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Vendee Globe - Bank of the Doldrums is open again

by Matthew Pryor on 16 Jan 2013
Javier Sanso, Acciona 100% EcoPowered - 2012 Vendee Globe ACCIONA/Jesus Renedo http://www.accionasailing.com/
In the Vendee Globe, after borrowing and lending to the fleet two months ago, the Bank of the Doldrums is open again. Francois Gabart (Macif) entered overnight and has logically been giving away miles to those behind, the next few days will show whether they will be able to bank them. Armel Le Cléac’h (Banque Populaire) and Jean-Pierre Dick (Virbac-Paprec 3) have each borrowed 100 miles back from Gabart in the last 24 hours.

Le Cléac’h became the second boat to cross the equator at 0447hrs UTC and is now in the North Atlantic. His passage across the line, on a route to the east of Gabart’s, took 66 days 16 hours 45 minutes (and 51 seconds) and came 15 hours and 6 minutes after Gabart.

On November 20, 2012, Gabart entered the doldrums in second place, just ahead of Jean-Pierre Dick (Virbac-Paprec 3)and behind the leader Le Cléac'h. Almost two months later, the skipper of MACIF is 50 miles from the same place of passage and part of the same trio in the lead – but this time it’s just a different order.

Le Cléac’h has reclaimed 104 miles in the last 24 hours on Gabart and is now only 143.7 miles behind, but the leader’s pace has not been dramatically slowed. Gabart still averaged a comparatively healthy 10.7 knots overnight. The doldrums are not normally particularly active at this time of year and compared to November where the leading group were stalled at one point, the front four may simply compress and then extend on the other side. But that will not be clear for two days.

Dick has taken back 109 miles on the leader to lie 586 miles behind and 443 behind Le Cléac’h. Alex Thomson (Hugo Boss) still struggling a little on the west, off the north coast of Brazil, has taken only 6 miles back from Gabart, not much to bank. Hugo Boss is still very close to the coast (170 miles).

Worse than the doldrums for the middle five is the high-pressure hole they dropped into. The escape of Jean Le Cam (SynerCiel) to the west stalled overnight. He averaged 9.3 knots overnight, compared to Mike Golding (Gamesa) with 11.7 knots, who has nevertheless lost 108 miles to Le Cam in the last 24 hours is back to a manageable 86 miles behind him and 352 miles south east of him. But the weather maps and route ahead for them is still not simple.

Behind them Javier Sansó (Acciona 100% EcoPowered) had the worst night in the fleet, averaging just 6.6 knots. He has been the slowest in the fleet over the last 24 hours, averaging 5.8 knots and traveling 138 miles. Dominique Wavre (Mirabaud) also had a difficult night and a happier Arnaud Bossières (Akena Verandas), who is the furthest west, was able to pull back 27 mile on him to lie 46 behind in ninth.

After their passage around Cape Horn, Bertrand De Broc (Votre nom autour du monde avec EDM Projets) and Tanguy de Lamotte (Initiatives cœur)should find a road paved with gold in the Atlantic. Not for them the headache and weather windows to negotiate, as they will soon feel the by a rise of a beautiful southwest low of 25 knots coming up behind them. It looks strong and steady and should allow them to make good gains on those in front. Even before its arrival, such has been the struggle for Akena Verandas that De Broc has already recovered 127 miles on Akena Verandas in the last 24 hours and is 1,183 miles behind. Vendee Globe website

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