In the Vendee Globe, Armel Le Cléac’h and his long time running partner François Gabart may have had it all their own way, making the pace at the front of the fleet since well before they passed side-by-side into the Pacific Ocean nine days ago. But – as was widely predicted – the twosome have finally been slowed through today. It has been the two skippers which are chasing hard behind, Jean-Pierre Dick and Alex Thomson, who have finally been granted the chance to shine.
Dick and Thomson are riding up on a fast moving low pressure system which will ultimately reach and rescue the two leaders from their light winds low pressure trough. Dick has had Virbac-Paprec 3 at 18 to 19 knots for much of Thursday whilst speedster Thomson has been quickest in the fleet averaging over 18 knots over the previous 24 hours. Both have recovered more than 100 miles on the leaders today so far, and their gains are expected to accumulate progressively over the next 24 hours.
Whilst the two leaders are scarcely voicing concerns, the threat from both chasing skippers may not be immediate, but it certainly gives hope to Frenchman Dick and the Briton who, like Gabart ahead, has yet to round Cape Horn solo.
The top two are still expected at the Cape on January 1st.
All four know well what weather traps can await after Cape Horn, in the South Atlantic where the return round, past or through the Saint Helena High anticyclone is just one where light winds can effectively open doors, or alternatively slam them shut hard.
JP Dick’s margin should be less than 500 miles by this evening, and correspondingly Hugo Boss is also at 903 miles to Le Cléac’h. Recent routings still have Dick, the skipper who has passed the mythical rocky Cape many more times (5) than his rivals being granted a much more direct route to the Horn. Indeed some still predict Virbac-Paprec 3 will be a matter of hours behind at the ‘big left turn’ rather than the current deficit of more than one day.
In turn Le Cléac’h has actually gained on Gabart who has been slowed more with a much reduced VMG.
'It looks like François and I just can’t stay away from each other, the gaps are tiny, we’ve had quite similar routes so far. » Le Cléac’h told Vendée Globe LIVE, « It’s been a great fight pretty much since the start of the race and because there aren’t that many different options mainly because of the weather, we should stay close to each other for a while, unless something unexpected happens.'
Replay : Le live du Vendée Globe du 27 décembre by VendeeGlobeTV
Dick is ready for his big push: 'Right now I have a 28-32-knot wind but I know it’s going to go up to 40 knots so I’m ready to go out there and trim my sails for whatever comes. There’s so much noise on the boat! Right now my speed is 19-20 knots, it’s pretty good. But the waves are quite rough. It’s tough but it’s still better than yesterday, when the wind was much lighter than the weather files had predicted. I’m glad things changed and I think Gabart and Le Cléac’h will slow down so hopefully I can catch up with them a bit in the next few days. It’s hard for me to say what the maximum gap between me and the leaders could be at Cape Horn for me to still have a chance… I just can’t answer because I know my boat and her current state very well but I have no idea how their boats are doing. So many things can change and evolve before we get there…
Bernard Stamm’s attempts to finish his first Vendée Globe remain stalled off Dunedin as he tries to complete all of his repairs, including the essential hydrogenerators. He was reported to be hoping to leave later Thursday (French time) but as yet there has been no confirmation of a departure time.
When his anchor became stuck fast in the kelp beds in Sandy Bay, the refuge in the east of the Auckland Islands where he initially tried to make his first repairs, Stamm sought permission to lie alongside a Russian scientific survey vessel which was anchored in the same location. Now the exact way in which this operation was undertaken is under scrutiny by the Race Committee who have raised a protest which is now in front of the International Jury for hearing, which is under way. The race rules under Notice of Race 3.2 preclude any form of outside assistance.
With very limited power Stamm will complete his repairs and then is expected to provide required information to the hearing.
