View Full Version : 2016-2017 Vendee Globe

10-14-2016, 09:23 AM

The magic of the Vendée Globe can begin...

- 28 out of the 29 competitors are now present in Les Sables d'Olonne
- Sébastien Destremau is expected around 19th-20th October
- The Village opens tomorrow (Saturday) at 10 a.m. in Port Olona

On Friday 14th October, the fleet is almost complete at the Vendée Globe pontoon. 28 IMOCAs out of the 29 (Sébastien Destremau is due to arrive around 19th or 20th October) have been moored up in Les Sables d'Olonne since last night. In the space of less than 24 hours, 23 boats made their way through the harbour entrance channel in Les Sables, with most of the competitors arriving during the day yesterday ((Thursday 13th October). In the middle of the night, Banque Populaire VIII, Le Souffle du Nord pour le Projet Imagine, Safran, 100% Natural Energy and Quéguiner-Leucémie Espoir were the latest boats to moor up. Since yesterday, the crowds have been out to greet the solo sailors and see their boats. There are now three weeks of festivities scheduled in the Vendée Globe Village, which opens its doors tomorrow at 10 a.m. local time.

"All of the boats are now moored up at the Vendée Globe pontoon, except for one, which received dispensation, Sébastien Destremau's TechnoFirst-faceOcean, which was dismasted and required repairs late on," explained Jacques Caraës, the Race Director, who was present to welcome each sailor arriving at the pontoon. "The last five boats arrived during the night. So, now they're all here. Everything went smoothly and the first briefing for team managers is scheduled for 3 this afternoon. Sébastien Destremau is currently sailing up the coast of Portugal. It's all going perfectly!"

all images © Olivier BLANCHET / DPPI / Vendée Globe


You can feel the tension building in Les Sables d'Olonne, as if the countdown had begun to the big day, when the race starts at 1202hrs UTC on Sunday 6th November. Between then and now, the sailors will be juggling with their communications obligations, trying to get some rest, while remaining fully focused on what lies ahead. The crowds will be able to enjoy the atmosphere and let their imagination run wild.


Opening of the Vendée Globe Village on Saturday at 10 a.m.
On Saturday, the inauguration ceremony in the Vendée Globe Race Village is scheduled for 10 a.m. in the presence of Yves Auvinet (President of the SAEM Vendée), Bruno Retailleau (President of the Pays de la Loire Region), Didier Gallot (Mayor of Les Sables d'Olonne) and Pascal Cadorel (Sodebo). For the ribbon cutting and the group photo, the official personalities will be joined by the 28 skippers currently present in Les Sables d'Olonne. The sailors will then be able to carry on their work, while there is a procession for the dignitaries through the Village, before they get back with the sailors at 11.30 a.m. for the pontoon visit. The traditional official photo of the skippers will take place an hour later in front of the pontoon in Port Olona.
As a reminder, the Village will be open every day from 15th October to 6th November from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. local time. Late openings are also planned on Saturdays with doors closing at 10 p.m. (15th October, 22nd October, 29th October, 5th November).


Fabrice Amedeo (Newrest-Matmut):
"What a pleasure it is to be here. It's a victory to moor up in Les Sables d'Olonne and to tell ourselves that in just over three weeks, we'll be casting off to set sail around the world. It was highly emotional this afternoon sailing through the harbour entrance channel!"

Romain Attanasio (Famille Mary-Etamine du Lys):
"I was feeling stressed out, when I left home, so the delivery trip was a bit of a battle, and we had quite a lot of wind during the night. I'm pleased to have made it to Les Sables."

Jérémie Beyou (Maître CoQ):
"The delivery trip went well with ideal conditions. We left Lorient at nine and got here at one this afternoon. Everything is set up for the next three weeks, and I'll be focusing on the start of the race."

Jean Le Cam (Finistère Mer Vent):
"Finally! It hasn't been easy getting here. But we're here now and are ready for the start."

Sébastien Josse (Edmond de Rothschild):
"The pressure will gradually build, but I'm keeping calm and am ready to deal with everything in the coming days and have included that in my preparation."

Stéphane Le Diraison (Compagnie du Lit-Boulogne Billancourt):
"We've carried out the final checks and are really pleased with the boat. For me it's a victory being here. It seems unreal, but the welcome to Les Sables was fantastic."

Tanguy De Lamotte (Initiatives Cœur):
"There are more boats on the pontoon than 4 years ago. It's going to be a great race. You can feel that the locals are getting excited. I'm starting to remember everything about my last Vendée Globe."

Alan Roura (La Fabrique):
"To be honest, getting here is magic. We worked around the clock to get this far. I don't think there's any pressure on me, but I haven't really grasped what's happening to me."

10-17-2016, 09:44 AM


They all jumped into the atmosphere and excitement in the Vendée Globe Village, and are busy with interviews, autograph sessions, visits from sponsors, while everyone wants to shake their hand. "We're going to have to be careful, as we're going to miss this, when we're out at sea," Kito de Pavant said yesterday on the pontoon. How do the skippers cope during this period? What do they do each day? How do they get any rest? When will they really enter their own little world as an ocean racer? The sailors told us about what their current life is like in amongst the crowds.

Some are busy dealing with final details, making adjustments, because they struggled to find the time or money. Then there are others, who manage to get away from it all to get some rest, as their boat is fully ready with everything sorted. The Swiss sailor Alan Roura (La Fabrique) is one for whom these final three weeks feel much too short: "We've still got plenty to do to be ready for the start. I won't have much time for anything else. I'm going to be busy working on the boat.". Jean Le Cam (Finistère Mer Vent) also got his funding together late on and is taking advantage of these final days to work on the technical aspects: "There's no time for taking it easy. It's been a year that I haven't had time for that."


Bringing the crowds and sponsors together
With a million visitors in the Village in 2012, the Vendée Globe is the only sailing event like this with fans, tourists, the general public getting so close to sailors, boats and teams. The pontoon has been full since the boats arrived last Thursday. The sailors take that into account. "It's a time when we get together with the public and sponsors and we all enjoy it," said Jean-Pierre Dick (StMichel-Virbac). Vincent Riou (PRB) also makes the most of this period: he will be talking to 350 clients of PRB about his passion for racing alone around the world, which he is doing for the fourth time: "This is how our projects work. We want to see everyone here, our supporters, we have to share this passion for the Vendée Globe with them." Each sailor has a carefully drawn up schedule organised by their press attaché or by a member of their family, to allow them to get a little time to breathe. "I have some slots in the morning and evening, so I can go surfing, swimming or jogging. I'm trying to keep to my routine," explained Sébastien Josse (Edmond de Rothschild). Yann Eliès (Quéguiner-Leucémie Espoir) is never without his Figaro or his surfboard either. At 8 on Sunday morning, he was out there surfing and hopes to get in two or three sessions on his Figaro Bénéteau 2 to stay in contact with the sea and the elements.


Some time off before it gets going
While Jérémie Beyou (Maître CoQ), Fabrice Amedeo (Newrest-Matmut), Vincent Riou (PRB), and the majority of international skippers, like Rich Wilson (Great American IV), or Kojiro Shiraishi (Spirit of Yukoh) are based in Les Sables d'Olonne for three weeks, many have decided to take a few days off to get away from it all. "During these days off, I'll have some normal days with sport, looking after my son and taking some time out," stressed Thomas Ruyant (Le Souffle du Nord pour le Projet Imagine). Jean-Pierre Dick will be going off for nature walks with his partner to try to forget everything and get some rest. The idea for them all is to reduce the stress. Everyone has their own method, as they look forward to 1202hrs UTC on 6th November.


Sébastien Josse (France), Edmond de Rothschild:
"I went through some physical training in Brittany and I'll be continuing in Les Sables d'Olonne. We have to keep at it, as there is a lot to do and it's important to stay in good shape. I'll be running, swimming and surfing if I find the time. I'll sail once a week to remain focused going through everything right up to the start. I want everything to stay in place on board to be ready for the big day."

Kito de Pavant (France), Bastide Otio:
"These three weeks in Les Sables are different from the others. We see so many people, while in general sailors tend to be quiet and keep to themselves. We mustn't get used to it, as we'll miss it during the Vendée Globe! I'm taking some time out, but am remaining focused on the race. Sailing around the world is complicated, as there are so many things to think about."

Vincent Riou (France), PRB:
"I've a busy schedule right up to 6th November, and I'll be here all the time except for one weekend, when I'll go home. We're seeing 350 clients, so am present every morning in la Mothe-Achard with the firm to answer their questions about the Vendée Globe. I leave them to it at lunchtime, as I want to have a light meal and have a little nap. After that, they visit the boat. That is what allows our projects to work. If we want to interest people and have support, you have to invest beforehand. We have to share our passion for sailing and the Vendée Globe with them."

Alan Roura (Suisse), La Fabrique:
"I'm working with a small team and have lots of little details left to deal with to be ready on the big day. I also have to deal with the media, and this is part of my job. My days are full and I'm getting through a lot of coffee. I don't have any time for anything else, but I hope to get three days off to get some rest and forget things."

Kojiro Shiraishi (Japon), Spirit of Yukoh:
"I'm making the most of my stay in Les Sables d'Olonne. I'm soaking up the atmosphere with the spectators. The atmosphere on the pontoons is incredible. The boat is more or less ready for the Vendée Globe. I still have a bit of learning to do about the computer. On the week of the start more than a hundred people from Japan (sponsors, friends) will be coming to Les Sables d'Olonne to visit the Vendée Globe Village. They are going to be impressed seeing such excitement."

Jean Le Cam (France), Finistère Mer Vent:
"I'll be busy over the next three weeks with media commitments, autograph sessions and the technical work. My project is rather unusual. We got our rig and sails at the last moment. Fortunately, we got a lot of support. There's no time for easing off, but I'll try to get some rest."

Thomas Ruyant (France), Le Souffle du Nord pour le Projet Imagine:
"The schedule is very full during the first week with lots of interviews. We were ready, when we got here, so I don't have much to do on the boat. We're enjoying the event and soaking up the atmosphere. I have planned to take a week off with my family in Lorient with some normal days."

Arnaud Boissières (France), La Mie Câline:
"We're going out sailing on Tuesday, as we have a few things to see to on the boat, such as setting up the autopilot, for example. The visits from partners are scheduled here in the workshop, which makes it easier than aboard the boat. I became a Dad last week, so I'm getting used to not getting much sleep!"

Louis Burton (France), Bureau Vallée:
"I'm really enjoying it here. It's great to attract so many people and see how the public is interested in our project. The boat is almost ready and the family is on their way. I'm trying not to get too stressed and to stay calm. We have decided to set up appointments on the first and last week in general. I'll be taking some time off in the middle. Apart from that, I'm doing some cycling, so I am managing to do some sport..."

Jean-Pierre Dick (France), StMichel-Virbac:
"It's never that easy. You have to deal with the situation, but in the end, it's a moment when we get together with the public and our sponsor. We try to be available to them, even if the race is already on our minds. We also need to take some time out, do some sport to sleep well and keep up the exercises. My trainer is here. I'm swimming, cycling, so not doing anything dangerous During my week off, I won't be going home. I'm going abroad with my partner to enjoy the natural world and do some walks together."

10-18-2016, 09:11 AM

Over the past thirty years, the boats sailed around the world by solo sailors have gone through several radical design changes, firstly for safety reasons, but also to adapt to more stringent class rules. However, the boats have continued to improve in terms of performance with each edition of the Vendée Globe. In the first non-stop solo round the world race, the winner Titouan Lamazou took 109 days and 8 hours, while François Gabart has held the record since 2013 after completing the voyage in 78 days and two hours, or in other words an improvement of 25% in spite of the race course being around 20% longer.

Dive into the world of the Vendée Globe Will Britannia one day rule the waves?


Ocean racing is probably the mechanical sport, which has changed the most over the past thirty years. The first 60-foot boats designed to sail around the world date back to the 1996 BOC Challenge, the second edition of the solo round the world race with stopovers. But since then, when the winner was Crédit Agricole III, a boat built of aluminium and which was heavy and bulky, weighing in at 15 tonnes, designers have tried to find ways to increase power, while reducing weight. So, in the first Vendée Globe (1989-90), there were no real design constraints, apart from the length of the hull, but with each passing edition, the domination of wide “sleds” with a lot of ballast and sail has been thrown into question, particularly after the tragic 1996 race, when three boats capsized (Dinelli, Bullimore, Dubois) and one sailor was lost (Gerry Roufs)…



Wing mast and canting keel
While they have tended to become more reasonable with IMOCA class rules, which take into account the stability of the boat and imposes safety gear, the 60-foot boats have continued to include innovations. In 1996, Yves Parlier set sail around the world with the first wing mast. In 2000, Michel Desjoyeaux won with a canting keel, which allowed the boat to be stiffer. Then, there were the asymmetrical daggerboards, more ballast tanks, huge progress in terms of weather forecasting with the use of Grib files and on board routing systems, sails which no longer lost their shape and hulls made of pre-preg carbon…
IMOCA boats took the time down to under 100 days in 2001, completing the round the world voyage in 90 days in 2005, then in under 85 days in 2009 and in 78 days in 2013. Yet, class rules have become increasingly limiting with a maximum beam today of 5.85m, a maximum draft of 4.5m, an air draft of 29m, a maximum of five appendages, minimum freeboard height and coach roof volume… There have been changes in leadership in terms of the design teams: Finot-Conq, Lombard, Owen-Clarke, Farr, Kouyoumdjian, then VPLP-Verdier with straighter lines and rounder bows to increase lateral stability.



Foiling crazy
However innovation costs money and in 2013 the skippers planned to move to a one-design boat to keep costs down. The idea was rejected, but certain elements of the puzzle that makes up a 60-foot IMOCA were standardised (mast, keel) and the volume of the ballast tanks limited. Inspired by the catamarans in the America’s Cup, the designers came up with the idea of adding foils to lift up the hulls and increase the boats’ speed and power. Six new prototypes have been fitted with these new appendages and one older boat modified to include them.
But because the 2016 rules limit the number of appendages to five (a keel, two rudders and two daggerboards), the designers had to think of a dual function appendage: an anti-drift role to stop the boat from moving sideways when sailing against the wind and with the function of lifting the boat up in addition to the canting keel, which also contributes to that. The tip of this foil is the key element for the former, while the elbow helps raise the boat, and the shaft, which comes out of the hull, is just a way to support the tip. After a number of sea trials, the skippers and designers defined the best adjustment possible, remembering that class rules forbid the modification of the incidence of the foil. They then changed the shape from the initial designs to enhance performance, in particular when sailing upwind.

Now, all of the foilers are fitted with version 2 (except Hugo Boss following damage to the foil), but each one has gone for a small difference, with the aim of cranking up performance: doing better upwind, more powerful with the wind on the beam, raised up when sailing downwind… There is a significant gain in power thanks to the foils at between 70° and 120° from the real wind. That is when the appendage in conjunction with the canting keel raises the hull up, reducing drag and offering an increase in speed of two knots in comparison to a traditional IMOCA without foils.
This latest design feature is now better tuned after a year of tests, but there are still questions about the outcome in the non-stop solo round the world race. Which of the boats will survive? Those that fly on the water with their foils or those that are simply lighter. Who will come out on top after two and a half months of sailing around the three oceans, where there is a huge range of weather conditions from Southern storms to equatorial calms? We should get the answer around 20th January 2017 in Les Sables d’Olonne…
DBo / M&M

10-18-2016, 09:10 PM
The best race on the planet, IMHO!

10-25-2016, 10:59 AM

Just to be in Les Sables d'Olonne preparing for the start of his first Vendée Globe is in itself the realisation of a dream he has held for 30 years. His race will honour the legacy of the remarkable Yukoh Tada his mentor who gave up driving a taxi in Tokyo to race in the first BOC race around the world in 1982-3, winning his class, Class 2 when Philippe Jeantot won the race. They became close friends and Tada sought to take part in the first Vendée Globe but could not raise the funds.
Tada, a remarkable painter, poet, author and saxophonist took his own life in Sydney during the 1990-1 BOC Challenge, said to be the result of his problems with his 50 footer Koden VII which had capsized three times during the race and lost her keel.

Shiraishi himself was a key member of Tada's shore team and has carried on his legacy and spirit, taking second place in the 2003 Around Alone in the Open 40 class and then second behind Bernard Stamm in 2006.


He comes to the Vendée Globe armed with two successful circumnavigation races in his locker and with the well proven Farr designed IMOCA Spirit of Yukoh. The boat had a chequered history to start with, born in Cowes, England as Estrella Damm then becoming Sebastien Josse's BT which retired into Auckland from the 2008-9 race with rudder damage. But by 2011 it was fully optimised and strengthened for Alex Thomson, finishing runner up in the Transat Jacques Vabre in 2011 and then took third in the last race as Hugo Boss then more recently finished second in the Barcelona World Race as Guillermo Altadill and José Munoz Neutrogena. In the summer Shiraishi finished seventh in the New York- Vendée race, his shakedown with the 2007 Farr design.

In the warm autumn sunshine of Les Sables d'Olonne, the smile that seems permanently affixed to the face of the first Asian soloist ever to compete in the Vendée Globe is even bigger than usual. A mix up from the hardware supplier means he has just had the primary winch drum from François Gabart's 2013 record holding, race winning IMOCA Macif fitted to his Spirit of Yukoh.

"Now maybe I can sail as fast as François, maybe I will get round in under 80 days!' grins Shiraishi, his infectious enthusiasm spreading to the huge crowds on the dock.

"I am so happy to be here. This is a dream which I have held for almost 30 years, since I heard about it from my mentor Yukoh Tada. So being here now is just incredible." He explains, "I just kept that dream in my head all of these years. I feel closer to him and I am so happy that my sponsors have allowed me to keep the name of the boat as Spirit of Yukoh in his honour. They understand the story and respect that."

He has an excellent team of mainly French preparateurs and the boat is in good shape:
"I am not quite ready at 100% yet. But I will be making adjustments all the time and I am sure that by the time I get back I will be fully ready! There is nothing big to do. It is all good. Since the New York-Vendee race we have had some new ropes and sails. We have five new sails from North Sails, a new main in 3Di which is lighter, and also the J1, J2, J3 and the blast reacher which are all new. Our objective most of all is to get around and so for example the blast reacher is heavier, it is very strong but it is hard because it is heavier. I talked with the sailmakers and the objective is to finish so the sails are all a little bit stronger and heavy."

By now well proven and successful, changes to the boat since he took it on are relatively minor.
"There are not many changes (to the boat) since the Vendée Globe and the Barcelona World Race. Alex (Thomson) had all the ropes coming to the cockpit and that was a bit complex for me and so I have some of them lead now to the base of the mast. I am happy going to the mast occasionally because I feel I can see and check more as I go. But I have had lots of input from Alex. The boat is very strong I think, if Alex could not break it then it's good for me."
He is a firm believer in fate and good fortune:

"This boat has had some very good luck. I feel strongly about luck. I think in the Vendée Globe and solo sailing the contribution of luck is about 20 per cent of the whole race. But really we don't know what will happen and so you need to have the luck go your way. I am trying not to fight nature as it comes to me but to have the whole universe on my side."
And his pursuit of the Vendée Globe is breaking into the mainstream Japanese TV media:
"There is a lot of interest from mainstream media in Japan, NHK and TV Asahi. TV Asahi is going to do at least one live interview all the way through the race. That is huge and they have a massive audience for their nightly news. And NHK is like the BBC and will do a three part documentary after the Vendée Globe. I will shoot in 4K and so they will have ultra high definition output."
He concludes:
"It will be amazing to be on the start line. We will have a full Samurai send off on the day. I can't wait to be going."

And meantime with 12 days until the start will he be taking some time away from the incessant buzz and stress of the race village?
"No time off. I rest after I am dead."

