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Vendee Globe leaders round Cape Horn, Prada Cup, virtual Sydney Hobart

by David Schmidt 5 Jan 08:00 PST January 5, 2021
Yannick Bestaven on Maître Coq IV first at Cape Horn in the Vendée Globe © Yannick Bestaven / Maître Coq IV #VG2020

While the New Year might be off to a lumpy start in North America in terms of sluggish vaccine roll-outs and tough COVID-19 metrics, the 27 IMOCA 60 skippers who are still competing in the Vendee Globe have been dealing with significantly different realities.

Yannick Bestaven, sailing aboard the 2015 generation Verdier/VPLP-designed Maître CoQ, rounded Cape Horn on January 2 at 1342 hours, UTC, in the pole position. Bestaven has now begun his climb back towards France and the finishing line off of Les Sables d'Olonne. As of this writing the French-flagged skipper still had some 6,430 nautical miles separating him from his dreams of winning this storied singlehanded circumnavigation race.

Bestaven rounded the mythical cape 55 days and 22 minutes after beginning this grueling race on November 8. As of this writing he enjoys a lead of some 200 nautical miles over Charlie Dalin (FRA), sailing aboard the 2019-generation Verdier-designed Apivia, and a 330 nautical mile lead over Thomas Ruyant (FRA), who is sailing aboard the 2019-generation Verdier-designed LinkedOut.

"I had to believe in my options and in my route without worrying too much about what my competitors could do," said Bestaven in an official Vendee Globe press release, shortly after rounding Cape Horn. "I had to be stubborn, especially when I stayed along the ice barrier. But I didn't think you could go so far into the human body to physically and mentally overcome all the stress, the cold, the damp, the loneliness. There were some magical moments and some very hard ones like when the boat broached and I was on the deck in the middle of the night wondering what the hell I was doing there."

Dalin rounded Cape Horn some 14 hours and 56 minutes astern of Bestaven. It should be noted that Dalin led the chase to the Cape of Good Hope and Cape Leeuwin, but lost the pole position after troubles with his foil system.

"It's just bliss," reported Dalin in an official press release. "A great moment. I am also happy to no longer have the big seas that have been with us for several days."

Dalin's routing took him considerably closer ashore than Bestaven's course. Dalin also enjoyed relatively calm conditions for his rounding, which took place on January 3.

"I celebrated by putting up more sail," reported Dalin. "I passed close to the islands, the rocks no doubt, it was the first land I had seen since the islands of Trinidad. I had forgotten that it existed after so many days. The continental shelf was parallel to the swell and the wind, so I didn't notice any difference in the sea state. On the other hand, I had to get offshore a bit so that I did not end up in the wind shadow."

As of this writing, the first five boats - Bestaven's Maître CoQ, Dalin's Apivia, Ruyant's LinkedOut, Damien Seguin's 2008-generation Groupe Finot-Conq-designed Groupe Apicil, and Benjamin Dutreux's 2007-generation Farr-designed OMIA-Water Family - have now all rounded Cape Horn. Additionally, the next six boats should round The Horn in the next 24 hours or so (again, from the time of this writing).

Even if your 2021 started out as tough as mine (I was hit hard from behind by a novice skier a few days before New Years, ejecting me out of both of my skis and slamming the butt end of my right ski pole into my chest-ouch!), it's hopefully small potatoes compared to the troubles that skipper Isabelle Joschke, sailing aboard the 2007-generation Verdier/VPLP-designed Macsf, has been forced to weather in 2021.

"I've had a lot of bad surprises over the last three days," she reported in an official Vendee Globe release. "I lost my last [wind wand], my little gennaker tore last night and now my keel ram has just broken, which means that I will have to continue the race with the keel stuck in the axis of the boat.

"It's a big loss of potential, a big loss of speed for the boat. And, of course, the keel, while giving stability, is also a safety tool. In a little over 24 hours, I'm going to pass Cape Horn, with very mixed feelings. The joy and satisfaction of having achieved this goal, of getting out of the Southern Ocean, together with the huge disappointment of having to start another race in a sense, which I didn't think I'd have to do at all, but I will continue to give my best all the same."

Sail-World wishes all Vendee Globe skippers good fortune in the coming weeks, and we sincerely hope that Lady Luck shines a bit brighter on Joschke, who had been sailing a brilliant race aboard an older boat up until the last few days.

Meanwhile, in America's Cup news, the Prada Cup (January 15-February 22), which will determine the team that lines up against the Defender, Emirates Team New Zealand, in the America's Cup (March 6-21), is set to begin in just over two weeks' time. The Prada Cup will see racing between three teams: the New York Yacht Club's American Magic, Circolo della Vela Sicilia's Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli, and the Royal Yacht Squadron Racing's INEOS Team UK.

While a lot can obviously happen in terms of boatspeed and boathandling in the next month and a half (read: the 34th America's Cup), unless INEOS Team UK quickly figures out the secrets to controlling their steed, the Prada Cup could boil down to serious racing between just the American and Italian-flagged teams.

Be sure to stay tuned to the website for more AC news, as it breaks.

Finally, for anyone who is missing their annual Sydney Hobart fix after the 2020 edition of this storied ocean race was cancelled due to a novel coronavirus outbreak in the Sydney area a week before the race's planned start (Boxing Day), check out the report on the winners of the virtual race. Some 166,000 virtual skippers participated, making this the biggest virtual running of this online event. After 628 virtual nautical miles were sailed, Taberly-TPN took top prize, followed by Gareth West.

Sail-World congratulates these online sailors, but we sincerely hope to be reporting on the winners of the actual 2021 Sydney Hobart race in a year's time.

Finally, happy 2021 to all Sail-World readers. We hope that it proves to be a significantly happier and healthier year for all of humanity... and, selfishly, we also hope that it's one that features far more sailboat racing than 2020!

May the four winds blow you safely home,

David Schmidt North American Editor

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