In the Vendee Globe, Francois Gabart (Macif) is expected to cross the finish line between 10am and 1pm on Sunday 26th January, 2-5 hours before Armel Le Cléac’h (Banque Populaire). The tide will allow the boats to enter the canal to Port Olona, Les Sables d’Olonne after 2PM.
Spectator boats and press boats will not be leaving the port.
There is a heavy weather warning due to high seas, three metre waves and winds of 20-25 knots with peaks at 35/40 knots. The maritime authorities and local administration have prohibited pleasure boats from leaving the port of Les Sables d'Olonne from 7am Sunday 27th January.
Exceptions to the rule are the committee boat (to judge the finish) and two broadcast and photography support boats of the organisation. Offshore sailing is not prohibited, but it is firmly discouraged.
Vendée Globe LIVE for Sunday 27th January will be a live commentary of the finish, starting half an hour before the winner crosses the line. LIVE press conferences with the skippers will be broadcast after the finish. Please visit the website or web channel Daily Motion for the latest information.
The finish line is less than 20 hours away for François Gabart (Macif). If he can safely navigate this final furlong without incident he will be crowned the winner of the seventh edition of the Vendée Globe. Yet, Poseidon throws one last obstacle in the way and smashes his fist down hard in the Bay of Biscay to create three metre waves and 20-30 knot winds, with gusts up to 40 knots. It is an angry, difficult, inclement welcome back after a solitary endurance adventure of nearly 80 days.
Armel Le Cléac’h (Banque Populaire) who is expected three to six hours later, will be treated to the same conditions. Land ahoy!
After such a prolonged time at sea, the first steps ashore are difficult. Upon arrival, skippers often falter as they step from the confines of the 60ft steed, into an adrenaline-charged emotional crowd. For the last two and a half months, their ground has been limited a 9m squared space, some of which is only accessible on all fours. They have inhabited a small carbon den, poorly insulated and in perpetual motion. The kitchen? A stove. The toilet? A bucket. The room? A chair. Human relations. No physical contact. The environment? A moving liquid desert.
In a matter of minutes, when Macif docks on the pontoon at Port Olona, François Gabart, 29, will switch from one world to another. Shocked but charged with positive energy. Suddenly, it will make sense and shed light on all the harshness and beauty of his journey.
If he crosses the line first, as expected, Gabart will be the youngest winner in the history of the race.
But it’s not over until it’s over in this the cruellest of races and so before we begin our cheers in the channel we must gnaw our finger nails and wait with baited breath for the final curtain.
At 1830 GMT, Team Hugo Boss sent this report from Alex Thomson (Hugo Boss):
'Last night I saw some pretty strong winds, up to 30kts, so I am very glad I came down to stay close to JP. I know I would have been feeling very nervous indeed in these conditions with no keel!
It seems that JP has got the boat into a very stable sailing mode and is very comfortable with how the boat handles in these conditions. The weather will get better today for us both with the winds falling and his forecast for heading to the Portuguese Coast looks good.
Earlier today he called me on the phone to thank me for staying with him overnight and to also say he feels fully confident in his ability to now sail towards Portugal. With the good forecast and improving conditions, I am happy the big danger has passed and I have gybed and am heading back to Les Sables.'
As global sports news is dominated by the shameless fall from grace by cyclist Lance Armstrong, just to the south east of the Azores in the little known sport of solo ocean racing Alex Thomson (Hugo Boss) is emanating the spirit of sportsmanship and integrity after shadowing his fellow classmate, Jean-Pierre Dick (Virbac Paprec 3).
In an exchange of emails that tugs at the heart strings, both these sporting heroes have conducted themselves with humility and dignity as they progress forward, slowly, waiting for the weather to unfold so to discover where their destiny lies.
Yesterday, Alex Thomson (Hugo Boss) of his own volition decided to change his course and stay close to Jean-Pierre Dick. The Hugo Boss skipper proves once again that there is a great solidarity among competitors in the open sea.
This is demonstrated by the emails exchanged yesterday between the two skippers:
(nb: This is a translation and not the original English version sent by Alex Thomson)
Alex Thomson (Hugo Boss) writes;
'Hello Jean-Pierre,The sea is increasingly big today. I'm not letting you navigate alone only when the wind will strengthen in a few hours. I'll come and join you gybe, navigate at your side until the weather conditions (wind and waves) become more moderate in the Azores.
I know you did not ask for assistance, but it will not make a big difference to my race and anyway, I have not see any other boats for a few months, I feel alone!
I hope everything goes well for you, Alex.'
Jean-Pierre Dick (Virbac Paprec 3) writes;
'Thank you Alex. It touches me deeply. I will study the weather to see if I can continue to safely navigate to the Sables d'Olonne. I sent a photo with a message for you, 'Alex, take this third position with care' (take care of the third place). It is important to me! Do not hesitate to call me. JP.'
Today, on the English version of Vendée Globe LIVE Alex Thomson (Hugo Boss) explained his position.
'I came to the decision to stay close to Jean-Pierre Dick: there were strong winds forecast overnight and this morning, I was 90 miles away from JP and because it was going to get bigger and bigger, I knew I wouldn't have been able to help if something had happened. That felt uncomfortable leaving him in those conditions on a boat with no keel.
To me, it’s no big deal, really. We're all part of the IMOCA class, and I believe this is part of the values of the class. But I’ve been rescued before by Mike Golding, it's just a completely normal thing to do when i decided to do it at 4 o'clock. I will accompany JP until he feels 100% confident with his boat and he has made a decision regarding his plans. I'll shadow him until he feels 100% comfortable.'
