Vendee Globe Race 2012-2013 - Cheminées Poujoulat's winch broken again

Bernard Stamm, Cheminées Poujoulat - 2012 Vendee Globe
Vincent Curutchet / DPPI
The Vendee Globe Race 2012-2013 has been a test of will power for skipper Bernard Stamm, who’s once again in quandary after the central winch of his boat Cheminées Poujoulat was broken again.

The problems continue to mount for Bernard Stamm (Cheminées Poujoulat) after he revealed that his central winch has broken again.

'I’m a little out of breath because I’ve just added a reef (to the mainsail) and since my winch column is broken, it’s exhausting,' Stamm dropped in to the conversation on Vendée Globe TV live. 'As far as repairs are concerned, I’m focused on the hydrogenerator, it’s definitely my priority.

'Right now, the situation is 90% pleasant and 10% frustrating. But it depends on what has just happened. I repaired my hydrogenerator and it broke again 10 minutes later, and believe me, then it was 100% frustrating. Being ahead of the Englishman (Thomson) feels great, though.'

The 49-year-old Swiss skipper spoke a little too late because at the 1100hrs (UTC) ranking Thomson had re-taken fourth place, albeit only by a 1.4 miles.

If it is essential for the leaders to pretend that everything is fine on their boats so as not to encourage an attack from the others, perhaps Stamm is trying the reverse psychology. If he is not and is hiding things as well, then it is incredible that he is ‘only’ 884 miles behind the leaders. Each bulletin of damage or despair may make him seem like less of a contender, but the truth is he and Alex Thomson (Hugo Boss), for all their problems, are still in the race and would be on top the leaders quickly if they slip.

At 51 degrees south and on course to plunge deeper into the Pacific, Thomson’s hydrogenerator problems seem so severe that he cannot turn on his diesel heater or even call his wife.

'I need to be on power saving mode at the moment in order to give myself enough power to finish the race in case anything else goes wrong,' Thomson wrote. 'With most of my communications shut off, I am missing speaking to my wife and team every day but I am dealing with it ok. I am still receiving emails and messages of support from Facebook and Twitter, which really keep me going.

'Although Christmas is just another day in the race it still is hard to be out here with limited contact. My wife Kate and son Oscar are in Sweden with her family this Christmas. I have gifts from them onboard and I was also prepared this year and bought all my presents in November but I am going to miss spending my son’s second Christmas with him.'

Thomson may have some company soon with Stamm only 16 miles south of him as they come together on the longitude of the Auckland Islands. Whilst the leaders are inseparable, in the other Pacific battle, 880 miles behind, Thomson and Stamm are like two lovers who keep separating over the same argument, making gybes and getting back together.

And all problems are relative at the end of the 41st day in the last edition in 2008-09 Yann Eliès had just been rescued by the Australian Navy after breaking his left femur.

Fleet News

Francois Gabart (MACIF) held his slenderest of leads over Armel Le Cléac’h (Banque Populaire), back to just 2.5 miles at the 1500hrs (UTC) ranking. Le Cléach’h gybed north to the New Zealand gate and Gabart followed. Earlier Gabart, on the Vendée Globe TV live, was keen to dismiss the notion that their battle has become like a regatta because they are so close they can see other. Even half a world away he seems conscious of the French press suggesting that he, as the 29-year-old junior, is just covering Le Cléac’h rather than sailing his own race.

'I can see Armel,' Gabart said, 'not all the time, but because he’s five miles away, I can see Banque Populaire often. It’s fantastic, really. But it’s not really like a regatta either because I don’t adapt my decisions, manoeuvres and sailing to what I see him do, I have my own race.'

Le Cléac’h agreed: 'Sure, MACIF is very close, we can see each other, it’s been going on for 36 hours, but I’m not obsessed with that,' he said. 'It’s a good landmark, it helps me make sure my heading and speed are right, but I’m sailing my own race, making my own decisions. Our routes have been close so far, but maybe at one point one of use will try something different.'

The duo will soon cross the international dateline at 180 degrees and go from being 12 hours ahead of us to 12 hours behind. But unlike when you fly from New Zealand to Chile and arrive before you left, no one will notice the difference because they have been working off universal from local time around the world.

As the leaders headed deeper south, third-placed Jean-Pierre Dick (Virbac-Paprec 3), won back 50 miles in the morning, he’s 547 miles behind and passing south of the Auckland Islands. He talked of the noise on board as the wind built to 30 degrees.

That was what Javier Sansó (Acciona 100% EcoPowered) was anticipating from a gathering low-pressure system about to descend on the four veterans in the chasing pack. Like Mike Golding (Gamesa) he was scratching his head as to why Jean Le Cam (SynerCiel) had dived south.

Le Cam in sixth is 1,708 miles behind the leaders, Golding is 171 miles miles behind him, Dominique Wavre (Mirabaud) 89 miles behind Golding and Sansó in ninth, is 75 miles behind Wavre. Just 335 miles cover the four.
Behind them it’s more spread out, but they are all enjoying good pressure, Tanguy de Lamotte (Initiaves Cœur) is catching Bertrand de Broc (Votre Nom autour du Monde avec EDM Projets), closing 60 miles in the last 24 to be 228 miles behind. And Alessandro di Benedetto (Team Plastique) is out of his anticyclone hole.