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sail-world.com -- Vendee Globe - Tension rises as the clock ticks on

Vendee Globe - Tension rises as the clock ticks on    
Thu, 29 Nov 2012

In the Vendee Globe, with 760 miles to go until the boats arrive at the first mark Gough Island, which they must leave to starboard, everything is still to play for in this nail biting strategic climax to the gateway of the southern ocean. If the fleet compresses it means the drag race through the mountainous swells of the icy south seas and leaves the race wide open.

1992 Vendée Globe winner and French sailing legend Alan Gautier, explained the position on the web TV show, Vendée Globe LIVE He said, 'the skippers have been thinking hard for three days now, looking for the right strategy. Jean-Pierre Dick (Virbac Paprec 3) and the 'West Group' (François Gabart (Macif) and Jean Le Cam (SynerCiel) are doing all right, maybe better than Armel Le Cléac’h (Banque Populaire) in the end, but it’s easy to say that now. When they actually made their choices, things weren’t that obvious.'


Gaultier continued to say that it’s hard for skippers when there is no wind, not only because they are not moving, but also because they know their opponents are probably getting different conditions and maybe doing better than they are, so psychologically, it’s difficult.

He added 'the next few days will be very exciting for the sailing enthusiasts who follow the Vendée Globe, because there’s a big group that will enter the South together.'

The skippers are now committed to their definitive strategy and the first five are all possible winners. It is now a matter of luck and speed as who will gain and lose around the edges of the high pressure the anticyclone of St Helena casting her windless nets in the South Atlantic.

If the Jean-Pierre Dick (Virbac Paprec 3) and the 'West Group' (François Gabart (Macif) and Jean Le Cam (SynerCiel) are fast over next couple days, and the hole of the high does not extend east then they might edge by in front and make their escape below it. The models are showing the advantage with them and they could make a rapid advance below into the favourable winds, before the High can suck them into its windless car park. If they are successful they will compress the fleet, and make gains towards the ice gate.

The situation for Armel Le Cléac’h (Banque Populaire) depends on how much boat speed he can make in the circling lighter winds 10-12kt winds. If he can sail a shorter course he may be able to bypass the high but the risk is that he could end up with less advantageous wind direction and handcuffed by a high pressure.

Alex Thomson (Hugo Boss) is nervous that he will lose the 200 mile advantage that he has in the bank over Jean Le Cam (SynerCiel). Today on the web TV show Vendée Globe LIVE he said, 'it’s pretty nerve wracking really for all of us. We are just waiting for the wind. Armel and I need this ridge to move out of the way and we can’t really do anything until the ridge has gone.

And those west guys it does look like the wind is filling in for them now. I have been go through the options of what I could do. Four days ago I was 80 miles behind Virbac, and I could be 80 miles behind Virbac now, where Synerciel is, and so my thinking is, that I am still 200 miles better off than Jean is right now, as long as I still have something in the bank at the end of this; I guess I’ll be happy, but it certainly isn’t going to be 200 miles.'

The skippers receive the same weather files every 12 hours which show them the conditions they potentially could encounter. On Vendée Globe LIVE the web TV show broadcast every day from the race headquarters at Gare Montparnasse in Paris, Mike Golding (Gamesa) explained where the weather models often don’t reflect the more localised conditions, 'now it’s quite reasonable and we are starting to see the reality that the model is predicting. Where the models fall down is when you get into a very unstable area of light winds where there are light shifty bits, the model can’t show you that and it can only show you an average, and consequently, you come into an area, and you have a wind with a 180 degrees difference.' Therefore, we can deduce that what is forecast and what occurs cannot predicted and so we too like the skippers must wait and see how the next few days play out.

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The compression of the fleet is likely and Mike Golding (Gamesa) is confident that there are gains to be made which will see the top eight all enter the southern ocean together. The stage has been set and patience is the only option as the conclusion unravels over the next few days. It is a poker game where the player’s conviction ranges from resolute to exhausted. Only the arrival of the rankings every four hours can offer an answer. In a war of nerves, knowing how to negotiate the best course through light winds is paramount.

The small pack of pursuers, are making good headway. Javier Sanso (Acciona 100% EcoPowered), Tanguy de Lamotte (Initiatives Cœur), Arnaud Bossières (Akena Verandas) and Bertrand De Broc (Votre Nom Autour du Monde avec EDM) the tactics of the front guns is the least of their concerns. It's all about pushing the boats and picking off the miles in the hope they can claw something back. They are trucking along in ideal conditions. In two or three days, the course will, also, change for them.

Bernard Stamm (SUI, Cheminées Poujoulat): I’m fine, hi! My speed isn’t very regular, but it’s better than I expected, I’ve never stopped completely, which is good. The sky is very blue, with just a few clouds, the sea is calm and I’m sailing at 7-8 knots. I’m trying to stay north of the no-wind zone. If I had done exactly what I wanted, I wouldn’t be here right now. So far so good, I’ll try not to lose this momentum.

Armel Le Cleac'h (FRA, Banque Populaire): It’s Wednesday right? So everything’s fine this Wednesday morning. I’m starting to move more, but earlier this morning, things were very calm for about four hours. We’ve all made our choices regarding how and when to cross the ridge, it’s done now, we’ll see who did the right thing quite soon. I’ve had less wind than I had planned. I know Jean-Pierre will go fast now, but I haven’t spent time checking how he will do. I can’t do anything about it anyway, so we’ll see. Right now, my speed is 10 knots.

Jean Le Cam (FRA, Synerciel): I think my progression will be impressive, I’m extremely satisfied with my choices. Armel isn’t doing too well. Very soon, we’ll be in typical Southern conditions, no doubt about it. No more sunbathing, hello fleece jackets! It’s more exciting but I know that I will get tired of it after a few days.

I’m very happy with the changes that were made on my boat, what a great boat! I think I can be third in a month if everything goes well.

Arnaud Boissières (FRA, Akena Vérandas): I’m doing great! The wind is very favourable, and it is rotating the way I thought it was so it’s all good and very pleasant. The moon is beautiful at night, very bright, so it’s perfect. It’s quite sunny out there, and the temperature is dropping slighty, I can feel it at night especially. I can tell we’re reaching the South! In terms of strategy, the three chasing skippers have done great. Javier Sanso, Bertrand de Broc and myself will have favourable conditions, too, we won’t get slowed down the way some others were. It’s much less complicated for us than it’s been for Armel, Bernard Stamm or Hugo Boss. I have my winter hat on, especially at night.

Dominique Wavre (SUI, Mirabaud): I’m very happy with how things are going for me, my choice of sailing around the ridge is definitely paying off. The sea is quite calm, the temperature inside is 27° and the weather is beautiful. Sailing in such conditions just feels great.

Everything is ready on board, and I’m ready for the South. I’m looking forward to reaching that area because it’s too calm here, I want more waves! Fighting with Golding and Le Cam is so exciting, this is such a great race!

Vendee Globe website

by Vendee Globe



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