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Vendee Globe - Battle continues as skippers push on

by Vendee Globe on 18 Nov 2012
Spanish skipper Javier Sanso sails onboard his "Imoca 60 Acciona 100% Ecopowered". DPPI / Vendee Globe
In the Vendee Globe, Javier Sansó (Acciona 100% EcoPowered) revealed that he went up his 100ft mast and successfully retrieved the main halyard on Friday evening, but so sheltered was the spot he found on the northeast coast of Tenerife that he was becalmed until 0400hrs (French time) on Saturday.

'At 2000hrs the boat was tip-top to get back into the race again 100%,' he said. 'The problem was that my sheltered spot in Tenerife had me trapped until 0400hrs in the morning when I was finally able to move out towards the south and then gybe west.'

'I had to go to find some sheltered water in Tenerife to be able to go up the mast without too many waves. The problem was that once situated behind Tenerife there was absolutely no wind at all and a real swell. So after two frustrating hours waiting and trying to get closer in to land, I made an attempt to go up the mast with quite a large swell, the boat almost drifting and without any kind of steering.'

'Each time I went up a metre I was like a sack of potatoes swaying from one side to the other. When I got to the top, 30 metres above the boat, I have to admit that there was a really beautiful view and I found a way of not being shoved all over the place; a good thing since I was really at a limit with the strength I had left. I managed to fix the line to the track that was there happily waiting for me at the top of the mast.'

'It really was a shame because I hadn’t been forcing the boat and had been up with the second group of boats, really well placed after three pretty intensive days. But hey, now it’s time to make up for the time lost. This is a very long race.'

Sansó, in 13th place, 559.2 miles behind, needed to go up the mast in order to retrieve his main halyard and fix the damage from when his mainsail came down suddenly three days ago.

What Zbigniew 'Gutek' Gutkowski (Energa), 500 miles west of Tenerife, would do for some of that Tenerife calm as he faces a trip to the top his mast to release the huge gennaker wrapped around his forestay. Gutek, who has been suffering a software failure in the two autopilots he has taken with him from the start of the race, described the accident.

'It’s a consequence of the autopilot malfunction,' he said. 'Yesterday afternoon I hoisted a bigger sail, because there was a light winds zone approaching and I wanted to avoid it. So I took the risk to not lose more miles to the boys at the front of the fleet. Unfortunately the autopilot couldn’t manage steering with the big sail up, so I was steering by hand. After quite a long time, at around 0200hrs I decided to put the sail down and switched the autopilot on for a moment to prepare everything. But unfortunately after couple of seconds the boat made a Chinese gybe [where the boat is at the wrong angle to the wind and the sail twists in opposite directions top and bottom and causes a wipe out], and the consequences I have on the mast now.'

'The only option is to climb up the mast and cut everything off. But it is also risky. Every free piece of rigging flying round can cause the mast damage.'

'But, you know, when I was steering by hand, it was really great. Energa was going so fast, so easy, ticking 17, 20, 22 knots, it was wonderful, the boat is fast and beautiful and I love it.'

Gutek hopes the forecast for the wind to drop to about four knots after and the waves will flatten Saturday at midnight will give him a chance.

Meanwhile, Sam Davies reached Funchal Marina in Madeira on Saturday morning with Savéol looking naked with her rigging cut away and no sails after dismasting on Thursday night. 'This Vendee Globe has been too short,' Davies wrote in her last night message. After the shock and then the survival mode, the grief of four years planning ending in five days has begun to sink in.

'I have been dreaming of sailing fast in the Southern Ocean for too long,' she said. 'I didn't even see a flying fish, nor the Southern Cross star, nor the Albatrosses. But a strong memory that will be hard to erase is that moment when I cut the last forestay lashing and freed my injured mast into the ocean. It is hard to describe the emotions that go through your head at this moment - almost wishing to be able to bring it all back but knowing that it is impossible, like the dream of finishing this race. I let it go and, lit by my head torch, saw it float gently to rest in the ocean.'

