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sail-world.com -- Vendee Globe: Black Friday - And then they were 16

Vendee Globe: Black Friday - And then they were 16    
Sat, 17 Nov 2012

In the Vendee Globe, Javier Sansó reports that he has been sailing for thirty-two hours without his mainsail. He was approaching the Canary Islands yesterday afternoon, where he will shelter in calmer conditions while he climbs up his 100ft mast to recover the main halyard. It is a hazardous operation even with a crew and even in calmer waters - imagine climbing a hundred foot ladder balanced on a rocking horse (don’t try this at home).

'Today has been pretty entertaining preparing all the material to go up the mast tomorrow in the shelter of the Canary Islands,' Sansó, the only Spaniard in the race, said. 'I just need some sheltered water without waves for a few hours and I think I'll be back again 100%. I've been able to sleep a full two hours - a real luxury!'


Sam Davies is safe but out of the race after dismasting on Thursday night. She has switched on her engine and is heading to Madeira, 100 miles away, at about five knots. The weather is being kinder her and she was expected arrive on Saturday morning. She will be met there by Romain Attanasio, her partner and Erwan Lemeilleur, Savéol’s boat captain, who are arriving on Friday night. Davies will soon be back with her 13-month-old son, Ruben, but must have wished it would be under different circumstances and at least 74 days later.

She was near the centre of a depression with a 35 knots of wind and treacherous cross seas and was preparing to put a third reef in the mainsail, when she heard and felt the mast go.

'It was quite difficult conditions because I had just gone through the cold front and I had a really cross sea,' Davies said. 'I was getting ready to my foul weather gear on and that’s when the squall was just finishing and the wind was dropping and the boat jumped off the top of the top of a wave and that’s when I had the impact.

'I could hear the mast rubbing against the hull and down the whole side of the hull and under the boat, so I knew that it could damage the hull if I was unlucky, so the main thing was to close all the watertight bulkheads in case it did get pierced.'

Davies, who finished fourth in the last Vendée Globe, waited until the wind had eased before cutting away the mast and rigging and with them any chance of finishing her second Vendée Globe.

There were words of support for her throughout the fleet including her two fellow Britons. 'I feel so sorry for Sam,' Mike Golding (Gamesa) said. 'Is she ok? She was right in the worst of it at the wrong time. A great shame for her and the race.'

'Really sad news regarding Sam’s dismasting last night,' Alex Thomson (Hugo Boss) said. 'I’m glad that she’s safe and well, but it’s a sobering reminder of how vigilant I have to be.'

Soon after Davies abandoned, Louis Burton, the 27-year-old Parisian, announced that he had abandoned and headed to La Coruña. He was limping back to Les Sables d’Olonne stuck on a starboard tack after colliding with a fishing boat on Wednesday at 0300hrs (French time). But the damage to the port shroud of his boat, Bureau Vallée, and consequent instability of his mast, meant that his passage through the Bay of Biscay with the current conditions would have been nearly impossible – especially with the deadline of needing to re-start the race by Tuesday November 20.

Armel Le Cléac’h (Banque Populaire) aka The Jackal, took the lead from the Francois ‘the Golden Boy’ Gabard (Macif) at 2300hrs (French time) on Thursday. The lead boats are heading due south and are 400 miles away from Cape Verde. By the 1600hrs ranking, Le Cléac’h the favourite, had stretched his lead to 20 miles over Gabard and the whole lead group. Gabard, who had led since the night of the start on Saturday, successfully re-positioned west and held off Bernard Stamm (Cheminées Poujoulat), who was a further four miles behind.

Earlier England had scored two small victories, with Alex Thomson (Hugo Boss) first shaking off Jérémie Beyou (Maître CoQ) and then passing Vincent Riou (Riou) and Jean-Pierre Dick (Virbac-Paprec 3) to move into fourth and close on the top three.

Further east, Mike Golding (Gamesa) gave Jean Le Cam (SynerCiel) a small haircut in their continuing match and led him by 12 miles. England 2 - 0 France.

But not for long. As the 10-12 knot winds veered from North to North-east, Dick and Riou struck back and passed Thomson.

Riou, gybing east but still the furthest west, at last found more wind than the others and had the best speed of 13.8 knots amongst the lead boats. The eleven skippers at the front of the front of the fleet have been enjoying much less aggressive conditions than cross seas and squalls that battered Davies out of the race.

Sam Davies, Savéol, GBR: It was quite difficult conditions because I had just gone through the cold front and I had a really cross sea and to start with not much wind and the wind was just starting to establish itself around 25-30 knots and I had the right sails up for those conditions and it had been pretty tricky and then, as I was expecting, we had some big rain squalls coming and the first rain squall came through and I had up to 40 knots, so I bore away and I was easing the sheets from inside the boat and easing the sheets and bearing away to calm it down.