10-25-2016, 07:56 PM
The foilers look fast, if they don't break or latch onto objects, living and otherwise.

Can you even sleep onboard in foiling mode?

10-26-2016, 12:51 PM

Triumphant in the summer's warm up New York – Vendée Transatlantic Race and three times winner of La Solitaire du Figaro, the incredibly competitive solo one design classic stage offshore race which is sailed each summer in 32-foot one design Bénéteau Figaro 2s, Jérémie Beyou on Maître CoQ ranks as one of the favourites to win this eighth edition of the Vendée Globe.

His two previous attempts ended in early abandons. In 2008 his rigging failed on Delta Dore and he retired on the 17th day of racing when approaching the north of Brazil. On the ninth day of the last race he had to turn Maître CoQ round due to keel problems.

Despite the successive hard knocks dealt him by the uncompromising, often cruel Vendée Globe, the hard driving skipper from Brittany's Bay of Morlaix - who grew up sailing with and against the childhood friends that now also rank among his biggest rivals to win this race, Armel Le Cléac'h and Yann Eliès, Beyou remains eternally pragmatic and grounded.
As with others who have yet to beat the Vendée Globe, successive failures have only rendered him harder and smarter. His uncompromising strength and fitness programme is, once again, the talk of the dock. Technically he has striven relentlessly to improve and optimise his Maître CoQ, formerly Le Cléac'h's Banque Populaire which finished second in the last edition, he and his team making the decision to retro fit foils last winter and relaunching the boat on 16th April this year.

As with most of the skippers Beyou has spent the last few days taking time, relaxing away from the race village, cycling and surfing with his young family. He has never been better prepared for a big ocean race.

"I try not to think about luck." Beyou says, "In the past we were not so well prepared. First time we had not sailed so much with the boat and the mast. And one of the things winning the Figaro and other races tells me more than anything is that you have to prepare absolutely the best you can and you make your luck."

All of the winning skippers of the last four editions of the Vendée Globe have trained with the elite Pole Finistere Course au Large group at Port-la-Forêt, Desjoyeaux (2000 and 2008), Riou (2004) and Gabart (2012). Beyou has been part of the squad there for 20 years since he started in the Figaro and has embraced the collaborative, open processes which constantly raise the level of the group. Nine skippers have worked together within this set up, Roman Attanasio, Beyou, Jean Pierre Dick, Eliès, Sébastien Josse, Morgan Lagraviere, Le Cléac'h, Paul Meilhat and Riou, all sharing the same goal, to win the Vendée Globe.

"We are always sailing with the other boats and so you do get to know their relative strengths. We work in turn on every different area, strategy, meteo, medical, through the whole year. And with this group it is an environment which is designed to make it easy to make improvements."
"When we are working together in a common group it is as open as possible. We start the day with a briefing to discuss common goals, some days will be boat on boat, some offshore, some boat speed, manoeuvres. The coaches work hard to keep it open and the flow of information coming. For example you will report every ten minutes or so on set up and changes. Speed testing you will not discuss sail areas but configurations and what set up you are using. You have to answer but maybe not always people give the right answers. It happens."
"The differences now, for example since the number of ballast tanks has been reduced, are smaller than before. Generally PRB is still considered to be the fastest all rounder."

The programme has stepped up significantly since the successes in the last race when Port-la-Forêt programme boats took three of the top four places.

"We have had more specific, specialised experts in more often, meteo guys like Pascal Bidégorry and Jean Luc Nélias, sail designers and specialists always with a full debrief."

Béyou will start on Sunday 6th November on the heels of a sound victory in the summer's New York-Vendée race, a bruising race which proved and acid test for boat and skipper. Since the last Vendée Globe he added his record-equalling third Solitaire du Figaro victory, considering the white hot offshore event an essential component of his solo programme.

"The fact is that the chances to race on the IMOCA are infrequent. The Figaro really sharpens you up. It is the only way to get racing as close over prolonged periods."

His most consistent and equally successful Figaro rival Eliès returns to the Vendée Globe.
"I really like Yann and respect him as a competitor. He is very talented. I was reading that he says he does not have the best boat in the fleet but we will see about that. He will be in the match I am sure."

And of his other childhood pal, Le Cléac'h who has twice finished second in successive Vendée Globes?

"He is the favourite. He seems very sure of himself. I know him very well. We were very close and used to do everything together but in this world when you are competitors at this level it is inevitable you move apart and have separate lives. This is such a huge challenge but for sure we respect each other."

Vendée Globe: more than 300,000 visitors in a week

The Vendée Globe race village remains a popular pilgrimage for hundreds of thousands of visitors who travel to Les Sables d'Olonne to see the 29 strong fleet of IMOCA race boats, the skippers and to enjoy the expansive, interactive displays.
In the first week since opening (from 15th to 23rd October), more than 300,000 visitors came to Port-Olona. This is more or less the same numbers as visited during the corresponding pre-start week in 2012. The fine weather, school holidays and the fast approaching date of the start means the crowds are increasing by the day.

10-27-2016, 11:02 AM

A Vendée Globe of all the extremes

With competitors from ten countries aged between 23 and 66, boats launched between 1998 and 2015, budgets for some representing ten times that of another, some very different race times can be expected... While the Vendée Globe has always brought solo sailors together on the start line with a wide range of goals, some seeing themselves as adventurers, while others are extremely keen racers, the line-up for this eighth edition seems particularly eclectic, whether we are looking at the men taking part or their boats.

Throughout its history, the Vendée Globe has brought together sailors with more or less experience and boats capable of varying levels of performance. We didn't have to wait for the new foiling IMOCAs to see a wide range of speeds out on the water. In the first edition of the Vendée Globe in 1989-1990, there was a huge difference between Titouan Lamazou's Ecureuil Aquitaine II and Jean-François Coste's Cacharel (ex Pen Duick III). That was clear to se with their race times. Titouan Lamazou won the race after 109 days, while Jean-François Coste brought up the rear two months later after 163 days at sea...

In the following six editions, these differences contributed to the appeal of the race. For various reasons, this eighth edition, which starts in ten days from now on 6th November, appears to push this even further. "This Vendée Globe brings together a huge range of boats and skippers. Their backgrounds are very different from each other and there are massive differences in speed between the boats. The spectrum is much wider than in the past. This is the Vendée Globe of all the extremes," explained Jean Le Cam, who has not missed a single edition since 2004.

43 years difference in age between the eldest and youngest entrant
This year's Vendée Globe sees the youngest competitor ever taking part and the eldest too. The Swiss sailor Alan Roura is just 23, while the American, Rich Wilson is 66. We can compare that to four years ago, when the youngest competitor was Louis Burton (27) and the eldest, Dominique Wavre (57).
On the day the Village opened in Les Sables d'Olonne, Alan Roura and Rich Wilson got to know each other and saw that in spite of the age difference of 43 years, they share the same passion for the sea and the same approach to solo ocean racing and more particularly to the Vendée Globe. In this eighth edition, there are two competitors under 30: Alan Roura and Morgan Lagravière (29). There are four, who are over 60: Nandor Fa, Pieter Heerema, Enda O'Coineen and Rich Wilson. The average age of the 29 competitors is 44.

Rookies and experienced sailors
Apart from their age, there is a striking difference too in terms of experience. Some have already completed several round the world voyages, while others have only spent a few weeks at sea. No fewer than five skippers will be setting off for the fourth time in the Vendée Globe: Bertrand de Broc, Jean-Pierre Dick, Jean Le Cam, Vincent Riou and Alex Thomson. Six for the third time and four for the second time. The fourteen others are rookies...

"There are around ten competitors in it to win it, while others are looking for adventure, including some I don't really know yet. But it's nice seeing them in the Vendée Globe. It's what makes our sport so interesting," declared Armel Le Cléac'h. "In the past in the Vendée Globe, around 50 % of the projects were serious contenders and 50% of the sailors were hoping merely to complete the race. This time there is a higher percentage of the second category. I don't know if that is a good thing, but it is very different in any case from previous editions," added Vincent Riou, the only previous winner lining up this year.

A much more international line-up
In addition to different career paths, the geographical origins of the sailors are very different this time around. No fewer than ten nationalities are represented, including four represented for the first time: New Zealand (with Conrad Colman), the Netherlands (with Pieter Heerema), Ireland (with Enda O'Coineen) and Japan (with Kojiro Shiraishi, the first Asian competitor).

Boats launched between 1998 and 2015
Sébastien Destremau has declared that he is setting off with a microscopic budget of 350,000 euros, while the big teams have more than ten times that to spend... It is true that the 29 IMOCAs moored up in Les Sables d'Olonne are all 60-foot boats. But you just have to stroll along the pontoon to see how different they are. There are some historic monohulls with glorious past histories and others that are brand new and ready for battle. The oldest boats were launched in 1998: Romain Attanasio's Famille Mary-Etamine du Lys (Catherine Chabaud's former Whirlpool) and Sébastien Destremau's TechnoFirst-faceOcean (Josh Hall's former Gartmore). The other vintage boats date back to 2000, Alan Roura's La Fabrique (Bernard Stamm's former Superbigou) and Didac Costa's One Planet One Ocean (Ellen MacArthur's former Kingfisher). Didac Costa is docked next to SMA (the boat that won the last Vendée Globe) and Hugo Boss (a new generation IMOCA with foils launched in 2015 for Alex Thomson). Five other boats were launched last year: StMichel-Virbac (Jean-Pierre Dick), Banque Populaire VIII (Armel Le Cléac'h), Safran (Morgan Lagravière), No Way Back (Pieter Heerema) and Edmond de Rothschild (Sébastien Josse).

It is not merely in the harbour that the differences are clear. "In terms of performance in some points of sail, there is a huge gulf between the foilers and the older boats. During the delivery trip between Lorient and Les Sables d'Olonne, we overtook La Fabrique doing 13 knots, while we were doing 24!" explained Jérémie Beyou. In 2013, François Gabart won the Vendée Globe in 78 days and Alessandro di Benedetto was the last skipper back to Vendée after 104 days. The arrivals stretched out over 26 days. The gaps may well be much wider this year...

10-28-2016, 03:37 PM

A Brighter Future

Britain's Dee Caffari, the only woman to have sailed non-stop around the world three times, a record which includes a sixth overall in an epic 2008-9 Vendée Globe, returns to the start and finish port of the legendary solo non stop around the world race, Les Sables d'Olonne, next week to share in the unique atmosphere when hundreds of thousands of well wishers line the water's edge to send this edition's 29 brave soloists on their way on Sunday 6th November.

Caffari and her French based compatriot Sam Davies, friends and rivals during the 2008-9 race which saw only 12 finishers from 30 starters and crewmates on Team SCA – the all women crew on the last Volvo Ocean Race (crewed stage race around the world) – harbour dreams of competing in the Vendée Globe again. Both miss this Vendée Globe race because the short time available to them after the completion of their Team SCA commitments precluded any kind of competitive Vendée Globe campaign.

But Caffari hopes that changes to the crew composition rules for the pinnacle crewed race around the world – the Volvo Ocean Race - might also help more female sailors make the big step up to solo racing around the world.

If more women sailors can gain hard experience in the hostile wastes of the Southern Ocean, competing in different roles in the more secure, supported environment of mixed sex or more all female race teams, she feels that women will be better equipped to go it alone and inherently more competitive after learning in the crewed in the environment.
For example it should improve the pathway from La Solitaire de Figaro or Class 40 racing, for to solo IMOCA racing and ultimately the Vendée Globe. With five women competing in last summer's La Solitaire du Figaro solo stage race between France and England, Caffari believes that the 2020 Vendée Globe might see women competing again.

Caffari explains: "The Volvo Ocean Race is making rule changes to incentivise teams to have females. The GC32 (foiling multihull circuit) is changing the rules to allow an extra crew member if it is a female or a youth team. They are encouraging female participation. But I think it is encouraging that there were five girls in the Figaro and unfortunately for those women who did the last Volvo the timing just does not work. Hopefully there will be a big push for next time."

There is no shortage of talent nor likely candidates for the next edition: "I think the Vendée Globe is on women's agendas. Isabelle Joschke had a storming Transat and she is prime to step up to this league, same as Justine Mettraux on the Figaro. Anna Corbella was talking about it. So there are definitely women ready and it is on their radars. I am hopeful that in four years they will all be in Les Sables d'Olonne, and me, and I know Sam Davies would love to be there too."

And she has no doubts women can prove as competitive as their male counterparts, under the right conditions: "I think the race is still up for grabs. Everyone doubted Ellen MacArthur, the little petite English girl whupped them. Sam was only just off the podium, I was sixth. Because the Vendée Globe is a law unto itself it really never follows the rankings, you can put people in lines of where you expect them to finish, but it never really follows that. It is such a war of attrition it never materialises like you think. As long as you have a competitive boat, you have sailed the miles, you play the weather well and push hard you will be in amongst it. It is one of the few races where we have shown it makes no difference to be female."

And she believes the Volvo Ocean Race can be a transition stage to the Vendée Globe for aspiring females: "Now I am thinking that more women in the Volvo will help bridge the gap from the Figaro to the Vendée Globe. It will give them the Southern Ocean experience with a team around them and then can make the transition to solo easier."

If it was one or the other – a perfect Volvo or a perfect Vendée Globe programme what would Caffari choose? "The Vendée Globe. Without doubt. Nobody can take anything away from you. The good bits are you and the bad bits are down to you. You have to put it all together and make it work to get round. It is the Ultimate. In the Volvo you rely on the team around. I like the intensity of the Volvo. It is 100% all the time. When you sleep it is still on at 100%. And living the Volvo at that intensity has made me a better sailor."

10-30-2016, 09:47 AM
Red, Orange, Green

French and international race skippers are returning to sun drenched Les Sables d'Olonne after taking a their final rest at home before what is always a frenetic, highly charged last week before the Vendée Globe solo non stop around the world race starts next Sunday, 6th November. The warm weather and summer like temperatures on France's Vendée coast belie what is ahead over the next 70-80 days but continue to draw big crowds to the town.


The young French based skipper Conrad Colman, who holds dual nationality of both New Zealand and the USA, would prefer to be spending time with the thousands of interested visitors, discussing his bid to become the first solo skipper to complete the Vendée Globe using only 100% Natural Energy sources. But he still has the final pieces of a complicated financial jigsaw to put in place. Colman will be the first Vendée Globe skipper to use his primary electric motor – in place of a diesel engine - as a power generating source as its turning propeller becomes a hydrogenerator. His programme – relatively late and seeking primarily to validate the natural technologies and deliver a strong message – contrasts with that of Vincent Riou. The only skipper in the race to have won the Vendée Globe before, in 2004, is relaxed, ultra ready and – entering the final countdown to his fourth attempt at the solo round the world race - needs only to concentrate on the new long term weather outlook as it evolves this week.

The Whys and Watts of Conrad Colman 100% Natural Energy
Conrad Colman is the only skipper planning to push off the dock on Sunday 6th November seeking to become the first soloist to race around the world non stop in the Vendée Globe using only 100% natural energy, that is to say no fossil fuels. On an older boat, launched in 2005, Colman is resigned to the fact his IMOCA 60 does not have a race winning pedigree, but his primary goals come from the heart. "The objective is to have it as a reflection of my philosophies. Growing up in New Zealand I was aware of the hole in the Ozone layer there. Even when I was little I would always clean the beaches with my mum. I still do. And I was always taught to tread lightly," Colman adds. "I converted to become a vegetarian and still am not especially because I care about cute lambs but because I was more concerned about the global impact of the chain, of food production and consumption. And so the project is a reflection of my ideals. Electrification is coming in our infrastructure."

At the heart of Colman's energy system is an electric motor. When the boat is moving the prop opens about one third and turns, generating electric power which is stored in nine batteries. Colman has solar panels on his mainsail on the coach roof of 100% Natural Energy. And he is fitting a Watt & Sea hydro generator as back up. Fully charged he has a range of five to seven days depending on how hard the autopilot has to work. As his electric motor is also motive power for the IMOCA a data logger monitors his electronic input and output as the equivalent of an engine 'seal'.

And he asserts that alone reduces his stress levels and allows him to focus on sailing efficiently. The biggest downside? With no heating it is going to be chilly in the south for the 34 year old. In Colman's mind getting around and proving it can be done comes ahead of targeting any particular finishing place. In the 2008-9 race Yannick Bestaven, the founder of the Watt & Sea hydrogenerator was an early pioneer for hydro and renewable power but had to retire in the Bay of Biscay. In the 2012-13 race Javier 'Bubi' Sanso came very near to completing the race but lost his keel and had to abandon Acciona 100% Eco Powered capsized 360 miles south of the Azores. Colman takes up the baton with a fierce passion.
Colman explains: "I have 350 watts of flexible solar panels on the mainsail either side, just above the second reef. I am installing 400 watts of solar panels on the cabin top and three I am able to use the propulsion battery pack for my service needs. So that was something which Bubi Sanso did not have, he had a hydrogen fuel cell and a huge series of batteries and all that was attached to his (electric) motor which was sealed (he did not use the engine to generate electric power) and so he was carrying a huge capacity which he was not able to use."

"Because I have an electronic seal, which is essentially a data logger which captures the status of the system for one minute over each of 90 days, I am allowed to make withdrawals into the propulsion battery pack. Thus for the first time ever in the IMOCA circuit then I can use the propulsion propeller as a generator. In four years we have made such a big step forwards and I am using all of the tools we have on board, not just carrying around static weight.
Colman will effectively be the first skipper to be allowed to use his electric engine and its prop as a hydrogenerator. "The drag is negligible. It does not even register a change on the speedo when it is goes on."

“Nobody else is doing this. Damien Seguin was using the same electric motor in Class 40 racing but was not allowed to use it as a hydro generator because the class rules do not allow this electric ‘seal’. And it requires someone who has different priorities other than winning the race to develop this technology and adapt it to an ocean racing boat. I knew I was not going to win and so I was looking for something unique, reflection of myself and with this very late entry and with an older boat, my priority is on doing it differently, asking questions of the status quo and trying to build something for the future.”

Transatlantics, the back and forth. Depending on the conditions and how hard the pilot is pushing I have between five and days on autonomy and also I am using a prototype brushless motor on my autopilot and so it is a way of increasing reactivity and reducing consumption. It is a prototype which has been put together by Teem in Lorient along with NKE. We pulled off the old motor off the hydraulic ram and now have a programming box and a brushless motor. It is programmed slightly different so that it is super reactive but only makes the gesture when it needs to. That reduces the latency. If the stroke lasts a second then there is still a warm up and a cool down phase at each end of that. For the useful stroke you are therefore energy at the beginning and the end of the stroke which is not useful energy. Hydraulic rams have been going out of favour because they are going out of favour but this is bringing them back. Mechanically they are super reliable, very strong and so if we can economise the movement then overall as a package they are more efficient. “
Colman is still trying to find a last minute sponsor or white knight backer to help with his communication budget throughout the race.


Riou Two?
Some people might rail against the very idea of a bespectacled 44 year old with salt and pepper grey hair riding a skateboard. Hipsters anywhere in the world would not bat an eyelid. But for the discreet, retiring Vincent Riou, it is all part of his physical preparation as he seeks to become the only the second skipper after Michel Desjoyeaux to win the Vendée Globe twice.

The meticulous technician prepared Desjoyeaux's winning boat, PRB, in 2000 before stepping up to win in 2004-5 in the colours of the Vendée based building supplier which has a long and proud association with the race dating back 24 years. Quiet and unassuming Riou is a favourite on the crowded dock in Les Sables d'Olonne. He is the housewives' secret crush, as befits a Vendée Globe winner in this region, just as he is also the accessible, smarter mate to the builders' and construction professionals who make the four yearly pilgrimage to Les Sables d'Olonne as guests of PRB. As they leverage their investment PRB host 300 VIPs per day, over 2500 over the course of the 21 day build up.

