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Vendee Globe - Battered and broken but pushing on

by Vendee Globe on 16 Nov 2012
Francois Gabart, Macif Jean-Marie Liot / DPPI / Vendée Globe © http://www.vendeeglobe.org
In the Vendee Globe, Louis Burton was winning his race against time yesterday as he limps back to Les Sables d’Olonne after his collision with a French fishing boat at 0300hrs on Wednesday. He had 408 miles to go at 1600hrs (French time) after and making 263 miles in the last 24 hours.

The 27-year-old Parisian, the youngest sailor in the race, is preparing to round Cape Finisterre for the second time and the weather forecast suggests he will have a difficult passage through the Bay of Biscay. The damage to his port shroud – the rigging that supports the mast – means he has to stay on a starboard tack whereas he would normally do the opposite in the wind angle he is likely to find.


Denis Horeau, the race director, said that under race rules he can be towed back the last 100 miles but he must remain on the boat alone if he wants to re-start.

His team hope he will arrive on Sunday November 18 and are trying to locate a spare that they will try and fit so he can restart before the deadline of 1302hrs (French time) on November 20.

Not so far away Zbigniew Gutkowski, the Polish skipper nicknamed ‘Gutek’, is soldiering at the back of the fleet after a tough 24 hours trying to fix multiple electronic problems. His autopilot is malfunctioning and not recording the true wind angle making it impossible for him to race. He is also unable to control his canting keel properly and the media computer is not working, which further explains the lack of communication. He thought it would take two days to fix.

I have a couple of issues with boat’s electronic and electrics,' Gutkowski said. 'The main issue is that my autopilot is not functioning in a way it is supposed to, and it goes like that from the start, so I can’t sail at speed at all; besides that I made a wrong decision to go West. It’s not good with sleeping as well.'

Normally a loud and ebullient presence on the radio, Gutek sounded tired but determined today. It was further evidence of the stress the skippers are under in these difficult conditions of busy shipping and fishing lanes and a messy sea state. But he had a better 24 hours making 278 miles, closing slightly on some on the back of the fleet.


Francois Gabart, leading since Saturday night and by almost 60 miles overnight, saw that cut almost in half in the space of four hours as he slowed dramatically as he hit a ridge of high pressure passed the latitude of the Canary Islands, 250 miles to the east. Armel Cléac’h, still making 12.8 knots, was just 29.7 miles south east with Bernard Stamm a further five miles behind – the pair have exchanged second place six times in the last two days. Stamm had the best last 24 hours, making 399.5 miles.

The compression at the front of the fleet was expected. It remains to be seen if the closing boats, all to the west of Gabart, will lose as much speed as he has. Alex Thomson, the leading British sailor at the moment, kept pace after moving into sixth place and was in better spirits on the radio after managing to get some sleep at last. He did admit that his manflu is still troubling him.

The messy sea state is stressful for the whole fleet at the moment and a good early test for the new light French-designed boats in the top five (all except Stamm) with big swells coming from the west being confused by the north westerly winds bearing north.

Javier Sansó, in 12th, lost ground after the track on his mainsail halyard failed on Wednesday evening and his mainsail came down. He is waiting for calmer conditions before going up the mast to assess the damage.

Tanguy De Lamotte and Samantha Davies, in 13th and 14th had the most complicated weather conditions, buffeted by westerly and then south westerly winds and forced to almost backtrack west. Davies, was able to make only 150.7 miles in the last 24 hours, the least in the fleet. Bertrand de Broc, 15th, continued his comeback after being forced to restart on Sunday morning because of hole in his hull.


Zbigniew ‘Gutek’ Gutkowski, Energa, POL: I have a couple of issues with boat’s electronic and electrics. The main issue is that my autopilot is not functioning in a way it is supposed to, and it goes like that from the start day, so I can’t sail at speed at all; Besides, I made a wrong decision to go West. The autopilot issue is that it can’t keep to the true wind angle what is essential in racing, so I am trying to fix it now (it’s switching from compass course to true wind and back). The next problem is a keel operating system so I can’t move the keel in normal way when I need to correct the boat’s position. So that’s the next case I need to sort out. And there is one more thing uncomfortable for our team – the media computer is not working at all so I can’t upload any video or picture and send it from here.

So the only way of contact is a phone line for now. It’s not good with sleeping as well, as all these problems take my time and because the outside conditions are quite hard and I can’t go with speed through this; it’s all quite tricky so I need to go through this low pressure and later on when the conditions improve I think more fresh thoughts will come and help me deal with all this issues.

Javier ‘Bubi’ Sanso, ESP, Acciona 100% Eco Powered: This afternoon whilst I was sailing without any problem the part that attaches the main sail into the halyard track broke. I can’t do anything until the weather improves and í can go up the mast to get the part and the main sail halyard back. Once I am back down it will just take me a few hours until I am back sailing again. The worst thing will be the 48 hours that I am going to lose. But this is a tough and long race and there is still a lot to be done.

Francois Gabart, Macif, FRA: The Wind is complicated to deal with , it’s changing all the time, it’s going to be the same for the others in a few hours. The sea is ok, though, I’ve seen worse.?I had fun in the last 24h, great feelings, good sensations.?Whether I’m leading or 10th, I’m doing the same things when it comes to the boat, the tactics and the rhythm. But I won’t deny I really enjoy being the leader. My route until the doldrums is going to be a simple one, there won’t be much strategy involved for me or the others. We’ll have to be good and careful.


Jérémie Beyou, Maître CoQ, FRA: I had strong winds all night long, cross winds. I’m trying not to push the boat too hard, even though there’s a fight with Alex Thomson. I can’t see him right now. We’ve talked a little bit when there was no wind, he wasn’t happy to see me come back. There are always a couple of details to be fixed on a boat like ours but everything is fine. So far so good (in English!).

Alessandro Di Benedetto (FRA/ITA, Team Plastique, taped): I have a cold, I’m taking antibiotics, it’s getting better and better. I’m starting to fully realise what solo sailing in such a race is like, I’m in full race mode now. The boat is doing fine, no problem, I’m really enjoying sailing on Team Plastique, even in strong winds, rain and cloudy weather. But the weather is getting better now. My boat is not a recent one but she still feels like a formula one, these boats are so fast. But they’re physically demanding!

Bernard Stamm Cheminées Poujoulat, SUI: I’m fine. I’ve had no time to rest but the conditions are getting better now, especially the sea. The boat is completely drenched, there’s no place for me to protect myself from the splashing water. But I kept the inside of the boat clean and tidy, everything is pretty much where it should be. I’m tired because I had to handle the sails a lot because I had to make several changes. I’m very happy with the performance of the boat. I saw Banque Populaire a few hours ago, but I don’t see her any more, I’m not sure where Armel is. I have to manoeuvre a lot but it’s not complicated, it’s what sailors do. I’m sailing at 13.5 knots.

Vincent Riou, PRB, FRA: The weather is mostly cloudy, but definitely calmer than yesterday. Since we left the front behind, we’ve had a lot of wind and rain but it is getting better. We’ve been shaken so much, I need to clean up the boat. The strongest wind was yesterday, with gusts at 40 knots. The cross sea is very weird, really, it’s a strange feeling. I was the first to go west and make that choice, but eventually it didn’t pay off, it’s not such a great choice, I was expecting better conditions. But nothing too bad either, we’ll see in a couple of days.

Alex Thomson, Hugo Boss, GBR: I managed to get some sleep and the cold I’ve had since the start of the race is going away. I think I may be able to catch up with Macif at one point. Accidents happen at sea, it’s part of the race but it does make things much more Vendee Globe website

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