Vendee Globe - High spirits for some, trouble for others + Video
In the Vendee Globe, Alex Thomson (Hugo Boss) participated his first audio interview in a month today on Vendée Globe LIVE. Thomson, who has been using minimum power for the last month explained that it was critically important that he fixed his hydro-generators because he doesn’t have enough fuel onboard to complete the race without them. He was pleased to have rounded Cape Horn into some easier conditions so that he could focus on fixing them.
'I’m doing good. Rounding Cape Horn solo for the first time in my career also brought very different conditions, much milder. I haven’t had a chance to clean up a bit or to shave yet, though. I’ve had hydro-generators issues for the past month and hopefully, I’ll get a chance to work hard on them in the near future. I really need to because I don't have enough fuel to finish the race if I don't so I’m focusing on sailing the boat in a way that will allow me to make it to the finish line, I don’t get to look at the others’ routes, positions ad choices too much.'
Thomson sounded determined but slightly hollow, a sociable and gregarious individual, the prolonged and enforced additional isolation must be wearing him down. It’s a testimony to his seamanship and tenacity that he has sailed a remarkable race in the face of such great adversity. The Vendée Globe is in itself a race of human endeavour when it's all systems go but to race for over a month in a power blackout and hold onto fourth position is an achievement to be admired.
Thomson explained today that he had laminated the hydro and was expecting to complete the repairs in the next few days. The situation has now become race critical and we await further information regarding his progress.
At the back of the fleet it was a very jolly, Alessandro Di Benedetto (Team Plastique) who spoke by Visio video link up to the French language version of Vendée Globe LIVE celebrating his 42nd birthday at sea.
'I’ve just opened my gifts and eaten foie gras to celebrate my birthday, with salt I had with me, and, also, salt from the ocean. I really appreciated the messages I received. I may have celebrated my birthday twice because of the antemeridian, but I swear I only drank once!'
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Despite his high spirits he too is experiencing challenging conditions.
'I have 40 knots of wind and I’ve just crossed the New Zealand gate, I’m now heading to the West Pacific gate. It’s shaking a lot here on board, there are strong gusts. I hope I don’t cross paths with a 6.5-metre boat like the one I sailed around the world on, because I would crush it! It’s part of my past, really.' He joked.
Life onboard is about constant maintenance and repairs. 'I considered sailing closer to the coast to take shelter and fix a piece of rope stuck in my rudder, but I decided to repair at sea instead. Bernard’s case showed situations like that are always tricky. I’m also having engine troubles, it’s really not working at the moment, I’m not sure why yet.'
Over the half waypoint, the Italian skipper is more than 5,000 miles behind the leaders and approaching the gate of New Zealand.
Situated 630 miles in the north-east of the Falklands, on the edge of the St. Helena High, the unshaven Armel Le Cléac’h (Banque Populaire) begins his attack on race leader François Gabart (Macif). Throughout the race he has demonstrated that he prefers to sail the shortest and most direct route to the fastest one. This was the route he chose on the way down passed the St Helena High and also at the Crozet Gate. This strategy has always paid dividends for him and so therefore, is there any reason to change it? If he elects again for the shortest route then he could soon gain the advantage as the winds build to 25-30 knots in a depression building from Uruguay.
Sailing his own race, François Gabart (Macif) is pursuing his course towards the east. 'We will meet in Brazil', declared Le Cléac'h today on the Vendée Globe LIVE. Life onboard gives little respite, less the one day of rest after Cape Horn, the conditions have never abated. Armel Le Cléac’h (Banque Populaire) has not shaved for 30 days and sports dark, rugged, furry beard.
Jean-Pierre Dick (Virbac Paprec 3) and to a lesser extent Alex Thomson (Hugo Boss) may benefit from the less arduous climb experienced by the front two boats and could regain some miles. Jean-Pierre Dick has already reduced the gap by 81 miles in the last 24 hours.
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Meanwhile, the five boats rumbling through the deep south are experiencing cold, unpleasant, inconsistent conditions and are all holding onto the same hope that finally they will in lighter winds and flat seas. Jean Le Cam (SynerCiel) is preparing for war against the weather as battles in the next 48 hours towards Cape Horn, his ETA Monday 7th November. He will encounter a deep depression and it’s going to be unstable, dark, bumpy, cold and very wet.