But those in the know also consider Riou their own favourite to win this eighth edition of the Vendée Globe. His highly optimised VPLP-Verdier design is deemed by many of his nearest rivals as the fastest all-rounder. It may not have latest generation hydro foils – a decision Riou says he is content - with but his 2010 launched orange IMOCA has the reliability of miles built in for skipper and boat together. Riou and his team have also succeeded in making incremental speed gains optimising the foils, angles and positioning, keel, ballast and aero package. These have been validated this year with a second place in the Transat Bakerly and last year Riou and co-skipper Sébastien Col won the Transat Jacques Vabre.

Riou rides around Port-la-Forêt and elsewhere on his skateboard. In fact it helps him work on his balance. He runs at least twice a week, lifts weights in the gym, cycles and goes stand-up paddle boarding. It is all part of the conditioning programme. When there is enough wind, he enjoys sailing his foiling Moth or going out surfing, if the waves are big enough. He is not one to work with a sports psychologist. He works alone to be able to face up to whatever the Vendée Globe throws at him. He admits he hasn't been able to find the right person to stick with for a long time, as to be effective, there needs to be a close, open relationship. "This is my own personal method working on my mental ability. It may involve books or any other way of learning. What is certain is that I am motivated. Once I decide on something, I give it my all." An attitude, which allows him to put the disappointment of having to abandon the 2012 Vendée Globe when his PRB was badly damaged when it hit a metal buoy in the Atlantic.

Riou is relaxed as he considers his fourth Vendée Globe start, enjoying the Mediterranean weather which has rendered the Vendée Globe start more Saint Tropez than Les Sables d'Olonne: "Early next week, we'll be looking at the weather forecasts. It's similar each time, but I have never been so well prepared. I have done a lot of sailing over the past two years. We started the technical preparation well in advance. as there weren't any major modifications this year. That allows us to be here without feeling any stress."
Even with all the media hype attached to the question of foils or no foils, Riou remains cool and pragmatic: "Today, I'm happy with my choice. I may not feel the same in two and a half months from now... I think everyone has their chance together, the foilers and a few boats without foils. The weather is going to be key in deciding the outcome. If there's a lot of wind and we have a lot of reaching, it's going to be hard competing against the foilers. But in other conditions, we have a card to play. When I took the decision not to fit foils, I had already been watching the boats with foils for four months. At that point, it was complicated for them. In many conditions, they simply weren't fast."

He continues: “Today, they have made progress and things are more or less where I thought they would be. In around 50% of the conditions, they are faster, and 50% of conditions where we are faster. We carried out a little study before coming here to analyse the performance of the foilers and that was the conclusion. If we compare ten years of weather conditions for the foilers and non-foilers, it’s fifty-fifty. But it’s very rare that we see huge differences developing.”
He considers the long game an even match: “So I think it’s wide open, as they are also going to have to worry about the reliability of the foils. They are going to have to work hard to find the perfect compromise to finish the race and keep up high speeds, as this race is going to be fast.”

On his optimisation programme he says: “I think we have made progress since last year, although the foilers have progressed more. We have continued to work on PRB, even if we haven’t fitted foils. We have worked on the rig and sails. We have gone for different options from the others. We have tried to improve PRB’s performance, where the foilers are fast. We modified the position of the daggerboards and the ballast tanks, lots of little details to balance the boat, to allow her to go that little bit faster.”

And of the chatter from the Port- la-Forêt training camps that he is the man to beat? “In the group at Port-la-Forêt, everyone is quick today. But this is the Vendée Globe, which is special. It’s so long that we’ll see who surprises, who disappoints. That’s what is so great about this event. There are about eight boats that can win, but in a fortnight, maybe there will only be four. It all happens very quickly. There are people who do well from the outset, while others struggle.”

The race is almost immeasurably different to when Riou – Vincent Le Terrible – won a three cornered battle with ‘King Jean’, Jean Le Cam, and ‘Goldfinger’ Britain’s Mike Golding. In 2008 he was credited with third after rescuing Le Cam when his VM Materiaux capsized off Cape Horn. “Each Vendée Globe is different. That’s why it’s interesting to come back each time. We can be certain that the adventure won’t be the same each time. The course is so long and so many things can happen. Even if you are there as a racer, you can easily find yourself in some sort of adventure. That’s why so many people follow us. Whether you are out in front or at the rear, the Vendée Globe is always difficult. You go through adventures. Sometimes, it works out well. I’ve been through it all in the Vendée Globe. When I picked up Jean Le Cam in 2008, it was an incredible adventure, which in the end worked out well. Whereas last time, it ended badly, when I had a collision.”

And of his life in the PRB colours? “I have a very special relationship with PRB. It’s been going for a long time. I think it has lasted, because, we understand each other and what we are aiming for. I have spent a long time with them away from the boat working with the business people and employees, so that everyone comes together around this project. So far, it has worked well, because everyone supports us. 250 people come here each day to see us. It’s well organised and takes me two hours each day. We show them a film, talk to their clients. Everyone seems happy. That’s the main thing. As long as people want to follow us at sea, I think PRB will continue to support us.”
And will this be his last? “We must never say never. My Mother taught me that.”
Andi Robertson / M&M



10-31-2016, 10:07 AM

Alex and the team headed towards Lands End to get some vital training in prior to the star of the Vendee Globe on November 6th.

10-31-2016, 03:21 PM
Around the sun drenched hunting grounds that the Vendée Globe race dock represents to the huge crowds enjoying a slow promenade round the 29 IMOCA round the world race boats, Armel Le Cléac'h and Alex Thomson are the 'big beasts', The Jackal and the British Lion. The appearance on their race boats today causes long, human traffic jams. Logic alone dictates that they are two of the outstanding favourites to win this eighth edition of the solo non stop round the world race.


Le Cléac'h who grew up on the Bay of Morlaix with Jéremie Beyou has been runner up twice, to Michel Desjoyeaux in 2008-2009 on Brit Air, and in 2012-2013 when he finished less than three hours behind François Gabart after a round the world match race. Thomson was third last time.
Le Cléac'h, 39, long since known as The Jackal for his proven ability to stay the pace, ready to swoop on the misfortunes, bad luck or bad judgement of those ahead of him, is skipper for Banque Populaire VIII, one of the Vendée Globe programmes with the biggest budget and the most accomplished cutting edge technical programmes, including the optimisation of their hydrofoils and sailplan. Le Cléac'h has come a long way since he finished second in 2008-9 in an epic war of attrition. He is accompanied along the dock by the necessary PR and marketing staff, photographers and videographers and is in high demand from the French media, many of whom consider him heir apparent to the Vendée Globe crown.


Blue eyed Brit Thomson, whose early sailing experience was windsurfing in the North Wales surf, has already done a big volume of media in his native England, all the major broadsheet newspapers, the big TV and radio channels want reports when the race is under way, as well as commitments in Germany, Italy and, of course France. His Hugo Boss is the most menacing, threatening IMOCA, the latest and most extreme looking design to be launched. One year ago today his boat was upside down in the Atlantic off Portugal and he was being rescued in a helicopter. But today his boat is substantially rebuilt and reinforced. He may not win a popularity contest in the Vendée Globe host nation but the interest in him and especially his black Hugo Boss and Mercedes branded missile certainly matches that of Le Cléac'h.

Thomson showed great speed potential when he led the summer's New York-Vendée warm up before problems with his electrics compromised his attack. This is his fourth Vendée Globe start and he is now well versed in the art and science of staying cool, focused and keeping the balance right in his pre race 'bubble' during the last week before the off. "The main thing this week is to keep the balance right. I have the family here. I have friends coming. We have media. We have sponsors. And we are so lucky to have hundreds of thousands of people on the pontoon. So it is really about trying to remain relaxed," smiled Thomson as he set off out for a final day of light wind sail testing. "It is about trying not to do too much. Do little but do it well. That is my aim this week."

Thomson is shy of the preparatory miles he had wanted to do before the start but has added a further 10,000 miles in the Atlantic since the summer. His second iteration of his foiling daggerboards failed almost immediately and he is back on his Version 1, but he is content his boat is sound and significantly faster even than during his Transatlantic race. "The New York –Vendee was a good indication of the speed we have except for the electronic problems which have been fully sorted. So we have a boat which has done 20,000 miles. Now we have to do 28,000 miles round the world, so we can't be 100 per cent sure but we have a lot of experience in this team. We are well set up and have made some conservative choices. And if anything since the New York-Vendée the boat has got faster. I feel pretty confident. We have 10,000 miles since the New York Vendee. We feel very confident."

Thomson remains something of an unknown threat to the top French hierarchy. Le Cléac'h considers him a rival capable of winning: "Alex is the one whose boat we know least about," Le Cléac'h said today, "We haven't raced very often against him. He scares us a bit, because the other favourites all know each other from Port-la-Forêt. We know their strengths and weaknesses. We saw at the start of the NY-Vendée that his boat has a huge potential. For me, he's there amongst the favourites."

Le Cléac'h learned about sustaining a hard, fast pace around the world when he was narrowly beaten by the younger Gabart: "We've long since turned that page. What happened four years ago is behind us. We got over the grief of coming second and we're facing a new adventure now with a new boat and more preparation. With 29 boats lining up, this is a very different line-up from 4 years ago. It won't be the same story. We've been preparing for this with Banque Populaire and the new boat now for two and a half years. The preparation went well and we're ready to go. It's up to me to get off to a good start and do what I can."

He is confident in his choices concerning the foils and their development programme. "The advantage of the foils is that in certain points of sail we get an extra 5 or 10% speed, which is far from being insignificant. Upwind they are less effective. In light conditions, some of the other boats on the pontoon here are lighter and create less drag, so could perform well. We have our advantages and disadvantages, but the key thing is feeling confident about our boat, which is the case for me."

He has few concerns about the increase in noise and mental stress which the foils bring: "As soon as the sea is rough, it is stressful, but not so different from my previous boat. I'm not worried about that and deal with the lack of comfort. We sailed as much as possible before the Vendée Globe. It's a fantastic line-up. Around ten boats with a lot of experience on good boats. There are twice as many potential winners as four years ago. I'm here to compete, so that's a good thing for me. In the Vendée Globe, there are always boats forced to retire. One of the older boats could do very well. There are always surprises in this race."

If the weather is conducive a new record is possible: "It's possible that the race will be even faster than last time. We put a lot of pressure on each other last time throughout the race. We can imagine that it will be done in 75 days. The boats have the potential, but it is the weather that will decide. The course isn't the same a s there are no longer Ice Gates, but the Exclusion Zone in the Southern Ocean, which will require a different strategy. My goal isn't to get a new record, but to be in front of all the other competitors."

Gabart's victory was the product of his secret sail programme as well as his talent, while Le Cléac'h damaged a key reaching sail. "We worked with North on the sails from the design stage. Unlike in the past that was something we considered early on, so that today we are fully ready. We don't have any secret sails like François did four years ago. But the sails are adapted to sailing with foils. We needed to take that into account."

Charlie Tuna
10-31-2016, 04:09 PM
Here's to Alex getting around the course in one piece this time!

11-01-2016, 09:16 AM

Because this is such a demanding sport and understanding yourself makes it easier to come to terms with your sport and to perform better, many skippers have used, or are still using, the services of a mental coach or performance assistant. Among those competing in the 2016 Vendée Globe, Jean-Pierre Dick, Alex Thomson, Morgan Lagravière and Eric Bellion all work regularly with a qualified professional. It is impossible to sum up here what is after all a very personal and long-term effort – they often spend several years with the coach – but to put it simply, the methods used tend to be based around mental imagery, neuro-linguistic programming, relaxation or sophrology. Most of the work is based on talking things through and debriefing after what the skipper has been through.

Working on independence

Jean-Pierre Dick is one that has been convinced by the technique. He explained, “I have always been aware of the importance of mental preparation to remain calm and clear about what we are doing, whether it is artistic, professional or sporting. I work in this area with Jean-Marc Lhabouz. He’s not a sailing expert. He’s a psychoanalyst and mental coach, who puts the problems into a general context of enhancing performance with a very pragmatic approach. What this means is I am closely monitored by Jean-Marc. We work each week on the psychological aspects I have to deal with by myself on board in difficult situations. I am learning a few techniques, and practise them to make sure I use them on the boat. Breathing for example is very important.”

We must not forget that each racer is different and that therefore the techniques used vary. To take a very simple example, a calming image won’t be the same for everyone and the stress they feel won’t be experienced in the same way or dealt with using the same techniques. However, the goals are often similar: we have to identify the strengths and weaknesses and work on them and analyse various emotions, which we must not hide, but rather accept and come to terms with, in order to transform them into something positive. Most top class sportsmen and women work on these matters and sailors are no exception to the rule. For a couple of decades now they have been using mental preparation and while most of the skippers don’t have a mental coach for the Vendée Globe, it’s because they have been working with one beforehand. This was the case for those, who have been through an Olympic training programme or if they have sailed in the Figaro class and now believe they no longer require this help.
Dealing with strengths and weaknesses

Yann Eliès is a good example. He worked for years with Gilles Monier, one of the top coaches, who works at the French Sailing School in Quiberon. “In 2001 I was injured and wanted to continue to work on my weaknesses. I just couldn’t win. I was often close, but got caught out in the last few miles,” explained Yann. He added, “Together we understood that I was looking too far ahead (I was already imagining hugging my friends and family and thinking about what I was going to say to the media) and that’s when I lost track of things. Gradually over the years, we set up techniques, methods, goals… The work with Gilles, largely based on discussions and debriefings looking back at what happened, helped me a lot to remain focused and to be efficient. Today, I have reached the point, where I don’t think I need a mental coach with me, simply because I have learnt how to deal with this matter myself.”

Better identify one’s goals

Younger and having gone through an Olympic sailing programme, Morgan Lagravière is preparing his first Vendée Globe with another famous coach, Jean-Claude Ménard, “with whom we find tried and tested techniques to work on my attitude.” These are in addition to the excellent advice he gets from Roland Jourdain, who manages the Safran project.

The British skipper, Alex Thomson is also a keen supporter of preparing mentally for racing. For him this “mental preparation is as important as the physical preparation with the aim of enhancing my performance as much as possible.” Alex works on that with Ken Way, who has been the coach for many champions in various sports and in particular, surprised everyone by helping Leicester FC take the English Premiership last season. Alex has been practising using mental images with him to try to see how to cope with what is going on or a situation (which is what skiers do too before starting or pole-vaulters before jumping). This is a useful technique to deal with stress and control adrenalin levels. This could come in handy too in helping the skippers get some rest in the tricky conditions they are likely to experience in the Southern Ocean.

Mental preparation, as all the skippers we asked told us, also helps you identify your goals, which are bound to be very different, if you aim to win the Vendée Globe or “simply” want to complete the round the world race. Eric Bellion has been working with a coach for three years and says he felt the benefit, particularly in terms of his confidence, when he raced in the double-handed transatlantic race. In his opinion, “the mental aspect is for most people something innate. You have either got it or you haven’t. But really it is something you can work on just as you do with other aspects of your performance.”
In fact, sometimes, the difference between physical and mental preparation is not that big. For some, pushing hard physically is also a form of mental preparation. Jérémie Beyou explains that he has been talking things over with a psychologist to be able to set sail “in the Vendée Globe with a clear mind and able to control my own stress levels,” but this has not been a long-term preparation for him. He finds his mental strengths come from his physical performance. That was confirmed by his sporting coach, Stéphane Eliot. “Pushing back your limits is at the heart of the physical preparation I get Jérémie to do. That’s how we do the mental preparation he needs. I push him hard in each session, telling him to keep focused, whatever happens. I get him to do some little exercises, which are very simple at the start of the session, but become increasingly difficult as he gets tired. In this way, he learns how to push hard, while remaining clear-headed.”

Bruno Ménard / M&M

11-01-2016, 01:59 PM

In five days from now at 1202hrs UTC on Sunday 6th November, 29 skippers will be setting sail from Les Sables d'Olonne for the eighth edition of the Vendée Globe. With more than 680,000 people visiting the VendéeGlobe Village since it opened, and with exceptional media arrangements around the world for the start, the Vendée Globe is truly an exceptional global event. The numbers tell the story.

Huge increase in visitor numbers for the Official Village: 380,000 visitors already during the second week

With 300,000 visitors to the site in the first week after it opened, visitor numbers for the Official Village for the 8th Vendée Globe were already very impressive. Then the sun came out and since then, numbers grew to reach 380,000 in the second week. The President of the Vendée Globe, Yves Auvinet had a beaming smile on his face, when he announced these figures, which say a lot about the event. "We had prepared ourselves for crowds at the OfficialVillage, but I must admit that the figures for the first two weeks surprised us, particularly with crowds strolling up and down the pontoons and in the aisles in the Village. The Indian Summer in Vendée since the opening, the high standard of the line-up for this eighth edition and the quality of the events and exhibitions in the Village have clearly attracted a lot of visitors. Once again, the magic of the Vendée Globe is working, as it has done with each edition."

The Vendée Globe Village
300,000: the number of visitors during the first week after the opening of the village
380,000: the number of visitors during the second week...

The media attending the start
22: nationalities represented
31: Stations taking up the live coverage (compared with 18 in 2012-2013) broadcast on the website, Dailymotion, Youtube, and the Vendée Globe facebook page from 0745hrs UTC to 1000hrs UTC and from 1130hrs UTC to 1230hrs UTC.
45: televisions stations attending
80: TV channels involved (compared with 65 channels in 2012-2013), from France, around Europe, North America, Britain, and Asia. Global coverage with teams from CNN, NHK Japan, Swiss national TV and radio, the Belgian station, RTBF... among others.
150: foreign media attending the start
190: number of countries covered
1100: number of accredited journalists


The 2016 Vendée Globe

1: Previous winner lining up: Vincent Riou (in 2004-2005)
2: Number of birthdays to be celebrated at sea before mid-February (Conrad Colman 2nd December, Didac Costa 22nd December)
4: Official sponsors:
- Vendée the French department: Vendée Council
- The town of Les Sables d'Olonne
- Sodebo
- The Pays de la Loire Region
5: Sailors lining up for the fourth time: Bertrand de Broc, Jean-Pierre Dick, Jean Le Cam, Vincent Riou and Alex Thomson
7: Boats fitted with foils, including 1 older generation boat: Maitre Coq
8: Editions. Launched in 1989, this is the 8th edition of the Vendée Globe, which takes place every four years.
10: Nationalities represented with for the first time a Japanese skipper, a Dutchman, a New Zealander and an Irishman.
14: the number of rookies lining up for their first Vendée Globe: Didac Costa, Thomas Ruyant, Alan Roura, Morgan Lagravière, Sébastien Destremau, Conrad Colman, Kojiro Shiraishi, Pieter Heerema, Romain Attanasio, Eric Bellion, Fabrice Amedeo, Enda O'Coineen, Paul Meilhat, Stéphane Le Diraison.
18.28: The length in metres of the 60-foot IMOCA
23: The age of the youngest entrant, the Swiss sailor Alan Roura
43: Difference in age in years between Alan Roura (23) and Rich Wilson (66), the youngest and eldest competitor in the Vendée Globe.
50: The percentage increase in the number of boats in comparison to 2012
78: days, 2 hours and 16 minutes: At the finish of the last race in 2013, François Gabart shattered the Vendée Globe record. The Frenchman improved on the previous reference time set by Michel Desjoyeaux in the 2008-2009 Vendée Globe by six days.
80: Days. Only two sailors have completed the Vendée Globe in less than 80 days, the legendary time it took Philéas Fogg: François Gabart and Armel Le Cléac'h in 2013.
1998: the year the oldest IMOCAs in the 2016 fleet was built (Romain Attanasio's Famille Mary-Etamine du Lys) and TechnoFirst-faceOcean (Sébastien Destremau).
24,020: miles, or 40,075 kilometres – the theoretical distance. Remembering that most of the competitors will sail more, sometimes even more than 52,000km to avoid icebergs and areas of high pressure (where there are light winds).

