In the Vendee Globe, British skipper Alex Thomson continues to mount a serious challenge for third place among the fleet leaders as the straight line speed race continues east towards the Amsterdam ice security gate. In a building breeze today, Thomson has been increasingly able to retain the high average speeds that have long been his trademark, twice earning him 24 hour world speed records.
Despite being armed with an older generation design, Hugo Boss’ speed king Thomson has been so far been the fastest in the fleet though the second half of Sunday.
Though the avid sports fan pledged to keep a weather eye on England’s Premiership top-of-the-table derby between Manchester United and Manchester City, the electric pace he was setting this afternoon must surely have precluded even a passing look at the available text feeds.
Over the 750 miles which remain to the third security gate of the course it is unlikely that any new speed records will be set, but the skipper of the silver hulled Farr design went head to head for third today with none other than Virbac-Paprec 3’s Jean-Pierre Dick, who by setting a mark of 502.53 miles on 1st December*, has now twice surpassed 24 hour distance records previously held by Thomson.
Hugo Boss rose from fifth to third today, initially passing a frustrated Bernard Stamm who had spent a period slowed on board his powerful Cheminées Poujoulat to deal with a pressing number of small maintenance issues, including replacing broken battens in his mainsail.
Bricolage sur Cheminées Poujoulat by VendeeGlobeTV
But the Swiss skipper, who like Thomson has yet to finish a Vendée Globe, was back up close to maximum speed during the afternoon making 20kts.
Thomson is widely acknowledged to be a different, more measured and mature racer now than the hot-headed, all or nothing sailor who has struggled to finish key races until now. Marriage and a young son are certainly steadying influences, but a complete re-assessment since he had to retire from the 2008-9 Vendée Globe and then missed out on the last Barcelona World Race for personal reasons, completely revolutionised his approach and that of his team.
Gregarious, personable Thomson does not especially enjoy the solitude of solo sailing and tries to stay in contact with his own outside world: 'I speak to my wife every day and she sends me a little voice recording which is very nice for me and that makes me feel connected to the family. And today it is Man United vs Man City and I’ll be keeping up with that.'
Thomson reported this morning from on board Hugo Boss whilst making 23kts of boat speed.
He is within 107 miles of leader Armel Le Cléac’h and had gained 30 miles on Banque Populaire since this morning. Macif’s François Gabart is second, almost equidistant between Hugo Boss and the leader.
Meantime Thomson’s British compatriot Samantha Davies, aboard her jury rigged Savéol enjoyed a warm Sunday afternoon welcome back to Les Sables d’Olonne. It was an emotional final full stop to her Vendée Globe adventure. The popular female skipper was dismasted on 15th November but has sailed back to the race start via Madeira where she and her team set a first jury and then from Cascais by Lisbon, Portugal. She followed Jérémie Béyou on Maitre Coq – who retired with a keel head issue – back into the channel this afternoon.
Davies said ' This is so heart-warming ! I wasn’t expecting so many people, thank you all. And also, thank you for all the messages I’ve received since my dismasting. I’m really impressed with the enthusiasm and solidarity around me. It all started in Madeira, where there was a press boat greeting me when I arrived. It is very touching indeed.'
There were a particularly nervous few minutes during the afternoon for Spanish skipper Javier Sanso after he believes he felt an unidentified object pass between his keel and rudder. He checked the endoscope on Acciona 100% EcoPowered but could see no obvious problems and has not heard or felt any additional vibration or noise, though he said he plans to investigate further when the conditions are suitable.
Armel Le Cléac’h, FRA, Banque Populaire: The choice I made paid off, but the gap with François isn’t that big, so it’s still very close. I have my mind set on the Amsterdam gate now, that’s the next step. The wind was pretty strong this morning, and it’s still quite favourable. The sea is rough and there’s an albatross following the boat.
Alex Thomson, GBR, Hugo Boss: It was a bit of a slow night really, I was expecting everything else really, but now the wind has gone a bit more than forecast and now it is quite fast and it is round to the right direction so that is good news. I now have a little more wind than expected. I think now it is a drag race from here with the wind at about 230-240 degrees and blowing maybe 24-25kts for the next couple of days really and we will all pretty much be reaching east to the next ice gate, it is just a straight line for us. The guys who are in the south will have the wind a bit more left and us have it a bit more forward.
Jérémie Béyou, FRA, Maitre Coq (in Les Sables d’Olonne): Thanks for being here. It’s not an easy for me to deal with this moment because usually, when there are that many people gathered to welcome you, it means you’ve won the race and you are getting ready to celebrate with a bottle of champagne. And this is definitely not the case here. But hey, that’s life. And this is how great people can be in Les Sables d’Olonne, in all Vendée, and even farther, as I’ve been told there are people coming from far away here today. It’s really helping me accept this difficult situation. Because hitting an Unidentified Floating Object is just such bad luck it’s hard to take. So thank you, all of you, for being here today.
Jean Le Cam, FRA, SynerCiel: I’m trying to close the gap with Mike Golding, I’ve caught up with him a little, that’s the goal. Let’s hope I can do even better! I’m wondering maybe I’m doing too many videos because it’s very expensive, I’ll have to raise money to pay for the satellite phone bills. Or maybe I should add commercials in my videos! Christmas isn’t a big deal to me. I definitely have an idea for my Christmas video and let me tell you, it will be something! You know, I kept complaining I couldn’t hear you all, I got into an argument with the audio technicians, and I eventually found out I was holding the receiver upside down!
Dominique Wavre (SUI) / Mirabaud - Sailing with Jean Le Cam (FRA) / Synerciel - 2012 Vendee Globe - © Dominique Wavre Click Here to view large photo
Javier Sanso, ESP, Acciona 100% Eco Powered: I am just trying to sail as quick as I can, but it is still not easy with this high pressure behind me and I ma just trying to get out of here as quick as I can. I am just going to work a little bit south to get to the gate. Everything is pretty good right now. The batteries are 99% charged right now. So everything is good. The sea state is about 1-1.5 metres, it is very, very sunny like 14-15 degrees, it is very nice. Yes, it is a bit more like Palma than the Indian Ocean, in the Barcelona World Race at this point we were very much further to the south, at 50 degrees south or so, it was very much different. I like it like this but I would prefer whatever is fastest. Here we are fighting with the high pressures, I would rather just be doing the Indian Ocean as fast as possible, and get out of here as quick as we can! Here in the south it is very demanding and so to get out as quick as possible, for me, is good. Yesterday I opened food bag number three and I noticed that there are plenty of sweets and cookies, because they call me the cookie monster, so somebody is looking after me. So that is very nice and I had a very sweet breakfast, but otherwise everything today is the same. I have jamon every day. I drink more hot chocolate and things than tea or coffee.
Alessandro Di Benedetto(ITA) / Team Plastique - Albatross flying out of the sun - © Alessandro Di Benedetto / Team Plastique Click Here to view large photo
MACIF attaque by VendeeGlobeTV
Joli petit matin sur Mirabaud by VendeeGlobeTV
Replay : Le live du 9 décembre by VendeeGlobeTV
Alex Thomson's race highlights - Week 4 by VendeeGlobeTV
Tanguy le boulanger by VendeeGlobeTV
Vendee Globe website
by Vendee Globe
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5:21 PM Sun 9 Dec 2012GMT
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