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2020/2021 Vendee Globe begins, AC36 news, e-Sailing Worlds

by David Schmidt 10 Nov 08:00 PST November 10, 2020
Vendée Globe race start © Yvan Zedda / Alea #VG2020

As the U.S. wraps up what can only be described as a bruising election season, the sailing community can count itself extremely lucky to have one of the best mental distractions available, namely the start of the 2020/2021 edition of the Vendee Globe. This solo, nonstop-around-the-world race began on Sunday (November 8) on the waters off of Les Sables d'Olonne, France, and saw 33 IMOCA 60 monohulls begin racing at the sound of a gun that went off at 1420 hours, local time.

This year marks a more diverse fleet than usual, both in terms of the number of female skippers represented (six), and in terms of the number of boats that are carrying hydrofoils (many). This latter category includes eight 2020-generation boats that, provided they stay in one piece, are expected to shave several days off of the record time (74 days, 3 hours, 35 minutes and 46 seconds) for this 24,296-nautical-mile circumnavigation race (N.B. this distance was determined by the positioning of the race's ice gates, which all skippers must honor).

According to reports, the 33-strong fleet started in 10-12 knot southeasterly airs and flat waters. Only one boat, Bureau Vallée 2 (which won the 2016/2017 edition of the race and set the current record as Banque Populaire VIII under the command of skipper Armel Le Cléac'h [FRA]), skippered by Louis Burton (FRA), was over early. As a result, Burton must stop racing for five hours before he reaches a point on the course just north of Lisbon, Portugal.

Additionally, skipper Fabrice Amedeo (FRA), sailing aboard Newrest-Art & Fenêtres, was forced to head back to Les Sables d'Olonne to contend with a jammed halyard lock that made it impossible for him to drop his gennaker.

While the fleet has now departed France, they can expect to see some weather starting on Tuesday night, local time.

"Gusts in excess of 40 knots are forecast with cross seas and waves building to five meters on Tuesday night," said Christian Dumard, the race's weather expert, in a press release. "The whole fleet will be changing tack to head towards the southwest in the northwesterly air stream ahead of the ridge of high pressure. Winds will become lighter as they advance towards Spain. For the leaders, it is going to be important to find their way south without getting becalmed in these calmer conditions.

"The precise moment at which they change tack will be crucial," continued Dumard. "There is therefore the choice now of diving south with a higher risk of getting stuck in light airs off Spain, along with the disadvantage of reaching the front after those further west, but on the other hand, conditions will be quieter by then. Those who decide to go further west are less likely to be caught in the light airs, but face a more violent front with the risk that entails for their gear. No doubt, they will all be seeking out their own personal compromise between the fastest route, no doubt being tougher on the boat and the skipper than a trajectory to the south, which is likely to be kinder to both."

As of this writing, Damian Sequin (FRA), sailing aboard Groupe Apicil, was in the pole position, followed by Maxime Sorel (FRA), sailing aboard V And B Mayenne, and Jean Le Cam (FRA), sailing aboard Yes we Cam!

In America's Cup news, the Ports of Auckland announced last week that they will facilitate use of the inner-harbor courses during all racing related to the 36th America's Cup (Match 6-21, 2021). This is great news for America's Cup fans and residents of Auckland who want to watch the racing from the city's waterfront.

"We wanted the public to be able to enjoy the America's Cup races as much as possible, so we looked again at the impact of racing on the port's operations," said Tony Gibson, CEO of the Ports of Auckland, in an official press release. "The situation has changed considerably since January.

"Because cruise ships are no longer able to visit Auckland, we now believe we can successfully manage freight operations even with closures to the shipping channel for racing," continued Gibson. "We will work with shipping lines to ensure there is minimal impact on their operations and to keep Auckland's freight flowing. We are very pleased to be able to support the event in this way."

For their part, Emirates Team New Zealand, is pleased with this decision. "Tony and his team have stepped up to help Emirates Team New Zealand (ETNZ) and America's Cup Event Ltd (ACE) deliver on the promise we made years ago, to make this America's Cup the most accessible and inclusive event ever," said Grant Dalton, ETNZ's CEO, in the same press release.

And lastly, for gamers and sailors who have resorted to e-sailing to get through the pandemic, Joan Cardona (ESP) has won the 2020 eSailing Worlds, beating out eight other finalists to win this this title.

"I struggled a bit at the start," said Cardona in an official World Sailing presser. "But I knew everything was going to be decided in the medal race, if I was consistent enough to be close in points, so I tried to do my best race."

Cardona, it should be noted, is an Olympic Finn sailor and a member of the Spain SailGP squad.

Sail-World tips our e-hat to Cardona, and we wish all skippers racing in the actual Vendee Globe safe and fast passage as they negotiate some lumpy weather ahead, and in the weeks and months to come.

May the four winds blow you safely home,

David Schmidt North American Editor

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