Unfinished business.

Sébastien Josse is just one of the favourites to win this edition of the Vendée Globe for whom the race represents unfinished business. He was always among the leading posse in the epic 2008-9 race and spent a time in the lead before he had to retire into Auckland with rudder problems. The skipper of Edmond de Rothschild is starting for the third time and has only one finish on his record so far, 5th in 2005 when he was just 30.

"The level is more like 2008-9," Josse opens, "That was the big year. We had the dream team then Michel Desjoyeaux, Jean Le Cam, Roland Jourdain, Loick Peyron, Mike Golding. So we miss some of these guys for this edition but the level is quite high because we have some good young guys with good boats. It should be a good race."

His programme is one of the most technically advanced. He returns to the Vendée Globe after multihull success in the Multi 70, Gitana 11, including winning the Transat Jacques Vabre. As a consequence he has become more adept at sailing close to the, just shy of the 'red zone' for long periods. But he considers this race will require careful, precise modulation with the foiling boats.
"First we need to sail properly with these boats. We see that with these foiling boats they win the last three races across the Atlantic but we have to finish. We have to manage the boat and not to push too hard. I am sure among the foiling 'membership' if we are in the lead the top four, then we start to manage with each other, to make sure we get to Cape Horn and from there we see how it goes. But it is a long race, three months. Being in first position passing Cape Town is not so important. It is more important to be climbing the Atlantic with the 'full set' two foils, two rudders. Then and only then the 'turbo' effect."

"In the 2008-9 race I learned that you have to finish. And so sometimes you have to slow down. That is for you and for the boat." And he points out that foil technology for IMOCAs is in its infancy: "For the rig and keels the development is done, we are all one design. The pilots are done, we go straight. But the foils, we are just at the start. We have developed these foils in less than one year. And so if you look at how long we had to develop wing masts or canting keels, then we are just beginning. We have to keep this revolution going."

An all round sportsman his strength and conditioning programme focuses on balance and a strong core. "Mentally it is the same. I have not changed. My opinion is that if you have to work with a psychologist then you are not ready to do the Vendée Globe. If you need someone to tell you you have to do this or that, you have to be motivated. After that prepare well with a coach, not to make you very strong with big muscles lifting heavy weights, but to make sure you do not get injured or hurt. So we work a lot on your core and to have good balance, to be stable."

Single Hander
11-01-2016, 02:20 PM
Better coverage and interest than the Volvo , AC and Clipper combined!

11-02-2016, 12:33 PM

14 rookies will be setting sail next Sunday from Les Sables d’Olonne. Thery are all enthusiastic solo sailors, but they have very different goals in this Vendée Globe. Some like Morgan Lagravière (Safran) or Paul Meilhat (SMA) are there to do well in the race, while others like Sébastien Destremau (TechnoFirst-faceOcean) or Enda O’Coineen (Kilcullen Voyager-Team Ireland) are looking for adventure:

Morgan Lagravière, Safran: 29
“Of course, I’m scared about some weather conditions and of experiencing gales with these foilers. I have already been through some disasters with this boat and another with leaks, races ending in violent winds. They were painful times, but have made me stronger. I know I’m capable of facing these situations. Once we’re out there racing, I shall talk to my boat, even if she doesn’t answer. We’re going through this together.”

Eric Bellion, CommeUnSeulHomme: 40
“Michel Desjoyeaux helped me a lot with this Vendée Globe project and I asked others for advice too, like Jean-Pierre Dick about how to manage my sleep. I am taking part in this adventure for myself not to please others. It’sa present I offered myself for my fortieth birthday. I know I’ll get scared, but I’ll enjoy it too. It was the mountaineer, Antoine Cayrol, whom I accompanied to Antarctica, that inspired me. I told myself life was meant for adventures. So why not take part in the Vendée Globe?”

Didac Costa, One Planet One Ocean: 35
“I had a great time in the Barcelona World Race, so setting off again sailing solo this time is the next logical step. Once you have sailed in the Southern Ocean, you only have one thing on your mind and that is getting back out there.. You feel really alone down there. You can observe the birds that you can’t see anywhere else. You sail downwind and the IMOCAs are designed for that. it is there that they show us their full potential.”

Conrad Colman, 100% Natural Energy: 32
“I have already felt fear at sea. My fear now is not seeing my dream come true. For me it’s more important to come back into this harbour rather than leaving it. I’ve already been around the world twice as a skipper. I enjoy being at sea. I’m certain to come up against my limits at some point.”

Kojiro Shiraishi, Spirit of Yukoh: 49
“I have two aims in this Vendée Globe: to become the first Asian to take part and complete the race. The second is to develop ocean racing in Japan and in Asia so we have more sailors in the future. I’m aiming for the Top 10. there are lots of boats from the same generation as mine. There’s going to be a race in the race.”

Romain Attanasio, Famille Mary – Etamine du Lys: 39
“It’s a bit worrying, as I don’t know where I’m going. I’m used to setting sail, but the Vendée Globe is a race like no other. I keep worrying I have forgotten something. It’s the same for all of us, but some keep quiet about that. We all know each other, but on the day of the start, there is something on their faces which means we don’t recognise them.”

Thomas Ruyant, Le Souffle du Nord pour le Projet Imagine: 35
“I’m still feeling relaxed. I’m hoping to stay like that, not to use up too much energy. I have my own techniques for dealing with stress… The butterflies will appear on Sunday. You feel them in your stomach until the gun is fired.”

Stéphane Le Diraison, Compagnie du Lit – Boulogne Billancourt: 40
“I think it is rare that we get to see our childhood dreams come true. Taking part in the Vendée Globe is one of those things for me. Now I need to be do what it takes to live up to my ambitions. To be honest, I feel apprehensive. There are so many unknowns in this race. I try to imagine what it is going to be like.”

Fabrice Amedeo, Newrest-Matmut: 38
“My only worry is breaking something and having to retire. I’m not worried about being alone. It was the length that worried me too, but that has eased over time. I know it’s not going to be easy. I keep telling myself that we’ll have huge celebration, when I get back to Les Sables d’Olonne after completing the round the world voyage.”

Sébastien Destremau, TechnoFirst-faceOcean: 52
“When you set off to do something dangerous, it’s important to get your life sorted out beforehand. You have to say see you soon to all your friends and family. That’s why I went back to Australia for a few days to see my children. It was one of those things I wanted to do before setting off.”

Paul Meilhat, SMA: 34
So far I have only spent a fortnight alone at sea in one go. Sailing double-handed I spent 23 days out there. But setting off for two and a half months alone doesn’t worry me. The sea is the same more or less everywhere and time is all very relative. When I find myself in the Indian Ocean ten days away from the nearest land, that will be quite something. You can do the Vendée Globe without seeing any land, but that doesn’t worry me too much. The hardest part is keeping up the pace throughout the race.”

Alan Roura, La Fabrique: 23
“I’ll be carrying on normally preparing the boat, having a few drinks with friends. I’m not suddenly going to change. There is plenty of time for getting stressed out on the morning of the start. Going from the crowds to being completely alone is going to be hard, but that’s why we’re here. I’m someone, who gets emotional. I know I’ll get all emotional.”

Pieter Heerema, No Way Back: 65
“My final position doesn’t really count. I will try to be fast, but not too fast. 7th or 17th, it doesn’t matter. This is a unique opportunity for me. I’m not here to win and I won’t get excited when I see boats around me. Only around 50% of the boats complete the voyage. In the last edition only 30%. I have no experience, and I’m older. The risk of suffering damage is that much higher. That would be a pity, as I have spent a lot of time and energy on this project. I want to complete the voyage. That is my goal.”

Olivia Maincent and Olivier Bourbon / M&M


11-03-2016, 12:13 PM

Sunday 6th November 1302hrs (local time), 1202UTC the start gun will send 29 intrepid solo skippers off on the eighth edition of the Vendée Globe. In a modern age where the pursuit of instant gratification and always-on social interconnection prevails in even the most remote corners of the world, the challenge of racing non stop around the globe without outside help – one person, one boat non stop 24,020 nautical miles Les Sables d'Olonne to Les Sables d'Olonne via the three great capes for somewhere between 75 and 120 days, retains an enduring, magical appeal.

The purity and simplicity of the race remains unchanged since the first edition in 1989 when 13 pioneering soloists started. But it is testament to its incredible magnetism that the race which starts Sunday will be the most international yet as for the first time the challenge is taken up by soloists from the Australasian and Asian continents. Twenty French skippers and nine from Great Britain, Hungary, Ireland, Japan, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Spain, Switzerland and the USA will answer the start cannon Sunday. Ireland, New Zealand and Japan are represented for the first time. The performance and age spectrum of the skippers and their respective IMOCA 60 foot racing yachts has never been greater.

Set on January 27th 2013 by the youngest skipper ever to win the race, François Gabart at the age of 29, the benchmark of 78 days 2hrs 16m 40 secs is thought likely to fall. Since the last race four years ago there has been a technological leap as innovative hydrofoiling daggerboards have been adopted on the IMOCAs of seven skippers. These new foils generate substantial lift on the hull, literally allowing the 7,5 tonne boats to fly almost clear of the waves to sustain speeds averaging 2-4kts faster than their conventional modern generation counterparts. When they were first used in a full ocean racing environment just over one year ago there was a high proportion of mechanical failures associated with these foils. Even after months of further development and reinforcement of the hull structures there are still question marks over their potential reliability and seeming susceptibility to hitting objects.

Briton Alex Thomson on his latest generation Hugo Boss took third place in the last edition of the Vendée Globe race. After numerous failures in different high profile ocean races Thomson's choice of a solid, slightly older proven design - which he pushed hard and sailed smartly to finish third – this time sees him back to pushing the technology frontiers. His new boat bristles with the latest design interpretations and technology. He is widely considered a major threat to the top, all-French hierarchy. Last night Thomson and his team sailed one final, overnight testing mission, checking different foil and sail set ups. During the summer his Hugo Boss proved to have race winning potential when he lead the New York – Vendée warm up Transatlantic Race before electrical problems compromised his winning challenge. Since then, despite having to resort to his set of first generation foils after the second generation set failed, Thomson asserts that Hugo Boss is even faster.

Even among seasoned race watchers the perennial question 'Who will win the Vendée Globe?' has many different answers. Including Thomson there are six highly experienced, top skippers equipped with foils. Armel Le Cléac'h has finished second in the last two Vendée Globes, only three hours behind winner Gabart in 2013, the conclusion of a mind bending match-race all the way around the world when the two near identical IMOCAs raced all the way as if joined by bungee elastic. Sébastien Josse lead the epic 2008-9 race at different stages before he was forced to abandon with rudder damage. Edmond de Rothschild is the highly optimised, immaculately prepared new IMOCA aboard which he won last winter's solo Transat Saint Barth's-Lorient race before finishing second in this year's New York- Vendée race. His experience racing the Edmond de Rothschild Multi 70 trimaran crewed and short handed has fine tuned his ability to race on the edge for long periods. Jean Pierre Dick on StMichel-Virbac is a multiple winner of big ocean races, such as the Transat Jacques Vabre and two Barcelona World Races around the world. He missed third in the last race when his keel failed 1500 miles from the finish, dropping to fourth. Jéremie Beyou has yet to finish the Vendée Globe despite starting twice. He is the only skipper to retro-fit foils, to his Maitre-Coq, the 2010 launched boat which finished second in 2013 as Banque Populaire.

The only skipper to have won the race before who will be on the start line this time, 2004-5 winner Vincent Riou on PRB, has stayed with a conventional, non foil set up. But his March 2010 launched boat is considered the most optimised, furthest refined IMOCA which possesses a great all round potential. While the foiling IMOCAs are at their best fast reaching in winds over 15kts, they are still felt to have a disadvantage in increased drag in lighter airs and less efficiency upwind. Riou is a firm believer that his choice will give him an at least even chance over the long game. So too Yann Eliès has a well optimised IMOCA with more conventional boards. A three times winner of La Solitaire du Figaro, he returns to the Vendée Globe eight years after being rescued 800 miles south west of Australia. Eliès lay stricken and unable to move suffering from multiple leg fractures inside his yacht for two days before being taken to safety.

An unprecedented five sailors will be racing the Vendée Globe for their fourth time. Riou, Thomson, Dick and veterans Jean Le Cam and Bertrand de Broc. Two of the 14 first timers will start with realistic aspirations of emulating Gabart's feat, winning the Vendée Globe at their first attempt, never having raced solo in the Southern Oceans. Morgan Lagravière, 29, is an Olympic skiff sailor turned Figaro sailor turned Vendée Globe racer. He was selected by Safran as the best of the new, younger generation talent to fly their colours and he has a foiling, March 2015 launched design. His programme has been managed latterly by Roland Jourdain's organisation. Similarly Paul Meilhat's SMA is the leading IMOCA programme for double Vendée Globe winner Michel Desjoyeaux's Mer Agitée stable. Meilhat, 34, is also an ex 49er sailor who moved through the one design Figaro circuit, winning the 2014 Transat AG2R.

There are set to be many races within the race as different generations of boats and skippers compete against each other. A posse of skippers with 2006-7 designs are expected to have equally intense, hard fought battles. Tanguy De Lamotte on Initiatives Couer which publicises a charity which provides life saving heart surgery for children, Louis Burton on Bureau Vallée, Arnaud Boissieres on La Mie Caline, Jean Le Cam on Finistere Mer Vent and Thomas Ruyant on Le Souffle Du Nord, are all expected to form the middle and upper middle order of the fleet.

The race has drawn an engaging cross section of adventurous skippers of all ages who set off with the only common theme being their shared dream of finishing the race, completing the circle. Twenty four year old Swiss soloist Alan Roura has a low budget campaign which bottomed out financially when he did not have enough money to put fuel in his team van. Kiwi-American Conrad Colman starts his third round the world race having only just secured a last minute sponsor for his 100% Natural Energy. He is looking to be the first skipper to finish the race using only naturally generated electrical energy. Sébastien Destremau will realise an almost fleeting ambition which only took him over when he was reporting for TV at the start of the last race. Irish businessman, adventurer and sailor Enda O'Coineen on Kilcullen Voyager Team Ireland is looking to fulfil a lifetime ambition but also to spearhead a lasting legacy for Ireland which also encompasses building a sail training vessel and, in the future, a sail training academy. Similarly Holland's Pieter Heerema is a successful businessman looking to fulfil a sailing ambition, racing a latest generation foiler. Hungary's Nandor Fa, 64, starts his third Vendée Globe twenty years after his first one, racing a boat he mostly designed and built himself. American Rich Wilson is driven to compete in his second Vendée Globe, the oldest skipper in the fleet, by the burning desire to share the educational values of the race. His Sites Alive program run from on board Great American 4 will reach over 1 million youngsters, including 3000 schools in China, an educational program approved by the French Education Department, and 50,000 students in Taiwan.

Fair weather expected for the start
The weather is now becoming clear and more precise for Sunday: 15 to 20 knot northerlies, ideal conditions to get the world's most extreme race underway. "A north to NW'ly air stream blowing at between 15 and 25 knots out at sea, probably lighter on the coast with squally showers possible around Les Sables d'Olonne. The NW'ly swell should remain below 1m," announced the Great Circle team, the official weather partner for the 8th Vendée Globe. Decent conditions are expected for the 29 IMOCAs as they cross the Bay of Biscay in a northerly flow offering good speeds on seas that remain slight, before they reach Cape Finisterre and then the coast of Portugal in stronger winds (gusting to 35 knots).

In other words, we can look forward to a fast start for the non-stop solo round the world race allowing them in theory to sail downwind all the way to the Equator. "Conditions should enable us to get a good time for this first portion of the race with everyone going down quickly to the Equator. We could see a day less to get there than it took four years ago. We're not about to be shaken up like in 2012. This weather should favour the foilers. That much is clear," explained Vincent Riou (PRB).

A relief for the sailors and their families
"We're not looking at a deep low and strong headwinds . I can remember how complicated the start was eight years ago. This time we're not getting thrown in at the deep end and so that removes some of the stress," admitted Armel Le Cléac'h (Banque Populaire VIII), who is already drawing up his route for the first part of the course. A huge relief too for the families. Arnaud Boissières, (La Mie Câline) told us this morning, "The weather is looking decent for the start I'm pleased in particular for my family and friends and sponsors, as that makes it easier to bear, even if there is bound to be some stress. That means that the fleet should remain intact for longer, which is good."


Rich Wilson, Great American IV:
"I can't wait to get going. It's time we were out there. It's a huge pleasure casting off, even if there is always some stress and apprehension. But we've all been working hard on that. The weather suits me. I prefer to set sail in these winds with less than 20 knots expected, even if I know that later in the South, we will get some tough conditions. It was hard for me back in 2008."

Morgan Lagravière (Safran):
"The weather looks good as it will allow us to ease ourselves into the race. That means we can get used to being at sea more easily and avoid getting seasick, while gradually putting our foot down. I was looking forward to this sort of weather, and it seems to be happening now. I'm particularly apprehensive about the morning of the start, as I can get very emotional and I attach a lot of importance to the human aspects ashore. I guess I'll probably be in tears. But we must not see the start as a punishing separation. I'll soon get into race mode and put the rest behind me."

Vincent Riou (PRB):
"Less than a year ago, it was seen as risky fitting foils on these boats. Now it seems that the risk has shifted, making it harder for those without foils."

Jean-Pierre Dick (StMichel-Virbac):
"On Sunday, I'll be setting sail on my fourth VendéeGlobe, but in spite of that, I feel apprehensive. But who can set off without any worry though, as if they were nipping into their garden to pick some strawberries? No one! In any case I don't know this superman. You can't take anything for granted in top class sports and that is even more the case, when we are looking at the sea. In my previous attempts, I always found it tough settling into the race at the start. The fact that the weather looks decent is good news for me. But I'm not celebrating, as during the round the world voyage, we'll all have to deal with harsh conditions at some point."

Armel Le Cléac'h (Banque Populaire VIII):
"The start of the race should favour the boats with foils with the wind coming from a good angle. We know how to sail quickly in these conditions. It's something we worked on during the training sessions in Port-la-Forêt. We should be able to find our feet relatively easily after this long period ashore. But the second night looks like more of a battle with fairly strong winds along the coast of Portugal. We can't rule out beating the record to the Equator (held since 2004 by Jean Le Cam with a time of 10 days and 11 hours)."

Sébastien Destremau (TechnoFirst-faceOcean):
"Some skippers have huge pressure on them. They must win. Today, when you see skippers refusing to shake your hand because they are afraid of catching something, I applaud them with both hands. That's fabulous. It was my personal choice to go off to Australia last week to see goodbye to the children. I wanted to talk to them and tell them that I was doing something very important, but that was risky. I wanted them to know I loved them before setting off."

11-03-2016, 02:38 PM

The Daily Sail gets the lowdown on Hugo Boss's monster foils!

11-04-2016, 09:33 AM

Christopher Clarey of the NY Times (http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/04/sports/sailing/around-the-world-vendee-globe-yacht-race.html?_r=0) pens this piece on American Solo Sailor Rich Roberts

MARBLEHEAD, Mass. — When José Luis Ugarte, the oldest sailor to finish the Vendée Globe yacht race, finally arrived back on terra firma in 1993, he soberly pronounced the solo, round-the-world race “an inhuman event” that should be done no more than “once in a lifetime.”

But here is Rich Wilson, back for more at age 66 and in position to break Ugarte’s age record by two years. After placing ninth in his first Vendée Globe in 2009, Wilson, an asthmatic American educator from this yachting hub near Boston, will again set sail alone from France on Sunday. Taking nearly three months to complete, the Vendée Globe remains a singular test of character that allows no stops or outside assistance and too few hours of sleep as the weeks and months pass by along with the swells and storms.

