In the Vendee Globe, after the toughest 24 hours of his race so far, required to make a vital repair to his rudder mechanism on Hugo Boss after hitting a floating object during Sunday night, Alex Thomson (GBR) has been losing no time in getting right back into the race. This afternoon he has been closing fast on Bernard Stamm to challenge the Swiss skipper for fourth place.
Thomson passed through the Amsterdam gate at midday Tuesday making 21 kts, at almost exactly the same time as rival Stamm did some 50 miles to his east, the pair setting off on a fast SE’ly course making for the fourth gate, some 1100 miles ahead of them.
The British skipper’s team confirmed today that the repair to the rudder tie bar had taken around fifteen hours in total. Although he had already made the same type of composite repair in the Atlantic to rectify a similar problem which had afflicted the opposite rudder, this time the work was more complicated and had to be completed in much more testing weather and sea conditions. The accident has damaged one of his hydrogenerators beyond repair.
Now relying on a limited supply of diesel and the one remaining hydrogenerator, Thomson will be in very strict energy saving mode – running what his team call ‘dark mode’ – which means very reduced communication with the outside world.
'I am gutted for Alex because he has sailed a great race up until now.'
Stewart Hosford, CEO of Alex Thomson Racing told Vendée Globe LIVE today: 'He has hung on tenaciously to the newer boats. We here have all been pretty proud of him, so we are all a bit disappointed. Also now for him because he likes to do the comms, he likes doing the videos, he likes speaking to his friends and family and we now have to go into what we call dark mode, so a fairly big shut down on electricity power usage on the boat. That does not mean he will not keep sailing as hard and fast as he can to finish this race.'
While Thomson has had repairs to his boat to make, for rival Bernard Stamm it has been self-dentistry which has been the new challenge for the Brittany based Swiss racer.
Stamm broke one of his molars whilst eating and, under careful instruction, had to file and fill the tooth himself with a temporary dressing, a painful and painstaking operation.
The leaders’ pace has eased slightly compared with Monday’s mad dash, but the top duo Francois Gabart on Macif and Armel Le Cléac’h remain glued together with only three miles of lateral separation. Gabart only just holds the upper hand. The intensity of their duel remains as close and tight as an afternoon speed-testing off Port La Fôret, the Finisterre training centre at which all four of the top placed skippers train. And when they are out of visual contact with each other, there is AIS (the automatic ship identification system) automatically relaying speed and course heading, to give each an empirical monitor of their opponent’s progress.
'François and I have seen each other on our AIS for 24 hours now. It’s a nice way to check my speed is good enough! Our routes are quite similar, I’ve actually seen François this morning as his boat wasn’t far from mine. But you can’t stay outside too long because of the water crashing everywhere.' Le Cléac’h reported this afternoon.
With some 1500 miles remaining for the leaders to Cape Leeuwin, the pace for passage of the Indian Ocean remains close to the same as 2008-9, likely to be around 11.5 days on this course which is longer due to the ice gates that are set more to the north than in the last edition.
Conditions last night and today have been tough, potentially ‘boat breaking’ according to eighth placed Swiss skipper Dominique Wavre who – on his tenth circumnavigation - is not prone to exaggeration. Crossed seas, in the transition between the NW’ly winds at the leading edge of the depression and the SW’ly behind it, and gusts of over 40kts have made life unpleasant for Wavre, on Mirabaud, who is not hopeful of closing down the 150 miles he lost to Jean Le Cam and to Mike Golding over recent days.
Equally, Golding – leader of this pack in sixth – is now 703 miles behind the leader.
Stewart Hosford, CEO Alex Thomson Racing: Essentially it was a carbon copy of the last time although a little more complex, so between the fix and letting the glues cure it took the best part of 15 hours. He has enough fuel to get out of the Southern Ocean but not enough to last until the end of the race without the use of the hydrogenerator. And so the one hydrogenerator has become absolutely critical to Alex finishing this race in a good way.
I have two feelings. I am gutted for Alex because he has sailed a great race up until now. He has hung on tenaciously to the newer boats. We here have all been pretty proud of him, so we are all a bit disappointed. Also now for him because he likes to do the comms. He likes doing the videos, he likes speaking to his friends and family and we now have to go into what we call dark mode, so a fairly big shut down on electricity power usage on the boat. And now we have to nurse him back as best we can. That does not mean he will not keep sailing as hard and fast as he can to finish this race. I spoke to him early this morning, and his mood was pretty pragmatic. Alex is someone whose humour can change with every position report. When it first happened he was pretty annoyed, pretty pissed, but he got on with the job. He has been there before and now is very focused. He has genuinely been enjoying this race and is very focused now. So he is back.
Alessandro Di Benedetto, ITA (Team Plastique): I’m relieved to be out of the difficult area where growlers had been spotted. I still watched outside carefully, I was on the deck every two or three minutes, around me and used my radar a lot, the race direction told me the positions of the ice. The temperatures are quite low, and when the sun came up in the morning, I hoisted the mainsail. I’m relying on the energy of the Vendée Globe, the Vendée the public, the enthusiasm around the race, my sponsor… Now that the sun is pretty much gone, that is my new sun. I’m very happy to still be in the race, I’ll soon round the Cape of Good Hope, it’s amazing, it’s a honour, and the boat is in perfect shape, which is very important for me and for Team Plastique. I should be south of Cape Town in two days.'
François Gabart, FRA, Macif: These are amazing times, the boat is sliding so fast and effortlessly, I’m so happy with these past two days, the conditions are great.
Nothing is easy, though, the VG is one of the hardest events in the world, there are technical problems and dangerous situations. But in the middle of those, you have magical moments, like what I’m experiencing right now. There’s been difficult times, too, in the Crozet gate area, you’re alone on the boat to change sails, you’re exhausted, the conditions are bad and they keep changing and still, you just don’t progress that much so that’s very frustrating.
Armel Le Cléac’h, FRA, skipper Banque Populaire: François and I have seen each other on our AIS for 24 hours now. It’s a nice way to check my speed is good enough!
Winds will get stronger and stronger throughout the day, I’ll need to manoeuvre and get ready for the depression and tomorrow’s conditions in order to be as efficient as possible.'
'There’s an intense fight for the lead of the race, even though we may sound quiet and relaxed on the phone. But our daily life isn’t that easy, you know.
Our routes are quite similar, I’ve actually seen François this morning as his boat wasn’t far from mine. But you can’t stay outside too long because of the water crashing everywhere.'
'So far we’ve been quite fast compared to four years ago, but then the ice and the ice gates have changed a lot of things so it’s difficult to say what the winner’s time will be.
Vendee Globe website
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by Vendee Globe - 5:50 PM Tue 11 Dec 2012 GMT
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2012 Vendee Globe
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