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Vendee Globe Race - The pressure is on

by Vendee Globe on 21 Jan 2013
Jean Pierre Dick, Virbac Paprec 3 - 2012 Vendee Globe © JM Liot / DPPI / Virbac-Paprec Sailing Team
Jean-Pierre Dick (Virbac-Paprec 3) sustained its surging speed as he drew closer to pace-setters Francois Gabart (Macif) and Armel Le Cléac’h (Banque Populaire). Meanwhile, Alessandro Di Benedetto (Team Plastique) was forced into a second trip up the mast in as many days following the loss of another headsail.

Di Benedetto had already lost the use of his gennaker, after going up the mast over the weekend to assess the halyard failure, when last night he ripped his spinnaker. It will have been enough to test even the bright spirit of the indomitable Franco-Italian skipper. It meant another dangerous climb 100ft in air on a heaving mast, in unsavoury wind and sea conditions for this kind of exercise – never savoury, especially alone. 500 miles northeast of the Falklands Islands, with 20-22 knot southwesterlies behind him, he spent two hours in the air to release the spinnaker halyard.

Di Benedetto said he was knocked around a lot during his climb but is fortunately not injured. His speeds may be for some time though without his two big sails and he was making just seven knots in the last hour.

The front of the fleet is already beginning to concertina as it approaches the Azores high.

Third-placed Jean-Pierre Dick (Virbac Paprec 3) should make significant gains today after being comfortably the fastest in the fleet overnight. Dick averaged 14.7 knots overnight and 15.4 knots in the last 24 hours in which he has covered 370 miles. He has closed 78 miles on Francois Gabart (MACIF), who is 474 miles ahead.

But significantly he is not drawing away from his British pursuer, Thomson, in the 17-18 knot northeast tradewinds. Dick is faster but their VMG to the finish in Les Sables are almost identical. Thomson is 265 miles behind.

Armel Le Cléac’h (Banque Populaire) made no impression on Gabart’s lead overnight and is still 142 miles behind, but is set to gain on Monday as Gabart’s speed dropped to 9.5 knots in the last hour as he approaches the Azores high. Le Cléac’h was making 12.6 knots in the last hour.

The Unfortunate Five in the middle of the fleet are still being taxed in the South Atlantic. Jean Le Cam (SynerCiel) and Mike Golding (Gamesa) are on a convergent path, with Le Cam, 85 miles west, only nine miles ahead. Golding averaged just 7.8 knots overnight but with a better VMG as they eke out the miles in the difficult northerly wind and choppy waters. In seventh, Dominique Wavre (Mirabaud) continued to draw away from Javier Sansó (Acciona 100% EcoPowered) and is 52 miles ahead. Wavre is 188 miles behind Golding.

Arnaud Boissières (Akena Verandas), hugging the coast of Brazil, albeit less tightly, has the best night, averaging 10.1 knots, with the most direct VMG.

Ahead of Team Plastique, Tanguy de Lamotte (Initiatives-core) and Bertrand de Broc (Your Name Around the World with EDM Projects) continue to enjoy the best conditions, backed by 17-18 knots Vendee Globe website
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