“The last time, I slept two times in that race for four hours straight, and both were accidental,” Wilson said last week in a Skype interview from France. “They had a 120-decibel alarm clock on the boat, and I slept through that, and that sort of defines the fatigue.”

A chain saw, by the way, typically registers 110 decibels, but there was more delight than dread in Wilson’s voice last week as he prepared to depart with the 28 other competitors from the Atlantic port of Les Sables d’Olonne.

“The Vendée Globe,” Wilson declared, “is the greatest sailing race in the world.”

There is certainly nothing nautical that rivals it in France, where the Vendée, a quadrennial event that began in 1989, remains a major cultural happening, one capable of inspiring Sunday sailors and lifelong landlubbers alike and of appealing to the adventurous and iconoclastic niches in the French psyche. Despite a growing international contingent, a Frenchman has won every edition of the race.

The start is one of the great spectacles in sports, as each of the 60-foot yachts is towed out to sea through a narrow channel lined with hundreds of thousands of spectators. Then, quite abruptly — after the cheers and the commotion — there is solitude, or at least a modern approximation of it, with all the satellite phones and other means of communication now at offshore sailors’ disposal.

“The first trans-Atlantic passage I did, our communication was through ham radio,” Wilson said. In that race, he said, communication with anyone involved muscling a simple antenna up the mast and hoping for the best.

“The way it is now changes it, certainly, but I don’t think it’s a bad thing,” Wilson said. “I think you get to maybe tell the stories a little bit more immediately to whomever it is you are going to tell them to. And I think it allows other people to participate in your adventure.”

That is the point of all this peril for Wilson, who values education above adrenaline. He was a math major at Harvard who later got a master’s degree in business administration from Harvard Business School and a graduate degree in interdisciplinary science from M.I.T. A high school teacher in Boston in the mid-1970s, he later worked as a defense analyst, consultant and investor. Divorced and with no children, he has been using his ocean voyages as teaching moments since the 1990s, reaching students initially via newsletters and more recently through the internet.

This year, his website will be translated into English, French and two forms of Chinese.

“With the partners we have, we certainly have the potential to reach two or three million students,” he said, up from about 250,000 for the last race, all of them in the United States.

The website provides a teacher’s guide and a 15-week curriculum focused on science, math, geography and history. Wilson said he expected to spend about two hours a day working on material for the site, which also provides input from and access to a team of 15 experts. Among them is Murray Lister, a captain in New Zealand’s merchant marine who was chief mate on the container ship that rescued Wilson and his crewmate Steve Pettengill west of Cape Horn in 1990.

Wilson and Pettengill, then trying to break the San Francisco-to-Boston record in the 60-foot trimaran Great American, capsized on Thanksgiving Day in a ferocious storm with sea heights of 65 feet and winds of 85 knots. The crippled vessel was soon thrown upright, its mast broken. Wilson and Pettengill were rescued 17 hours later in the middle of the night, jumping onto a rope ladder lowered by the container ship’s crew.

“Quite often those things end in tears afterward because you can’t get them on board because the conditions are too tough or they go in the water and you lose them,” Lister said in a telephone interview from Nelson, New Zealand. “To have even found them in the daylight would have been quite a feat. Finding them in the middle of the night was astounding.”

Twenty-six years later, Wilson still gets emotional discussing the rescue, which has led to a deep and enduring connection with Lister. In 2010, Wilson flew to New Zealand to be a surprise guest at Lister’s retirement party.

It has not been lost on Lister that his saving Wilson’s life has hardly kept Wilson from continuing to risk it at sea.

“I must admit after he did the first Vendée Globe, I said, ‘Don’t try it again — you’re getting too old,’” Lister said. “But his fitness level is still as good as it was then.”

With improvements in technology and safety in recent years, the Vendée Globe has become as much a sports event as an adventure. François Gabart, a cerebral and telegenic Frenchman, won the last race in a record 78 days 2 hours 16 minutes. That was 31 days faster than the first winner, Titouan Lamazou, in the 1989-90 race.

No sailor has died during the Vendée since the Canadian Gerry Roufs was lost at sea in 1997, but it remains undeniably extreme.

“You make a misstep, and the consequences can be dire,” Wilson said. “If something breaks, the loads on the boats are immense, and the systems are complex. There’s just an awful lot that can go wrong.”

Wilson added: “The equipment might have gotten safer, but the ocean hasn’t. You are still out there in King Neptune’s domain, and King Neptune is decidedly the one in charge.”

After his first Vendée, Wilson confessed that he seriously had no desire to go sailing again. He spent time with his mother, an intrepid soul in her own right who had lived in Alaska in the 1940s. But after Wilson attended the start of the 2012-13 race, he decided he would aim for 2016.

In 2015, he resumed his fitness work with Marti Shea, an endurance athlete and leading cyclist based in Marblehead, who also helped him prepare for his first Vendée. She has focused on leg strength and balance because round-the-world sailors’ legs tend to atrophy during the long voyage. She also has designed agility exercises for Wilson in which he must climb over and under three-foot hurdles to mimic the cramped conditions on board during the race.

“Compared to the normal person in the population, he’s really fit,” Shea said. “Compared to the other sailors, he definitely cannot be as strong as the younger guys, and he knows that. But that’s where his experience comes into play. Last time, he was not expected to come in ninth place. He had an old boat. But people kept dropping out, equipment breaking, and he kept making the right decisions.”

Wilson’s performance in his last race has clearly given his generation ideas. Three other sailors over 60 are in this race: Enda O’Coineen, 61, of Ireland; the Vendée veteran Nandor Fa, 63, of Hungary; and Pieter Heerema, 65, of the Netherlands.

Wilson will be the oldest ever to start the race. If he completes it, he will surpass Ugarte, who was 64 in 1993, as the oldest to finish. But this Vendée Globe also has the youngest competitor in the event’s history: the 23-year-old Swiss sailor Alan Roura, who has developed a bond with Wilson.

“I told him that I’m three times as old as you are, but we have the same dream,” Wilson said. “So we’ve gotten to be pretty good friends with that concept. I don’t think you can go off on the Vendée Globe without knowing exactly why you’re out there and having a really good reason to be out there.”

For Wilson, it is about testing his limits, but above all about teaching while testing his limits. In that sense, with the website and lesson plans in place, he is never sailing alone.

“I know when things get really bad, particularly in the Southern Ocean, that the kids help bring me home,” Wilson said.

11-05-2016, 09:32 AM

In fact there are two parts to that question. Will the new foiling boats, their technology really only race course tested over the last eighteen months, prove reliable enough to make it to the finish? With five top skippers on foils the consensus is that the winner will be one of them, if they make it to the finish. If it is not a foiling boat then the choice tapers to 2004-5 Vendée Globe winner Vincent Riou on PRB or Yann Elies on Quéguiner-Leucémie Espoir.

On paper, based on recent results and past history in the race, the strength and depth of his programme backed by Banque Populaire, drive, talent, experience and ability to sustain high speeds around the world, one theoretical favourite to win is Armel Le Cléac'h. He has finished second twice in the last two Vendée Globes, three hours and 17 minutes behind François Gabart in 2013. Le Cléac'h won this year's Transat, finished second in the Transat Jacques Vabre last year. He has prepared meticulously and has proven fast and consistent in all of his races since 2013. His foil package and optimisation has been well managed in terms of the compromise between pushing for a late technical advantage versus tested reliability. He has the boat and the skillset.





But so too British skipper Alex Thomson on Hugo Boss, Sébastien Josse on Edmond de Rothschild, Jean Pierre Dick on StMichel-Virbac and Jéremie Beyou on Maître CoQ have the capability and the hardware that it takes to win. Starting his fourth Vendée Globe, Alex Thomson has never been better equipped to win. "I think this time represents Alex's best chance of winning. He has the boat and the experience. With these foiling boats it will take a skipper of particular ability to drive hard and I think Alex, for one, has that," commented Mike Golding, three times Vendée Globe skipper with his 2004-5 third place as his high water mark.

Thomson's boat is considered the most extreme of the latest generation boats. Although his foil package has not reached the development level he had wanted to be at, he believes he has a good balance between tested reliability and speed potential. But, having trained in splendid isolation as the lone Brit in the race, he has no recent benchmarks against the best of the French, nor do they have against him. He lead the summer's New York Vendée race. "The New York Vendee was our only chance to measure ourselves against the others." Thomson said today. "It showed us we had the speed but we had a reliability problem which we have now solved. I feel confident in the speed but we train in England only and then in Portugal in August in good winds. Often we would like to train with the French guys and see where we are and how they compare. And I am sure they would like to know how fast we are, what our strengths and weaknesses are. We will just have to wait and see."

"Our foil systems are very different to the other boats. On our foils the shaft is doing the work (lifting the hull) and on the others the tip is doing the work. And so we expect to see some differences between the foiling boats and at times that difference can be significant. It will be very interesting to see our strengths and weaknesses."

Thomson revealed that he has a watch which gives him an electric shock to ensure he wakes from his sleep periods. His particular worry is straying into the forbidden ice exclusion zone and being penalised. "The difference in having this exclusion zone is that this will force us to sail VMG down the line. And so the difficulty for us is the possibility of crossing the exclusion line, they have already told us the penalties. The penalties are big. You must exit at that point or west of it. It is something that I know all the skippers are very nervous about. It is very easy when you sail close to the line and for example when you are tired and you maybe don't wake up, then that is why I have a watch that when I set the alarm gives me an electric shock to combat the possibility of over-sleeping."

The 24,020 NMs race is more often than not a rich get richer race. The expectation is that the foilers will leap away from Sunday's start on the heels of a forecast for weather that could not be better. A fast passage to the Equator for the foilers, routing suggests 6 to 7 days on the current weather models. Theirs should be a drag race, but just as with foil borne racing inshore, any breakaway at the front of the foiling 'peloton' can quickly see a big gap open, and perhaps become decisive.

There are around ten skippers who might make it on to the podium. The reality of not having to go out into the teeth of a Bay of Biscay storm, instead getting a relatively straightforward passage to Finisterre and into the Portuguese trade winds – the favourable scenario painted by the current weather outlook – should at least reduce the number of early failures caused by the fierce weather.
Of the first timers both rookies Paul Meilhat on SMA and Morgan Lagravière on Safran had their setbacks in their preparation but both have since regained their confidence since. A talented youngster Lagravière has been helped by Roland Jourdain and is definitely one to watch. Jérémie Beyou is the only sailor to have fitted foils to an older generation IMOCA. A fierce competitor, he hopes this will allow him to be up there with the frontrunners.


Vincent Riou (PRB):
"People keep talking about my victory in 2004-2005, but with each Vendée Globe the counter is reset. It's different each time and has nothing to do with the previous one. Even the best skippers remain humble and say that their main goal is to finish."

Jean-Pierre Dick (StMichel-Virbac):
"Out of the 29, around half of the fleet stands out from the other half. There are around ten very competitive projects, who are difficult to beat. With so much competition, it's going to be interesting. I think the fleet will be tightly bunched with the leaders all close together, if there isn't too much serious damage."

Yann Eliès (Quéguiner-Leucémie Espoir):
"The foilers may make their getaway, leaving us just the crumbs. I'm getting ready for that in my head. I am ailing for the podium, with the aim of finishing one minute before the boat in fourth place."

Jean Le Cam (Finistère Mer Vent):
"I'm up in the top 10 or 12 on paper. There waere likely to be five out in front, so I could make it to 6th or 7th. However, this line up is nothing like the one we saw in 2008, when there were 19 new boats. This time, there are 7 or 8 boats capable of winning and no more."

Kojiro Shiraishi (Spirit of Yukoh):
"I'm aiming for the top. There are a lot of boats from the same generation as mine, launched in 2007.It's going to be a race within the race, so I can't wait to get out there. Jean Le Cam and Tanguy de Lamotte are going to my serious rivals."

Didac Costa (One Planet One Ocean):
"My goal is to finish. What's interesting this year is the number of boats. With 29 IMOCAs, there are going to be races within the race, which is very motivating? I'll be sailing against boats from the same generation as mine."

.................................................. .................................................. .........
The Boss

British skipper Alex Thomson hosted a friendly, informal media breakfast this morning. He was on typically ebullient form, immaculately attired of course. He considers a course record is likely, the time to the Equator may be as little as six days - a record in itself. He revealed that one of his biggest worries is straying into the ice exclusion zone, not because of any threat of ice, but because of the swingeing penalties. Initially any skipper who sails into this exclusion zone must return and exit at, or west of the entry point, and then the penalty can be from 24 hours to disqualification. Thomson revealed he has an alarm watch which delivers an electric shock to his wrist to ensure he wakes on time and does not stray into the exclusion zone.


First days strategy
"Don't break it. We will have to get used to the conditions pretty quickly. But the goal is to try not to be a hero in the first days, tor try not to smash her up, watch out for the fishing boats, for the traffic."

Finding the max, the red line?
"In some ways with the foilers the red line just comes up to you, you are not looking for it. And when you are on the foil you are often on smaller sails anyway. In many ways then it is more obvious when to reduce sail - but in fact you go faster!"

Expectations and boat for boat strategy, different with the foilers?
"We don't know much about strategy boat on boat. We don't know what the others (foilers) will be like. We saw a bit in the New York - Vendee but in fact we have improved the boat immensely since then."

Noise and stress, dealing with the additional noise?
"You get used to the noise. The stress you get used to. I have a (blue) rugby helmet."

"It is hard to see speeds to the Equator being less than 20kts. If we can finish we will be in with a great chance of a record. We have to finish. With this forecast six or seven days to the Equator, then potentially the race record can be broken. The boats are fast enough if there is enough reaching and downwind I'd expect us to break the 78 days. "

More fun foiling?
"Now you are surfing at over 30kts then it is much more fun. You feel the back of the boat touching down every few seconds. The boats are a real pleasure to sail. If the boats were a bit dull, a bit boring. Twenty to thirty knots is a big difference."

What will start day be like?
"I always feel emotional and nervous at the start. There are half a million people shouting your name as you go down the canal. That is emotional. "

Biggest anxieties, worries?
"I feel most anxious about the start, the isolation in the Southern Ocean creates an anxiety in itself, and then the worst big can be near the finish. The biggest, windiest part of the race was the last two days. Then there are fishing boats and traffic to the finish."

You are anxious until you reach the finishing line.
"The movement is all over the place. It is unpredictable, the foil lifts the boat and then you don't really know what is going to happen, does it accelerate, does it come back down, you hold on and stop yourself from getting injured. "

Speed match, strengths and weaknesses?
"The New York Vendée was our only chance to measure ourselves against the others. It showed us we had the speed but we had a reliability problem which we have now solved. I feel confident in the speed but we train in England only and then in Portugal in August in good winds. Often we would like to train with the French guys and see where we are and how they compare. And I am sure they would like to know how fast we are, what our strengths and weaknesses are. We will just have to wait and see. Our foil systems are very different to the other boats. On our foils the shaft is doing the work (lifting the hull) and on the others the tip is doing the work. And so we expect to see some differences between the foiling boats and at times that difference can be significant. It will be very interesting to see our strengths and weaknesses."

The lone ranger?
"I think it is a shame Britain does not have as many teams as in 2008-9. My job is to win and then for sure next time we will have many more British teams. There is the talent in Britain."

Ice zone, a real worry?
"The difference between gates and having this exclusion zone is that this will force us to sail VMG down the line. And so the difficulty for us is the possibility of crossing the exclusion line, they have already told us the penalties. The penalties are big. You must exit at that point or west of it. It is something that I know all the skippers are very nervous about. It is very easy when you sail close to the line and for example when you are tired and you maybe don't wake up, then that is why I have a watch that when I set the alarm gives me an electric shock to combat the possibility of over-sleeping."


The latest forecast is for a few squalls, cloudy skies and a 10-15 knot NNW'ly for the 29 solo sailors starting the 8th Vendée Globe on Sunday at 1202hrs UTC. The IMOCAs will quickly be heading towards the SW pushed along by a 15-20 knot northerly until they round Cape Finisterre. The first foilers should be in that area on Monday morning. "It's not as worrying as when a front passes over. You can feel that on the pontoons, where the atmosphere is not as stressed. It's going to be fast and very intense, particularly with all the shipping and fishing boats and around Cape Finisterre, where there are often objects floating around," said Jérémie Beyou (Maître CoQ).

Alex Thomson, the British skipper of Hugo Boss commented this morning: « They are saying North, North Westerlies. It not clear how much wind there will be at the start. Then it looks straight line to Finisterre. And then if we can straight line to get under the Azores High is not really fully confirmed yet. For us, the foilers, it could not be better. If I could as for the weather this is what I would ask for."

The wind will strengthen as they make their way down the coast of Portugal, with some gybes required. In short, we can look forward to a quick start, but one that is going to be very technical. "Those who have done a lot of training will be up there at the front. There will be an advantage for the foilers. But we're going to have to wait and see whether people get 100% out of their boats or not." There will be a ridge of high pressure developing between Gibraltar and the Canaries around midday on the 8th November, which could shut the door on those who are left behind. From the outset, the skippers will want to put their foot down to get away from this area of light winds associated with the high.

11-05-2016, 02:46 PM

The month long spell of unseasonable benevolent, summer-like weather is set to hold through Sunday, giving the 29 solo skippers who will start the Vendée Globe solo non stop race around the world the most favourable starting conditions for many years.

The day before the start is more often marked by dark clouds hanging around the race dock, if not literally then at least figuratively. Typically, Saturday's emotional farewell gatherings are spirited and well meaning but usually in the full knowledge that the Bay of Biscay will deliver a kicking within the first 24-36 hours. But in light of a 'to order' forecast of downwind conditions off the start line giving way to fast, straight line reaching into the Portuguese trade winds, the mood around Port Olona in Les Sables d'Olonne was positively festive. Bathed in the warm Autumn sunshine which seems to have prevailed for days, the skippers' smiles were wide and genuine – rather than the usual forced grimaces – when they left the final weather briefing this morning. The fast reaching and running conditions are expected to immediately benefit the foiling IMOCAs which should be up and off, literally flying south in a straight line towards Finisterre where winds should lift and build to 25-30kts.

The party mood ashore, tens of thousands passing through the race village, spread to the race dock, which is closed to the public to allow the skippers space and time to share their last day on shore with those close to them, friends, extended family, sponsors and VIPs. Enda O'Coineen seemed to half of the Irish nation visiting at one point. Jean-Pierre Dick assembled his entire shore team on the deck of St Michel-Virbac for a photocall. Japanese skipper Kojiro Shiraishi showed continued patience and enthusiasm as his legions of friends and supporters from home took endless selfies and videos with the first Asian skipper to start the Vendée Globe. Alex Thomson looked cool and calm as he completed his lunchtime live stand up interviews with British TV media beside his Hugo Boss. Sébastien Josse is bright eyed, relaxed and ready as he quietly went about his final media commitments around the media centre. Sébastien Destremau took time out from his hectic final preparations – his faceOcean was crawling with technical shore team, friends and family early on – before a particularly poignant moment having his 1998 Finot design blessed. Conrad Colman and his team on the now renamed Foresight Natural Energy continued to re-brand his hull, sails and cockpit after finding a last minute sponsor.

As he came out of the last briefing to the skipper, Jacques Caraës, Race Director said:
"The final briefing is always important. It's the last time we get to talk calmly to the skippers. Tomorrow they will look very different. It's very emotional. Alain Gautier helped us give them the final recommendations and we talked about Guo Chuan, (Chinese solo skipper who was trying to set a record across the Pacific from San Francisco to Hawaii) who was lost at sea (last week). That helps put things in perspective, but we mustn't over dramatise it either. They all know that they are setting off around the world and it's not going to be easy. I told them to enjoy themselves and reminded them that the Race Directors are with them 24 hours a day. Conditions will be fine for the start, so there isn't as much to worry about. They will be setting off downwind, but that doesn't stop them from needing to be cautious, as they will probably be sail changes. The leaders will be off Cape Finisterrein around 20 hours."

