Plenty of people make New Year’s resolutions. Here in Seattle, a common motif involves spending more time outside during the inky depths of winter, if for no other reason than to stave off cabin fever. Fortunately, our new year dawned bright, blue and beautiful, making it easy to live up to one’s own resolutions, as evidenced by the hordes of runners, bikers and fitness freaks that were to be seen about the city today. Some sailors even braved the chilly temps for a new-years sail (perhaps to hold to their own resolutions), but for the serious-minded racers the first real outing of 2013 promises to be this weekend’s Duwamish Head Race.
Puget Sound under a typical winter sky
For the thirteen sailors racing in the nonstop-alone-and-around-the-world Vendee Globe Race, however, it’s fair to assume that improving on speed and efficiency rank high on their list of resolutions.
Race leader Francois Gabart appears to have mastered these skills in 2012, as the 29-year-old skipper (the youngest in this edition of the race) rounded Cape Horn in first place on January 1, setting a new (un-ratified) speed record from the race’s start in Les Sables d'Olonne, France to Cape Horn of a quick 52 days, 6 hours and 18 minutes. This represents an improvement of 4 days, 8 hours and 50 minutes from the previous record, which was set by Gabart’s mentor, the great Michel Desjoyeaux.
'It is a very emotional moment, but I'm afraid [that Gabart] doesn't have time to enjoy it because the [meteorological] data shows there's ice all over the area,' said Desjoyeaux, who is the only skipper to have ever won the Vendee Globe twice. 'It's hard to tell exactly what type of ice blocks, growlers and icebergs there [are] but [the skippers] definitely need to be out on the deck and visually check. You need to stand next to the helm, even if the autopilot is on, because you can grab the helm if necessary or work on the sails if you need to change the heading of the boat very quickly. Radars aren't enough because they can't detect smaller objects.'
Aside from objects large and small, Gabart must also contend with his near blood sport rival, Armel Le Cleac’h ('Banque Populaire'), who at the time of this writing was only a little more than 20 miles astern. The two French-flagged skippers have been in near-perfect lockstep since first entering the Southern Ocean, their next closest rival (Jean-Pierre Dick aboard 'Virbac Paprec 3') more than 450 miles off the pace, and it appears that the final push back to the finishing line off of Les Sables d'Olonne will continue to be an exclusive match-race.
Interestingly, Dick had some of his own thoughts about 2013. 'I haven’t thought about good resolutions for 2013 yet…and even if I come up with something, I usually don’t stick to them eventually. If I really had to pick one, I’d say: To be a good father.' Given that Dick’s bow will be pointed home soon, it appears that he’s already en route to keeping his personal promises. Get the full Vendee Globe report, inside this issue.
Also inside this issue, get the scoop on the Governor’s Cup, brush up on your Sydney-Hobart aftermath, and check out windsurfing’s latest speed records.
May the four winds blow you safely home,