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sail-world.com -- Vendee Globe - Ice gate position shifts + Video

Vendee Globe - Ice gate position shifts + Video    
Tue, 27 Nov 2012

In the Vendee Globe, Alessandro Di Benedetto (Team Plastique), in the North Atlantic, crossed the Equator this morning at 0807 GMT.

'Here it is hot everywhere! I just take good wind finally. Today I did a ceremony for the passage of Ecuador and I gave a little rum offered by Didier Elin Neptune and the boat with rice and salt (Japanese style). Well, here I am focused on the settings of the boat and the weather, the passage of the anticyclone it will not be easy! The boat sails well with jib and mainsail in 12 knots,' said the happy skipper. Alessandro Di Benedetto (Team Plastique) is the last, but not least, of the remaining 13 boats to enter the southern hemisphere.

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Growlers are patches of ice drifting icebergs that break off and float semi submerged. They are a greater risk to skippers than the ice giants, icebergs. Often undetectable by radar they emerge from the surface of the water and in rough seas can be easily confused with the waves.

To protect the skippers from playing a lethal game of Russian roulette, the race organization has implemented, chokepoints, called 'ice gates' to limit the temptations to take the shortest, most southerly ice riddled route. These gates are monitored closely, and are subject to change according to tracked ice movements. The first South Atlantic gate has been shifted one degree north and seven degrees east to avoid excessive concentrations of ice. The competition is fierce enough without adding unnecessary danger.

In approximately three days’ time the front-runners will enter the Roaring Forties, strong westerly winds found in the Southern Hemisphere, in the region of the latitudes of 40 and 50 degrees. The strong west-to-east air currents are generated by air being displaced from the Equator towards the South Pole and the Earth's rotation, with few landmasses to serve as windbreaks.

The journey into the roaring forties will be tricky, the weather models are predicting a high pressure on the edge Saint Helena high and a depression forming off the coast of Argentina. The skippers will have to negotiate a careful course to ensure they are not over, or underpowered in these fickle conditions.

Jean Le Cam (SynerCiel) and Jean-Pierre Dick (Virbac Paprec 3) have elected for a more southerly course, which has positioned them to the west of the competing boats. On Vendée Globe LIVE today Mike Golding (Gamesa) discussed the situation, 'It’s not that they are going more west but more that they are trying to get south and of course, you have to weigh that up against what you have to do along the course. It doesn’t look too bad. I ran the routing this morning and it looks like it’s moving quite nicely but I need to have a closer look at it. It looks fairly straight forward as we head to the first gate.' Golding was in great spirits and in response to not let himself be hunted by Jean Le Cam (SynerCiel) he jokingly said, ' I won’t. I am a one man war machine.'

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Armel Le Cléac’h (Banque Populaire) said, 'The conditions keep changing, the night hasn’t been easy, I was shaken a lot and not really fast. But there’s still a long way to go, and finding the right route in the next few days will be very important for the rest of the race. There are a lot of possible strategies for the skippers behind us and I’m keeping an eye on what everybody is doing. The gaps between us aren’t too big, considering how long the race is. The next few days will be complicated for us all, we need to stay safe too.'

Bernard Stamm (Cheminées Poujoulat) has work to do but is taking a few days off so that he doesn’t lose any boat speed. His priority is to stay with the leading pack. 'My speed is back up now but last night was tough because the heavy rain absorbed the wind. I don’t want to waste too much time working on the boat right now, because the others in the group could leave me behind if I did. I need to focus on sailing fast right now, nothing else. I’ll wait until the conditions are favourable to climb up the mast and finish my work. The weather is really nice between showers, I feel like I’m on vacation, but it’s not good for my speed.'

Alex Thomson (Hugo Boss) continues to keep ahead of Bernard Stamm (Cheminées Poujoulat). They have a definite advantage and can watch to see how the front three extricate themselves from the calm of the ridge. Further back still, Jean Le Cam (SynerCiel), credited with the best speed for 24 hours, he has elected to follow a route away from the wind and focus on the speed of the course, hoping to reap the benefits of this decision during the predicted rotation of the wind. At a time when the weather files are becoming increasingly precise, hitting the right strategy relies increasingly on the shifts in a critical few miles. Nobody would now want to venture across the St. Helena anticyclone and end up becalmed in a windless car park.

Arnaud Bossières (Akena Verandas): Everything’s fine, we’ve been doing great for a couple of days, and I feel great mentally. Monday mornings aren’t fun when you have to go to work but my work is different, I’m loving it and the boat is so fast, it makes me really happy. These are such exciting conditions, I just can’t complain… The Doldrums were terrible for me, I just couldn’t move. So I’m enjoying the current situation even more, I can give all I have now, I didn’t get the opportunity to do it earlier in the race.

Jean Le Cam (SynerCiel): I’ve already started to get closer to the skippers in front of me, the gap between me and Mike Golding is smaller and smaller, I’m getting there. Now I need to pass him. Right now I’m a little faster than the boats in front of me so if they get stuck in the ridge, it’ going to be good for me. But I don’t want to think about that too much, let’s not be too ambitious.

Vendee Globe website

by Vendee Globe



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