Dock talk has been of a potential record to the Equator. Yesterday a time of six to seven days was being suggested but Alex Thomson played that down today. "Six or seven days to the Equator? It is possible but maybe not quite as quick but we will see more on the next weather models. It is looking good for the start, 13-18kts so that is great, beam reaching for the first few hours, going right and so getting wider – lifting. At the weather briefing this morning they were seeing 35-40kts at Finisterre. I don't think we are seeing so much there. Then it is how you deal with the TSS – the traffic separation scheme which you are not allowed to go into. And then from there it is a rich get richer scenario. Everyone is dying to get south of the high pressure before it closes off."

The scenario for the classically configured, non foiling boats is slightly different, as Foresight Natural Energy's Conrad Colman explained: "In the forecast there is a ridge of high pressure which will extend from the Azores towards Portugal and that has the potential to cut the fleet. And so it is a three month race but it would be a shame to have the positions defined in the first three days. For the floating boats, not the flying boats it will be 24 hours to get to Finisterre and then the first 48 hours can be more important than the first few weeks. There is a lot of pressure from the start. The plan is to rest up now and be ready to come out swinging tomorrow."

Weather. Best ever?

High speeds for the first 24 hours
The 29 solo sailors will be able to sail quickly towards Cape Finisterre, a distance of some 350 miles, which will be the first major obstacle in the 24,400 mile round the world race. In a 15-20 knot northerly, the leaders should reach the coast of Spain on Monday morning, before turning left to head towards the Tropic of Cance. It is the first time since the first Vendée Globe in 1989 that the weather has been so favourable for the sailors, as they exit the Bay of Biscay to pick up the trade winds off the Canaries. The exceptional weather over the past four months on the Atlantic coast is set to last for a few days more, which should allow the skippers to head for warmer climes and even hot weather around the Equator, which they should reach in less than ten days. This would be better than the record time set in 2004 by Jean Le Cam (10 days 11 hours 28 minutes).
This situation has arisen because of the Azores high, which stretches from Iceland to the Azores and which is moving slowly south due to the influence of a former tropical low coming down from Greenland leaving room for the Bermuda high to move towards the SE to merge with the Azores high. Autumn is set to arrive with the end of next week looking nasty in Vendée...
See more

100% Happy. Sponsor for Conrad Colman.

Conrad Colman will start the Vendée Globe solo non stop round the world race Sunday safe in the knowledge that he will be able to share his incredible story with the outside world thanks to a very last minute sponsorship deal. Colman, the 32 year old French based soloist who holds dual New Zealand and American nationality has devoted the last dozen years of his life to his quest to compete in the toughest round the world race there is.

Despite relocating from North America and immersing himself in the French offshore sailing culture, becoming perfectly bilingual, working in the racing industry in Brittany, building himself a credible racing record including two round the world successes Colman could not attract a major sponsor for his 100% Natural Energy project. But his last minute calls made during the final pre-start week appealed to the London-based Foresight Group. The Iindependent infrastructure and private equity investment managers, the renewable energy market plays a significant role in their investment strategy. Foresight started investing in the solar sector in 2008 and is now the second largest solar asset manager in Europe. The company proved able to respond quickly, making their positive decision only on Wednesday. Their branding for Colman's IMOCA was made up in England by Thursday and driven overnight to Les Sables d'Olonne yesterday.

Speaking after the final weather briefing, less than 24 hours before the start of the 24,020 nautical miles race, Conrad Colman said: "It speaks testament to the value of the project we have created and also the power of the Vendée Globe, a spectacle that will reach millions of people around the world and I am delighted that Foresight, a company that comes from outside the world of sailing, can see value for them. Foresight invest in green energy companies and so it is particularly satisfying that I am being supported by company which shares the same values as me at the heart of their business. They have significant investments in solar and recycling and renewable energies. Now we have the means to communicate, to participate fully in this race and to share the adventure with the world. We have a great company behind us that have invested in our story."

Speaking on board Foresight Natural Energy Ben Thompson, Group Marketing Director of the Foresight Group, explained: "Conrad's story interested us immediately. It came out of the blue, a genuine story of a skipper needing funding to complete the course with full communications in order to tell the story. We are a global company, increasingly global, with a focus on renewable energy and infrastructure. The alignment with Conrad's attempt to go around the globe without a diesel engine, relying on solar and hydro power, with an energy storage system which is a part of energy infrastructure that we are pursuing, all ticked so many boxes. We made our decision late on Wednesday, commission the boat branding Thursday, drive through the night to apply it yesterday and today. We as a company are expanding globally. The global nature of the Vendée Globe fits with our ambitions as a company."


Kojiro Shiraishi (JPN) Spirit of Yukoh:
"I am very calm, very calm. The forecast looks great but what I need to now is believe in myself and believe in the boat."

Rich Wilson (USA) Great American 4 :
"Just getting out of the harbour, dealing with all the emotion and the people here, all the boats at the start, that is the first challenge for me. The weather looks a bit more favourable than last time."

Morgan Lagravière, Safran:
"This evening, I'm going to enjoy myself with my friends and family. For the start, the strategy is clear. I'll run through things again today, but it looks simple enough. I'll be going to bed earlier than last night and getting a good meal before a good night's rest in my own bed."

Jérémie Beyou, Maître CoQ:
"Between choosing the right sails and carrying out manoeuvres, there is going to be plenty to do. We're going to have to be cautious, as there are lots of people fishing off Cape Finisterre. We're aiming to get 100% out of the boat rather than 95 or 97. I'm glad my kids have left, as it would be hard for me and for them. It's always tough on the day of the start. It's not easy saying goodbye. Now that they are 9 and 13 they understand better. They know there are risks and that I could fail..."

Vincent Riou, PRB:
"Things are getting clearer about the first few hours of racing. I have studied what is coming up and am getting to grips with that. It's now time to get out there and not make any mistakes. The weather is good, so it's going to be fast. We'll need to be in good shape tomorrow morning. This evening I'll have a nice meal with the family and deal with a few final things. I'll look at the weather and then go to bed."

Yann Eliès, Queguiner – Leucémie Espoir:
"This evening I'll be eating with the kids and my wife who has prepared a loin of pork and carrots... We watched the TV together yesterday evening. I'm trying to keep things as normal as possible. It will be bed at around 10 or 11 to wake up in good shape tomorrow, although I'll probably have butterflies in my stomach. I have been working on my strategy with the key moments I have to deal with. I'm going to have to remain on watch and not rely too much on the AIS. That can be a trap in the first few hours, because of all the pressure that has been building over the past few weeks."

Nandor Fa (HUN) Spirit of Hungary:
"I am a little excited. I am confident in myself and the boat. I will do a couple of hours of cleaning then attach the J1 (jib) before tomorrow. I like the forecast very much. I will spend the evening with my family, with my wife and girls. They have organised a pub on the beach and we will listen to some music with friends and enjoy a glass of red wine. I will go to bed around 10pm after some nice times with the family and friends. I will relax because at least the next three days will be hard work. I am really happy, it will be fast. It is great to not be going out into tough weather. I can't remember start weather like this."

Didac Costa (ESP) One Planet One Ocean:
"I have four small things to do and then I will try to spend some time with my friends and family. The weather forecast does not look so bad. It will be quite straight to Galicia, quite easy in that sense. Once by the Galician coast the wind will rise and it will be difficult to manage with not too much sleep. It will be intense but it is like that, this is what we are here for."

Conrad Colman (USA/NZL) Foresight Natural Energy:
"In the forecast there is a ridge of high pressure which will extend from the Azores towards Portugal and that has the potential to cut the fleet. And so it is a three month race but it would be a shame to have the positions defined in the first three days. For the floating boats, not the flying boats it will be 24 hours to get to Finisterre and then the first 48 hours can be more important than the first few weeks. There is a lot of pressure from the start. The plan is to rest up now and be ready to come out swinging tomorrow. People talk about mental strategies and preparation. But for us that is a luxury we never have had. We have been running around getting from job to job, day to day for weeks, to get the boat to the start line. And that has in fact been great mental preparation because I have had no time to reflect on what I am getting myself into. Once I am at sea I know what to do. I have been round twice before and will be excited to be going."

11-06-2016, 08:20 AM

© Vincent Curutchet / DPPI / Vendée Globe

With more than 300,000 spectators lined up along the harbour entrance channel in Les Sables d'Olonne and more than a thousand boats out on the water around the start area, the 29 competitors in the 2016-2017 Vendée Globe set sail at 1202hrs UTC in exceptional weather conditions: sunshine, a 14-knot NNE'ly with slight to choppy seas. HRH Prince Albert II of Monaco signalled the start after greeting all the sailors as they cast off.

From the gun, Kito de Pavant (Bastide Otio), Paul Meilhat (SMA), Tanguy de Lamotte (Initiatives Cœur) and Vincent Riou (PRB) were out in front with the rest grouped together behind them. Bertrand de Broc (MACSF) and Enda O'Coineen (Kilcullen Voyager – Team Ireland) were called back after crossing the line a few seconds early. They had to go back and cross the line again.

The 8th Vendée Globe is underway. The race around the world has begun.


Tracker (http://tracking2016.vendeeglobe.org/hp5ip0/)



All images credited within image frame








11-06-2016, 12:50 PM


SUNDAY 06 NOVEMBER 2016, 18H57

At 1700hrs UTC, five hours after the start of the Vendée Globe from Les Sables d’Olonne, five of the six leading boats are foil assisted with all of the French favourites doing particularly well. With 24,391 miles left to sail on the theoretical route for the leader, Sébastien Josse, it is of course ridiculous to talk about the rankings at this point, but from the outset, the favourites with or without foils have had a good start to the race.

The three frontrunners, Sébastien Josse (Edmond de Rothschild), Morgan Lagravière (Safran) and Vincent Riou (PRB) are within a mile of each other. The latter has confirmed from the outset that he has the fastest IMOCA with traditional daggerboards. The only skipper on an older generation boat that has been adapted to have foils fitted, Jérémie Beyou (Maître CoQ), is up there too in sixth place.

As predicted before the start, the wind angle and speed and the sea state appear to be favouring the foilers with the leading non-French skipper, Alex Thomson on his foil assisted Hugo Boss 2.5 miles behind the leader in seventh place. In these first few hours of the race, the fleet remains relatively close together with the first fifteen boats within five miles of the frontrunner. In this group, we find one other non-French skipper, the Dutch sailor Pieter Heerema in thirteenth place on his new generation boat.

Others further back like American, Rich Wilson (Great American IV), Nandor Fa (Spirit of Hungary) and Irishman, Enda O’Coineen are sailing along more cautiously, having clearly asserted that their aim is to complete the non-stop solo round the world race.
Little change is expected in the conditions during the night with the leaders due to sail past Cape Finisterre on Monday morning. We might therefore expect the small separation we have seen this afternoon grow over the next few hours, remembering that the current wind angle is what the new foilers were looking for.



11-07-2016, 08:21 AM
image © mark lloyd/lloyd images

British sailor Alex Thomson overnight has taken first position. Thomson crossed the start line of the Vendee Globe yesterday at 13.02. It was an emotional event as Thomson departed Les Sable d’Olonne passing down the crowd filled banks before starting his solo round the world race.

Overnight the fleet has divided as Thomson takes a podium position as he crosses the Bay of Biscay. During the night he has reached speeds in excess of 20 knots and is now battling against two of the French favourites Armel le Cleac’h onboard Banque Populaire and Jean Pierre Dick racing on St Michael Virbac. This is a new occurrence in the Vendee Globe and sees the foiling boats take a more easterly approach.

As this group of IMOCA 60 cross the Bay of Biscay they are travelling through what some say is the most dangerous part of the race. This stretch of ocean is one of the busiest for shipping and in the past has seen several IMOCA 60 retire before being able to cross the equator.


Tracker (http://alexthomsonracing.geovoile.com/vendeeglobe/2016/tracker/)

Prince of Whales
11-07-2016, 08:39 AM
Still a ways to go, but Go Alex!

11-07-2016, 11:50 AM

On the evening rankings at 1800hrs UTC Armel Le Cleac'h has moved clear ahead of Alex Thomson on Hugo Boss. The British skipper waited for the mid afternoon position report to drop before gybing to the east, in theory away from the approaching high pressure ridge and therefore seeking to stay in stronger breeze.

He may have given up his lead but he is going quicker than Banque Populaire. The leaders are expected to stay close to the Portuguese coast as they descend south.
The Traffic Separation Scheme meant a choice was necessary about whether to stay close to the coast or sail a long way offshore. The majority are choosing the easterly option, but this requires lots of gybes and is therefore very tiring. On the other hand, Kojiro Shiraishi has headed further west and looks like avoiding the TSS via the outside.
There is no choice for the fleet but to cross the ridge of high pressure off Cape St Vincent. For around 20 hours they can expect a gentle 8-knot NW’ly. The wind will then pick up again veering NE’ly to take them all the way to the Doldrums. The leaders are expected to pass the Canaries on Wednesday.

There is already 170 miles between the first places and 28th placed Sebastien Destremau on his FaceOcean Techno First.
This evening Destremau reported:

"We are going well under the J2 and full main. I should really get the A7 kite out but I am taking it easy. Amazing to think we are starting a round the world race. It was an emotional send off from Les Sables d'Olonne. The channel, family, friends, the start. These are great moments to live through. Doing something with a knife I cut my finger quite deeply. I stuck it with steri strips after disinfecting it well. After dressing it well I have made a cheese omelette with onions. It was top! I am wondering if i need to stitch my finger, but I think I'll wait and see how it closes."

Here are a few of the messages received from the skippers during this lunchtime's radio session after a very physical night to start this eighth Vendée Globe. No time for sleeping in these variable conditions and with this fast pace. Early this afternoon, the leaders are about to round Cape Finisterre in strengthening winds.

Didac Costa, One Planet, One Ocean (still ashore in Les Sables d'Olonne): “We’ve made some progress since yesterday. We have identified the problem and are drawing up plans for a different configuration. Now it’s a matter of getting the work done. We’ll be working day and night to get the boat ready to set off again. We’re not certain exactly when we will be setting sail. In any case, in one or two days. We’ll be looking at the weather, but for now, the main thing is getting the boat in shape. Tomorrow it’s not looking good off Cape Finisterre, but there is an opening there on Wednesday and Thursday, so that’s our goal. We want to have the boat ready tomorrow evening or Wednesday morning. As soon as we got back to the harbour, we got several offers of help from other teams and were helped a lot by the local fire brigade. We visited them a few weeks ago and got to know them. We got help drying everything and they gave us coffee, somewhere to stay. It’s not just technical help, but they have also helped cheer us up. I’m very moved by all this.”

Enda O’Coineen (IRL) Kilcullen Voyager Team Ireland: “It was a tough night. I am taking it quite easy, trying not to push it too hard and instead trying to take it slow and easy. It is bright and sunny, wind angle about 120 deg, 15kts of wind and boat speed about 9 knots. It is all good and a beautiful day as we approach Cape Finisterre. I am sailing quite conservatively with two reefs in the main and the code three jib. I am marginal about putting more sail up. One part of me says do it, the other part says take it easy. I am just really settling into the race. My start was awful. I was too enthusiastic and was over the start line and had to go back. I had to decide whether to take the five hour penalty or to go back and I think I lost about an hour. So that was all a bit anticlimactic. I felt disappointed to let my supporters down by being over, but there you have it. I lost about an hour or so. I saw No Way Back, he seems to sailing very conservatively. Other than that it is amazing how quickly the fleet disperses. The contrast - being alone - is extraordinary. And I am not in great physical shape. I did a somersault off my bike before the start and did not do my shoulder. So it will take some time to mend. And I am on the mend. I am not in great shape. I have a few little things wrong with the boat but really nothing of any consequence.”

Nandor Fa (HUN) Spirit of Hungary: “It is OK now, there is some sunshine and I am sailing quite well in a light breeze from the north. The first night was quite terrible. The wind blew from five knots to 40 knots. The boat went every speed from five knots to 19 knots. I had a very strong hail shower. That was tough with a lot of sail changes. But on the other hand I am quite happy. Everything is good with the boat. It was a tough night. It was unbelievable at the start. If you have never seen it you cannot even imagine what it is like. It only happens in Les Sables d'Olonne. I had a good start but I am not really happy with my position in the fleet. But I had in front of me a big passenger ship which made a terrible storm on the water. I had to slow. But then I was slow and I don't know why. I could have gone faster in the night, but no, I am not really very happy with the progress. It is a long race but I was upset after the start. I was in a good place but lost a lot in the speed. I don't know why I was slow.”

Paul Meilhat (SMA): “What a first night! Ten or so squalls with hail and gusts of thirty knots followed by lighter airs. Two sail changes and had to reef the sail twice. We’re currently sailing downwind of La Coruna and sailing within sight of Maître CoQ and PRB. I haven’t had much sleep and haven’t really eaten. We’re trying to get dry in between squalls. So far, it hasn’t even sunk in that we’re setting off in the Vendée Globe.”
Jérémie Beyou, Maître CoQ: "It wasn’t easy during the night. I got caught out by the squalls. I couldn’t understand what was going on. I saw the others making their getaway overtaking me. I have two or three problems on the boat. A rudder kicked up and the boat luffed. I fell onto the winch and broke a tooth. I’ve called the doctor…”

Jean Le Cam : “We knew it was going to be like this before the start. The wind is changing all the time. You have to compromise, as you’re forever trimming. The start doesn’t give you much time to rest, but I was happy to have my photo taken with Prince Albert. It was crazy with all the boats there for the start. All the spectators lined up like birds of prey and then there were all the RIBs. We were lucky to get away without any problems. It’s been very fast so far. We didn’t have much time to prepare, so it takes time to settle in and find everything. You can never remember where you have stowed the toilet paper…”

Vincent Riou (PRB) – “The wind is very variable. We’re approaching the traffic separation scheme off Cape Finisterre, so have to deal with that. Like the leaders it will probably involve sailing inside this area. It’s used up a lot of my energy trying to keep up with those in front.”

Panama Red
11-07-2016, 01:04 PM
I wonder what Alex sees sailing close to shore that no one else does?

11-08-2016, 08:08 AM

Jean-Pierre Dick only kept the lead for a few hours. At 1100hrs, as we approach the end of the second day of racing, the British sailor Alex Thomson is back in front aboard his Hugo Boss. It’s a bit like a game of musical chairs.

The frontrunners have hit the buffers with low speeds on the dials: 7.5 knots for Alex Thomson, 6.5 knots for Jean-Pierre Dick and 5.5 knots for Armel Le Cléac'h. These erratic conditions should enable the boats chasing after them to narrow the gap… temporarily at least. Sébastien Josse told us this lunchtime that the wind was down to 8 knots and these conditions favoured Vincent Riou’s PRB, which is more at ease than the foilers in these light airs off Southern Portugal.


Jean-Pierre Dick has just taken the lead in the Vendée Globe. He has been going down the middle in between the other two frontrunners. Alex Thomson is closer to shore, while Armel Le Cléac'h is further out to sea. The wind is weakening and boat speeds are falling. Many of the skippers are hoping to make the most of these conditions to narrow the gap.

