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Vendee Globe - Leaders take on the Doldrums + Video

by Vendee Globe on 20 Nov 2012
Vincent Riou, PRB - 2012 Vendee Globe Jean-Marie Liot / DPPI / Vendée Globe © http://www.vendeeglobe.org
In the Vendee Globe, Jérémie Beyou (Maître CoQ) became the fifth skipper to abandon yesterday after he was unable to find a safe solution to secure his broken canting keel. Beyou has arrived safely Mindelo harbour in Sao Vincente, one of the Cape Verde islands, where he had diverted on Saturday night to find shelter.

'The situation is clear, the way the keel head is tied right now will resist the tide and has allowed me to go find a shelter,' Beyou said. 'But it won’t be enough to stand all the pressure and weight throughout the race around the world. I’ve started the engine. The race is over.'

'There’s so much frustration and disappointment, for myself and people who trusted me, especially Stéphane (Maître CoQ chief executive, Stéphane Sallé) and the Maître CoQ staff. I’m angry too, there are so many things than can make such parts of the boat more fragile. We’ll need to dive under the boat to see what happened exactly. It’s too early to say. The breakage definitely made me nervous, I was laughing hysterically, then I got really mad but remained focused on repairing. I couldn’t sleep, no way. Eventually, I was so exhausted that I fell asleep last night. We’ll go to the port, dismantle and remove the hydraulic jack which will be studied and analysed.'



It is the second time he has been forced to retire from the Vendée Globe, having abandoned his previous attempt after 16 days in the last edition in 2008-09 with serious mast damage.

Beyou, skippering the old Foncia boat that won the last Vendée Globe, suffered a broken hydraulic jack in his keel on Saturday night. He was in seventh place at the time and part of the leading group and had enjoyed a keen battle with Alex Thomson.

The 36-year-old skipper is one of the most talented skippers in France and was contender to win this year. He underlined his credentials by winning the Solitaire de Figaro in 2011, joining an exclusive of club of those to have won the event twice.

The grief of the skippers who have departed the race is clear. Four years of hopes and dreams – eight in the case of Beyou and Kito de Pavant (Groupe Bel) – has been clear. Like Olympians, this is their moment and it brings to mind the images such as Britain’s Phillips Idowu at the London 2012 Olympics Games or Liu Xiang, the Chinese Olympic hurdler pulling up injured in the Beijing 2008 Olympics.

Alex Thomson (Hugo Boss), who had just saved his own hopes and underlined the importance of a good team to the skippers by fixing his broken rudder, said he knew how Beyou feels.


'That is very sad I did suspect that might be the case when I found out that his keel (jack) had broken,' Thomson said. 'I feel very sorry for Jérémie, it’s his second Vendée and second time retiring, I know how it feels.' Thomson was forced to retire from the last two Vendée Globes.

'It’s not only your dreams you take people with you. There is so much work and commitment that goes into it not just by him, but by his family, his friends, his team, his sponsors. Jérémie is going to be feeling absolutely gutted for all of them. It’s a tough race this one, the same with Sam Davies and all the guys who’ve had to retire like Kito (de Pavant), it’s a very sad day when it happens.'

Thomson revealed that he still has some more repairs to make to fix his starboard hydrogenerator that had ripped off and broken the tie bar that connects to the starboard rudder.

'The repair seems to be fine, we still have to repair the hydrogenerator bracket,' he said. 'I might make start on that today if I can make some progress thought the Doldrums.'



The top six boats have entered the Doldrums and from making over 15 knots 24 hours ago, the leader, Armel Le Cléac’h (Banque Populaire), was down to 1.8 knots in the hour before the 1600hrs (French time) ranking. Le Cléac’h had really been enjoying the trade winds too, as he showed in this video.

The Intertropical Convergence Zone, known better as The Doldrums or le Pot au noir, as the French say, will be the first test of the skippers routing skills. The compression in the fleet has been immediate with from Francois Gabart (Macif), closing to 26.8 miles and Thomson in sixth winning back 50 miles in sixth, 62.4 miles behind. But it is the time that it will take to get south-west rather than miles that count now. The first through to the trade winds on the other size will pull away quickly.

