Vendee, AC72 and Olympic news—Sailing News from the U.S. and Beyond

Alex Thomson, Hugo Boss - 2012 Vendee Globe
© Christophe Launay
For fans of offshore sailing, these are heady days. The non-stop-and-unassisted around-the-world Vendee Globe Race is in full swing, with 15 of the original 20 IMOCA 60s still plunging south. For the unfortunate five skippers who have had to head back to shore already, the race’s reputation as a war of attrition has become a reality bath. For the remaining 15 skippers, however, slipping quickly through the Doldrums has been the game.

At the time of this writing, Armel Le Cléac’h, racing 'Banque Populaire', holds the overall lead, followed by Jean-Pierre Dick ('Virbac Paprec 3') and Francois Gabart ('Macif'), but British-flagged skippers Alex Thomson ('Hubo Boss'), and Mike Golding, ('Gamesa'), proved to be sly foxes where the air blows thin, making impressive gains on the leading pack of Frenchmen.

'It was a really tough night last night and I haven’t been able to get any sleep,' reported Thomson. 'It was like one constant squall. It was monsoon rain for seven hours straight. I had practically no wind at all, so I have been steering by hand the entire time.' Fortunately for the Brit, the worst of the sticky sailing is likely astern. 'I do think I am now out. I am sailing upwind. I have the boats all around me and I can see them, so I want to stay awake at the moment.'

Armel le C'leach, Banque Populaire, Vendee Globe 2012
© Vincent Curutchet / BPCE

At the front of the pack, Le Cléac’h seems confident and in control. 'The Doldrums are behind me, the sky is clear this morning,' he reported. 'We took the opportunity to rest a little after a rather complicated 24 hours. Behind, they are grouped in the Doldrums and I took the opportunity to increase the gap between them and me. For now the road to go to the first ice gate is not very fast. We'll see how it will evolve.' Get the full Vendee Globe report, inside this issue.

Meanwhile, in Olympic sailing news, an independent Olympic Review Panel presented their findings and recommendations on our country’s less-than-stellar showing at the London Olympics 2012 at U.S. Sailing’s annual meeting, which just wrapped up in San Francisco. 'The Olympic Review Panel did excellent work on this assignment,' said Josh Adams, Managing Director of U.S. Olympic Sailing, as well as the panel’s leader. 'Their findings and recommendations form a body of information that we can use as a positive influence on our Olympic Sailing strategy going forward.' Get the full scoop, inside.

Luna Rossa and Emirates Team New Zealand in the first race between AC72s. Hauraki Gulf. Auckland. 20/11/2012

And in Cup sailing news, two AC72 have now lined up against each other, a first for this newly minted class of wingsail-powered catamarans that will be used to contest the 34th America’s Cup. According to the latest reports, Emirates Team New Zealand (ETNZ) and the Italian-flagged Luna Rossa lined up on New Zealand’s Hauraki Gulf in less than 12 knots of air for a bit of windward-leeward work. ETNZ appeared to be much quicker than their Italians friends, but this is hardly surprising given that the Kiwis launched their boat in July, while the Italians didn’t splash their boat until early November. Be sure to check out the multimedia report-including a video-inside.

Luna Rossa and Emirates Team New Zealand in the second race between AC72s. Hauraki Gulf. Auckland. 20/11/2012

Also Cup related, Glenn Ashby, ETNZ’s wingsail trimmer, provides great insight on what it’s like to sail aboard one of these mammoth cats. 'The strongest breeze they’ve had at the mast head is about 33 knots with a good 25 to 28 knots on the water at times,' reported Ashby. 'We have had 60 knots of apparent wind across the deck so there can be a lot of wind noise, which affects communications. That’s a key area to get right.'

Interestingly, Ashby also offers some insight into how the wingsail works in concert with the foils. 'We’ve found we have to change the wing trim quite aggressively from when the hull’s in the water to when it’s foiling. It was a matter of trial and error until we got it right.' Get the full scoop, inside this issue.

May the four winds blow you safely home,