While other parts of the country are challenged with snow and ice during the winter months, the Pacific Northwest tests its sailors and residents alike with a damp, drizzly cold chill that’s perpetuated by the nearly continuous line of clouds that typically succeed in curtaining the sun’s warmth. Today, however, the clouds partially parted in the afternoon, allowing for a winter stroll along the shores of Puget Sound. A gentle breeze stirred from the south and the often-choppy waters were millpond still in some areas, rippled in others. Sun shafts illuminated the distant mountains and close-by waters, perfectly setting the scene for the lone cruising boat that was heading north.
While the days are short in Seattle (situated at almost 48 degrees north) this time of year, the thirteen skippers who are racing in the 2012/2013 Vendee Globe Race are experiencing the inverse as they plunge through the icy depths of the Southern Ocean (49 to 56 degrees south, position depending). According to the latest reports, race leaders Armel Le Cleac’h ('Banque Populaire') and Francois Gabart ('Macif') continue their intricate match race around the world and were still lockstep, less than three miles apart.
'I’m concerned about the ice in the Cape Horn area,' reported current race leader Le Cléac’h. 'It’s not fun to sail close to the coast in such conditions, with icebergs. Francois and I will be very careful and if we do see ice, we’ll let each other know. That’s another good thing about being so close. If you really want to be as safe as possible, the radar is not enough. We’re lucky because when you’re at 56° south, nights are very short and that helps when you are looking around, checking for icebergs. Except when there’s fog, of course!'
Gabart shared his rival’s sentiments aboard his own IMOCA 60. 'Whether François and I can actually see each other or not, we know we’re close and it’s reassuring, in case something happens,' said Gabart. 'Having François around also makes me even more motivated to work hard and make the boat sail fast and well. It helps me see if I’m doing the right thing and having the right speed.' More, inside.
Francois Gabart, Macif - 2012 Vendee Globe - © Alexis Courcoux / Macif
Meanwhile, in Cup news, Oracle Racing has been dealt a fairly small slap-on-the-wrist penalty from the International Jury for a spying incident that took place in New Zealand shortly after challenger Luna Rossa launched their AC72.
According to Sail-World’s New Zealand Editor, Richard Gladwell, Oracle will be prohibited from sailing either of their AC72s for a period of five days at the tail end of an official training window that runs between February 1, 2013 and May 1, 2013. While this doesn’t directly cost Oracle any sailing time, it will make things logistically more interesting for the Defender during this period. Additionally, Oracle Racing was presented with a relatively small fine (11,500 euros) and has returned ten still images of the Italian-flagged boat, which were taken from within the prohibited 200-meter zone. Check out Gladwell’s full report, inside this issue.
Sir Ben Ainslie (right) with his fourth Olympic Gold - Richard Langdon/Ocean Images
And in Olympic sailing news, four-time Gold medalist Ben Ainslie has been 'knighted in the New Years Honors list', adding an impressive seal to a truly impressive year of sailing. 'This is an incredible honor,' said Sir Ben. 'When I set out Olympic sailing twenty years ago, I never would have dreamt this would happen.'
Wild Oats XI secures historic treble - ROLEX-Carlo Borlenghi
Also inside, get the latest news from the Sydney Hobart Race, the Governor’s Cup and the International Cadet World Championships.
And finally, best wishes to everyone for a happy, healthy and peaceful 2013.
May the four winds blow you safely home,
by David Schmidt, Sail-World USA Editor
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2:48 AM Mon 31 Dec 2012GMT
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