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Vendee Globe - The battle will be bitter to the end

by Vendee Globe on 25 Jan 2013
View from onboard Mirabaud - 2012 Vendee Globe © Dominique Wavre
In the Vendee Globe, it is difficult to know for sure what is really happening in the minds of the leading duo. One thing is certain the battle will be bitter to the end. Just over 1200 miles from the finish at Les Sables d'Olonne, the suspense is gripping in the final strait of the seventh edition of the Vendée Globe. On paper yesterday it looked like this morning François Gabart (Macif) in the heart of the Azores archipelago, between the island of Tercera and San Miguel, would begin to charge ahead by reaching first the stronger winds from the southwest to whisk him back at a brisk pace to the Vendée.

Yet it is Armel Le Cléac’h (Banque Populaire) who was the fastest overnight. The skipper of Banque Populaire, remains focused on the most direct route and has managed to claw back the miles he lost yesterday. He is slightly south and is 88 miles behind François Gabart (Macif) in a south-westerly wind of around twenty knots, which is expected to push forward the two skippers until at least La Coruña, Spain. The pressure is on Armel Le Cléac’h (Banque Populaire) to avoid any mistakes and to be vigilant at all times. Two gifted, bright hungry young sailors battle virtually neck and neck. They both have the advantage of being on the ground and experiencing the actual weather conditions. The weather files can only guide us and they don’t always accurately depict the conditions the skippers are enduring. The most accurate way to forecast the weather is to go outside and see if for yourself and of course, that is something only they can do.

The final days of the Vendée Globe are proving to be a nail biting duel between the gifted, ‘Goldenboy’ Gabart and his pretender, a challenger, called ‘The Jackal’ equally talented and famous for his incredible toughness. Like a cat on a hot tin roof the suspense will grip us to the very end.

The Vendée Globe is a dream that is hard to release, especially when man and machine are so close the end of an incredible, arduous journey, worn down by the accumulation of fatigue and miles. Jean-Pierre Dick (Virbac Paprec 3) is experiencing this first hand as he has been sailing now for two days without a keel. With 500 miles until the Azores, he still has a few days to make his choice to abandon the race, or try to reach Les Sables d'Olonne. It is a cruel dilemma and for the moment he holds onto his third place sailing downwind in seas that are relatively manageable. His return the Vendée is dependent on the weather. Can he continue to sail and not capsize? Whatever his decision, it is likely that it will be very difficult to keep his place on the podium despite his noble resistance. Alex Thomson (Hugo Boss) is the faster boat in the last 24 hours, with 350 miles under his belt and this morning sailing seven knots faster than his rival he is now only 90 miles behind Jean-Pierre Dick. In addition to potentially gaining third place on his Farr 2007, he could also complete the course in less than 80 days.

900 miles from Alex Thomson (Hugo Boss), 30 miles to the east of the Fernando de Noronha Archipelago, Jean Le Cam (SynerCiel) is still wrestling with Mike Golding (Gamesa). After a slow and difficult climb up the Brazilian coast, Golding now sits 35 miles behind. Both experienced sailors, they are making just over 15 knots on a direct course towards the equator 250 miles away. In a south-westerly wind of 15 knots, the skipper of SynerCiel should return to the North Atlantic tonight.

A little over 300 miles behind, Swiss sailor, Dominique Wavre (Mirabaud) is back on the direct route. The wind is not very strong just over an average of 11 knots. 160 miles behind, to the west, at the latitude of Salvador de Bahia, the situation is gradually improving for Arnaud Bossières (Akena Verandas), although he is still progressing slowly in a north-easterly wind of 10 knots. Last night he gybed and appears to be staying close to the Brazilian coast.

Further east, 175 miles behind Dominique Wavre, the Spaniard Javier Sanso (Acciona 100% EcoPowered) is experiencing serious problems with his electronics and has three broken weather vanes, key pieces of equipment that provide critical information about the wind strength and direction. He is advancing slowly in a northeast wind of around 8 knots which will soon move to the east, allowing him to slightly accelerate and sail a direct course to the north.

After an impressive gain, Bertrand De Broc (Votre Nom Autour du Monde avec EDM) has slowed considerably this morning, traveling at eight knots and just less than 3000 miles from the leaders. He is caught in an area of no wind before he can turn and head north. Tanguy de Lamotte (Initiatives Cœur) last night reached past the latitude of Rio de Janeiro, and soon should benefit from a 13 knot southeast wind which will help him gain some miles back from Bertrand De Broc. At nearly 4,200 miles behind François Gabart, Alessandro Di Benedetto (Team Plastique) sails with great pain due to his injuries, on the western edge of a high pressure area, off the coast of Buenos Aires (Argentina). The Franco-Italian skipper has lost three downwind sails and will now have to adjust his course to sail with his new sail plan. Let's not forget the painful challenge of moving his equipment from one side of the boat to the other following a tack or a gybe with a broken rib. It’s going to be a long, slow, painful road home for our brave, happy go lucky adventurer. Vendee Globe

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