There is a strategic battle going on off the coast of Portugal. Alex Thomson followed by Jean-Pierre Dick gybed twice to move eastwards, before turning back towards the SW. This means that this morning from east to west we can see a gap of around a hundred miles between Armel Le Cléac'h (Banque Populaire VIII) and Alex Thomson on Hugo Boss, with the British sailor just 90 miles away from the coast. Meanwhile, St.Michel-Virbac has been following a trajectory in the middle and, in so doing, Jean-Pierre Dick has just become the new leader in this eighth Vendée Globe. This position is far from secure, as the three frontrunners are within two and a half miles of each other at 0800hrs UTC in terms of distance to the finish. Behind them, their closest rival is still Vincent Riou (PRB, 4th some 23 miles back).

Jean-Pierre Dick and Alex Thomson had the idea of sliding down in a vein of wind off Lisbon in order to avoid the calms associated with the ridge of high pressure, which is gradually descending with the fleet. However this ridge stretching from the Azores to Cape Finisterre earlier today has engulfed the fleet earlier than expected and it would appear now that everyone is going to be affected by these lighter conditions. We need to remember though that between the forecasts and the reality out on the water, there are many uncertainties. As they are further from the centre of this ridge of high pressure, Jean-Pierre Dick and particularly Alex Thomson are still in with a small chance of getting that little bit ahead of the lighter winds and if they do manage that, could extend their lead over those further out to sea. However, that is now but a tiny hope.

The others will be hoping this will not be the case. With winds easing off (10 to 15 knots at the moment on calmer seas) there is also the possibility of getting some rest after a tiring start to the race. Those that are further back will be hoping to narrow the gap as the ridge moves southwards. The advantage the foilers had yesterday is likely to disappear and these latest conditions should favour the boats with traditional daggerboards. We can therefore imagine that the fleet will come together. Those in the second half (from 16th place back) hope too to regain some lost ground, as Fabrice Amedeo (Newrest-Matmut) explained this morning after seeing his routing looked more positive than for the frontrunners. Fabrice said that he still had 15 knots of wind, while Yann Eliès (Quéguiner-Leucémie Espoir), 100 miles further south only had ten, although the latter was pleased to be up there close to the foilers, like Jérémie Beyou’s Maître CoQ and Sébastien Josse’s Edmond de Rothschild. It’s going to be an interesting day for everyone with speeds likely to be up and down throughout the fleet.
Bruno Ménard / M&M


Enda O Coineen (Kilcullen Voyager Team Ireland) - IRL: “Here I am, 2nd day at sea contemplating the world and reflecting at the wonderful send-off from Les Sables. It was magic. Suddenly I have been transformed from pre-race frenzy, including chatting with Prince Albert of Monaco about his late mum, (Princess Grace) and my own Princess daughter Aisling dancing a jig on my boat deck for Albert. Now it’s total isolation here in the dark and busy shipping lanes off Cape Finisterre. It was like somebody waved the same magic wand and my spell is to be here, huddled over a navigation table, like the cockpit of a spacecraft on a vessel I am destined to spend the next 100 days…. Its been a grand idea, a brilliant event and getting to the start line an achievement in itself, but now I don’t know. What in hell’s name have I done? Nor do I have any idea as to what lies ahead. What in the name of humanity have I let myself in for…..mind you, and though the first night at sea was cold and miserable, at least its starting to warm up as we move south. Let’s see.”

Kito de Pavant (Bastide – Otio): “We’ve got clear skies and there are fewer squalls, even if the wind is still very unstable. I’m settling into the race, finding my feet. I’m remaining cautious. Maybe too cautious with my sail choices. It’s going to get tactical as we approach a ridge of high pressure, which will slow us down. It’s not as cold as on the first night. I managed to get some sleep, which I needed.”

11-08-2016, 08:45 AM
Alex Thomson (GBR) Hugo Boss: “There is a long way to go. But it is a good start for me. It was a very fickle night for me but once the breeze kicked in then I think we showed the boat speed, the boat speed we built it for and thought it would have in those conditions, at least. I am not too sure about my positioning now. Initially I thought it was a good idea and part of the strategy at the beginning, I am not too sure it is going to pay off that well in the next day or so. I have given up some westing which I am not sure was a great idea. Hopefully I can keep some south and make up some westing later on. I am not 100% positive that I made the right decision to gybe over. I am working hard now trying to get some sleep in the bunk, to get myself into good condition and try and get into a routine. We are all trying to get past this ridge of high pressure and once we get through it we will be hightailing it to the equator. The boat is good. There are no problems, yet. Nothing yet but I am sure it will come (laughs).”

Rich Wilson (USA) Great American IV: “We have fairly stable conditions here and the boat is going along just fine. That first afternoon and night we had a lot of wind, some squalls in the Bay of Biscay but it’s calmed down. We had one problem. We discovered a batten car pulled out and so we replaced that. We lost several hours, a bunch of time. I did not get much sleep through the first bit, but I got a couple of naps after we got past the traffic separation zone. In fact I am just writing an essay for our Sites Alive schools programme about that marine traffic separation zone for week two of our curriculum.”
“I am in favour of Hillary Clinton, she is very intelligent, has experience of government. I am for her. I hope things go well today. I will sail better for sure. I have followed it intensely over the last 18 months. I was involved back in 1988 in the Dukakis campaign, a long time ago, but I have followed it very closely ever since. And we all should. It is how our society represents itself to each other.”

Sébastien Josse (Edmond de Rothschild) : “It’s very different now from the start, where we were kept busy. During the first night, we really had to stay out on deck in very variable winds. It’s more relaxing now and we’re able to trim more precisely. I managed to get a meal and have started to take naps. Looking at the conditions at lunchtime today, it’s more favourable for PRB than us. Upwind in 8 knots, Vincent (Riou) has the best boat. We on foilers go fast when the wind is on the beam. You have to look at the bigger picture of the round the world voyage. A lot is going to happen with this high to get around. I hope we can get across this ridge of high pressure as quickly as possible, so we can sail on the port tack in the trade winds.”

Armel Le Cléac’h (Banque Populaire VIII): “Conditions have improved after 24 hours of lively weather. During the first night with the variable winds, we got a squall with 35 knot gusts. The boat sped away on her foils. I looked at the dials and it read 32 knots. It didn’t last long though. But we must have averaged 28 knots over that 10 minute period. We had hoped to get around the area of high pressure, but it didn’t work like that. The high moved faster than us. Whatever happens, it’s better to be in front rather than behind. The strategy has changed somewhat since the start. The high is blocking us and the voyage down the Portuguese coast isn’t as interesting as we initially thought. We’re keeping out to the west to pick up the next lot of wind. When you’re dealing with strategy it’s for the long term, in particular how to deal with Madeira and the Canaries. We need to choose our position in the coming hours.”

11-09-2016, 08:50 AM

Around 100 miles from Madeira, the leaders in the Vendée Globe are asking themselves which side of the islands they should go. Out to the west to avoid the disturbed air or inside to line up for the Canaries?
This decision will have to be taken by early this afternoon, if it hasn’t already been taken. Not as tricky as the Canaries, it essentially concerns the main island, as Porto Santo and the Desertas are not so affected. But avoiding one means moving away from the others by at least fifty miles to the east or 100 miles to the west. Not only is this a tricky decision due to the wind shadow, but also because it is where they have to choose which route to take afterwards.


The main priority for the fleet is to reach the trade winds around the Canaries, which have separated from the Portuguese trade winds because of the ridge extending from the Azores high towards Gibraltar. On Tuesday afternoon this barrier developed just in front of the leaders blocking their high-speed route towards the south. The wind backed westerly during the night and even SW’ly for a few hours and there is an area of lighter winds in front of them. This was not what was forecast on Monday morning, when Alex Thomson (Hugo Boss) and to a lesser extent, Jean-Pierre Dick (StMichel-Virbac) decided to head for the coast of Portugal, where they were expecting to find more wind.


TRACKER (http://tracking2016.vendeeglobe.org/hp5ip0/)

The situation changed yesterday when this ridge of high pressure stretched towards Morocco. The coastal route was blocked, as the breeze backed westerly. The trade winds were not there for the moment and so the fleet scattered 200 miles from east to west with Paul Meilhat (SMA) opting for the west and Irish sailor, Enda O’Coineen (Kilcullen Voyager-Team Ireland) heading east. The French racing experts who are used to strategic battles in the Solitaire du Figaro did not take any risks and are sticking close together: Armel Le Cléac’h is leading the way followed by Paul Meilhat with Sébastien Josse, Jérémie Beyou, Vincent Riou and Yann Éliès keeping up with them…


In a ten knot NW’ly air stream the pace will ease off until latitude 35°N where calms will force them to carry out a lot of manoeuvres to get across the ridge of high pressure. The first out of this sticky patch will pick up the Canary Islands trade winds and speed away in a NE’ly, blowing at around twenty knots. These conditions should once again favour the foilers, but those chasing after them are not likely to get held up for much longer.

As for Spaniard, Didac Costa (One planet-One ocean), his restart is delayed, because of the thirty knot WNW’ly winds sweeping across the Bay of Biscay until late this evening. The Spanish sailor will find it hard in any case getting to Cape Finisterre, as there are headwinds forecast until Saturday…
Still ahead
Even if the weather since Tuesday hasn’t been what was initially forecast, the leaders are still ahead of the pace set in 2012. It took four days for François Gabart to get to the north of Madeira. If the fleet makes it across the ridge of high pressure this afternoon, they should accelerate in the coming days with some strong NE’ly trade winds propelling them southwards. We can expect days in excess of 450 miles between the Canaries and the Doldrums, which means that the Equator will be reached not in eight days, as initially forecast, but certainly in less than ten days, a good day and a half ahead of the round the world reference time.


362 miles, 312 miles and more than 300 miles in 24 hours during the first three days of racing for the leader Armel Le Cléac’h (Banque Populaire VIII). The pace is fast, in spite of the unstable winds since the start from Les Sables d’Olonne. At this rate, the leaders will reach the Tropic of Cancer on Thursday lunchtime. Speeds are set to increase until the latitude of the Cape Verde Islands with the solo sailors performing well for the next two days in a trade wind that is closer to easterly rather than NE’ly. This means wind on the beam, the favourite point of sail for the new foilers…
Dominic Bourgeois/M&M

Kito de Pavant, Bastide Otio: “Yesterday was a quiet day and so I took advantage to tidy my bedroom and sort out the J1. 150 square metres of 3DI takes up a lot of space… I managed to undo the knots and roll it up, so it’s now back in use propelling the boat. I saw my first flying fish. It must have been a bit lost, as the sea temperature isn’t what you find in the tropics, where we usually see them. There was more wind during the night with big gusts, so I had to stay close to the sheets. I don’t know if I should say this but I have beaten my record for the length of time racing in the Vendée Globe! And it’s not over yet. What’s happening on the other side of the Atlantic? Trump or Clinton? Please reassure me!”


Alan Roura, La Fabrique: “The first couple days were a bit tough with the start and the parade through the harbour entrance. Not much time for sleep with the need to keep watch with so many cargo vessels. But I’m pleased so far with my race. I’m not doing too badly. I’ve never had so much stuff aboard. I’ve been listening to music and getting meals. I’m trying to avoid watching what the others are doing. I’ll be going between Madeira and the Canaries. There’s a fight on with Rich (Wilson), but Enda is doing well too. I’d like to catch Nandor and Attanasio. But Attanasio is fast. I think I’m getting 85% of the boat’s potential, as I’m playing it safe. The boat is 16 years old, so I’ll only push her once we are downwind.”


Louis Burton, Bureau Vallée : “I’m easing into the pace. It wasn’t easy on the first night with unstable winds. On the second night, I made a mistake off Portugal, but there’s a long way to go. I went for an easterly option, as I thought it would be harder to the west. But the ones that chose the latter option have come off well. I’ll be trying to sail east of Madeira, but if that means getting too close I’ll head for the west instead. I’ve had a few little worries with the ballast tanks and a hydro-generator. But in general, it’s not too bad.”

Dumass Head
11-09-2016, 06:57 PM
No buddy has buggered out yet?

Good sign!

11-10-2016, 09:15 AM

TRACKER (http://alexthomsonracing.geovoile.com/vendeeglobe/2016/tracker/)

Having got to within ten miles of Armel Le Cléac’h, the Banque Populaire VIII skipper who has lead the Vendée Globe solo round the world race since Tuesday evening, Vincent Riou sounded resigned this afternoon that any recent gains will turn to losses as Le Cléach’s foil assisted boat moves into the stronger, trade wind drag racing conditions which are set to prevail almost to the Equator some 2000 miles down the track.


Riou’s PRB is configured with classic, straight daggerboards and the 2004-5 Vendée Globe winner has been quick – as well as smart - in the 10-12kts windspeeds through the Azores high. But he admitted he now expects the ‘foilers’ – such as Banque Populaire VIII, Safran (Morgan Lagraviere) and Edmond de Rothschild (Sébastien Josse) – to be quicker in the fast trade winds descent south.
“In these conditions we can make the difference. In the coming days, it’s going to be for the others (the foilers – editor’s note). I think it’s going to be like in this round the world race. Sometimes for us, sometimes for them. I was surprised to see Banque Populaire ahead of me this morning by about ten miles. I thought it was going to be hard catching him after the lead he had,” Riou said today.

After passing Madeira this morning the leading group are under gennakers, accelerating steadily towards the latitude of the Canary Islands which are 145 miles south of Banque Populaire this afternoon. Le Cléac’h had already gained six miles on PRB since lunchtime.

Alex Thomson worked hard last night to use the shifting breezes as best he could on Hugo Boss, stepping successively west and south on the changing winds. Today in his video report he confirmed that the gybe he made to the east after Cape Finisterre was a ‘huge mistake and I have been beating myself up about it since.’ But now Thomson – in eighth at 65 miles behind the leader - is looking forward to getting into the stronger trade winds when Hugo Boss should be in its element. Already this afternoon he was tracked as quickest in the fleet. He reported: “The guys ahead have slightly different breeze, just following their track they had a little different breeze. It was quite patchy and I was quite happy to be in the south. I was happy. It can always be better. Now I am getting into the life on board routine, the work and sleep, it is never ending, I am starting to get into the swing of things. It is getting a bit warmer. I am looking forwards to the breeze building. It will be a drag race to the equator and so I am looking forwards to that and hopefully getting some miles back,”


Didac Costa crosses start line again
As of 1140hrs this Thursday, the Vendée Globe fleet was back to a full complement of 29 solo skippers on the race course. Catalan Didac Costa re-crossed the start line formed by the famous Nouche buoy on One Planet One Ocean. He had to return to Les Sables d’Olonne within an hour of Sunday’s start because of a flood inside his boat, which was formerly Ellen MacArthur’s Kingfisher. With all of the electrics repaired, a new, bigger alternator fitted and his engine stripped and rebuilt, Costa was desperate to get going again. “I'm happy to re-start again, very much looking forward to it and I hope everything goes well. On Sunday, when I was returning to Les Sables with water inside the boat, I had no idea if even I would be able to start again, because I did not know what kind of damage the boat had. Being able to re-start after four days, after so much work, makes me happy. I am happy but also prudent on the other hand. I hope there will be no problems and I can sail well. The first few hours I will not think too much about the competition but about sailing and about if everything is in place. More than thinking of the race I will think about the boat. Then, step-by-step, I will try to get on top of things. There is plenty of wind until tomorrow morning, and then it will drop.”


Regrets, they've had a few but they're doing it their way. At the back of the fleet, the key thing is to make sure they get around the world. At the front, doubts are raised about what comes next and questions asked about why they are where they are and what they can do about it.


Pieter Heerema (NED) No Way Back: “I am in changeable winds and so I have been doing a lot of gybes, it is shifting through about 40 degrees that does not make life very easy. I am still suffering from the pain in my back, so physical work is difficult. Somewhere in the Bay of Biscay I overstretched my back, putting too much force on it and hurt it, so I am moving with difficulty through the boat. I am not really that happy. It did not go well in the Bay of Biscay I had expected the windshift in the west but the windshift happened in the east, I had invested a lot in the north and west. It did not happen and that left me behind at Finisterre and it is always hard to catch up. I caught a few. But I am very far east and maybe the Irishman is further east but we need to swing around this high before we get south.


lex Thomson (GBR) Hugo Boss: “Alex Thomson (GBR) Hugo Boss: “It was a good night, not too hot, not too cold. We had some good breeze most of the time. I was pretty happy with it. We had a few gybes, it was not very windy 10-15kts, it was not too difficult. The guys ahead have slightly different breeze just following their track, they had a little different breeze. It was quite patchy and I was quite happy to be in the south. Jean Pierre Dick got a bit hurt in the north with less wind, I was happy. It can always be better. Now I am getting into the life on board routine, the work and sleep, it is never ending, I am starting to get into the swing of things. It is getting a bit warmer. I am looking forward to the breeze building. It will be a drag race to the equator and so I am looking forwards to that and hopefully getting some miles back,”

“I have three different breakfasts. I have a fruit and nut granola, I have muesli and porridge. I keep the porridge for the colder climates. I had one on the first morning. It is quite simple. Freeze dried package, throw a bit of water in. It is quite pleasant and 1000 calories each. It is a good way to start the day.”

Conrad Colman (Foresight Natural Energy), (NZL/USA): “The reason I am shaving Madeira is because the fleet has been struggling to get through a ridge of high pressure extending from the Azores islands towards Gibraltar. This weather phenomenon is clearly marked on the weather charts but also on the race tracker, as long parallel lines dissolve into confused spaghetti as boats hunt first right, then left to escape. Yesterday I broke south from my little group of playmates and later today will be my moment of truth as we'll see if the gamble was worth it.”

Jean-Pierre Dick, StMichel-Virbac: “It’s been tricky for the past 24 hours. Lots of clouds and squalls with the wind dropping off. It was a game of chance yesterday and I didn’t come off too well. It’s a difficult task settling into the pace. You do what you can between tiredness and keeping a clear head. You deal with things as best you can. Sometimes you get lucky doing manoeuvres. It’s going to take me another few days to get to feel at one with the boat.”
Jérémie Beyou, Maître CoQ: "We have accelerated a bit. It wasn’t easy last night. Gitana got the better of us. We fell into some light airs, while he got pushed along. You can gybe at the same time as someone else and he overtakes you. I haven’t had much luck or maybe I’m not sailing well. Maybe both... It’s time for me to wake up.”




Since they picked up the NE’ly trade winds after crossing the ridge of high pressure, the leaders have gradually been accelerating under full mainsail and spinnaker with Armel Le Cléac’h still leading the way... For the moment it is smooth sailing down towards the Equator, but by late this morning, the pace is set to quicken with fifteen knots of wind after the latitude of Madeira and twenty later this afternoon.

We can expect the big nylon spinnakers to be replaced by the big gennakers by this evening, particularly aboard the foilers, who can sail at a tighter angle and two knots faster than the monohulls with straight daggerboards. It is going to be interesting to watch the route taken by the foilers, Armel Le Cléac’h (Banque Populaire VIII), who is out in front, Jérémie Beyou (Maître CoQ), Morgan Lagravière (Safran), Sébastien Josse (Edmond de Rothschild) and Alex Thomson (Hugo Boss), in comparison to the trajectory chosen by Vincent Riou (PRB), Paul Meilhat (SMA), and the pack led by Jean Le Cam (Finistère Mer Vent) fifty miles back from the leader.
Moving over to 28°W

The conditions that are forecast should lead to a clear acceleration. The ENE’ly trade winds allow the skippers to get away from the coast of Africa, where the wind is from the NE. This difference in angle has a huge influence on the possible bearing of each monohull, as they are able to add some westing further out to sea. The boats gybed at between 18° and 19°W and the solo skippers are likely to move to around 28°W to tackle the Doldrums.

The Inter-tropical convergence zone is looking favourable. The thunderstorms and calms moving out of Sierra Leone are only stretching out at 8°N to around 25°W. That means that the transition between the NE’ly trade winds in the Northern Hemisphere and the SE’ly winds in the Southern Hemisphere will be quite sudden at around 4°N if they go across between 28° and 30°W. This crossing point appears to be open late this weekend and until the middle of next week, even if the Cape Verde trade winds will tend to ease off in the middle of the day on Monday. At this stage in the race, the Doldrums don’t look like being a major headache for those behind, who might have feared that the leaders would make their getaway from the pack.