I was mentally preparing myself, as soon as the squalls had finished to go out and take the third reef for the night, because it was at nightfall when this was going on. And that is the way I had been sailing for the whole race, is quite conservatively and taking a reef, especially at night when you can’t see the squalls coming, so I was getting ready to my foul weather gear on and that’s when the squall was just finishing and the wind was dropping and the boat jumped off the top of the top of a wave and that’s when I had the impact and then the boat came upright and suddenly there is no more wind in your rigging.


The hard thing is that when the mast falls down, it falls to leeward so the boat is being pushed on top of the mast so I could hear the mast rubbing against the hull and down the whole side of the hull and under the boat, so I knew that it could damage the hull if I was unlucky, so the main thing was to close all the watertight bulkheads in case it did get pierced so I put my survival suit on because it is the best way to go out and check everything on deck and in the time that this happened and the boat turned around, as I expected it would, so that the mast was to windward of the boat and acting more like a sea anchor but the worst thing was the really big waves and breaking wave and they were pushing the mast and boom into the deck and into the hull still and everything was moving a lot, like around 2m, and there was still a lot of wind in the mainsail attached to the boom, so every time there was a big gust the boom was lifting off the deck and into the water.

To start with I didn’t want to go outside in case the boom got caught by the wind or in case there was a big jump, so I wanted to wait to see how the whole situation as going to establish itself before I took any chances to go on deck.

Alex Thomson, Hugo Boss, GBR: Really sad news regarding Sam’s dismasting last night, I’m glad that she’s safe and well, but it’s a sobering reminder of how vigilant I have to be! I’m feeling a bit more tired again today. A combination of not enough wind, and changing wind conditions all night made it difficult to get any rest as I was switching between several sails all night. I felt as though I had slowed down a lot compared to the pack, and was sure I would have lost fourth position this morning so it was a good boost this morning to see that I had held onto the position over-night, everyone else must have had a slow tough night too. After the speed of yesterday (which included some of the clearest rainbow’s I’ve ever seen) today will probably be a slower day, but the trade winds are starting to establish themselves. While things are a little calmer and the conditions are much lighter I will take the opportunity to do some checks both up on deck and down below today.

Xavier David, team manager of Savéol: When Sam called us during the night it was horrible. With the support of the technical team, she was able to secure the situation and put herself away; waiting to work on the rig to release the boat at night and prevent it from damaging the hull. Her composure allowed her to keep Savéol afloat without taking undue risks.

Javier ‘Bubi’ Sanso, ESP, Acciona 100% Eco Powered: Greetings from Acciona 100% EcoPowered. Today has been pretty entertaining preparing all the material to go up the mast tomorrow in the shelter of the Canary Islands. I just need some sheltered water without waves for a few hours and I think I'll be back again 100%. I've been able to sleep a full two hours... a real luxury!

The weather here is more similar to the South Indian Ocean than the north of the Canaries but well, that's what we have. The energy generator systems are working perfectly in spite of the harsh weather conditions. I’m sailing just with a foresail and it's a little strange to see this red and white bird with just one wing. But she'll soon be able to spread both wings again. It's just a question of a little more time and we can get back sailing again with full performance. Best wishes from Acciona 100% EcoPowered.

Armel Le Cléac’h, Banque Populaire, FRA: Since the beginning, we have been pretty close with Bernard (Stamm) and with François (Gabart) a little before us. Last night, he (Gabart) fell into an area with less wind, we were able to get closer and I managed to pass him. I'm following the best route, I take care of the boat, it is a pleasure. This is the first time I have been at the head of a Vendée Globe so it is a pleasure for me and the entire team who worked on the boat. Now the road is very long and my peers are not far behind. Yesterday, I met a catamaran, who asked me if the conditions were good. That was nice.

Mike Golding, Gamesa, GBR: I feel so sorry for Sam [Davies who was dismasted last night on Saveol, but is safe and unhurt]. Is she ok? She was right in the worst of it at the wrong time. A great shame for her and the race.' 'We are in the Doldrums, well not exactly, but it feels like it. There have been some big wind shifts, bit changes in wind strength and I have a line of rain coming towards me now, I am not sure what it is bringing me. The good thing I suppose is that I have never stopped, but I did end up spending a couple of hours going upwind. I have had to cross the trough somewhere and so it is a little narrower here, but I would prefer to be over where the others are. The files showed the breeze should have been lifting me and so to have ended up upwind is a bit frustrating. I had a little problem with the halyards earlier when I put the genoa up and it did not go in the lock properly so I got a bit of a rope burn on my hands. It seems like my course has been a series of steps, like a sawtooth really but that is just what I have had. I’m going to try to hook to the west as the day goes on but I think I’ll be in this light stuff for most of the day.


Vendee Globe website

by Vendee Globe



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