In the Vendee Globe, Mike Golding (Gamesa) is just 21 miles behind Jean Le Cam (SynerCiel) and on Vendée Globe TV yesterday speculated that Le Cam may be missing a sail. It was not a euphemism – he was not suggesting Le Cam is one sail short of a wardrobe – but questioning why the formidable French sailor was almost four knots slower than Golding overnight and this morning.
'It makes me wonder what problems he’s got to be honest, he may be missing a sail, I did consider that as Jean is not a slow sailor, and I’m sure he isn’t giving up the miles just to have the company,' Golding said. 'It did make me wonder whether Jean is not down a sail, or has a halyard problem, I don’t know, it could be a lot of things, but anyway the difficulty we are having at the moment is the weather we are experiencing is not matching with the files, the various models, so, as a consequence it is a little bit of a Russian roulette.'
Le Cam, normally the joker in the fleet questioning whether Golding has broken something, saw it like this: 'The anticyclone has split in two so when you're right in the middle, it can be complicated,' he wrote. 'Last night, I had no wind and I was sailing against the current, so I was definitely not progressing fast.'
Le Cam was back up to 12.1 knots on Monday afternoon, compared to Golding’s 11.3, but Golding was still heading more directly to the finish and thus making a better VMG as they cross the latitude of Buenos Aires, over 1900 miles behind the leader. Six days ago Golding was 247 miles behind Le Cam.
Jean Le Cam - 2012 Vendee Globe - Vincent Curutchet / DPPI
There are duo and trios all over the fleet, having their races within a race, but Francois Gabart (Macif) is not in an ocean match race with Armel Le Cléac’h (Banque Populaire) anymore. Expected to cross the equator on Tuesday around midday, Gabart is on his own 274 miles in the lead and apparently drawing away again on Monday afternoon, averaging 17.4 knots to Le Cléach’s 14.9 in the last four hours. He is enjoying the southeast trade winds, whereas Le Cléach is reaching in less favourable easterlies 350 miles off the north coast of Brazil.
'I’m doing my best to catch up with François but it will all depend on the conditions,' Le Cléac’h said. 'Let’s see what type of conditions he faces in the near future. We’ll attack until the end, giving all we have.'
Gabart sounded even more relaxed than normal as he spoke to Vendée Globe TV: 'Macif is currently in a very favourable position because I faced good wind first, so it was great for a couple of days,' he said. 'But Banque Populaire will get that wind soon, so she will come back on me. Everything is going just fine for me. If I really wanted to complain, I’d say it’s too hot, but I know some people wouldn’t like me to say that.'
Replay : Le live du Vendée Globe du 14 janvier by VendeeGlobeTV
Gabart is good humoured to a fault for some, but he has many reasons to be cheerful. To add to them, the Doldrums, lying three to four degrees north, are further south and less active at this time of year than when passed them heading south in November. Although that can change quickly. Gabart is 3,482.6 miles and about two weeks from the finish in Les Sables d’Olonne. A combination of fishing boats, dismasting, sudden keel failures and rogue harbour buoys saw the Atlantic claim seven of the fleet in the first two weeks of this race.
The boats have been under stress and everyone will remember that second-placed Roland Jourdain lost his keel bulb and was forced to withdraw with less than 1,800 miles to the finish in the last edition in 2008-09. Jourdain was 888 miles behind the eventual winner Michel Desjoyeaux, but a clear two days ahead of the third-placed sailor – Le Cléac’h.
Jean-Pierre Dick (Virbac-Paprec 3) appears to have stabilised the losses in third, 706 miles behind, but averaging 17.1 knots. But in fourth, Alex Thomson (Hugo Boss), is watching his gain evaporate further west along the coast of Brazil. He was still only making 13.4 knots and just 11.3 over the last 24 hours and is resigned to further losses. 'Not much I can do about the advance of Virbac, I hope to be able to get close to JP’s speeds in the next day or so but the pessimist in me says I will bleed till the equator,' he wrote this morning.
The battle is hottest between seven-placed Dominique Wavre (Mirabaud), Javier Sansó (EcoPowered Acciona 100%) and Arnaud Boissières (Akena Verandas). The Swiss sailor between them, has just been holding off his two rivals. To the east, Sansó, just two miles behind after gaining 71 miles in the last 24 hours, is heading towards a route that will skirt the St. Helena high, whilst Boissières, to the west, thinks he will be heading downwind first with the coming low-pressure system. The prize is to catch Golding, now only 255 miles ahead of Wavre, but for all of them the routes in this region remain highly uncertain, given the instability of weather situations.
