In the Vendee Globe, after 37 days, three hours and 13,984.72 nautical miles of racing (as of 1500 UTC) Francois Gabart (Macif) was just 15.8 miles ahead of Armel Le Cléac’h (Banque Populaire) at the front. Behind them are three more private battles, races within the race, that have been going on almost since the start; Alex Thomson (Hugo Boss) v Bernard Stamm (Cheminées Poujoulat), Jean Le Cam (SynerCiel) v Mike Golding (Gamesa) and Dominique Wavre (Mirabaud) v Javier Sansó (Acciona 100% EcoPowered).
See Tanguy De Lamotte’s (Initiatives Cœur) Smoke on the Water air guitar below:
Smoke on the water by VendeeGlobeTV
But none are closer in distance and route than the leading duo. Le Cléac’h has been chipping away at Gabart, who took the lead from him on December 11, and had the better of their tactical gybe north overnight.
Contrary to rumour and some evidence Gabart was not building a Macif snowman south of Australia.
Gabart, 29 and Le Clèac’h, 35, know each other well and train together at the Port-la-Forêt training centre in Brittany. They have been communicating along the way although Gabart said it had been a few days. 'Armel and I sometimes send some mails to each other,' he said. 'We've started this in the Indian Ocean. We haven't done it for a few days.'
In 24 hours they should have passed the longitude of Tasmania and be in the Pacific.
About 850 miles northwest of them Thomson and Stamm are also gybing together, this time south as they wait for the low pressure system behind them to arrive. 'It’s good for me to have another boat close by, it would feel a bit lonely up here on my own!' Thomson wrote in his morning message. 'Also to match speeds although Bernard’s boat is a little faster than mine it gives me a good benchmark to try and achieve.'
Golding, 157 miles behind Le Cam and on the same route slanting southeast, made a similar point about having his old sparring partner close by two days ago whilst stuck in a hole. It keeps you honest and competitive because you have to push yourself when another boat is in the same weather system, but it can also keep you sane if you’re struggling.
Everyone from Le Cam back to Bertrand de Broc (Votre Nom autour du Monde avec EDM Projets) is struggling. Unlike, the leaders who just have the problems of squalls, those in the middle of the fleet are contending with a cross Indian Ocean, swept different ways by a succession of low-pressure systems. Rather than surfing a course with the wind at their backs, the skippers and their autopilots are having to deal with sudden gusts and swells of five metres from the northwest and southwest.
Golding described what happened when he had to dump Gamesa on its side on Sunday morning and the how hard the conditions are yesterday to Vendée Globe TV, read the transcript here. 'Occasionally you come off the back of a wave and there is absolutely nothing beneath it and the boat comes crashing down and that is when things can get broken pretty badly and very seriously, you want to do the surf but when you are one of these surfs I can tell you, you are fully braced for an impact at the other end, it’s as good as hitting a brick wall.'
Golding’s misfortune has allowed Wavre to close a little in eighth. He is 161 miles behind Golding on the same route whilst Sansó, 179 miles behind Wavre, is diving further south on a different track now. But given the miles they have sailed these are small distances that can be bridged in a day or two.
Légers dégâts sur Mirabaud by VendeeGlobeTV
Weather information and forecast for each section of the race and a summary here.
Alex Thomson (GBR, Hugo Boss): The wind is light this morning and will go lighter as I sail into what is left of the ex cyclone Claudia and line up for the next system which will arrive quickly. I guess I am due that having had a fairly warm Indian Ocean crossing. More
Javier ‘Bubi’ Sansó (ESP, Acciona 100% EcoPowered): I really can’t go at top speeds until this choppy sea state disappears. I am trying to sail higher but then I come to a standstill, so it is a little bit frustrating. I have tried it a couple of times and there was one huge slam down in the boat at 18 knots that nearly knocked my teeth out…but well, it won’t be like this forever. More
Jean le Cam (FRA, SynerCiel): We go from a lot of wind to no wind. But at least the sun is back. There are some big waves; I don’t have a lot of sail at the moment. I’m heading the next gate. I’m 80 miles away from it. I’m quite satisfied with my race. Beside the gap made by the leaders, it’s incredible. I’m very impressed about the gaps. I’m still confident, on a Vendée you have to keep the faith. We’ll count the points in Les Sables d’Olonne. The most important thing is to finish. Nobody can tell who is going to win the Vendée Globe.
Tanguy De Lamotte / Initiatives-coeur - 2012 Vendee Globe - Tanguy De Lamotte (FRA) / Initiatives Coeur
Francois Gabart (FRA, Macif): I did not find any rational explanation for this instability so I told myself that this was due to the magnetic South Pole! The wind could be a little disoriented; he does not know where to go, of course! During quieter moments I can clean the boat out at least... and clear the snow! Snow doesn't move away by itself. See you Earthlings. More
Bernard Stamm (SUI, Cheminées Poujoulat): It’s calm here, around 10-11 knots. I can do some work on the boat. I can look after the hydro generators and the winch colon. I could clean it properly, the chains were half rusted, what a mess; but it’s a success. I just finish the little repairs but it was tough. Claudia was beyond my expectations. There were some winds but not that much. The weather is still nice, around 15°C; I’m almost wearing a tee-shirt. Sometimes you don’t know what the next hour will be like. There was suppose to be a storm behind me, but it never came.
Jérémie Beyou (FRA, Maître Coq): I brought the boat in one piece and I'm lucky to have loyal partners like Maître CoQ. We were a little late starting this Vendée Globe but the next one will be well prepared. Sometimes, we don't realise how hard it can be. With the speed and our stuffs onboard like the ridges, we have many chances to hit something. It's complicated to see everything that can be on the water.
Vendee Globe website
Day 37 highlights - Sunday, December 16, 2012 by VendeeGlobeTV
by Vendee Globe
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6:42 PM Mon 17 Dec 2012GMT
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