And on the French version of Vendée Globe LIVE Jean-Pierre Dick (Virbac Paprec 3) explained his position.
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'The wind is much stronger now, 25-30 knots, with an agitated sea and 3-4-metre waves. The boat is doing ok in the waves, it’s actually a good surprise. My ballasts are full and I’m sailing at an average speed of 12 knots, which is encouraging for the future. The weather should get a little rougher in the afternoon and then calm down.
I’ve thought hard about what to do next. I have decided not to stop in the Azores, that’s for sure. But I’m still not sure I’ll go all the way to Les Sables d’Olonne. I’ll get closer to the Portuguese coast and then I’ll see what I can do, depending on what I see there in terms of conditions. On the 28th or 2th of January, I’ll decide if I can round Cape Finisterre safely.
I’m not obsessed with speed, I just can’t use larger sails, it is much more reasonable now that my keel is gone. And I owe it to the shore crew and the people who have worked with me, I just can’t take too much risk. My next challenge is Cape Finisterre, where the sea is going to be rough.
What Alex Thomson is doing is so nice and brave. The third place is very important, I want him to take very good care of it. What he’s doing is a nice gesture, a true sailor’s gesture. He’s not close enough for me to talk to him on the VHF so we send each other emails even though we’re both is energy-saving mode. I have his phone number, I’ll call him after this interview. I thought I had seen his lights last night but it must have been a star.'
In this instance, the spirit of the Open 60 class, the sport of solo sailing and the Vendée Globe have been tried, tested and found to be remarkable. Today, we meet a gallant, noble, humble Alex Thomson (Hugo Boss) and a pragmatic, considered and grateful Jean-Pierre Dick (Virbac Paprec 3). Sometimes, winning isn’t everything instead support, sportsmanship and solidarity conquers over all. In this sport and in this race that is always the case.
Dominique Wavre (SUI, Mirabaud):I’m proud of the video I sent you, the rain sort of cleaned the sky, the colours were beautiful, golden and orange, and I just couldn’t resist, I had to shoot a video. It may be much darker tomorrow, though, nothing to dream about then, really. But maybe I should also shoot videos of ugly weather! I have a stormy area ahead of me, I’m zigzagging between the clouds and I need to wait until tomorrow to say if the doldrums were nice to me or not. I talked to Jean-Pierre Dick and we discussed his sailing conditions and safety, too. He seems to be doing ok. Given what happened in the South Atlantic, I don’t have high hopes for the North Atlantic! I just hope it will be nicer to me. The boat is tired, but it’s in great shape, and so am I before the very last part of the race. When the leaders arrive, people think the race is over because they have seen the podium but you still have tough battles going on for the remaining skippers. It’s a strange feeling for us, really, you need to stay motivated.
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Michel Desjoyeaux (FRA, double Vendée Globe winner): It’s good to leave François and Armel alone, so they will have things left to say when they’re back. They still have a lot to do as they are approaching the French coast and they need to psychologically prepare for their return and the crowd. Alessandro Di Benedetto pretty much has the same race time as Thomas Coville in 2000-2001 on the same boat, so he’s definitely not slow. I will be out there to see the finish if the conditions allow it.
Marc Guillemot (FRA, Safran, retired): Returning after three months alone at sea can be violent. After three months of race, you usually need three more months to get used to being back. But this is such a great feeling too, I recommend you all try to compete in the Vendée Globe! I think Alex’s decision to stay close to Jean-Pierre is very nice, very smart, and that is what the Vendée Globe is also about. Are you sure you shot the video, Dominique, because I saw the exact same images in the last Vendée Globe! The doldrums are an area I really don’t like, it’s dead, there’s nothing there. I would never do what Tanguy did, jump in the water and swim around the boat like that. There are sharks, it’s dangerous! You’ve had a great race, and I have to say I am in awe of what you’re doing to stay close to JP. That’s the spirit of the vendee Globe. I hope I can be here to welcome you in. There should be two sub-classes in IMOCA, and two rankings: Boats with keels, and keel-less boats!
Tanguy de Lamotte (FRA, Initiatives-coeur): I had very little wind this morning but it’s much better now. It was the same yesterday, so I used that opportunity to dive under the boat and check the damaged rudder and the keel. I took a few pictures of the red and white boat on the blue ocean and saw beautiful fish. I knew it was safe, that’s why I did it, and I tied myself to the boat with a 20-metre rope. I had cameras with me, but not the autopilot remote. The rudder skin is gone, it’s very black now but it will be fine.
Mike Golding (GBR, Gamesa): Once we broke free of the Doldrums we have been on the wind in fairly strong conditions. I am reefed and on a small headsail in quite a sharp sea, so lots of slamming, it's very wet on deck and very warm in the day. There's really not much I can do to catch Jean [Le Cam] at the moment, I have to wait for a strategic option. There will be strategic options before the finish, but in this section of the course, which is just a long, on-the-wind section, there won't be any options for several days. We are talking further ahead, four or five days ahead. I can't say there will definitely be options, but looking at the weather forecast longer term it looks like complex getting through the high pressure and that is probably good for me as it probably provides me with those options that I might need. I'm just focussed on the last bit of racing. I just want to get the horse back in the stable.
Vendee Globe website
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by Vendee Globe - 7:06 PM Sat 26 Jan 2013 GMT
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2012 Vendee Globe
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