In the Vendee Globe, British skipper Alex Thomson (Hugo Boss) is due to arrive in Les Sables d’Olonne between 6am and 7am early tomorrow, Wednesday morning, and to process down the canal at approximately 8am. He is enduring similar conditions to those that were experienced by François Gabart (Macif) and Armel Le Cléac’h (Banque Populaire), battered in the Bay of Biscay by 35 to 45 knots and very confused, unpleasant seas. The last 48 hours of his race will be some of the worst he has experienced as he enters a congested maritime motorway.
'I didn’t see any ships until the Azores and now I see ships every hour. I am expecting to see more and more as I get closer to the finish. I am not worried about the ships as they AIS (Automatic Identification System) and my alarm goes off every time once comes near. It’s the fishing boats that concern me more. I crossed with in a mile and a half of a fishing boat and the sea was so bad I couldn’t see it. I am hoping they will all be put off by the terrible weather and that the fisherman stay in their beds tonight.' Said Alex Thomson (Hugo Boss) today, on the English Vendée Globe Live.
Alex, 38 years old, it will be an ecstatic Alex Thomson (Hugo Boss) who crosses the finish line in the Les Sables d’Olonne and becomes the third British skipper ever on the Vendée Globe podium, Ellen MacArthur, came second in 2000/1 and Mike Golding sailed into third place without his keel in 2004/5. This is a remarkable achievement especially on onboard such an old generation boat.
As Thomson hears the finish gun, Jean-Pierre Dick (Virbac Paprec 3) is debating whether he should continue to Les Sables d’Olonne or stop and abandon the race. He has sailed 1500 miles and eight days without keel and is currently just off the Portuguese coast, with 610 miles to go and he will need to decide soon. The challenge he faces is once he has rounded Cape Finisterre there is a gale force storm due in the Bay of Biscay on Friday. Jean-Pierre Dick (Virbac Paprec 3) needs to calculate the possibility of reaching the finish line at Les Sables d’Olonne before the bad weather arrives. His window of opportunity is very small. It’s a nail biting and dramatic climax to his race and to have to withdraw with less than 600 miles to go having raced for over 80 days and covered more than 23,000 miles would be a tragedy worthy of Shakespeare.
Later, in the south-west of the Canaries, Jean Le Cam (SynerCiel) and Mike Golding (Gamesa), 92 miles of each other, are experiencing conditions that contradict the weather files by 100 degrees.
'It has been a pretty torrid night of horrible wind shifts, 100 degree wind shifts, 17 knots and five knots, so quite difficult to find a course. Right now I am sailing dead upwind, which I shouldn't be. The files said I should be reaching!' Although, he is pitched against his competitor, Jean Le Cam (SynerCiel), who pipped him to the post by coming second in the 2004 edition, Golding is concentrating on getting back to Les Sables d’Olonne in the face of some unfriendly conditions with a very weathered boat.
'At the moment, I am dealing with my own problems and not really concentrating, I am just trying to get to the finish without a problem. I am obviously trying to beat Jean, but at the moment, the weather is so flukey, it is really quite difficult to you can't strategise when the wind is shifting on you 100 degrees. My strategy would have to change every five minutes at the moment.
Generally, I am pretty happy with where I am and there is plenty of runway. Jean has his good days, and I have my good days. The last 24 hours we have been doing pretty good and 48 hours before that was a bit of a struggle, while we tried to find out what made the boat work. The boats at this stage of the race, all the boats at this stage of the race are carrying little problems and some of them are more … some of them hurt you more than others. And sometimes you are getting hurt more than others,' said Mike Golding.
For Jean Le Cam (SynerCiel) and Mike Golding (Gamesa), the homecoming will be slow and laborious. This will be the same for Mirabaud, Akena Verandas, and Acciona 100% EcoPowered and Votre Nom Autour du Monde avec EDM Projects. Behind Hugo Boss, there will be at least a week before the other Open 60s make their triumphant return to the docks of Port Olona in Les Sables d’Olonne.
Jean le Cam (FRA, SynerCiel): I’m in the middle of a ridge, the weather is amazing, it feels good after several days of terrible conditions. It’s great when the boat is not crashing in waves any more. I’ve gone through my food stock to check I have enough until the end. I want to make sure I have enough milk to put in my coffee. I shot a video for François because I knew I wasn’t going to be with him at the finish, I thought it could be fun. We just didn’t have the same Vendée Globe, our goals and performances just weren’t the same. We need to analyse what has happened. I need to go back to school and learn from the top skippers in this Vendée Globe, they need to tell me how they can have a speed of 19 knots in crazy conditions. My current situation could be better, I have another front ahead of me, it’s been like that since Cape Horn, really, I’ve been pretty unlucky. I know people in France are sick and tired of the bad weather so I’m going to bring you nicer weather when I cross the finish line. I want to make you happy, that’s what I kept telling to people in Les Sables before the start. As long as I’m not there, you won’t have nice weather. I’m between two slices of roast beef (note: The French’s nickname for the British), it’s like a sandwich where the bread in the middle, and I’m the bread!
Jean-Luc Van Den Heede (FRA, second of the 1992-1993 Vendée Globe): Alessandro had a great race on the oldest boat in the fleet, along with Tanguy’s, the only one without a canting keel. The choice jean-Pierre has to make is a tough one. What’s really hard for him is that without a keel, the tiniest incident can make him capsize. He will only be able to reach Les Sables if he doesn’t face any problem. I once faced a similar situation when I finished the Vendée Globe with a hole in the hull, you need to be very careful then because incident that wouldn’t really be a problem in normal conditions become very serious. I noticed most skippers didn’t complain that much in this Vendee Globe. They smile, they say funny things, they take the time to explain their situations with words that are easy to understand, whether they’re leading the race or in the last position. They’re doing amazing things with crazy average speeds and they don’t even look like they’re suffering that much. They’re having unbelievable speeds when sailing downwind, speeds we just couldn’t imagine twenty years ago, because we had to steer the boat when sailing fast. Now, with the autopilots, they can stay inside.
Bertrand De Broc (FRA, Votre Nom autour du Monde avec EDM Projets): I’m getting closer to home and closer to the others ahead. The rhythm has changed, it’s more intense, we’re going fast, it’s very motivating. I take good care of my boat, doing what needs to be done and manoeuvring when the wind changes. I came back on the skippers ahead of me but they’ve just gained miles again. I don’t have that many food cans left, I’ll open one the day before the finish. But I don’t know how long it will take me to get there, that’s the problem.
Marcus Hutchinson (GBR, former Figaro skipper): It’s like Alex thomson kept the worst for the end, the conditions are terrible. It’s Alex’s third participation but his first finish. It’s going to be very emotional for him and his team. He’s tried to finish the Vendée Globe for ten years, so finishing on the podium is going to be something amazing. Jean-Pierre Dick is not in a hurry, he could wait for a week or two until the conditions allow him to finish the race in Les Sables. He may want to keep his fourth place, but what truly matters to him is to get to Les Sables.
Vendee Globe website
Replay : Le live du Vendée Globe du 29 janvier by VendeeGlobeTV
Day 81 Highlights by VendeeGlobeTV
by Vendee Globe
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