In this group, Bernard Stamm (Cheminées Poujoulat) is by far the fastest for 48 hours. After overtaking Arnaud Bossières (Akena Verandas), he made short work of Javier Sanso (Acciona 100% EcoPowered). This morning, the jury received the report from the captain of the Russian ship, which was moored alongside Cheminées Poujoulat during his stopover in Auckland Island. It is currently being reviewed before a decision will be made on reopening the file.
Dominique Wavre (SUI, Mirabaud): I’m facing very tough conditions right now, with huge waves and cold temperatures as well. I think I have four to five days left before Cape Horn, I think it will be the 10th time I round it. I’m not complaining about food, though, I’ve had very good things lately, including foie gras!
Tanguy de Lamotte (FRA, Initiatives-cœur): It is still a little tough in here. It's cold. I am reaching with plenty of water passing over the bridge. It is difficult, especially for the everyday things like eating and sending emails.
It's great that people are passionate about the Vendée Globe. It's nice to know that, thanks to us, people are happy.
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Finally there are a good group of us who I am sure are going to say quite close together, quire probably until the end of the race. Akena has taken a few good decisions and has joined our group, and I am happy for him, but I wouldn’t want him to overtake me.
Mike Golding (GBR, Gamesa): It is still very difficult, we are not in huge winds any more, we still have a very big sea running but the problem is we are still getting squalls through which are still very strong, they never settle down. I just have had a 35 knot squall on a baseline of 22 knots. Very difficult to have a sail plan that covers both those ranges. I'm approaching the Gate now, I'm only 6-7 miles to the south of it, paralleling it, just slowly making my way towards the far end. I'm still taking little nibbles out of it when I get a good wind shift, so hopefully once I am clear of the Gate i can maybe put the bow up and go for a simpler sail configuration and make a more direct and restful passage.
It has not been the easiest of passages and has certainly not been my quickest across the Souther Ocean. A lot of manoeuvres, because are pinned up to the northern gate, just keeping us out of the steady flow … obviously not entirely because the other guys who joined at the front have got the ride and kept the ride, but further back it has been more difficult. It has been a long way, we are looking forward to Cape Horn and start making some progress north.
Arnaud Boissières (FRA, AKENA Vérandas): I’ve been shaken a lot lately, there’s 32 knots of wind and it’s moving a lot because of the waves. The blisters on my fingers are getting better thanks to the cream I’ve put on. It may look like a little detail but when it burns and it gets even worse with the sea water, I can tell you it’s a real pain.
I was trying to catch up with the others ahead of me before Cape Horn but it’s going to be tricky. Cheminées Poujoulat is going so fast! I still have my red Spanish chorizo on the radar screen ahead of me!
Last night I thought I was going to have a quiet night and be able to get some sleep but not at all! I had to manoeuvre all night long instead.
We’re paying a high price to be able to leave the Southern Ocean. I have to be careful but also enjoy the moment, it may be my last strong Southern wind before long!
Armel Le Cléac’h (FRA, Banque Populaire): I’m satisfied with my current position, it’s exactly what I chose to do. I’m sailing my own race regardless of what François is doing, or JP, who doesn’t have the same weather conditions anyway.
It’s still pretty cold at night but still, you can tell we’re getting closer to warmer zones. The weather conditions have been tough since we rounded Cape Horn, the sea was really rough, the roughest since the start, really. The past 36 hours have been very demanding, I’ve had a lot of things and manoeuvres to take care of, and some sleep to catch up with, too! So I didn’t have time to shave. But I’ll shave before I reach Les Sables, no worries!
I love solo sailing, this time is different from four years ago because there’s a close fight, which will hopefully last until Les Sables. I’m glad we managed to avoid major issues, it’s been a fast race, we’re getting closer to home and hopefully, we’ll be there by the end of the month.
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Vendee Globe website
by Vendee Globe - 6:51 PM Sat 5 Jan 2013 GMT