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Vendée-Arctique-Les Sables d'Olonne Race update: Wipe the slate clean and start over?

by Julia Huvé 10 Jul 13:42 PDT 9 July 2020
Vendée-Arctique-Les Sables d'Olonne Race standings - 10th July 15h00 UTC © IMOCA

This evening, all the competitors in the Vendée-Arctique-Les Sables d'Olonne have rounded the virtual IOC-UNESCO mark, Clément Giraud (Vers un monde sans Sida) bringing up the rear more than a day behind the leaders.

The instability of the breeze over the past 24 hours has favoured the bunching up of the head of the fleet and ridden roughshod over the hierarchy. En route for the 'Gallimard' mark, a ridge of high pressure and a low pressure system will provide the main obstacles. In the next 48 hours, no one can realistically lay claim to the top spot in the long term...

This Friday 10th July, after a night in overdrive to get the boats making headway in a very fickle wind, there are numerous grey areas colouring the ranking. As grey as the sky and sea, which are enveloping part of the fleet of solo sailors on this sixth day of racing. The first chasing pack has managed to catch up with yesterday's escapees Ruyant/Dalin/Beyou and a line of six boats are now leading the chase down to the next waypoint of Gallimard, located some 750 miles ahead of the front runners, offshore of the Bay of Biscay.

Crazy times up front

Along this new start line, which extends out from east to west for around sixty miles, everyone seems to have positioned their pawns to tackle the obstacles looming over the horizon for the end of this week, namely the negotiation of a wide ridge of high pressure and then a low pressure system.

Between Charlie Dalin (Apivia), the furthest west, and Kevin Escoffier (PRB) in the far east, Thomas Ruyant (LinkedOut), Jérémie Beyou (Charal), Samantha Davies (Initiatives- Cœur) and Boris Herrmann (Seaexplorer - YC de Monaco), the new champion of the leader board, everyone has chosen their routes.

There's a bit of physical as well as nervous fatigue in the ranks as the slightest gain is constantly called into question, according to the weather phenomena lining up along the solo sailors' route and the countless technical glitches. On this subject, Thomas Ruyant (LinkedOut) spent the whole night battling against the unknown (net? plastic?) to try to find an explanation for his sudden speed deficit. Two steps backwards and a good siesta subdued the mysterious stalling, which had been causing him some grief. Having perked up, the sailor seemed to be back on track this afternoon and ready to vie for his crown again. On a reach in a medium wind and smooth seas, his blue boat looked to be enjoying slipping along at 18 knots. It'll be important to make the most of this fleeting yet intoxicating ride because the first wave of competitors will soon stumble into a massive ridge of high pressure, which is creating holes in the breeze across virtually the entire width of the Atlantic. As a result, the front runners will slow again this evening with some further surprises in store on the cartography.

Valuable new data

Beyond the racing that is delighting spectators, the protagonists in the Vendée Arctique-Les Sables d'Olonne all echo the sentiment that the event is a very useful exercise going forward. The first part of the race may not have been entirely pleasurable for the sailors, but it has provided them with an unexpected opportunity to beef up their preparations for the Vendée Globe. Every manœuvre, every tack, every adjustment, every glitch, every hour of life aboard in solo format serves as additional data, which will guide them on their voyage around the world. Whether they're at the front of the pack or the back, the sailors are delighted about that. From Isabelle Joschke (MACSF), 7th, who admits that she's giving her all to be in on the action, to Manu Cousin (Groupe SETIN), 15th, who celebrated his 53rd birthday this lunchtime at 62 degrees north, the reasoning is the same: the experience gleaned from this race takes precedence.

Quotes from the boats:

Isabelle Joschke (MACSF)

"The upcoming battle and the chance to catch up with the lead boats is fabulous. To be in the match, have boats close by and be able to compare performances reminds me a bit of the Solitaire du Figaro! On top of being motivating, it's also enabling me to discover and learn a great deal in terms of speed, trimming and handling the boat.

I'm giving it all I've got but the objective is to rack up experience. The sailing conditions are great because the seas are flat, yet at the same time the wind is very shifty. There are gusts that drop in on us and as the air is very dense (due to the low temperatures), the boat immediately heels over. There are also big light patches and the boat comes to a standstill. That requires you to be on top of the trimming, up on deck, and it requires a lot of energy. Other than that, I'm doing good, better than yesterday because after the IOC-UNESCO waypoint, I noticed that I was very tired from the start of my race. I needed to sleep and recover. It's a bit of a transition phase in the race. Generally, I need four days to really get into my stride. As such, I got a fair amount of sleep this morning and I think I've recovered well. I'm on form again now and that will be crucial for tackling the transition at the end of the day, which will be important. The boat's going well. There are some small issues, but for now it's manageable. Let's hope it all holds out till the end!"

Miranda Merron (Campagne de France)

"Grey. Cold. Some really very unpleasant sailing conditions - for hours the wind has been completely fickle at between 12 and 20 knots with a 30-degree shift which wasn't forecast. I still have some work to do on the pilots as I'm continuing to manually adjust my heading. And now the wind has completely died away, but the same cannot be said of the sea state! Conditions will improve, I hope! I haven't lost hope that I'll be able to sleep."

Manu Cousin (Groupe SÉTIN)

"I treated myself to a fine present by hunting down the IOC-UNESCO waypoint! It's incredible to be at 62 degrees north. I'd have never believed I'd be so far north, especially on my birthday. I'm happy but a bit tired, as the conditions are very fickle. There have been lots of manoeuvres. Last night for example, I didn't get a lot of sleep. It's a bit like the doldrums in the cold! Everything around me is grey with some cloudy spells. I was expecting to feel colder. It's 6/8 degrees under the cuddy but we're actually pretty well protected in our boats, the seas aren't bad and I'm close-hauled.

I'm a bit disappointed with the start to my race, as I took some time to get into the swing of it. That said, there are a lot of positives too: I've discovered some problems around the keel ram, which means we can resolve all that this summer. As far as the rest is concerned, the boat's going really well technically. It's been very worthwhile doing this race. I came in search of experience and I'm having fun, even if it took me a day or two to feel good."

Ranking on Friday 10 July (16:00 French time, 17 skippers on the racetrack)

1 – Boris Herrmann (Seaexplorer – Yacht Club de Monaco) 1 269.1 miles from the finish
2 – Thomas Ruyant (LinkedOut) 3.5 miles behind the leader
3 – Kevin Escoffier (PRB) 4.0 miles behind the leader
4 – Sam Davies (Initiatives-Cœur) 5.0 miles behind the leader
5 – Jérémie Beyou (Charal) 5.1 miles behind the leader
6 – Charlie Dalin (Apivia) 9.8 miles behind the leader
7 – Isabelle Joschke (MACSF) 15.7 miles behind the leader
8 – Yannick Bestaven (Maître-CoQ IV) 33.6 miles behind the leader
9 – Fabrice Amedeo (Newrest – Art & Fenêtres) 52.8 miles behind the leader
10 – Clarisse Crémer (Banque Populaire X) 60,9 miles behind the leader

Retirements : Armel Tripon (L’Occitane en Provence), Damien Seguin (Groupe APICIL), Sébastien Simon (ARKÉA PAPREC)

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