In the Vendee Globe, whilst the rest of the fleet struggle to deal with either no wind or too much, only the leader and Francois Gabart (Macif) and Armel Le Cléac’h (Banque Populaire) seem to be masters of their own universe. But even they will need to brace themselves for the cold to come as, 950 miles south of Australia, they dive down into the freezing Furious Fifties for the first time.
Jean-Pierre Dick (Virbac-Paprec 3), who appeared to have stemmed the losses of the previous 24 hours, in third place, reported the change on Saturday afternoon as he reached 48 degrees south.
'I'm 48 ° south and it's getting cold,' Dick said. 'I had numbness in my fingers going on deck this morning. The cold pierces the bone. It’s about 5 ° C, the same for the water. The spray (shower) during the first light of day was chilly.'
'The good news is that the anticyclone will not catch me. It's good to get out of this windless mess. It was time.'
Dick had lost 200 miles to the two in front but was making a far more healthy 14 knots at the 1600 ranking (French time). Le Cléac’h continues to average 18 knots with Gabart slowly drawing to 52.2 miles ahead by making consistently over 19 knots.
Sailing in winds that are suddenly jumping from 20 to 40 knots and messy seas, the two men, who both passed Cape Leeuwin on Friday night in record time, usually put their happiest spin on testing times, but on Saturday: 'all is well in my boat, there have been beautiful sunsets' did not really cut it. Both admitted – in Gabart’s case only for the second time in the race, that the relentless pace in difficult conditions was not coming easy. 'It is exhausting,' Le Cléac'h said. 'The sea is bad, it’s not easy in these conditions,' confessed Gabart. Although he couldn’t resist a: 'I’m trying to show you the sunset I can see from here, it’s beautiful.' It could be that Gabart is preternaturally calm as well as proficient, or it could be that his mentor, Michel Desjoyeaux, the two-time Vendée winner, has taught him a thing or three about the psychology of demoralising your rivals. Either way it is working.
Two and a half thousand miles behind the leaders, Arnaud Boissières (Akena Verandas) had a bigger beat to wrestle and was having to be conservative as winds gusted up to 63 knots. 'Right now I’m lying on the floor because I just can’t stand up on board,' Boissières said on Vendée Globe TV - whilst keeping a close eye on the conditions. 'It’s shaking a lot. I haven’t been able to sleep that much, of course. I had 63-knot gusts! When that happens, the boat goes really fast (he reported 33 knots) but my average speed isn’t that high, though. I knew the front was coming, so I prepared for it, I slept last night and since then, I’ve only slept twice, half an hour each time.'
Retour au calme pour Arnaud Boissièress by VendeeGlobeTV
Javier Sansó (Acciona 100% EcoPowered) was making good speed but was also being pushed rather than pushing as he made up over 200 miles in 24 hours to Dominique Wavre (Mirabaud). Like Boissières, Sansó had big cross seas, with four metre swells coming from the north-west and south-west, but he had a more manageable is still ferocious 34-40 knots to deal with. Wavre, who was just 65 miles ahead of Sansó on Saturday afternoon, described his unusual encounter off Saint Paul Island.
Arnaud Boisssieres, Akena Verandas - 2012 Vendee Globe - © Arnaud Boissieres / Akena Verandas
Like the grass which is always greener, in the Vendée the waves are always sweller on the other side and what Jean Le Cam (SynerCiel), who averaged just 4.1 knots in the four hours after midday and Mike Golding (Gamesa), 5.8 knots, in sixth and seventh place, would do for such wind now.
They are stuck between the back and front, or the two weather fronts, of the fleet, bumping forward like men with their feet on the accelerator and the break. That someone of the brilliant routing ability of Le Cam is struggling too is some solace to Golding, or is at least keeping him sane. 'I think Jean and I must have done something wrong in a former life to end up in this hole,' Golding, who was in fine form despite his travails, said.
'Having someone of the calibre of Jean gives you extra reassurance that you’re not doing too much wrong, it’s just the conditions around you.'
'It’s one thing having a lead but they (the two leaders) have actually made a real big jump here and I don’t think there’s anything anyone could have done about it, you just have to watch how quickly Hugo Boss and Virbac have fallen back.
'But there is still a realistic possibility of a podium, there’s still some attrition that could happen in the race and still changes that could occur. I mean in 204 I was five or six hundred miles behind at this point and I caught all of that and took the lead just after Cape Horn. So, it is absolutely possible to make a catch, but I’m afraid Francois and Armel have shown us a clean set of heels here.'
Read the full transcript of Golding’s fantastic video link to Vendée Globe TV, in which he compares and contrasts the speeds of the 2004-05 edition, in which he finished third, here.
