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Vendée Globe Day 53 morning update: A varied menu for Drakes Passage

by Vendée Globe 29 Dec 2020 23:32 PST 30 December 2020

Every Vendée Globe is different. And in the case of this edition compared to 2016-17 history does not repeat itself. In 2016, Armel Le Cléac'h passed Cape Horn after 47 days at sea and this time the current leader, Yannick Bestaven (Maître CoQ IV) turn left out of the Pacific after 55 days. And four years ago second placed Alex Thomson (HUGO BOSS) was nearly 600 miles from Le Cléac'h and third placed Jérémie Beyou was nearly 1,500 miles behind. Right now there eleven solo sailors in less than 500 miles, and the peloton of nine was within 130 miles yesterday.

And in 2016 Le Cléac'h rounded in a chill, moderate SW'ly this time the leader is expected to have a strong NW'ly in Drake Passage as he rounds Cape Horn.

It looks like the passage of the depression will give the leaders a strong NW'ly of around 35kts for the first three - or maybe five - before the wind shifts to an icy, moderate SW'ly for the second part of the hunting group.

Meantime the leader Yannick Bestaven is racing east about 50 miles north of the Antarctic Exclusion Zone and has just gybed north-eastwards with a lead of 150 nautical miles over Charlie Dalin (Apivia) who has Damien Seguin (Groupe Apicil) around 40 miles behind in third. But in the peloton the routings will be different, some will approach from the north like the projection for Thomas Ruyant (LinkedOut) now in fourth or Maxime Sorel (V and B-Mayenne) to arrive with the track of the depression others seem to opt for zig zags along the AEZ such as Jean Le Cam (Yes We Cam!) or Damien Seguin (APICIL Group) and behind them Giancarlo Pedote (Prysmian Group) or Louis Burton (Bureau Vallée 2). There seem to be many different routings to the Horn today.

And on the approach to the Horn the "end of the tunnel" is not going to be easy. The centre of the depression will be a windless bubble which may well affect the unlucky ones of the chasing pack. But for sure the first day of 2021 looks pretty tough. And with 80 to 95% cloud cover and sometimes torrential rains, intermittent sleet and hail it will not be pleasant. The the long Pacific swell will mix with sometimes breaking waves of more than six meters and so deliverance from the biggest ocean on Earth will be well earned. And the bad stuff does not switch off once Cape Horn is rounded there is usually no rest until the Falklands.

And 850 miles behind the Crémer-Tripon-Attanasio trio benefit from rather favourable conditions, but it is cold for them with the SW'ly from Antarctica pressing the triumvirate at high speed towards Cape Horn. Behind them a new southern depression should get into Drakes Passage in the middle of next week. They should be able to keep coming back at the peloton before the ascent of the Atlantic.

And for almost all the other solo sailors still in the race, the AEZ is the eternal limit, most of them slide along this forbidden zone in little groups, the Roura-Boissières-Hare trio on the edge of a high pressure to the South-East New Zealand, the Beyou-Le Diraison-Costa-Shiraishi quartet under Campbell Island with a good Northwest flow, while Miranda Merron (Campagne de France) will cross the longitude of Tasmania in a few hours and Ari Huusela (STARK) has finally been able to break past the end of the AMSA plateau of the Australian maritime security services with very moderate westerly wind.

This morning's radio calls:

Miranda Merron (Campagne de France), "I have beautiful blue skies and perfect downwind sailing conditions with just the occasional squall to ruin matters. There is a squall which has gone through which has used up all the wind and so we right now have only ten knots when we should have 18 to 22. If all goes well this should be my last day in the Indian Ocean, it is quite a nice way to leave an ocean which has been full of very trying conditions. It is amazing to think I will be in the Pacific and I am passed the half way point, I am very proud, and proud for my sponsors and for my team and for everyone who supports our project. Every race is different. I have two and a half crossings of the Pacific before and I don't remember it being particularly pacific. Last time there was a cyclone with 55knots upwind and that is why we turned back to New Zealand and on our way back we had the long mythical swell that everyone talks about, we had that going westwards. That was on the Global Ocean race. The problem on the Global Ocean Race was that with the ice limit we could not get south away from the cyclone."

Damien Seguin (Groupe Apicil): I follow the others, the rankings are good to see the speeds of the others, the state of the front and so on, but with the cold and the weather just now it is satisfying to be where I am. The last 36 hours have been hard with a big sea, lots of wind I have managed to fix a few things and to make my gybes in the right place at the right time, I am very satisfied to be in third place it is cool. I reckon on four days to Cape Horn, it looks complicated with the depression which is coming, I will sail properly for the conditions we get.

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