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Vendee Globe - Race Village opens, focus shifts to end goal + Video

'Alex Thomson onboard Hugo Boss - 2012 Vendee Globe'    © Alex Thomson / Hugo Boss / Vendée Globe

The Vendee Globe Race Village in Les Sables d’Olonne officially opened today. It is open everyday from 10am – 7pm. The first skipper is expected to cross the finish line between 5am – 11am Sunday 27th January.

Bruno Retailleau (SAEM Vendée President) 'Today, I have a special thought for all the skippers who are still in the race, those who had to abandon but also those who competed in the previous editions. These sailors all contributed to the amazing Vendée Globe legend. We have had a fascinating race with moments of joy, happiness, and sadness.'

2012 Vendee Globe Race Village in Les Sables d’Olonne. -  Olivier Blanchet  

It was a magnanimous Alex Thomson (Hugo Boss) that spoke today on the English version of the Vendée Globe LIVE, who is expected to move into third place tonight. At the 1500 UTC ranking today, only 16 miles separated him for Jean-Pierre Dick (Virbac Paprec 3).

'Jean-Pierre Dick is coming in to stronger winds so I guess we’ll find out how stable it is for him when he reaches them. I hope he proceeds with caution and finds a way to finish the race. If I’m asked to assist him, I’ll help him in any way that I can.

It looks like it’s going to be windy on the route to Les Sables d’Olonne but it certainly won’t be as bad as it was three or four days ago. It’s still looking like the winds are going to be quite strong, with guts 30 knots. The Bay of Biscay is a quite dangerous place, especially in a winter storm with the continental shelf and deep waves. It’s not going to be very pleasant for sure.'

Thomson is no stranger to drama on the high seas in the 2006 edition of the solo yacht race with stops the Velux 5 Oceans, Thomson was rescued from his sinking Open 60, Hugo Boss by jumping into a liferaft and being rescued by Mike Golding in the Southern Ocean. He would not hesitate to assist Jean

Pierre Dick if it was required.

The decision to stop or continue lies with Jean-Pierre Dick (Virbac Paprec 3) alone. Alex Thomson (Hugo Boss) would only assist if it was requested.

Jean-Pierre Dick (Virbac Paprec 3) today on the English version of the Vendée Globe LIVE explained his situation and how he was handling his keel-less Open 60. 'Because I lost my keel three days ago, I can either stop in the Azores, or in Spain, or sail all the way to Les Sables d’Olonne. I’ll need to decide soon whether or not I’ll continue. Tonight, I’ll face more wind, I will have my first impressions of what it is to sail the boat without a keel in such conditions. Apart from that, things are fine onboard, the sails are in good shape.

Replay : Le live du Vendée Globe du 25 janvier by VendeeGlobeTV

It feels a little bit like sailing a dinghy or a multihull, you lose stability as soon as you have more than 30 degrees of heel. You need to be extremely careful and it’s important to keep the boat flat. I am sailing with a much reduced sail area and the water ballasts full.'

As the Open 60 has no keel it is important that Jean Pierre Dick keeps the boat flat and ensures that it doesn’t lean over because if it leans over more 30 degrees it will capsize. With a keel the Open 60 has 45 degree before it lay down on it’s side but the keel bulb ensure that it bounces back upright again. Jean-Pierre Dick (Virbac Paprec 3) has filled both of the water ballast tanks with water, they are normally filled on one side or the other to help keep the boat flat when it leans over. By reducing his sail area, the metaphorical engine of the boat, and filling the ballast tanks with water to make the hull heavy, he is slowly able to progress up the track.

The forecast of heavy weather with big waves is what he must weigh up, whether he will be able to safely get the boat across the Bay of Biscay to the finish line. Large waves hitting a boat can cause it fall on its side but the purpose of the keel, like a pendulum is to rock the boat back to upright. This is when the keel-less boat is most susceptible to capsize. The Bay of Biscay in winter can be a cold, angry, windy place and must be approached with extreme caution, with, or without, a keel.

The teams of Macif and Banque Populaire are in Les Sables d’Olonne in force, their nails gnawed down to the skin. Tomorrow will be a long day for them as they wait for their skippers to cross the finish line. Like anxious relatives waiting for the safe delivery of a new born baby, they wait, holding their breath, tapping their fingers, huddled in groups, occasionally giving media interviews and watching the clock. Both teams know that it’s not over until it’s over.

