damage to his Charal means Beyou had to return to Les Sables d’Olonne and restart nine days after the original departure. So just as Thomson acknowledged yesterday repairing can be part and parcel of the Vendée Globe, so Beyou’s race to catch up has become a different Vendée Globe too, one of self discovery and a test of motivation.

“In terms of morale I have ups and downs” said Beyou this morning, “ Right now, I'm sad for Alex, because it's a pain in the ass for him, it's a pain to see him slow down. He's got a big repair to do, it's really not cool. I've been thinking about him all day. I support him, I hope he will fix it and get back in the fight soon. But when I see that I am 3000 miles behind the lead, that I am in the North Atlantic while they are at the bottom of the South Atlantic, it is not easy to live with. I take advantage of the fact that the boat is going well, and I'm making progress hour by hour.”

Thomson’s German friend and rival Boris Herrmann (Seaexplorer - Yacht Club de Monaco) was the next in line to benefit from the HUGO BOSS sailor’s problem and moved up to fifth this afternoon. Britain’s Sam Davies (Initiatives Coeur) is in tenth and pressing hard to stay with the newer, theoretically faster ARKEA PAPREC of Sébastien Simon. At the back of the second group of six boats, Davies might take an option to dive south early and potentially sail more miles but avoid the messy roadblock of light winds which are forecast to develop.

Her British compatriot Pip Hare, who is on her first Vendée Globe, brought Medallia across the Equator into the South Atlantic this afternoon after a challenging Doldrums passage. She is in 20th place in the 31 boat fleet, 11 miles up on Catalan rival Didac Costa – a former rival from Mini 650 days. The duo will be profiting from each other’s competitiveness, not least as the full time fireman from Barcelona had very sporadic contact with other skippers on his 2016-17 race because he had to restart four days late due to a ballast tank leak which flooded his alternator.

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Vendee Globe leader Thomas Ruyant (LInkedOut) had a busy night. Since the start, two weeks ago, he was lacking a halyard which has been jammed at the top of the mast. So the skipper climbed the 28-metre rig so he can change downwind sails.

Ruyant, who is managed by Ireland's Marcus Hutchinson, had been waiting for several days for the right moment to carry out these important repairs before he descends into the southern latitudes.

Published in Vendee Globe

British Vendée Globe skipper Alex Thomson has today been forced to slow his HUGO BOSS to a crawl as he attempts to make a technical repair to a longitudinal beam near the bow of his IMOCA.

As Afloat reported earlier, Thomson alerted his team to the problem around 1900 UTC Saturday evening after a routine inspection raised immediate concerns as he raced south-eastwards towards the Southern Ocean part of the leading trio of boats racing south-eastwards some 850 nautical miles east of Rio de Janeiro, Brasil.

With the imminent requirement to plunge south for more than one month in the inhospitable waters between the Cape of Good Hope and Cape Horn, the 46-year-old British skipper will want to have complete faith in the repairs and in his IMOCA. But a statement issued by his Alex Thomson Racing Team this morning confirms he has the materials and the methods to effect the necessary repairs and aims to be back on course as quickly as possible.

Alex Thomson on Hugo BossAlex Thomson on Hugo Boss

“Alex has now put the boat into a safe position to manage the sea state in order to reduce movement onboard while he carries out the repair. He has all the necessary materials onboard, a detailed plan to follow, and a team of world-class engineers advising him. We are therefore confident in his ability to complete the repair. Our objective is to carry out the necessary repair swiftly and effectively, in order to minimise the miles lost and resume racing again.” Said Alex Thomson’s Racing’s Technical Director Ross Daniel.

Having been in second place in the 33 boat fleet during Saturday, averaging 16kts at times and some 25 nautical miles behind leader Thomas Ruyant, Thomson’s pause had already cost him 150 miles on Ruyant and Charlie Dalin (Apivia) who passed into second 23 miles to windward of the British skipper around midnight last night.

“Supposing it takes Alex 24 hours to effect a repair and get going again he would rejoin the chasing group with Arkéa Paprec, Initiatives Cœur and PRB, he would lose quite a bit as that would put him 1000 miles behind at Cape of Good Hope. But I have been looking at the history of the race as well and remember that last time on the last race he rounded Cape Horn 800 miles behind Armel Le Cléac’h and so I would not call this ‘game over’". Suggested Yoann Richomme, winner of the last Route du Rhum in Class40 and double winner of La Solitaire du Figaro when he was today’s guest on the Vendée Globe LIVE English programme.

