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North Sails on UK Got Tough

Vendee Globe - Stable winds, good speeds and frustration

by Vendee Globe on 5 Dec 2012
Sunset view from on board Hugo Boss - 2012 Vendee Globe © Alex Thomson / Hugo Boss / Vendée Globe http://www.vendeeglobe.org/
In the Vendee Globe, still with the indefatigable Armel Le Cléac’h on Banque Populaire in the lead, the advantage continues to grow for the pace making pack this morning as they reach fast towards to the Crozet ice gate, the second control designed to keep the fleet north of the worst of the ice threat.

For the second group – that is Briton Mike Golding on Gamesa, Jean Le Cam on SynerCiel and Switzerland’s Dominique Wavre – there is a desperate realisation that, despite extreme fatigue brought on by the their toughest 48 hours of the race so far, they must redouble their efforts to stay in touch with the six leaders.

A high pressure ridge was already slowing them early today and they need to find the speed to escape if they are to remain in the same weather system as the pack they are chasing.

Reaching at some 18kts almost directly east towards the target, the Crozet ice gate, Armel Le Cléac’h seems to be on course to reach that waypoint some time tomorrow if speeds remain as high as forecasted. The top four in the 13 boat fleet have managed to maintain high averages in favourable winds of 20-22kts. Le Cléac’h had added another five miles on to his margin back to second placed Jean-Pierre Dick on Virbac-Paprec 3 whose course is just 13 miles to the south of his. François Gabart was not polled on the early morning schedule but is known to be in good shape in second around 20 miles behind Le Cléac’h. And the top four IMOCA Open 60’s are still racing within 50 miles of each other.

Alex Thomson, the British skipper in fifth, has never fought shy of trying something different. He has taken Hugo Boss south of the leaders’ direct course to try and avoid the worst of what is expected to be a period of lighter winds which could prevail on the approach to the Crozet control gate. Thomson, some 171 miles behind leader Le Cléac’h had only lost a few small miles to the leaders overnight but will hope his lone investment pays off as he passes the gate more towards its eastern extremity.

These have been tough times mentally and physically for the chasing trio, the ‘three Musketeers’ Golding, Le Cam and Wavre. After a very hard 24 hours in potentially boat breaking, big, unruly seas in which it was hard to stay in control this trio are facing the frustrating prospect of being trapped by a high pressure ridge which had already slowed them this morning to some 13-15kts of boat speed. And already the gap between sixth placed Golding and Thomson has grown to some 360 miles.

'Very big waves today. The breeze is up and down between 12 and 24kts. The boat picks up on the waves, goes roaring off and then finishes with a crunch. Everything is shaken to the bone. It’s scary. Just seem to be waiting for something to break. With the boat slamming a couple of times a minute it’s hard to get weather in, to run routing, hard to do anything at all, even prepare a meal.' Noted Mike Golding late yesterday.

If Golding’s frustration that what he and his running mates had initially hoped would be compression into the leading pack is now set to be a potentially big loss of miles, for Spain’s Javier Sanso these are also testing times. Last night he expressed his hopes that he would finally wriggle free of the light winds which have plagued him and Acciona 100% Eco Powered for days, might finally be gone this morning seem unfounded as he was still making less than six knots and has averaged just 7.7kts over the last 24 hours.

The pleasures of the white heat of unrelenting competition among the leaders are still mirrored almost equally by those enjoying their ride towards the back of the Vendée Globe fleet. In ninth Arnaud Boissières on Akena Vérandas is well into a spell of faster sailing, as are Bertrand de Broc on Votre Nom autour du Monde avec EDM projects who is making nearly 20kts this morning, quickest of the fleet. And Italian Alessandro di Benedetto on his evergreen Finot design has the island of Tristan de Cunha as his next waypoint some 450 miles ahead of his Team Plastique. Vendee Globe website
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