'However, this is not all failure and I am OK. Given the conditions at the time of the dismasting, all of this is to be thankful for. We will be back!?Good winds to the 16 skippers that are out there racing around the globe. When you have a bad day think of me because I would give anything to be out there in your place, even on a bad day!' Sam

At the 1600hrs ranking Armel Le Cléac’h (Banque Populaire) consolidated the lead he took on Friday night and is well-placed to hold it at the boats pass the Cape Verde islands. Things are really hotting up in their little carbon boxes, with the temperatures rising to 23 degrees already and far hotter at the navigation station.

After seven out of a likely 80 days at sea, Le Cléac’h, second in the last Vendée Globe and the favourite for this one, leads Bernard Stamm (Cheminées Poujoulat) by 38.6 miles, with the rest of the chasing pack all converging on the same course south behind him.

Sometimes, it can be all downhill from Cape Verde to the Doldrums, less than a thousand miles away, but the forecast is for squalls along the way. The fleet will start to head east soon and the weather routing suggests there’s a clear corridor - 26-28 west longitude - in the light wind zone just in front of them. This will favour the faster boats, who already make up the first five in the fleet. The Doldrums are not likely to be so simple.

Mike Golding (Gamesa), GBR: It’s not too bad now. I’ve got 18kts of wind and we are trucking nicely west. I am just waiting for the gybe, so hopefully the quietest stuff is over for the moment. I am slowly seeing the breeze build and it is staying more stable now.

The breeze will clock round progressively now so there is no actual shift in the wind direction I am waiting for, so it is just a question of picking the right time. But for sure I prefer to put some in the bank, to go a little further west, rather than regret it later. And I am sure that Jean (Le Cam) will go first. There’s a certain irony with the two of us ending up together (they were deadlocked at the front in the 2004 race), we’ve ended up more easterly than we would have liked, but nonetheless we’re in touch - we’re at the back of the peleton. I am pretty tired just now because I am hanging on for the gybe and you don’t want to go to sleep and miss the time

Armel Le Cléac’h (Banque Populaire): It's good to lead the race but it's not my priority. It is a good race with my friends. We manage to use our boats at almost 100% now.

It's hot. We are going south with nice conditions. The water is warm, so it’s fun to manoeuvre.

Being ahead I’ll be the first one to attack the Doldrums. We must find the best way.

François Gabart (Macif): It's getting a little warmer. The wind is not bad; the sea is not too rough either. Banque Populaire was very close so he had to have about the same wind as me but he did not have the same sails. I could see him. Here I sweat, I'm bare foot, but my Crocs are not far away.

Despite the joy of being at sea, we keep our earthly habits. We must get rid of them to find the sailor’s rhythm. But if we really get in the rhythm, we would not call home and would never be in contact with the ground.

Jean-Pierre Dick (Virbac-Paprec 3): We will sail to the Doldrums, taking the most direct route as possible and we will get to the entrance in about two days. I’ve got a bit more experience than the last time. We must try not to repeat the same mistakes.

Sometimes I'm a little scared because I push the boat a little too hard but all is well for the moment.

Vincent Riou (PRB): Everyone says, 'I won’t be tricked.' We all know that taking risks will be important when we enter the Doldrums. I hit a tree this morning at 18 knots. It was big but floating between two waves. It was half sunk, I could not see it. I just saw it out the back. It didn’t hit my hull but banged against the keel and the rudder raised up. The boat carried on. Nothing serious, but it's a little adrenaline rush! There are really many things lurking in the North Atlantic!

Tanguy de Lamotte (Initiatives Cœur): I am under gennaker and this morning I had a light breeze. I was surprised by that but I got the big sail in time and righted the boat. I slept great that night; I met a cargo boat who told me: 'you must be a Vendée Globe boat, have a safe journey'. This morning I did a little air guitar to wake me up. You see a lot of boats. Do not say this to Kito (De Pavant) or Louis (Burton) (who both collided with fishing boats and have abandoned), but you must remain vigilant. This morning I opened a gift of basil seeds that I will have to Vendee Globe website

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