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sail-world.com -- Vendee Globe - Runaway leaders due to hit Cape Horn + Video

Vendee Globe - Runaway leaders due to hit Cape Horn + Video    
Wed, 2 Jan 2013

In the Vendee Globe, the two runaway leaders are due at Cape Horn from around 1730hrs UTC (1830hrs French time) this afternoon with the youngest skipper on the course, François Gabart (Macif) expected to be first to pass the longitude of the infamous rock, the most southerly point of the course, on his very first attempt at the solo nonstop around the world race.

At 50 miles to the third and most feared of the race’s three Great Capes, 29-year-old Gabart was leading Le Cléac’h by some 35 miles, just as he also did at Cape Leeuwin, the second Cape, on the evening of December 14th. The top duo have traded the lead 15 times since SW Australia’s Leeuwin, but once more it is Gabart who emerges with the upper hand at a focal point of the race.

The Macif skipper seems set to add to his growing collection of Vendée Globe records. After improving the elapsed time mark from Les Sables d’Olonne to Cape Leeuwin by two days, two hours and 24 minutes, Gabart should now also lower the best time from the start to Cape Horn by something close to four days and nine hours. The bar was set by his project manager and mentor Michel Desjoyeaux in January 2009 at 56 days 15 hours and 08 minutes en route to winning his second Vendée Globe crown. Race rookie Gabart has also already set a new best time for the passage of the Indian Ocean. Le Cléac’h – who finished second to Desjoyeaux in the last race – looks to be around two to 2.5 hours behind.

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With a proliferation of ice around their route, carefully monitored by CLS and the Chilean and Argentinian air forces, the leading duo are expected to slow to a more prudent pace. Gabart was making 18kts in the early afternoon but on the 1500hrs UTC ranking had slowed to 14kts. They should be delivered from the Pacific Ocean in SW’ly winds of around 20kts. Even a hint of blue skies are expected to add lustre to one of this historic race’s most memorable passages, conditions which are very much contrary to the hardest Cape’s reputation for fierce, freezing winds and mountainous seas. With a large high pressure system attached to the South American peninsula over offering only light winds, the leaders are expected to continue east on a long starboard gybe, ultimately passing to the east of the Falkland Islands.

When the duo double Cape Horn in rapid succession it will be the closest passage of recent editions. In 2009 Roland Jourdain was very nearly nine hours behind leader Desjoyeaux and in 2005 Jean Le Cam lead Vincent Riou by nearly 15 hours.

Speaking on Vendée Globe LIVE today, double Vendée Globe winner Michel Desjoyeaux said: ' I’m not surprised to see François and Armel so close. They’re both such good regatta specialists, they can relish the close proximity. But doing that for such a long period is exceptional, it’s been going on for 15 days, so psychologically it must be so demanding. I’m sure they’d actually prefer to be a little further away from each other. But they will fight hard until the end. Maybe strategy and choices will make a difference in the next few hours.'

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The fortunes of those skippers who are giving the most immediate chase appear to wax and wane. Jean-Pierre Dick has found the winds conspire against him as he anticipates his sixth passage of Cape Horn. Having initially had a direct course towards the mark, Dick has had to reposition to the south and therefore lost more than 150 hard earned miles. The opposite fate is being offered to Briton Alex Thomson who has a fast, direct course. Quickest in the fleet again today, the speedy Hugo Boss skipper has made 111 miles on Dick since the morning of 30th December and is now 470 miles behind the Frenchman. JP on Virbac-Paprec 3 is currently estimated to be at Cape Horn around one day and seven hours after the leader.

'Rounding Cape Horn is a special moment.' Confirms Desjoyeaux, 'But the reputation of the Cape really dates back to centuries ago. So nowadays, it’s more of relief than anything else. You simply can’t wait to get out of the Southern oceans and feel closer to land. Some skippers will see their first land since Spain. Sometimes, you even don’t care about not sailing flat out because you’re just relieved the conditions are better and you’re closer to civilization. But it’s not like they can relax or anything, the ice is a real concern and they’ll have to be extremely careful.'

Michel Desjoyeaux, FRA, double winner of the Vendée Globe: (on hydrogenerator problems): The hydrogenerator issue is always a tricky one, it’s so hard to pick the right type of hydrogenerator. Because they’re more and more efficient, sailors take less fuel with them on board because they can rely on their hydrogenerators. Alex Thomson is in the same configuration and he’s facing the same problems. The thing is, these hydrogenerators need to be trialled and tested in real race conditions, but only the Vendée Globe provides situations where you sail at more than 20 knots for hours, and sometimes days. Bernard was really counting on his hydrogenerators to produce energy, so it must be a serious disappointment for him.

François Gabart has called me only once so far, and it was more because he needed to talk than anything else. We also exchanged mails, very short ones. It’s sad to see some peple just can’t believe and admit he is actually relaxed. When he says he’s having fun and having a blast, he means it…

Jean-Pierre Dick, FRA, Virbac-Paprec 3: I lost quite a lot of miles last night because I had to go south a little bit to have a straighter route to Cape Horn. I sleep pretty well in the evening but I’m having more troubles falling asleep during the night, which is unusual for me. I’m focusing on the upcoming Cape Horn passage, it’s going to be complicated, I think it will be my fourth, but it’s still a special moment. The leaders are doing great, it will be tough to catch up with them. My New Year celebration was a simple one: Some foie gras (which still hasn’t gone bad) and a few phone calls to friends. I’m saving my bottle of champagne for Cape Horn. I hope 2013 will be a great year.

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Bernard Stamm (SUI, Cheminées Poujoulat): There’s water coming inside the cabin, I’m not sure where it comes from… I’ll be happier when we reach nicer weather. I don’t mind the wet but what I miss the most is the sun. I’ve been in the fog and the gray clouds with a 200-metre visibility since New-Zealand. The boat still needs to be worked on, I’ll have to fix the pedestal winch once more once I’m done with the gate. It’s still not working and every time I have to manoeuvre, it’s extremely tough physically. I’ve had so many issues. It started in Portugal, when the hydrogenerator started acting weird. As far as the winch is concerned, I know it will never be completely back to normal until I reach Les Sables d’Olonne.

All I can do now is make sure its basic functions work, but I can’t do more. I just don’t understand why we left with such a piece of equipment. Because I had two hydrogenerators, I left with much less fuel because I thought I could rely on them to sail around the world. We played it safe, of course, but we just couldn’t imagine some parts would be undersized, it’s been built like a lego toy, not like a serious piece of equipment. People keep telling me I can’t take care of everything myself, I need to let go and trust other people. But when I do, look at what happens! And I end up having to deal with all that by myself. If I could do it all again, I’d control everything. It’s such a shame to find out you just can’t trust people. There’s been so much time, energy and skills spent on this project, to end up with such a mediocre piece of equipment… I’m angry, and I think it’s justified.

It’s been a total pain since Portugal, it’s made my life miserable. 95% of the boat is doing great, it’s a racing machine, but the other 5% are ruining it all. It’s so frustrating and it’s cost me so much energy. But you know, it’s not like dismasting or losing your keel, I’m still in the race, it’s not too bad. But when I look back at our preparation, it’s obvious the container we hit during the Transat Jacques Vabre hurt us a lot in the long term.'

Vendee Globe website

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by Vendee Globe



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