In the Vendee Globe, Armel Le Cléac’h, the most regular pacesetter of this solo round the world race, was paying a price for his punchy, direct rhumb line strategy this Thursday afternoon as he acceded his lead to the young Macif skipper Francois Gabart.
Early this morning Banque Populaire was first to break the Crozet ice gate after following a near straight line, more direct course to the west mark of the gate. But Le Cléac’h’s tactic required him to sail for longer on edge of the high pressure zone, thereby enduring light winds on the approach to the gate and now subsequently as he now descends back south, towards the certainty of stronger winds.
Struggling slowly SE this afternoon Le Cléach’s Banque Populaire was making just five to six knots, giving away a full ten knots of boat speed to Gabart on Macif who had already built a margin of 12 miles during the middle hours of today.
But having profited from the south where they have had better wind pressure Gabart, third placed Jean-Pierre Dick and Bernard Stamm in fourth, now all have to make their own passage back to the north east – into the light airs zone – to satisfy the requirements of the gate.
In contrast Le Cléac’h can continue south east at will where he will accelerate progressively and should be able to recoup these losses which should be only temporary.
It is a fascinating prospect, for the meantime, as the two opposing strategies play out, though some observers still consider this could lead to big gains for the wily Le Cléac’h who finished second overall in the 2008-9 edition of the race. But that said, it still seems slightly incongruous that a chess match on a chequerboard of high pressure light winds and skirting stronger winds on the cusp of low pressures, is being fought out in the Forties latitudes which are not so much roaring but whispering - in places.
In fifth Alex Thomson gybed this afternoon on Hugo Boss, having worked south well into the territory of reported ice, and was immediately pulling back miles on the leaders as the fastest IMOCA Open 60 among the five leaders.
There is absolutely no let up in the intensity of the three way mini regatta which engages Mike Golding, Dominique Wavre and Jean Le Cam. The British skipper Golding has held the upper hand for four days in this tussle but his choice to stay north, closer to the rhumb line, has cost him against his immediate rivals. While Wavre had passed Le Cam this morning, the French skipper of SynerCiel is fighting back and both had closed on Golding this afternoon.
The highly engaging Tanguy de Lamotte, who has enchanted with his direct communication and obvious passion for his craft, and the race itself has had to bring all his skills as a former preparateur and technical whizz, to find a solution to his breaking four mainsail batten cars during a big involuntary gybe late on Wednesday afternoon. Lamotte’s Initiatives Coeur was laid flat, mast almost parallel to the water, for some minutes.
Although he has some six spare cars, he discovered that the diameter of the retaining pins do not match the cars, and so his afternoon has been spent packing the holes with a mix of fibreglass, resin, carbon fibre and cannibalising some steel nuts which, he sounded confident to report, should keep his evergreen IMOCA Open 60 on the race course.
On Vendée Globe Live today there were prospective 2016-17 international skippers from different ends of the age and experience spectrum. Young British Figaro skipper Sam Goodchild, 23, spoke with Mike Golding – with whom he has worked and sailed, as did American Rich Wilson, who finished the last race on Great American III and has been in Europe looking at prospective mounts for the next race.
'Even having seen what is going on on the course today, like Bernard Stamm being shaken around on the visio conference and so on, it still just makes you want to be out there, doing it, now,' smiled Goodchild.
Tanguy de Lamotte, FRA, Initiatives Coeur: I have been sailing with my J2, that the Solent Jib, with four reefs in the mainsail. And now I am just working inside the boat on the pieces. So I took off the main and try to work so that I can hoist the main a bit later on today. I have the spare parts. I have six pieces and have only broken four but the diameter (of the pins) is eight millimetres instead of ten. So what I am doing is going to put some epoxy resin with fibreglass and carbonfibre and I have cut some nuts so I can secure the pins at the back of the bush. I can secure all the pieces with the nuts. Cutting steel on the boat is not very easy. I am going to be able to hoist the main later. Those pieces are going to do the job for later and they will be good for around the world, I am sure. My brain has been working overtime. Last night I was pretty tired after all the tidying up and manoeuvring and so I had a good sleep and I kept thinking of what I had on board. I kept thinking of the right solution. There has never been any doubt in my mind that I carry on the race. I am pretty happy to have found a solution with the the help of the guys on shore and so I am confident I will go the whole way with these pieces now.
Tanguy De Lamotte (FRA) / Initiatives Coeur - working hard to fix the boat - bits and pieces - Tanguy De Lamotte (FRA) / Initiatives Coeur Click Here to view large photo
Bernard Stamm, SUI, Cheminées Poujoulat: We’re not as shaken as we were before, the wind is lighter and the sea is not as chaotic. The boat isn’t under water any more… A few hours ago, it felt like a rodeo! I’m doing ok, I could get some rest last night and I’m getting ready to manoeuvre. I wish I had a crane to move all the heavy sails around. I have a couple of broken things, I need to work on them, but no collateral damage, it should be ok. I’ve checked everything so I know exactly what to do when I have time. Right now I’m sailing at 18 knots. I’ll go south until I see ice! (he laughs). But I don’t want to get carried away.
Francois Gabart, FRA, Macif: I am doing great, we have 15-20kts of wind the seas are still a bit confused but the skies are blue and it looks more like summer. I was invisible in the rankings overnight but that is something I think I have fixed. I have just washed a bit, I am almost clean. I can get some rest now because the wind is a bit lighter, but I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed for tomorrow when I go back to cross the gate. I hope it will be OK.
Javier Sanso, ESP, Acciona 100% Eco Powered: I was trapped in that high pressure system, I think if I had even managed to be 100 miles further to the south, I might have escaped earlier. But in the end I had to cross to the east of the high pressure. In the end I was unlucky and it took me two days. I finally, finally have had a bit of westerly wind and here I am. Everything is good, the boat is behaving well. We just to make some more miles. Right now it is 16-17 degrees and the wind is from 300 degrees and I am under gennaker sailing at 18kts, slowing to 15 at times, so I am making miles south to get some more wind.
Dominique Wavre, SUI, Mirabaud: It’s been windy and last night was quite tough. But right now it’s better, quite pleasant and quiet, actually. There were times when the wind was down to just 5-6 knots, and now we’re like in a bubble with blue sky and a golden moon at night. Not enough wind but nice things to see. I listen to music quite often because it’s so noisy it can get very unpleasant, so music is much better!
Jean Le Cam, FRA, SynerCiel: I am doing OK now but the day before yesterday was tough and now there is little wind. Last night was beautiful the skies were so clear I could see the stars like I have hardly seen them before. There is a good little fight going on with our group of three. It is quite nice actually. Now I am a little bit behind, but hopefully I’ll be getting ahead again soon. Right now I have 20kts of wind and are going fast and should carry on for a couple of hours. It is quite satisfying.