'Francois Gabart, Macif - 2012 Vendee Globe'
© François Gabart / MACIF
The Vendee Globe fleet leaders are expected to arrive in Les Sables d’Olonne, Vendée, France either Saturday evening, or Sunday morning. Please visit the website for regular updates. The current plan is that the first three boats crossing the finish line and making their way down the canal will receive LIVE coverage on the Vendée Globe web TV channel hosted by Daily Motion.
Jean-Pierre Dick (Virbac Paprec 3) has delayed his decision whether he will abandon the race, or to try and make it back to Les Sables d’Olonne until after the Azores. He is currently talking with his architects (Guillaume Verdier and VPLP) and considering whether or not he can use the water ballast system effectively to provide greater stability to his boat. Previous, Vendée Globe winner, Alain Gaultier, said today web tv show Vendée Globe LIVE, 'Jean-Pierre Dick is probably sailing with six or seven tons of water in the ballast, which is fine and safe when sailing upwind. But when sailing downwind, the situation may change. I know Jean-Pierre will make the right choice and do what needs to be done to stay safe.' Alex Thomson (Hugo Boss), today on the web tv show Vendée Globe LIVE said 'there’s some big weather ahead. It’s not something I would do – well maybe before I had a family.'
At the end of the show, a congenial Thomson said, 'I would rather that Jean Pierre Dick finished the race and came third and I came fourth then he didn’t finish the race at all.' Jean-Pierre Dick (Virbac Paprec 3) is currently making fair progress down the track and although Alex Thomson (Hugo Boss) is slowly picking off the miles but on some level Jean-Pierre Dick (Virbac Paprec 3) is also keeping him at bay. There currently stands 130 miles between Alex Thomson (Hugo Boss) and third place.
It’s simply a matter of days. The estimated times of arrival (ETA) for François Gabart (Macif) and Armel Le Cléac’h (Banque Populaire) are becoming more refined. It was only 74 days ago that we watched the fleet of 20 intrepid adventurers cast off in the rain and sail off into the grey, overcast north Atlantic. The weather is good for a rapid progression towards the finish.
With only 1400 miles from the finish line, the young pretender seems likely to have knocked out his challenger in the 74th round. The challenger, Armel Le Cléac’h (Banque Populaire) is currently behind by 89 miles, in other words, ten hours of navigation. The weather situation is not complicated and will automatically benefit François Gabart (Macif) who gybed this morning and headed straight towards the stronger breeze, whose generous west southwesterly winds will advance him with unstoppable force. At best, he should arrive Saturday morning (January 26) on the finish line, and at worst in the evening. But it’s looking like the winner will smash the record of around 77, or 78 days. An incredible feat! Currently, Armel Le Cléac’h (Banque Populaire) should finish ten hours later, knocking 11 days off his circumnavigation time of four years ago. Armel Le Cléac’h (Banque Populaire) who allowed for 90 days should have food to spare when he returns.
It is these at best case scenarios that Race HQ, now on the ground and located in Les Sables d'Olonne, are working towards in their daily meetings. However, the skipper of Macif is not immune to danger. He still has to negotiate the Azores, Cape Finisterre and the congested maritime traffic lanes of the Atlantic, where cargo ships and fishing boats go about their business. Lest we not forget the large marine mammals and other hidden dangers that inhabit these waterways.
The weather conditions are expected to deteriorate as they enter the Bay of Biscay, with southwesterly winds of 30 to 35 knots and fice metre waves. François Gabart (Macif) told the French version of the web tv show Vendée Globe LIVE that he was not planning to take any risks. 'I’ll definitely be careful, I won’t take risks. I haven’t really taken any, but I’ll take even less now! I’ll keep things simple, I won’t try to go too fast to gain half a mile or something. Things would be different if Armel were ahead of me, but he’s not, so I’ll make sure we surf nicely and smoothly.'
Javier Sanso (Acciona 100% EcoPowered) told the web tv show Vendée Globe LIVE that he was sailing his Open 60 like a dinghy. He sent this further detail in an email to the race HQ 'I have been sailing for a few days as if it was dinghy sailing because I don’t have any wind information. The boat’s electronics haven’t been going well since Cape Horn and for three days nothing has been working. Thank God the automatic pilots are working though! The problem is with the wind vanes – the three I have on board are not functioning. It is a problem to sail the boat fully at 100% since during the day I can helm as much as possible but at night it is more difficult.' This inconvenience will undoubtedly delay his progress and he is now anticipating that he will reach the Equator later than he expected.