On the water it is not time to relax and think of cold beers, hot baths and home comforts. Today, on the French version of Vendée Globe Live François François Gabart (Macif) was very clear on the matter. His priority is to stay focused in the final straight, which, if it all goes well, should earn him his crown. But the Bay of Biscay will be bumpy in the last hours of the race. The southwest wind will not blow a gale, but the sea will churn up waves of five metres. The maritime traffic is busy around the Cape Finisterre, and there are many fishing boats hauling their catch.

Francois Gabart, Macif - 2012 Vendee Globe -  © François Gabart / MACIF  

The boats are tired following two and a half months battered by three oceans and the sailors too. It would be madness to jeopardize everything so close to the end.

If François Gabart (Macif) arrives Sunday morning, not only will he have completed his first solo circumnavigation, but in a world record breaking 78 days. The founding fathers of the Jules Verne Trophy no doubt would not have imagined that 23 years later, a solo helmed monohull would accomplish a circumnavigation in under 80 days. The first boat to do this was a 26 metre catamaran with a crew of five, ‘Commodore Explorer’ in 1993, skippered by Bruno Peyron. So far François Gabart (Macif) has sailed around the world averaging 15.2 knots since the start in Les Sables d'Olonne.

The weather forecast does not look likely it will provide an opportunity for Armel Le Cléac’h (Banque Populaire) to close the 123 mile gap. Today, on the French version of Vendée Globe Live he admitted this for the first time. Maybe he won’t achieve Gold but what a Silver indeed; to match race François Gabart (Macif) around the world and to lead the charge on many occasions. Armel Le Cléac’h’s (Banque Populaire) main objective at the start was to do better than second but the world will agree that he has delivered a stellar, legendary performance on the track and he is without doubt a world class sailor.

But it’s not over until it’s over and it’s not over yet.

Armel Le Cléac’h (FRA, Banque Populaire): This Friday has been good so far, we’re getting closer to you all. We’ve had pleasant conditions since this morning, with about 20 knots of wind. We need to enjoy those last few hours of nice conditions because it will get worse soon. It will be complicated to catch up with Macif, especially with what the weather forecasts are saying. Unless François has a problem with his boat, it will be very difficult to catch up with him. But I need to focus on my race. We’ve started to think about the finish because of the phone calls we had to organize things for the finish. I’ve been through that before so I know what will happen but the emotions are always different. I know it will go very fast and the transition will be a brutal one. People on dry land will be very demanding, they will ask a lot of questions, we’ll have to deal with all that. I understand that the weather will change in 24 hours, with tougher sea and wind conditions.

We’ll need to be extremely careful in the last hours of the race. Traffic will be an issue too, I’ve seen a dozen cargo ships last night and this morning. Fishing boats go out at sea even when the weather is bad, so we’ll watch out for them. My routing software says I should cross the finish line on Sunday, in the middle of the afternoon. I just hope I’ll arrive before the tide makes it impossible for me to enter the port.

Armel Le Cléac’h, Banque Populaire - 2012 Vendee Globe -  Jean-Marie Liot - DPPI_- Vendée Globe ©  

François Gabart (FRA, Macif): I’m doing fine, we’re progressing ahead of a ridge that should pass us soon. We’re enjoying good sailing conditions, with 20 knots of wind. We had 25-30 knots earlier. Armel should gybe before I do, he’s facing weaker winds. I understand the last tack to the finish will be very difficult, with a very rough sea. We’ll need to hurry to get the boat in the port because I heard it is going to get even worse later. I’m still focused on the race and the strategy, I don’t really think about the finish and the constraints of life on dry land once I’ve arrived. I have very good people around me, they will help me deal with all that. I know it won’t be easy and I’ll have to be careful, but I don’t dread it, I’m very happy I’ll get to experience that. I love the Vendée Globe and the finish is part of the race. It’s going to be unique! I had prepared myself for this race, I haven’t been surprised much so far, I guess it means I was well-prepared. But there are still things that I wasn’t expecting, which is good, it would be quite sad otherwise. Sailing is all about adapting to what is going on and to the changing conditions.

