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sail-world.com -- Vendee Globe - Stress and fatigue in the south Indian Ocean + Video

Vendee Globe - Stress and fatigue in the south Indian Ocean + Video    
Sat, 8 Dec 2012

For the Vendée Globe solo skipper, stress and fatigue in the south Indian Ocean is most often brought on by the normally unrelenting big winds and unruly, disorganised seas. But for the top eight skippers, who will count off their 28th day at sea tomorrow, it has been the recent intensity of the competition and the need to follow a strong strategic option to deal with a zone of very light winds which has played much harder on mind and bodies over recent days, than the pressure of sailing on the edge in strong conditions.

Armel Le Cléac’h sounded like a spent force when he was speaking to Vendée Globe Live this afternoon. Yet the Banque Populaire skipper, whose fortunes have seemingly tumbled since he lead the fleet through the west mark of the Crozet gate 36 hours ago, remains confident that in around 48 hours time he should have restored normal service, and be back in the lead.

But the punishment he has taken trying to extricate himself from the voracious calm around the Crozet gate had taken a temporary toll.

A long night with no sleep was finally rewarded with a steady climb in boat speed through this morning and Le Cléac’h is now quickest of the top five late this afternoon, making easy SE’ly miles towards his next gate whilst his rivals had not yet satisfied Crozet.

Runner up in the 2008-9 race and twice winner of the Solitaire du Figaro one design solo race, Le Cléac’h had lost 160 miles and dropped to fifth overall since he passed the gate early Thursday morning. But he confirmed today: 'We’re back in the wind, so things will be fine now. I’ll see if my tactical choice was the right one in 48 hours, not before. I haven’t changed my mind, I stuck to my original choice. It’s a little bit like gambling because the weather can change quickly, but I’m reasonably confident. It’s a very open game now. I’ll keep an eye on how the others go through the gate and how well they do, whether or not they have to stop or slow down… We’ll see.'

Le Cléac’h was about to eat and get his head down for some much needed rest as soon as he had finished his call.

Contrasting sharply with Le Cléach’s mood was that of new leader Bernard Stamm. The upbeat Swiss skipper has yet to be blessed with a fair share of Vendée Globe luck, retiring from the 2000-1 edition and, again, being cruelly forced out in 2008 when his rudder failed and his boat was subsequently badly damaged trying to anchor in strong winds in the Kerguelen Islands.

Stamm (Cheminées Poujoulat) is 12 miles ahead of Francois Gabart (Macif) with Jean-Pierre Dick at 48.3 miles behind in the third. Stamm, who passed just two miles ahead of Gabart last night, grinned: 'I jumped all over when I received the rankings showing I was first. It was so great! The boat is doing great, it feels like a regatta, I got very close to François Gabart.'

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Dick also sounded like he is feeling the effects of the regatta-like intensity at the front of the fleet: 'The (ice) gates have completely changed the game and the situation, we now need to go north. I had to stay on deck very late last night, I had to use all my skills, and you have to keep thinking about everything, tactics, weather, everything. It’s called solo sailing but we’re doing so much it’s almost like there’s a man and a half on board.'

Alex Thomson is on ebullient form.

'This feels like a very different race because I’m still in it. By now I am usually out!' joked Thomson who usually outstrips Stamm when it comes to bad luck. The British skipper on Hugo Boss, rose to fourth overall today, but was quietly relieved to be heading back north into ‘warmer climes’ after his routing skirted inside the limit of the tracked ice, but also taking the opportunity to maximise recovery and repair to both boat and skipper whilst racing in flatter seas and eight-11kts modest breezes. Thomson is also tipping Le Cléac’h to be back on top soon: 'It was very stressful but although the organisation have done a great job with the satellite images of the ice, some of the information is fairly old and the drift rates can't really be calculated and so the exact positions of the ice is not really known. So it is very stressful. I am happy to be going north and getting into warmer climes.'