Talking about the latest generation of fast foilers Richomme, renowned as a meticulous technician, explained, “These new boats are really tough to sail, they are really hard to engineer and are slamming into the waves with a lot of power, which is most likely happened to Alex. What is hard is that we know that they took their feet off the gas a little in the south on the last race to preserve the boats last time, and I think they will be doing that again. From the scenario we are seeing they need to preserve the boats. When these boats start taking off, they were slamming the hulls a little bit further back but now these boats are fully foiling, flying a lot of the time, it is now the bows which are hitting the waves in front, from 2-3m high at times and the impact on the bows is huge and we know a lot of the boats in France had reinforcements in the bow. We saw CORUM L’Epargne in September have a two-week repair in their bow. They are discovering new problems and we are hoping they have covered off most of them.”

At two weeks since the race started off Les Sables d’Olonne on Sunday 8th November there are many repairs, small and not so small, critical and almost incidental, that skipper need to make. Contemplating the descent into the Southern Ocean race leader Thomas Ruyant (LinkedOut) had to climb the 28m mast of his IMOCA after his spare halyard broke. The two leading IMOCAs, LinkedOut and Apivia are side by side 10 miles apart setting out on a gybing match up as they drop south-eastwards towards an area of unstable air, described by Dalin as ‘mousehole’ through which they must pass to get to the Southern Ocean and a fast ride east towards the longitude of the Cape of Good Hope.

Now the Vendée Globe fleet stretches for more than 3000 miles, Jérémie Beyou in 32nd, has lengthened his stride in the south of the Canaries. Listening to the skippers on the daily calls or reading the messages sent from on board, whatever the age of the boat or its position on the Atlantic chessboard, every day brings its share of problems. Yesterday it was a weather vane for ninth-placed Sébastien Simon, today a composite repair on a part of the foil well for Armel Tripon on L’Occitane and that week-long repair to the mainsail of the Japanese Kojiro Shiraishi. Big or small the problems prevail through the fleet.

Armel Tripon, the skipper of L’Occitane en Provence, reflects, “The boats want to go fast, the chase their predicted speeds and they are built for that and the teams and the architects are pushing all the time to go fast. Now it's up to each of us to sail with our soul and our own peace of mind ".

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One time leader of the Vendee Globe British Skipper Alex Thomson who lost the lead in the race on day 13 yesterday has now notified race officials and his team of 'a possible structural issue' on board. 

Thomson, the race favourite, is located approximately 800 miles east of Rio de Janeiro in the South Atlantic ocean and was 13 days into the Vendée Globe round-the-world yacht race.

Thomson is currently only making six knots. His four-hour average is the same so it appears he is doing something to try and assess or make a repair over the last four hours.

Interestingly, new race leader Linked Out is also way down on speed also and has averaged 10 knots for the last four hours, whereas next best Apiva is doing an average of 15 knots when all seem to be in a similar strength wind.

A statement has been released by Thomson's team: 

At approximately 19:00 UTC on Saturday 21st November, British Skipper Alex Thomson notified his team onshore of a possible structural issue onboard the HUGO BOSS boat.

At the time, Thomson was located approximately 800 miles east of Rio de Janeiro in the South Atlantic ocean, and was 13 days into the Vendée Globe round-the-world yacht race.

Thomson and his team, together with their appointed naval architects and structural engineers, are now working together to assess the extent of the structural issue and to determine a repair programme and timeline.

Thomson is safe and well onboard, and in regular dialogue with the team. The Vendée Globe race organisation has been notified and is being kept well informed.

We kindly ask that members of the public refrain from attempting to contact the team at this time. A further update will be released on Sunday 22nd November.

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Day 12 - Racing at the latitude of Salvador de Bahia, Brazil this morning, British skipper Alex Thomson, leader of the Vendée Globe, today emphasized that he feels under no pressure from his nearest two French rivals Thomas Ruyant (LinkedOut) and Charlie Dalin (Apivia) who have both cut miles from his lead since their exit from the Doldrums three days ago.