The Doldrums are a lottery with conditions changing by the hour as the skippers try and jump from cloud to cloud. But the thunderstorms, that are to be avoided at all costs and can appear as quickly as they disappear, greeted Le Cléac’h as he arrived in the zone this morning.

The Doldrums had looked less active the day before but that could be the nightmare scenario as it might mean the leaders face the beginning of a cycle. But it remains guesswork for meteorologists and the boats could emerge on Tuesday morning.

270 miles back in the trade winds, Mike Golding (Gamesa), in seventh, found more pressure in the west of the chasing group of three and took a slight lead over Dominique Wavre (Mirabaud) and Jean Le Cam (SynerCiel).

Golding said that despite his good start he has had no time to practice the Gangnam Style dance that his nine-year-old son, Soren, taught him before he left.

'Ah, well, yes (laughs) dance steps might be overstating it a bit,' he said. 'There’s not a great deal of opportunity to practice Gangnam Style on the boat right now, we’re a bit busy. But I did manage to earn him (Soren) 25 Euros by doing it on the canal on the way out.


Alex Thomson (Hugo Boss), GBR: I’d say I’m in the Doldrums, I currently have about four knots of wind and I think out here to the west is a good place to be. But to some extent it’s a bit of a lottery because it can change so quickly. The priority now is to try and get south, clear of the Doldrums and into the trade winds.

Jean Le Cam (SynerCiel): Everything’s fine for me on board, I cleaned up the boat a little bit, the conditions make it possible. I did my laundry too. I had never slept as well as last night. I have bad memories of the Doldrums, especially on multihull. But I think it’s less dangerous on a monohull. I’m glad to still be on the race, especially when I see what’s going on for other skippers. I’m in the middle of an international group with a Swiss and a Brit. Go France!!! I don’t want to say too much about that strategy we worked on, the three of us (he laughs). Now, let’s be frank, one thing is for sure, I don’t have any strategy going on with Mike Golding, we can’t agree on anything (he laughs). With the two guys I have around me, I know I’ll never get bored! I’m thinking of a Swiss-French alliance against England.

Mike Golding (Gamesa), GBR: (asked about and Jean Le Cam’s proposal of a Swiss-French alliance with Dominique Wavre against the English): 'Good luck with that!' Golding said. 'We are 100% focused on the Doldrums strategy because it is all about where we are going to enter the Doldrums and each evolution of the model gives a slightly different outcome, we only have a limited amount of time, very limited now, to adjust our course to hit in the optimum place. Right now the Doldrums are front and centre of our minds and not the boats around us. The reality is that it is possible (editor’s note: to close the gap), but it is not looking great for the Doldrums, but we'll see. We have one file one day, each evolution of the file shows a different outcome. Sometimes I run their routes and we make a little catch up and other times we don't. It is changing because the doldrums are so dynamic, it changes literally from hour to hour.

Tanguy de Lamotte (Initiatives-coeur): I’m in trade winds, 12 knots of east wind, I’m sailing south with my gennaker. I use binoculars to check the top of the mast or other parts of the boat, especially after the tough winds Sam and I faced when she dismasted. I received many messages today (it is his birthday), more than usual.

Armel Le Cléac'h (Banque Populaire): No more swimsuit for me, but a lot of rain and clouds instead. Big thunderstorms, too, and strong winds. I’m manoeuvering a lot. The satellite data said the sea was going to be calmer but it’s not, it’s rougher than expected. The heavy rain is a good opportunity to take a shower!

François Gabart (Macif): I’m right next to Jean-Pierre Dick, we had a bath on our respective decks (laughs), and now there’s no wind. I’m keeping an eye on Jean-Pierre, I think we’re both trying to find an opportunity to sail away. There is no real strategy involved at this point, we just need to go south and hopefully, we'll have some luck. We know the doldrums will help some boats go up in the rankings and others will go Vendee Globe website

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