Le Cam and Golding will have wind soon as the front roaring through Boissières and Sansó is coming their way.
Meanwhile, Alex Thomson (Hugo Boss), whose power problems mean he is not contactable for interview at the moment and Bernard Stamm (Cheminées Poujoulat) are finally in the stronger westerlies of what was Cyclone Claudia, after their complicated last couple of days in a transition zone, north-west of the leaders.
Alex Thomson's "power shutdown mode" by VendeeGlobeTV
Javier ‘Bubi’ Sansó (ESP, Acciona 100% EcoPowered): I have 34-40 knots wind and the problem is that I have to go pretty closely hauled because I have to be at the (Amsterdam) Gate so have to go 110 (degrees) to the wind, so it’s a bit complicated here at the moment. I have four metre waves, but if I hang around here for a while it will be five (laughs). That’s very pleasing (on catching Wavre) because I have not been pushing very hard, it’s just the boat doing the miles. Right now I’m sailing with two reefs and a staysail and I rarely see speeds below 20 knots.
Everything is looking good. The front will go through in the next three hours and then the wind will go west and I’ll be able to go ten miles north towards the Gate and then just go with the low down south. It will be a little bit tricky, but I will play safe and don’t break anything in the gybes and try not to run out of wind but we would have enough wind until the Gate underneath Hobart (East Australia). Above 40 knots is survival mode and right now I’m up to 35, 37. I’m trying to be very conservative, but going at 11 or 12 knots now would be dangerous rather than conservative. I would rather have 25 knots and have more sail up. But this is what we have and it’s OK.
Armel Le Cléac’h (FRA, Banque populaire): The sea has been agitated for 36 hours now, and there’s been a lot of rain too. The wind is around 22 knots, with 35-knot gusts. The autopilot is working well. I wish I could have a quieter moment so I can check everything on board. Unfortunately it looks like it’s not about to happen any time soon, so I’ll have to wait. That’s what the Great South is like, it’s not always ideal conditions, but that’s how it is. It’s exhausting, really, but at least we’re moving, we’re progressing, covering miles. Thanks everybody and I’d like to say hi to my wife, who’s attending the Live show today.
Jean-Pierre Dick (FRA, Virbac Paprec 3): Good morning, afternoon, or evening, I’m not sure! Macif and Banque Populaire have gone away while I was stuck. I’m not so close to them anymore. But there wasn’t much I could do… I haven’t been very lucky but hopefully, my luck will return. I managed to stay away from the low-pressure area, and I think I should have better wind soon. But definitely not as good as what the two leaders are getting. I have a few issues on board that need to be solved so I can keep my momentum. It’s really cold, that’s for sure. I’m wearing my winter gear now, I wasn’t expecting such low temperatures at such a latitude. My hands were freezing, it’s a very unpleasant feeling.
François Gabart (FRA, Macif): It’s going really fast, it’s not easy to sail in such conditions. I’m trying to show you the sunset I can see from here, it’s beautiful. I may have little secrets allowing me to sail one knot faster than Armel. (He laughs) I’m in the same configuration as the previous days, though. Sometimes, you have little details that can explain the difference. I’m not really trying to have peaks of speed to beat a speed record or anything because it can be risky, I’d rather have a good average speed. The boat moves a lot, the wind changes directions a lot too, and the conditions are demanding, so I really have to focus on sailing and manoeuvres, I can’t afford to do other entertainment things. I’m sure it’s the same for Armel. The temperature is lower now, it’s 8°C outside.
Bernard Stamm (SUI, Cheminées Poujoulat)' It’s pretty quiet right around here now. 11-12 knots of wind and sometimes you think it’s going to get stronger but eventually, it doesn’t. I guess it’s Claudia’s fault, the tall brunette is coming! (He laughs). I don’t think Claudia can help me fix the boat, unfortunately. I was able to re-start one of my hydrogenerators, I hope it will last. And I’m fixing a sail right now, then I’ll move to my winch, which also needs repairing. I’m not taking antibiotics and I’m not feeling any pain any more, which is great news. Since I did what had to be done on my tooth, it’s been fine. I really need to repair everything that needs to be worked on, clean the boat up, and of course focus on the weather. Claudia is not a cyclone but we’ll still have difficult winds to face. The closer the boat is to her original configuration, the more solid she is and the less risk I take. My winch problem is really bothering me because it impacts many different manoeuvres.
Le message de Kev Adams pour Tanguy by VendeeGlobeTV
Résumé du 36e jour de course by VendeeGlobeTV
Week 5 Highlights by VendeeGlobeTV
Vendee Globe website
by Vendee Globe
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