The top trio are each trying to plot their best route down the South Atlantic to catch a fast-moving low-pressure system and the strong, favourable winds which would catapult them eastwards into the Southern Ocean. While the weather situation for them is very enticing right now, offering a fast slide down the face of a cold front, at the bottom of the ride there is a potentially lethal transition zone which might evolve into a period of very light winds.

Should today’s weather modelling work out as predicted, according to the Vendée Globe’s weather expert Christian Dumard, the three leaders would gain such an advantage that they might be as much as two days ahead of fourth place and the chasing group by the time they pass the longitude of the Cape of Good Hope.

Asked on this afternoon’s LIVE race show Thomson said, “I am trying to find my way to the Southern Ocean, I am not really being affected by what they are doing. I am clear what we have to do over the next couple of days, I am positioned well so I don’t feel too much pressure. I don’t feel under pressure.”

He responded to suppositions that life in the tropics, living and working inside his boat all the time as opposed to on deck, might be hotter and more tiring, “In terms of the heat I would say it is cooler in here than it is outside. Much the same as the others I am probably drinking four litres of electrolyte a day. It was a struggle to stay hydrated but over the last day or so it is becoming better. I am trying to sleep as much as possible, I am still in debt for sure, so wherever I feel the urge, whenever I can I get my head down and get to sleep. Eating is a constant process for me. I am constantly going to the cupboard and grabbing a snack or a meal.”

Asked about the small miles Thomson has lost in recent days, the naval architect from VPLP who co-designed HUGO BOSS with significant input from Alex Thomson Racing’s own design team, Quentin Lucet suggested, “I think Alex has been sleeping a bit more recently and just not feel the need to push too hard for the moment. Maybe he is more in a controlling aspect on his followers. And maybe in terms of design there might be some slight performance differences due to the real wind they have just now. For now we have no alarm saying Alex has any issues. Probably he just does not see a real need to be accelerating just now.”

Double Vendée Globe winner Michel Desjoyeaux on the French show confirmed that he is a big fan of Thomson’s option to the west, 115 miles closer to the Brazilian shore than Ruyant.

“For sure the changes near the lead are due to a combination of the packages the various leaders have. Foils, sails and hull shape. Also there is a difference to what we see here on land as per the forecasts and what the sailor might actually get on the ocean. I think the further West you go the better the angle you will have to then come back and catch up. And so for me the two behind Alex really need to put their foot down to try and catch him now because the passage towards the Cape of Good Hope is going to give Alex quite a lead. If you look at the projected routing it is now that they need to make the most ground up because after the lead will extend a lot.”

Indeed as the angles have opened to broader reaching ones HUGO BOSS has been quicker than Apivia and LinkedOut; Thomson averaging more than 23 kts. Once again there are some anomalies on the official rankings because the positions are taken from a moving, rather than fixed waypoint. The late afternoon rankings maybe show Ruyant as leader but Thomson continues to be about 40 miles further south.
The breakaway trio are now more than 160 miles clear of fourth placed Jean Le Cam, who has the fast moving Saint Malo skipper Louis Burton on Bureau Vallée approaching in his wake. Burton is racing the IMOCA 60 which holds the current 74 days 3 hours solo round the world record and moved up to fifth today holding definite designs on fourth.

The Vendee Globe comeback kids

Also coming back fast after their own particular technical problems since the start are Sébastien Simon on ARKÉA-Paprec who, in tenth, is chasing Briton Sam Davies hard at 27 miles behind. The 2018 La Solitaire champion, one of four skippers in the race who live in Les Sables d’Olonne, has been consistently fast over the last couple of days since he had to climb the mast of his Juan K design.

Japanese skipper Kojiro Shiraishi is back in the race with an operational mainsail on DMH MORI. Four days of repairs to a tear at the top of his sail and batten repairs are completed, even if the Asian skipper must sail with one reef from now on. He was sailing directly west this afternoon away from the Cape Verde islands which might have provided additional refuge had he needed it.

Fabrice Amedeo (Newrest Amedeo) has nearly completed his comeback after a three-day pitstop back in Les Sables d’Olonne to repair a hairline crack at the top if his mast.

Published in Vendee Globe
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