Jean-Pierre Dick (FRA, Virbac Paprec 3): Because I lost my keel three days ago, I can either stop in the Azores or in Spain or to sail all the way to Les Sables d’Olonne. I’ll need to decide soon, whether or not I’ll continue. Tonight, I’ll face more wind, I will have my first impressions of what it is to sail the boat without a keel in such conditions. Apart from that, things are fine on board, the sails are in good shape. It feels a little bit like sailing a dinghy or a multihull, you lose stability as soon as you have more than 30 degrees of heel. You need to be extremely careful and it’s capital to keep your balance.

Jean Le Cam (FRA, SynerCiel): I’m fine but tired, it’s been a very agitated night. It’s great to see people liked my Equator video. I don’t have that much feedback on videos, so it’s always good to know they’re appreciated. It’s very cloudy here, and the wind changes a lot. You have no wind and the next minute, you have 25 knots. It’s been like that a lot for me in that race. I’m getting a little tired of the doldrums when they’re like that, I wish it could be different for a change. I’m not really worried about the bad conditions around the Azores because I won’t be around there when it’s really bad. I hope it’s calmer and more favourable for me in the future.

Alex Thomson (GBR, Hugo Boss): Jean-Pierre Dick is coming in to stronger winds so I guess we’ll find out how stable it is for him when he reaches them. I hope he proceeds with caution and finds a way to finish the race. If I’m asked to assist him, I’ll help him in any way that I can. It looks like it’s going to be windy on the route to Les Sables d’Olonne but it certainly won’t be as bad as it was three or four days ago. It’s still looking like the winds are going to be quite strong, with guts 30 knots. The Bay of Biscay is a quite dangerous place, especially in a winter storm with the continental shelf and deep waves… It’s not going to be very pleasant for sure. Now that I’m going faster, I can’t use my hydrogenerators so I’m having to use the rest of my fuel. I should have enough to be able to get to the finish. My routing has me getting in on the morning or mid day on Tuesday. But things are usually a bit late so if I had to make a guess I would say Tuesday afternoon or evening.

Alex Thomson's hydrogenerators by VendeeGlobeTV

Denis Horeau (Fra, Race Director): François Gabart’s ETA is between 5AM and 10 AM on Sunday morning, which is what both Météo France’s Richars Silvani and François himself are saying. Because of the tide, entering the port will be possible between 1.30 and 7.15 and after that, he’ll have to wait until 2PM. If both Macif and Banque Populaire keep the same speed, which is likely to happen, the gap between them should be between three and six hours at the finish. Hugo Boss should arrive in Les Sables on Monday morning.

Javier Sanso (ESP, Acciona 100% EcoPowered): It’s been very frustrating, the sea looked like an oil bath, there was absolutely no wind. It was beautiful but so slow, I just couldn’t move! The files were definitely not showing that. But it’s better now, I’ve been able to progress. I’m in dinghy mode, I’m having problems with the autopilot, it sails the boat in a straight line, not taking the shifts into account. It’s not too bad, but I’m definitely not at 100% of the boat potential. I try to steer more by hand, I usually do it for a few hours and then I take a break before being back at the helm. That’s the only way for me to make the damage minimal. It’s not exhausting, it’s quite pleasant, actually, even though it can get a little boring. I’m using flags to check the wind direction, I have a French one and a British one. My battery level was 90% yesterday, I’ve had no problem at all on that front, it looks like it will be 100% by the end of the day. I should cross the Equator on the 27th of January, around midnight I guess.

Vendee Globe website

Chandeleur avant l'heure pour Alessandro by VendeeGlobeTV

Résumé du 77e jour de course by VendeeGlobeTV

Tanguy inspecte le dessous de son bateau..... by VendeeGlobeTV

Dernières vues de l'Atlantique sud pour Mirabaud by VendeeGlobeTV

Les secrets d'ACCIONA 100% EcoPowered by VendeeGlobeTV

by Vendee Globe


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Related News Stories:

25 Jan 2013  Vendee Globe - Final sprint begins
25 Jan 2013  Vendee Globe - Mike Golding passes back across the Equator
25 Jan 2013  Vendee Globe - Of Equator crossings and keel-less sailing + Video
25 Jan 2013  Vendee Globe - Golding completes sixth circumnavigation
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