'Francois Gabart, Macif - 2012 Vendee Globe'
Vincent Curutchet / DPPI
In the Vendee Globe, the forecast for the finish keeps changing with the evolution of the Azores High ahead of the leaders, but one thing seems certain, barring multiple failures in all of the first four boats, the record will be broken.
On Monday it looked like a January 26 and a 77-day finish, on Tuesday the long range forecast and routing suggested it might be January 27 or 28.
'I still say January 26, but it is not possible for anyone to know the weather this far out,' Denis Horeau, the Vendée Globe race director, said. 'January 26 would be 77 days and that would be significant for two reasons. First of all because of Jules Verne (author of the famous French adventure book 80 Days Around the World) and because that was what multihulls were doing just 15 years ago.
'Then, it is incredible because of the previous 84-day record by Michel Desjoyeaux (2008-09). But we have to be careful here because in fact it was 84 days, it was 84 less 40 hours in port (Desjoyeaux returned to port to make repairs after the start of the last edition). But 77 days would be remarkable.'
There are four boats who are likely to break the 84-day mark and all may even be able to claim that they went around the world alone in 80 days – although Alex Thomson (Hugo Boss) would need a fast finish.
'There are four boats and big difference has been the fleet has been very compact,' Horeau said. 'Previously the adventurers were satisfied to make it around the world, now everyone is sailing very fast. Nobody seems to be hurt, fragile or plagued by problems and big dangers on board. It’s even different to the last edition because we had slow boats and people were sick.'
The last skipper in 2008-9 finished more than 42 days after Desjoyeaux, in 2004-05 the gap was 38 days; in 2000-01, 64 days; in 1996-97, 34 days; in 1992-93, 43; and in 1989-90, 53 days. This time Alessandro Di Benedetto (Team Plastique) should finish within 20 days of the winner.
There are places the race could have been faster – not least in the first two weeks, when they did not break the record to the Equator, the only major mark (Jean Le Cam’s 10 days 11 hours and 28 minutes from 2004-05) not rewritten by this race. But Horeau does not the think the positioning of the ice gates has slowed them down this time.
'In 2008 we kept them up in the Pacific (because of icebergs) and this time we did it in the Indian Ocean,' Horeau said.
The apparently unstoppable Francois Gabart (Macif) continues to break records and set a new Vendée mark for the return to the equator when he crossed at 1341hrs UTC on Tuesday. The 29-year-old’s time of 66 days 1 hour and 39 minutes, broke another of the records of his mentor, Michel Desjoyeaux, the 71 days 17 hours and 12 minutes, set when he won in 2008-9.
Though it is normal to slow down towards the equator and the doldrums where the fleet normally compresses, such has been Gabart’s speed that Armel Le Cléac’h (Banque Populaire), in second, will have been relieved to have won back 69 miles in the last 24 hours.
Francois Gabart, Macif - 2012 Vendee Globe - © François Gabart / MACIF
Likewise Jean-Pierre Dick (Virbac-Paprec 3), in third, who has been the fastest in the fleet for the last 24 hours, averaging 15.9 knots with 381 miles, but with a slightly worse VMG than Le Cléac’h.
Alex Thomson (Hugo Boss), in fourth, has watched Dick stretch away to 224 miles ahead, but has not lost to Gabart, who is 870 miles ahead. As the most westerly of the skippers he is hoping for an easier doldrums.
'I’m almost undoubtedly going to cross the doldrums further west than all those three boats and in theory a more westerly doldrums crossing is more secure and less disruptive,' Thomson told Vendée Globe TV live.
'For me the chances to catch up are number one the doldrums and number two hopefully the guys will be slowed by the Azores high and maybe there’s a chance of me getting into the westerlies a bit further west of everybody else. We just have to wait and see, it’s too early to say.'
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After being caught and passed overnight, Jean Le Cam (SynerCiel) has escaped again to the west, somehow finding a band of tradewind easterlies in the godforsaken windless hole the four behind him are mired in. Mike Golding (Gamesa) was becalmed on Tuesday afternoon, averaging just 1.6 knots over the last four hours compared to Le Cam’s 15.7 knots. Le Cam has skipped away, 64 miles in the lead.
Javier Sansó (Acciona 100% EcoPowered), like Golding, to the east, has fared almost as badly. His charge is over, or at least on pause, and he was averaging 4.4 knots, 176 miles behind Golding. Ninety miles further down the leaderboard and to the west, Dominique Wavre (Mirabaud), was averaging just 4.6 knots. At a glance, Arnaud Bossières (Akena Verandas) was recovering, averaging 7.6 knots, but he has veered to Uruguay (that’s not a euphemism) and was averaging just 1.1 knots of VMG.
The latest charts suggest that Golding is back into some 13 knots southeasterlies, but as he has bemoaned, the charts have been lying and regardless the road ahead looks far from simple. The true picture for all five boats will take days to emerge.
