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Vendée Globe Day 16 morning update: Descending the Stairway to..... Heaven or Hell?

by Vendée Globe 23 Nov 2020 01:01 PST 21 November 2020

Seven miles apart after two weeks of racing, leader Thomas Ruyant (LinkedOut) and second placed Charlie Dalin (Apivia) gybe in step with each other as they descend a corridor of modest breeze between the two evolving zones of lighter airs, an 800 nautical mile stairway down to the strong winds of the Southern Ocean.

The leading duo - both racing similarly matched Guillaume Verdier designs - are making around 17-20 kts this morning and gybing to stay in the strongest winds found in the middle of this lane of wind.

Meantime Briton Alex Thomson has become disconnected from this duel, left 270 miles behind the leaders. as he repairs a damaged longitudinal near the bow of HUGO BOSS. Thomson has been making slow speeds, around six knots in light airs in the course direction SE'ly direction overnight but has dropped to fourth behind French veteran Jean Le Cam.

Thomson said last night, "I'm disappointed obviously but this is the Vendée Globe. This is what it entails. You've got to be able to deal with this stuff. This is why we carry these materials and tools and why we're generally very good at being able to deal with these things. Normally I feel angry and sad and emotional but I don't this time. I just need to get on with it. I'm sure at some point the emotions may go the other way but, for now, there is only one thing to do, and that is to get the job done as best as I possibly can. I will do whatever it takes to stay in the race."

Amidst the group of seven chasing the leaders eighth placed Boris Herrmann (Seaexplorer-Yacht Club de Monaco) maybe smarting from a loss of 40 miles to fifth placed Kevin Escoffier (PRB) as the leader of this pack emerged into stronger winds to now lead Louis Burton (Bureau Vallée 2) by seventy miles. But the German skipper, sage as ever, expects opportunities to come his way during a challenging week ahead as they too try to break south to the Southern Ocean as efficiently and painlessly as possible.

Quotes from the 0400hrs calls:

Boris Herrmann (Seaexplorer-Yacht Club de Monaco): It has been very light winds since yesterday midday, I was going at a good speed even with my jib top at times and then going to the Code Zero and from midday to midnight I really dropped from 20kts to 3kts of boatspeed. During sunset I was smiling but before that I was biting my nails hoping I would not stop completely, which I didn't. I had just enough speed to keep the boat pointing in the right direction much more than I had hoped. Tonight I have not had the best of luck going through here, I don't know why but I lost 40 miles on PRB, he could extend he hit the wind before me and when I was around five knots he was doing 11 for these hours. But is nice to sail along in this group, our race is with this group and it is a nice race. I have lost a few places in this group but I try to make them back each day.

This has been a bit like the Doldrums with changes in wind direction of 30 degrees and big changes in wind strength, but last night it is was completely stable. But I am good, the route is long and there will be many opportunities, it is great to be at sea. There is just this challenge to get through this week with this weather situation to get to the Big South but soon we will be there.

Miranda Merron (Campagne de France) "I am in the Doldrums and they are definitely here which is a shame as the leaders definitely missed out, there are quite a lot of squalls with a lot of rain and then lots of wind and then no wind. It is four o'clock in the morning and I am going to have my dinner now which is chicken Korma as I just have not had time yet as there have been so many sail changes. I am having a lot of fun, I am perfectly happy here. It has been pouring with rain which is good because the boat was covered with a coat of sand from the deserts East of here, but there is a long way to go to get out of here."

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