Arnaud Boissieres - 2012 Vendee Globe - © J. Girardot / Sea&Co / AKENA Vérandas
Bertrand De Broc (Votre nom autour du monde and EDM Projets) is going to pass Cape Horn tonight buoyed by the support of the 4000 individual people who sponsored his campaign with sums from as little as 50 Euros upwards to have their names on the side of his boat. His project may have had a late start date but de Broc’s crowd-funding is a triumph that will be capped by passing the Cape. Behind him, Tanguy de Lamotte (Initiatives cœur) continues to close and is just 138 miles behind.
At the rear, Alessandro Di Benedetto (Team Plastique), 816 miles behind de Lamotte, will have a difficult last few days in the Pacific as he fixes his gennaker halyard. The sail fell in the water and got stuck in one of his rudders. It is sort of accident that will have tested even his indomitable humour and certainly exhausted him. Hauling in the huge sail from the water may have been one of the few times he wished he was in the 6.5 metre boat he went round the world in last time.
Alex Thomson (GBR, Hugo Boss): I feel like I have got proper trade winds for the first time this morning which seem to be a little more consistent than yesterday and have slowly moved more to the east which is allowing me to go a little faster. The forecasted winds are not supposed to be very strong all the way to the equator. I have been stuck in a band of cloud in the last 24 hours with very variable winds from the north to the east and from 22 knots to six knots. I had to tack over onto port when the breeze went to the north for a couple of hours. I hope I have a more consistent day. Not much I can do about the advance of Virbac, I hope to be able to get close to JP’s speeds in the next day or so but the pessimist in me says I will bleed till the equator. We will see, not much I can do apart from sail as fast as I can. I got my batteries up to 100% yesterday for the first time since the Indian Ocean and filled up my water supply to the max. I celebrated with a shave just before I tacked, the first shave of the race.
François Gabart (FRA, Macif): The trade winds are pushing us, we’re getting ready to sail through the Doldrums. I’m not complaining, the conditions are great and stable, despite some showers last night. We’re progressing fast, it’s nice. You need to be able to enjoy such good times. Right now everything is going just fine for me. If I really wanted to complain, I’d say it’s too hot, but I know some people wouldn’t like me to say that! I’ve been resting a lot lately, so days go by quite fast. I need to be rested because the very end of the race is going to be decisive, I need to be ready. Macif is currently in a very favourable position because I faced good wind first, so it was great for a couple of days. But Banque Populaire will get that wind soon, too, so she will come back. I should cross the equator tomorrow, in about 24 hours.
Mike Golding (GBR, Gamesa): I’ve had some issues on board causing some speed problems but it’s fine now. As you go on through the race, your situation changes, you don’t have various facilities and sometimes you’re just not fast as you wish you were. Seeing Jean so close to me makes me wonder what problems he’s got, he may be missing a sail, or having a halyard problem because he’s such a good sailor. It could be so many different things… I’m sure he hasn’t given up the miles just to have the company! He should have sailed faster, really, according to the files. But you can’t always trust the files. If they were right, I’d be stopped right now, and I’m not! For the boats behind, where we are now may be a key spot, somewhere they can make a difference and close the distance. So we’re in a vulnerable place right now with regard to them. But ahead of us, of course, we have the Doldrums, the Atlantic high, Biscay, the race is right on the way to the finish.
Armel Le Cléac’h (FRA, Banque Populaire): I’m doing my best to close the distance with François but it will all depend on the conditions. Let’s see what type of conditions he faces in the near future, that will be important information for us. We’ll attack until the end, giving all we have, that’s our objective. The boat is totally ready for that, I’ve checked everything on board and it’s all good, she can give 100% of her potential. Four years ago, the end of the Vendée Globe had been very difficult because of bad weather and tough winds, so we know anything can happen until the very end. We all need to be careful!
Javier Sanso (ESP, Acciona 100% EcoPowered): I’m glad Mike thinks we can close the distance, it’d be a good thing! We’re sailing quite fast now, so everything is possible, but Mike is way ahead of us. I chose an option that’s taking me very much east, and I think the conditions are going to get better and better. The wind is with me right now, both in terms of strength and direction. I’m gaining miles real fast and the other guys are having a little less wind, so let’s see what happens, nothing is impossible. But my main objective remains to pass Jean and Mike before the finish, it would be a very big achievement, definitely a 'mission accomplished'. Reaching that goal would be awesome!
Mirabaud sous gennaker au large de l'Amérique du... by VendeeGlobeTV
Coucher de soleil dans la pétole by VendeeGlobeTV
Two minutes onboard Gamesa by VendeeGlobeTV
Résumé du 66ème jour de course by VendeeGlobeTV
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