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Alex Thomson (GBR, Hugo Boss): I finally got rid of the beard, I did a bit of a comedy beard for my fans on Facebook but I think I looked more like a Mexican porn star than anything else. There will be the natural extension, compression game, so I will probably lose for another day, day and a half, two days and then maybe be even and then maybe I’ll gain a little bit as Jean-Pierre (Dick) goes through the doldrums. There’s a good possibility with my position at the moment. I’m almost undoubtedly going to cross the doldrums further west than all those three boats and in theory a more westerly doldrums crossing is more secure and less disruptive, so maybe there’s a chance to make some miles there.
The last time I’ve done this course was in 2003, the défi Atlantique return race from the Jacques Vabre from Salvador to La Rochelle, that was the race that I broke the 24hr world record in. So, I’m familiar with the course, there’s not too much to it now. For me the chances to catch up are number one the Doldrums and number two hopefully the guys will be slowed by the Azores high and maybe there’s a chance of me getting into the westerlies a bit further west of everybody else. We just to wait and see, it’s too early to say. At the moment it does look difficult if you’re looking a week, ten days ahead at the weather, which isn’t very reliable, it doesn’t look terribly easy to get past the Azores high. So that’s positive for me.
Alessandro Di Benedetto (ITA, Team Plastique): There is no security problem on the boat. The (gennaker) halyard is broken but when you see the weather conditions, it is not possible to try to climb on the mast for the moment. I can only use some sails and my average is going to drop, it is only a matter of boat speed. I'm fine and I keep on with my cleaning the. The most important thing is that I'm OK. I could have lost the bowsprit... Within four days I should be at the Cape Horn.
Alessandro Di Benedetto, Team Plastique - 2012 Vendee Globe - © Alessandro Di Benedetto / Team Plastique
Tanguy de Lamotte (FRA, Initiatives cœur) - (About his Cape Horn crossing): It's nice, everything is all right. I'm happy, it's really great. Yesterday (Monday), it was typical Cape Horn condition with 30 knots of wind and a lot of sea. But this morning I managed to see the islands, so it was great. Now it is quiet and I sail well. It really was a great Cape Horn.
I was really happy to see the dry land. I was also really happy to discover the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean. I discovered amazing things even though there were difficult moments. I am very happy and I have to keep on going like that. I'll try to catch Bertrand de Broc...
Tanguy De Lamotte, Initiatives-Coeur - 2012 Vendee Globe - Tanguy De Lamotte (FRA) / Initiatives Coeur
Mike Golding (GBR, Gamesa): It feels good (to be ahead of Le Cam), but to be honest he might get ahead again, but it is really about the east-west separation at the moment and not distance to finish which is a bit arbitrary. Jean may have some more pressure just now and come back, but longer term I am looking at being at the rotation of the high earlier. I don’t like the idea of being on the coast, it always feels like you are in a corner and if anything changes you can get stuck. Yesterday I had a shave, the beard came off. And it was raining so hard in the end I bit the bullet, got my Ecover washing up liquid and had a full body wash. I’ll tell you what, it was cold, but once you get over the initial shock it was OK. Then I had a full change of clothes, new boots, new sleeping bag. And I had a good meal, Thai green curry, and Christmas pudding with custard. It is lovely to be clean!
Dominique Wavre (SUI, Mirabaud): I'm fine, there is some sun, but absolutely no wind. But I remain positive, because the weather is nice. I was able to dry my clothes. We are many in the same situation. I have to keep the faith even if it is unpleasant here.
Anyway, being able to dry your clothes, take your boots off, was really something. It was like a rebirth after 40 days in the cold. These are great moments and I want to enjoy them. I'm listening to some music and making some coffee. I'm super happy here.
Javier Sanso (ESP, ACCIONA 100% EcoPowered): We are finally going to know our results when we have Cabo Frio to one side of us (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil). There are now all different tactics and strategies to get to the north in whatever way we choose, especially in the next three days that are showing variable winds and areas of calm all along this area on the way up to Cabo Frio...My option to continue more eastwards is now looking good and I hope that it is indeed the case, but it might not be so in five days time and those on the inside can then make a quick recovery. I have preferred to go for the outside option: the option to go further in to the coast might be good, like it worked for Alex, but I think this generally works just one in ten times.
Jean Le Cam (FRA, SynerCiel) - (About his fight with Mike Golding): I'm ahead of Mike once again but the situation is complicated and variable so it is not easy. I've been fighting with him for a long time now. I would have preferred something else, but it's like that, it's my destiny. I do a lot of weather and route forecasts at the moment. I don't miss any weather file and I spend a lot of time on it because it changes very quickly and you have to remain vigilant. I also did a little inventory to see where we are. And then a few repairs and videos.
Vendee Globe website
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by Vendee Globe - 5:25 PM Tue 15 Jan 2013 GMT
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2012 Vendee Globe
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