'I think Armel has done a fantastic job to pass the gate and then extricate himself from the high pressure and we will see Armel take the lead again, perhaps with a significant lead on anyone else, but for my part my route to the south was about not losing miles and so I am happy, I am pretty sure I made the right choice. As we get up to this area of high pressure I will bunch up to them, but we will all be much the same as we’ve been, but the big winner out of this will be Armel.'

And in sixth place Mike Golding on Gamesa, leading ‘the three amigos’ is pleased to be making relatively easy miles towards the Crozet gate, gaining on the leaders along with his two long time rivals Jean Le Cam and Dominique Wavre. Le Cam and Wavre passed within a couple of hundred metres of each other today: 'As long as I can’t see them I am happy. I’ll leave them to it!' quipped Golding when told of the duo’s match race some 20 miles astern of him.

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Bernard Stamm, SUI (Cheminées Poujoulat): The wind is getting weaker I was expecting that. I chose the eastern part of the gate, hoping the anticyclone will be gone when I reach the gate and I won’t be slowed down too much. But I’m far from being there.

Armel Le Cléac’h, FRA, (Banque Populaire): I knew Bernard was going to be ahead, I was expecting it because of the option I chose. But we’re back in the wind, so things will be fine now. I’ll see if my tactical choice was the right one in 48 hours, not before. I haven’t changed my mind, I stuck to my original choice. It’s a little bit like gambling because the weather can change quickly, but I’m reasonably confident. It’s a very open game now. I’ll keep an eye on how the others go through the gate and how well they do, whether or not they have to stop or slow down… We’ll see.

Mike Golding, GBR, (Gamesa), on keeping an eye on his two near rivals: I think you do keep an eye on them inevitably, I was watching them a few days ago and had to slide to the south of them, and you kind of think to yourself, are you sailing your own race here or are you just playing a little match race with those guys?

And the reality is that was a better route, so my conclusion was that to go further south was quicker towards the mark and better for the big picture and so in that instance, it wasn't a negative.

It is only when you get into the realms of pushing the boat too hard, or breaking equipment, that is where it is really is a big negative.

You have to keep your eyes on the prize and remember that it is a very long race.

To be so close is not the most important thing at this stage.

The last 24 hours have been really quite pleasant, quite stable conditions, last night in particular. Yesterday and the day before I was running a Code sail and the boat was a little bit edgy and so you couldn't really go too far away from it, but I'm now under Genoa, a little favourite, so you can get into your bunk properly and get some sleep. I have had proper rest and have been able to eat properly and so on. Always keeping yourself ready for the next bout of whatever happens.

Jean-Pierre Dick, FRA, (Virbac-Paprec 3): I have quite a lot on my plate, we haven’t done much yet, we have so much left to do. The gates have completely changed the game and the situation, we now need to go north. I had to stay on deck very late last night, I had to use all my skills, and you have to keep thinking about everything, tactics, weather, everything. It’s called solo sailing but we’re doing so much it’s almost like there’s a man and a half on board.

Alex Thomson, GBR, (Hugo Boss): To be honest I am pleased to be having a little break from the relentless punishment of the Southern Ocean. I have ten or 11 knots of wind and I am enjoying the opportunity to make some minor repairs.

It was very stressful but although the organisation have done a great job with the satellite images of the ice, some of the information is fairly old and the drift rates cant really be calculated and so the exact positions of the ice is not really known. So it is very stressful. I am happy to be going north and getting into warmer climes.

I think Armel has done a fantastic job to pass the gate and then extricate himself from the high pressure and we will see Armel take the lead again, perhaps with a significant lead on anyone else, but for my part my route to the south was about not losing miles and so I am happy, I am pretty sure I made the right choice. As we get up to this area of high pressure I will bunch up to them, but we will all be much the same as we’ve been, but the big winner out of this will be Armel.

The main difference from before is I am still in the race! That’s a novelty for me, although I have had a few technical problems, I am enjoying concentrating on not only sailing the boat, but I have to say that I am absolutely loving the race overall.'

To Yann Eliès question about his choice of an older generation boat: I learned a lot on that beast, the old Pindar, where it was so hard it makes everything now feel like a dinghy.

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Vendee Globe website

by Vendee Globe



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