Spain’s Javier ‘Bubi’ Sanso, in seventh, successfully climbed the mast of Acciona 100% Eco Powered early today to make a repair to his damaged headboard car. He chose to make a detour north, rising a few degrees of latitude to find milder temperatures simply so he could work more efficiently whilst swinging 27 metres up in the air. His tenacity was rewarded when he discovered the damage was much worse than it could be:
'It was the piece that I had already changed in the Canaries which was faulty. The plastic bush that goes into the car and which reduces the friction when going up the track was missing when I lowered the main yesterday…so they were touching. You had the aluminium from the car against the aluminium on the track. I had to make a kind of invention and change the parts in the car to that which I had changed…anyway I had to cut a pin and make an invention that I hope will hold as I have no more parts…
Now funnily I have raised the car that I changed in the Canaries with the titanium fixtures of the one I had previously… well anyway, as long as it all holds we are at 100%. The piece is held better in this car.
But just like it was in the Canaries, this repair has not only made me lose time repairing but also completely left my out of sync with the racing.'
Támara Echegoyen has a message for Bubi by VendeeGlobeTV
Jean-Pierre Dick, FRA, Virbac-Paprec 3: The way I check if I’m awake and aware enough is an easy one: I write something down and I take a look at my handwriting. If it’s nice and clear, it means I’m 85% or more and if it’s messy and hard to read, I’m more around 50-60%. That’s a pretty good way to tell. You have to deal with whatever the situation is, because whether you’re catching up with the leaders or they’re sailing away, you can’t really change anything, usually. You need a little luck with the weather, and some talent too! You have to do with what fate and luck give you, sometimes you have to be resigned, too. I’m glad I had serious physical preparation and training before the race, it’s good to know I’m less likely to get injured if the boat crashes into a wave or something. I worked on my body balance and my muscles and it’s really helping.
Dominique Wavre (SUI, Mirabaud): The weather’s nice here, I’m waiting for the right time to gybe. The moon is beautiful but the sea is quite agitated. Mirabaud is doing great, and so is her skipper! I had time to check the boat, and everything’s working fine, except maybe for a few bolts to screw tighter, nothing more. It’s a very pleasant feeling.
I’m out of champagne for when I sail across the antimeridian, but I have coffee, and that’s what keeps me going!
I saw dolphins south of New Zealand, it was the first time I saw dolphins like those, they were amazing, dancing around the boat, they wanted to play, I felt very close to them. And because the sun was shining, it was even nicer!
I’m getting closer to Mike Golding, and my southern route may help me to catch up with him, I’m very excited, it makes the situation even more interesting. It’s going to be a tough fight once we round Cape Horn and sail in the Atlantic. It’s great to have someone so close to compete against!
Javier Sanso, ESP, Acciona 100% Eco Powered: Just like it happened in the Canaries, this repair has not only made me loose repair time but also completely left my out of sync with the racing…I would have intended on being a lot further south but had to go up to find better weather, which I found, but now am stuck in Little wind and everyone is racing flat out ahead and behind in 17 and 18 knots… This situation is quite frustrating in the end, but at least I am heading in the right direction and will start racing fast again…
Armel Le Cléac’h, FRA, Banque Populaire: The sun is rising, it’s been the shortest night since the beginning of the race, I barely saw any darkness. It looks like François and I just can’t stay away from each other, the gaps are tiny, we’ve had quite similar routes so far. It’ been a great fight pretty much since the start of the race and because there aren’t that many different options possible because of the weather, we should stay close to each other for a while, unless something unexpected happens. There’s been very few possibilities for us to make choices, except maybe for one gate, but strategy hasn’t been that decisive because of that. But we still have another month to go, so maybe we’ll have more opportunities at one point.
The fight has been intense since the Indian Ocean, we’ve actually seen each other while passing the last gate. It was nice to get to see François, to ave a visual contact, and it’s a interesting point of comparison when it comes to speed and all, because our boats are quite similar.
Les cadeaux de Bertrand de Broc by VendeeGlobeTV
Un Pacifique cool pour François Gabart by VendeeGlobeTV
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by Vendee Globe
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7:30 PM Thu 27 Dec 2012GMT
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