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Vendee Globe - From the back to the front, shaken not stirred

by Vendee Globe on 6 Jan 2013
Alessandro di Benedetto, Team Plastique © Alessandro Di Benedetto / Team Plastique
In the Vendee Globe, from the back to the front, 5105 miles separates Alessandro Di Benedetto (Team Plastique) and the current race leader, François Gabart (Macif). With four for of the fleet now racing in the South Atlantic and nine in the Pacific, the race is very different for each of the skippers. It is the weather that dictates the game. At the front they are deliberating how to negotiate the high upstream of Cape Horn and behind they are experiencing the turbulence of Pacific depressions.

Armel Le Cléac’h (Banque Populaire) yesterday in the evening ranking, reduced the gap with François Gabart (Macif) to 12 miles. This morning, however, it is no longer the case. Le Cléac’h’s slightly more northern trajectory has cost him a little as Gabart has shifted to the East of the high and gained more ground. Let us not forget that despite their lateral differences of around 120 miles, only 22 miles separate them, and their speeds are solid ranging from 12 to 15 knots.

With potentially just over three weeks to go, it begs the question is too early to begin dreaming of a close finish in Les Sables d'Olonne. It won’t be too long before the two skippers will reach the north wind and enjoy more sustained promise of upwind sailing towards the St. Helena high. Jean-Pierre Dick (Virbac Paprec 3), meanwhile, having resolved the problems with his masthead resolved, is now back in the fight and aiming to pick back some of the lost miles from the leading duo. Reaching 18 knots, this morning, he will not be hindered by the high pressure facing Armel Le Cléac’h (Banque Populaire) and François Gabart (Macif).

Alex Thomson (Hugo Boss) is sailing just south of the Falklands in 20 knots of wind from the west he continues to consider how to fix his hydrogenerator and claw back some miles from those ahead. To complete the course is his objective but there can be no doubt that a place on the podium would be his heart's desire.

Jean Le Cam (SynerCiel) is due to rounding Cape Horn on Monday morning. Yesterday, the skipper the sounded utterly exhausted on the Vendée Globe LIVE and over the past few days, the conditions of the South Pacific have offered little respite for the sailors. A depression from the southwest has forced the competitors in the Pacific to be continually shelled by heavy seas and vicious gusts. With no rest they have been forced to endure gruelling conditions on deck with frozen fingers. The Vendée Globe is taking its toll on their bodies and evaporating their energy.

Within the group of five, the latest news is that Dominique Wavre (Mirabaud) is the first to have passed the Eastern Pacific gate. The Swiss sailor can now head directly to Cape Horn. Mike Golding (Gamesa) chose to pass the gate via the East and the game between the two skippers remains tight. Mike Golding (Gamesa) admitted yesterday that he is feeling the challenge Dominique Wavre (Mirabaud) presents.

Bernard Stamm (Cheminées Poujoulat), still awaiting the outcome of his fate, continues to pick his way through the fleet, charging along at 19.2 knots in the early morning ranking. Another one bites dust as he races past Javier Sanso (Acciona 100% EcoPowered).

Arnaud Bossières (Akena Verandas) 60 miles behind Sanso is feeling the might of the conditions, as well as suffering with horrendously blistered hands. Literally, having salty sea rubbed into his wounds. 'These conditions are stressful, we are between two weather systems so it is not easy. The wind moves 40 °. I barely sleep. I must remain vigilant and be on permanent watch. It never stops.'

Bertrand De Broc (Votre Nom Autour du Monde avec EDM) is struggling with light airs and for 24 hours has been knocking on the door of the New Zealand gate. Frustratingly for him he is at longitude of the door but must go back 110 miles north to pass it. Yes, folks that’s yacht racing, and it can be annoying.

Tanguy de Lamotte (Initiatives Cœur)is making progress in a north north westerly wind of 20 knots and is not hindered by De Broc’s high.

And last but by no means least, Alessandro Di Benedetto (Team Plastique) continues on his merry way to the New Zealand. He is navigating between two weather systems through highs and lows, experiencing a north northwest wind of around 33 knots as the 2012 Vendée Globe rollercoaster continues on. Vendee Globe website

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