Jean Le Cam (SynerCiel) and Mike Golding (Gamesa) will cross the Equator in around 36 hours, followed 24 hours later by Dominique Wavre (Mirabaud) who told web tv show Vendée Globe LIVE that it could be his 20th crossing. In fact he had crossed it so many times that he was unsure of the exact figure.
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François Gabart (FRA, Macif): I’m pretty happy with my route and my current position. The wind is favourable and I’m on the right side of the anticyclone. I can’t wait to get closer to you all in France! The sea is very calm, there are 15-17 knots of wind and the temperature has dropped a little. The weather is perfect, I wish it could stay like that until the end but ‘m afraid it’s going to change.
I saw a boat last night, but there were more yesterday, and pretty close to me, too. But I think as we get closer to the Azores, there will be more traffic. Unfortunately, it’s not only big cargo ships but also smaller fishing boats. Hopefully, they’ll have their AIS on. I know there are some whales in the area, too, but even when you’re careful, there’s not much you can do about them.
I’ll definitely be careful, I won’t take risks. I haven’t really taken any, but I’ll take even less now! I’ll keep things simple, I won’t try to go too fast to gain half a mile or something. Things would be different if Armel were ahead of me, but he’s not, so I’ll make sure we surf nicely and smoothly.
Finishing on Saturday morning would be great, but given the weather conditions, it’s not very likely. I’d love it, though.
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Armel le Cléac’h (FRA, Banque Populaire): The sun is up, there are a few clouds and the traffic is getting heavier, with several cargo ships. The wind will get stronger soon and we’ll sail as fast as possible to see you all soon.
I had 90 days of food with me on board so I’ll be fine, no problem, I won’t starve like I did four years ago. That’s good news!
There is a 10-hour gap between me and François, we’ll have to try to catch up a bit in the next few days. It’s not going to be easy as he will face more favourable conditions in the next few hours.
The winter conditions at the very end of the race will be tough, it will shake a lot. The Bay of Biscay will definitely be tricky.
Alex Thomson (GBR, Hugo Boss): Jean-Pierre Dick has 2,000 miles left before the Vendée Globe finish line and with the weather forecasts we have for that geographical area he is in, I don’t know if he can carry on and sail all the way to Les Sables d’Olonne without a keel. I’m not sure he will actually try to do it but he hasn’t abandoned the race yet. He’s probably going to make a decision soon, but it will definitely be difficult to carry on in his current situation.
I’ve never sailed a boat without a keel, so I don’t know what it is like and how complicated it is. I can just assume. Are you sure he is really considering doing it?
At the moment I have 20 knots of wind and I’m making good progress. I may cross the finish line on the 26th or 27th, depending on the weather. But with the fishing boats andpotential UFOs in the water, we’ll need to be particularly careful.
Arnaud Boissières (FRA, Akena Vérandas): The conditions have been great for an hour or so, the wind is more stable, I’m happy with that. It was tougher bearlier, with heavy rains and rough weather with so many frequent changes I had to spend a lot of time working on the boat settings. I think all that is behind me now. Oil rigs were quite scary too, but there are less of them now. What I now need to be careful about are the fishermen!
I’m keeping an eye on Mike and Jean and I also need to find the right moment to gybe.
I’m glad I can soon join you in Les Sables, where the weather is always very nice! I know there will be people to welcome me there, I was lucky enough to be 'adopted' by people there, in La Chaume.
I’d like to tell Jean-Pierre Dick I hope he makes it and finishes third because he deserves it, he has a great boat and he had an amazing race…
Bertrand de Broc (FRA, Votre Nom autour du Monde avec EDM Projets): Things are going fine right now, we’ve sailed up the Atlantic quite fast, but we still have a lot to do ahead of us. I just hope it won’t take us too long. The past five days have been great, the boat settings were really good, maybe I could have had those settings sooner…
It’s not over since we have crossed the finish line so we all know we need to stay focused until the very end. The last 500 miles can be very difficult, especially with the current conditions. We focus on making it to the finish line so of course, in a way, we do think about the end of the race.
I’m really wondering if there wasn’t something caught in my hull or keel before, because right now the weather conditions are exactly the same but I can feel the boat is doing better and I’m going faster. I hope I didn’t drag something for so long, that would be stupid…
Dominique Wavre (SUI, Mirabaud): One of my autopilots didn’t work but I had a spare one that I could use instead, to replace the old one, so I’m fine now.
I have one more day of unfavourable weather ahead of me, and then I will be able to sail faster. But the bad news is the guys ahead of me got the good wind earlier.
I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve crossed the Equator, but I can tell you I did it many times!
Vendee Globe website
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by Vendee Globe - 7:24 PM Wed 23 Jan 2013 GMT
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2012 Vendee Globe
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