Full speed ahead to the Equator

During this drag race down to the Equator, the gaps are however likely to widen in this fleet, which is more or less split in two. The thirteen boats in front have already passed Madeira or are doing so this morning. Part of the pack has decided to sail between the Canaries and the Savage Islands. That is the case for the Easterners, Enda O’Coineen (Kilcullen Voyager-team Ireland) and Pieter Heerema (No Way Back), who sailed close to the coast of Portugal and Conrad Colman (Foresight Natural Energy) and Kojiro Shiraishi (Spirit of Yukoh), while the French have favoured the west. With a separation of up to 350 miles from east to west, they will find themselves in different weather conditions.
While the leaders will be able to continue straight ahead to the Doldrums, those, who have gone to the east, will have to get back on track at some point, probably off the Canaries. For Armel Le Cléac’h and his followers, it’s time to get the foils in place. Speeds will leap up tonight and we can expect two days of sailing more than 450 miles in 24 hours.

11-11-2016, 08:42 AM

While they can look forward to faster speeds in the Southern Ocean, the skippers are already achieving incredible speeds in the trade winds, which have strengthened since they left Madeira in their wake. While Armel Le Cléac’h is still in front, he must be regularly checking his mirror, as Vincent Riou and Alex Thomson are exceptionally fast in these ideal conditions.

They have gone from relaxing mood music to the Ride of the Valkyries. There has been a clear acceleration since passing Madeira on Thursday morning and the seven frontrunners have covered almost 400 miles in 24 hours. This pace should continue at least until they get to SW of the Cape Verde Islands at 6°N. Currently 1700 miles from the Equator, they should be crossing into the Southern Hemisphere after nine days, as the Doldrums are looking very kind for them this year. They are not very active and not very wide after 27°W and so the pace should only fall slightly with the NE’ly trade winds and the SE’ly winds on the other side are generating a ten knot Easterly at 4°N/

Tracker (http://tracking2016.vendeeglobe.org/gv5ip0/)

Out on Thunder Road

The only negative point, in what was looking like an ideal scenario, is the presence of thunderstorms ahead of them. This disturbed area which seems to be moving westwards is likely to affect the leaders this afternoon. This means that the winds will fluctuate in strength and this could be the case until Cape Verde. Those who have not recovered from the first three days of hard work are going to find it tough. Even with one reef in the main under big gennaker, broaching is very costly in time and effort as Jean Le Cam told us this morning…

So are foils still the lethal weapon? The rankings today confirm they are, but with two exceptions. Vincent Riou (PRB) is hanging on to Armel Le Cléac’h’s coat-tails (Banque Populaire VIII) and Paul Meilhat (SMA) on the IMOCA, which won the last race, is holding his own against Sébastien Josse (Edmond de Rothschild) and Jérémie Beyou (Maître CoQ) at a wider angle from the wind. We should learn more in the coming hours when the frontrunners are away from the wind shadow of the Canaries…


Three groups and the ‘Go your own way’ brigade
The route being taken by the leaders appears to see them sailing relatively close to La Palma and Hierro which are only just 150 miles away. The trade winds will not be too affected until they reach the Tropic of Cancer (23°26’N). The frontrunners will be free by then, but Tanguy de Lamotte (Initiatives-Cœur), only 70 miles from the islands, could be affected and in his wake, Arnaud Boissières (La Mie Câline) will need to be cautious too.

The Magnificent Seven out in front remain grouped together spreading out only 60 miles from east to west with a distance of just 55 miles between them. Sébastien Josse is the furthest west and Alex Thomson the furthest east. Behind this group, more than a hundred miles back, there is another tightly packed group of skippers, led by Yann Éliès (Quéguiner-Leucémie Espoir) which is in a different weather situation, as the trade winds are favouring the leaders. The third group led by Bertrand de Broc (MASCF) is still struggling in lighter winds between Madeira and the Canaries. Already some 300 miles behind, the Famous Five are going to find it hard to get back up there before the Southern Ocean.


A few independent thinkers have chosen to go their own way. In particular, the Irishman who approached the coast of Morocco to find stronger trade winds. Enda O’Coineen (Kilcullen Voyager-Team Ireland) will be passing between Africa and Fuerteventura this lunchtime. If this option might look interesting for the weekend, he is going to have to gybe all the way to the Western Sahara… The other non-French skippers are also doing their own thing. Pieter Heerema (No Way Back) was tempted to take a radical routing option for a while, but has now got back to the west, while the Japanese sailor Kojiro Shiraishi (Spirit of Yukoh) and the Hungarian Nandor Fa (Spirit of Hungary) accompanied by Romain Attanasio (Famille Mary-Étamine du Lys) are weaving their way between Madeira and the Canaries. Conrad Colman (Foresight Natural Energy), the only one to go between Madeira and Porto Santo, is attempting to follow the Famous Five. Once they reach the Equator, this little procession should stretch out over a thousand miles.
Dominic Bourgeois/M&M


Vincent Riou (PRB): “I mustn’t complain, but it‘s wet and I have a lot of work to do. The conditions are as expected. I’m close to the boat’s polars What counts is the average speed. I can see that Armel must be busy at the helm, when he accelerates. The foilers can be faster at times, but I’m working on my average speed. I’m trying to work on finding the best route and we must remember that there is a long way to go. For me succeeding in the Vendée Globe is a matter of managing the boat and looking after yourself. Before the Doldrums, we have other things to worry about, but it looks like continuing to be fast.”

Alan Roura (La Fabrique): “I don’t know what day it is or how long I have been at sea. I had a complicated night with little wind at times and lots of squalls. I’ve left Eric go further away from land. We’ll see what happens. I want to enjoy myself. The others have soared away. I had hoped they would get stuck in the Doldrums, but that doesn’t look likely. I don’t know if it’s the heat, but I don’t feel like eating. I have to force down my two meals a day. I’m getting about 90% out of my beautiful boat from SW Brittany (Bernard Stamm’s former Superbigou – editor). I know I should be getting 100%, but there’s a long way to go. Only one problem. I lost a bucket, so I’m having to use the same way for my shower, the dishes and as a toilet. Nice!”

Armel Le Cléac’h (Banque Populaire VIII): “We’ve been together since yesterday. It’s nice to have someone to measure up against. The weather has been good since the start so it’s been fast. I’ve got one reef in the mainsail and the gennaker. I haven’t spent much time at the helm today, but have been trimming.”

Conrad Colman (NZL/USA) Foresight Natural Energy: "The local effects of the island really slowed me down. I had been trying to pass over the top of Madeira and really got stuck there. I got sucked in by the shifting winds but I managed to escape in good form and actually had a really nice wind shift and acceleration when I left the south coast of Madeira. I had a good shot of Funchal last night. I cruised in past the airport, it was dramatic, but my favourite thing was seeing it drop behind me on the horizon behind me."

Tanguy De Lamotte (FRA) Initiatives Coeur; "I am sailing past the Canary Islands under my big gennaker. I was trying to squeeze down on the guys below me but i somehow did not manage it during the night. So we shall see what today brings. They have been a bit faster than me to my leeward, Jean Le Cam has exactly the same boat as me so it may be that he has a little different wind to me. I am closer to the island so maybe I have a bit of a wind shadow. But I think maybe he sailed a bit more aggressively through the night. That is the way the Vendee Globe goes, sometimes you need to rest, sometimes you need to be more aggressive and faster. I am not worried about it, I am happy to be where I am. I am with a nice group of guys near the top of the fleet. It is exciting for me. In my head this is a different race to four years ago. I think more than anything all the boats around me are tiring me because I have to race so much differently. My boat is faster and it is not as comfy but I managed to fit a nice mattress and a nice seat to rest in so I can do all the weather routing and sleeping in the chair. I am now rested and the rhythm since the start has been incredible. I think it feels more like offshore ocean racing even if the boats are so close together."

Enda O'Coineen (IRL) Kilcullen Voyager Team Ireland: “We have had a nice scenic tour of the Canary Islands and the coast of Africa. I have a house in Lanzarote so I thought I would go and have a look at it. I was a little bit behind and wanted to try to pick up the NE'ly trades at the same time or before everybody else. I think I have caught up a bit. But it is hard to know. I had 25-26kts of breeze and so it was a bit of a rough night. The A3 became unfurled and I had a problem sorting that out. And then I broke a reefing line. At the moment I have 23kts of breeze and sailing with three reefs in because we don't have a second reef. I'd like to be going faster but it is not really optimum for that. The other dramatic thing I did today was I was on deck fixing a sail and had my dinner on and I overcooked the boiling water. And I had a little bit of a fire on board. But it was not too serious."

Nandor Fa (HUN) Spirit of Hungary: "I am running like hell. I am well into the trade winds, I have 24-25kts from NNE, and I am running under full mainsail and A3. I am doing 13-16kts. It is nice. I had a bath because the weather is nice. I feel very good and just had a meal. I feel good. I am back in the game. I am closer to the boats I feel I have to be racing. But in this game sometimes they are closer and sometimes further away. I dont know on this course if it is good or if I am losing on it. I have to get west and after the Canary Islands and then will gybe SSW after that. Right now I have to sacrifice a couple of hours to go west. Thanks to God there is nothing wrong with the boat."

11-11-2016, 09:24 AM

Day 6 onboard HUGO BOSS and the skippers are already feeling the warmth of the equator. Alex has made good progress stepping into 3rd place today and is chasing down the leaders!


Published on Nov 10, 2016
Alex is in good spirits reflecting on the tactical decisions of the last 48 hours and is now on the hunt!


11-12-2016, 08:52 AM
TRACKER (http://tracking2016.vendeeglobe.org/hp5ip0/)

It’s smoking off Cape Verde! Still led by Armel Le Cléac’h, the leading group is bounding along at over twenty knots towards a fairly inactive and slightly elongated Doldrums. The seven leaders know that the faster they’re around this obstacle, the more the next tradewind system in the southern hemisphere will enable them to recharge their batteries, which have been operating at full power since the start in Les Sables d’Olonne…

Today there’s clearly a lot of traffic on the major routes! In the North Atlantic, it’s the route between Spain and Brazil that’s congested: after the bottlenecks in Madeira on Thursday evening, the route has cleared somewhat this Saturday between Cape Verde and the Canaries, but we can expect things to snarl up dramatically on Sunday evening once the leaders hit the Doldrums toll booth… As ever, there will be some compression of the fleet as the tickets for the southern hemisphere are dispensed.


Troughs and bumps

The troughs are the growing deficits between the three big groups that now make up the fleet: the seven trailblazers are still powering along at an average of over twenty knots, the group of five are trying to keep pace over 150 miles astern, but making nearly two knots less speed the pack is now stretched out across over 200 miles between Arnaud Boissières (La Mie Câline) and Alan Roura (La Fabrique). And even the lonesome solo sailor is heading for the expressway now. Indeed, Irish skipper Enda O’Coineen (Kilcullen Voyager-Team Ireland) has left the Canaries trunk road and is heading for the dual carriageway from Madeira-Cape Verde! And in this final string of boats that stretch out over 750 miles (save for Didac Costa, who is not yet at Cape Finisterre), not everyone’s sailing in the same conditions…

Indeed, few people imagined such a scenario: some have taken some almighty knocks, either because they went astray in some hazardous options, or because the quick pace has been a psychological upheaval, or because between the pre-match confrontations and the reality of the Atlantic playing field, the potential of the IMOCA monohulls are not yet set in stone. One example of this is the blistering pace set by Alex Thomson (Hugo Boss: mile after mile, the Briton who stumbled after Cape Finisterre by heading off towards the Portuguese coast, has been powering back into contention like a speeding bullet, adopting the same heading as the two leaders with the same sea and wind conditions. The foiler Hugo Boss doesn’t have the same appendages (lifting surfaces), nor the same hull (narrower), nor the same weight (less beamy with a cut-away bow); three parameters that seem to show that this 3rd iteration by VPLP-Verdier is more polished somehow…

Look out for the islands!

However, in this compact group, Cape Verde is looming! By dint of favouring a better angle of attack to slip along at speed (140° in relation to the true wind), Armel Le Cléac’h (Banque Populaire VIII) like Alex Thomson, Morgan Lagravière (Safran) and Paul Meilhat (SMA) may well get their wings burned by sailing too close to the island of Santo Antão: the volcanic relief of Topo da Coroa culminates at 1,979 metres) and the weather charts supplied by Great Circle clearly show the extent of the disturbance (wind shadow), which spans over a hundred miles… The lateral separation to the West of Sébastien Josse (Edmond de Rothschild) will be very interesting to witness once the archipelago is abeam of the leaders midway through the afternoon.

The way in which the leaders will negotiate this obstacle will very likely influence the trajectories of the chasing pack who, for the time being, are sailing in the wake of the leaders. Naturally the group of five don’t have quite the same conditions with a slightly less steady trade wind system and they’ve lost nearly 50 miles in 24 hours… The good news is that the stormy zone off Africa is already behind them and this morning it was influencing play among the following group. Indeed, at daybreak, the trailing pack was experiencing violent squalls at over 30 knots as indicated at 3:30 GMT by Louis Burton (Bureau Vallée). The fleet must now cast themselves some 36 hours further down the track, which is when the front runners will tackle the equator, the chasing pack will have passed Cape Verde and the back runners will be just approaching the archipelago…

Dominic Bourgeois


There are fewer squalls and though the tradewinds are certainly boisterous, the scenario is a lot more pleasant for the head of the fleet, with much more variable conditions in terms of strength and direction for the IMOCA's on the hunt behind. Paul Meilhat (SMA), Jérémie Beyou (Maître CoQ), Kito de Pavant (Bastide Otio), Rich Wilson (Great American IV), Didac Costa (One Planet One Ocean) and Sébastien Destremau (TechnoFirst-faceOcean) give us the low-down on their lives at sea...


Paul Meilhat (SMA)

"We’re sailing on the points of tack where foilers aren’t necessarily very quick. There are moments where the wind heads and then it picks up but we’ve managed to keep on the pace. We had a 20-knot average virtually all of last night and the boats are more stable when sailing fast. The trades are very stable too - 22-25 kts last night – and I slept well. Strategy will be very important with some wind shadows to deal with off Cape Verde this evening. For now, I’m concentrating on my route with an eye on what the others are doing. ETA of 2 days for the Doldrums, so Monday, and things are looking quite nice for now. Thomas Coville slipped through them nicely but he was on a faster boat of course. Doesn’t look like we’ll have to pass too far west to get through it. It’s very motivating to be in contact and see how I measure up against the others. We have really nice conditions and there’s nothing better than being on the pace.”


Jérémie Beyou (Maitre Coq)
“Things are okay, the pace is quick but there’s a bit of a hole that opened up between us. It’s been like a Solitaire du Figaro for the past week which is great. It’ll be intense until we pass Verde, then it should be cooler. We’ve been full-on since the start and we’re bunched up so you really have to be on top of the trimming. We had 20-30 knots this morning – really powered up at times – between 19 and 30 knots so trimming is pretty hard. It’s an unbearable racket aboard. If you don’t put your headphones on, 20 minutes later you can’t stand any more. I slammed off a wave and lost one set the other day. The noise vibrates through the whole boat and goes right through your body like a dentist’s drill.”


Kito de Pavant (Otio – Bastide)
“I’m taking my time as the weather isn’t great. Sometimes there’s no wind then 25 knots so it’s difficult to manage. One silly thing that’s happened is that I took the wrong wash bag with me so I don’t have any ear plugs and just one razor for a round the world! Objective today: since Madeira I haven’t been in phase with the accelerations in the wind. I had too big a headsail for a while, then I had too small a sail. Right now it’s okay and I want to keep that up. The grib files aren’t the best. I’m not doing too bad though.”

Armel Le Cleac’h (Banque Populaire)
“I feel good, but I’m a little apprehensive at having Vincent (Riou) on my tail). I’m sailing with one reef in the main and the gennaker and conditions are increasingly bracing. I’m still in the game and I feel good because I understand myself very well, I’m eating and sleeping correctly and I’m managing my boat.”

Tanguy de Lamotte (Initiatives Coeur)
“I’ve been sailing past the Canaries and I’ve had my big gennaker up since the middle of the night and I was trying to squeeze down on the guy to leeward but I didn’t pull it off so we’ll see what today brings. I’m sailing closer to the islands so I might be suffering the effects of the wind shadow in contrast to Jean’s boat and I think he sailed more aggressively overnight too. I’m not too worried, just happy to be where I am. In my head, this a different race to 4 years ago because the boats around me are making me race differently. It’s not as comfy as last time. The rhythm of the start has been pretty incredible so we’re into offshore sailing now, even though the boats feel very close. I have 15 to 20 knots of breeze just now so it should be good, straight sailing downwind under gennaker heading south to the equator.


Didac Costa (One Planet One Ocean)
"I passed the TSS (Traffic Separation System) exclusion zone off Galicia this morning and I have already hoisted my flying sails to get South. I am sailing with the medium spinnaker aloft; I am happy that things are going well. It is a little less cold now, although I am still very wrapped up. I have downloaded some position reports of the other boats and they are quite far ahead (laughs), but there is not too much I can do about it…The weather is not clear after the Canary Islands; the wind looks a bit fluky. We will wait and see what happens although there are still four or five days before we get there. But until the Canary Islands, more or less, everything is quite clear. So far so good. I am paying attention so nothing serious happens and that I don’t break anything, especially in the first few days. This race is very long. For now, I’m going at my own pace and we will see. I am very motivated. I am thinking more about this boat than sailing the race and I will gradually gain more and more in confidence and then I will think more about the competition itself."


Sébastien Destremau (TechnoFirst-faceOcean)
“I got a bit carried away off Madeira. It’s really not a great option, but it gave me a chance to discover the archipelago I guess. Otherwise, I’m sailing at my own pace in beautiful conditions. It’s not really a holiday, but I admit that I’m incredibly lucky to be sailing in these conditions. Even though I got straight into the race, I’m not really involved in the competition. I don’t know where my rivals are and I don’t even want to know. I’m sailing my own race and I’m really just discovering solo sailing, but it’s magical to think that we’re heading off on a journey of discovery of all these countries.”

Rich Wilson (Great American IV)
“It is pretty good right now we are making a lot of speed and as soon we are done here I will have to make a sail change because we just made our first broach of the race, just before connecting with you. It was quite exciting. But it is all fine.
My friends who were all on the same finger pier back in Les Sables d’Olonne are all going really well. I always appreciate Nandor (Fa) having designed and built his own boat and now racing it. He said if he had any boat in the fleet to choose from he would still have his, I really like that approach. And Koji is going well and we are having a good race and a good adventure out here.

We are hanging in there. The senior members are in the back of the fleet here but we are having a great adventure. It is blowing 25kts and through the night it was beautiful. The stars were out and I have a star book on the boat and I am going to dig it out tonight to refresh my memory. There are aspects of being at sea which are just beautiful, different from the racing aspect. And we all appreciate those I am sure. I had a nice email exchange with Stephane Le Diraison when we were alongside one another the other night, I was able to cross just in front of him when I gybed south. We were running about two miles apart. I could see his running lights. That was really nice. He has pulled ahead and that is good for him. But I am trying to catch him.

I did say I would (do a Moitissier) in jest. But it was a difficult day for the world. I was in favour of Hillary Clinton, she is very experienced and intelligent but she will not be the next president. I have several coins under the mast for good luck I have several. I have Sacagawea (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sacagawea) who was the Indian Woman who was Lewis and Clark’s guide, and then Susan B Anthony who led the women’s suffrage movement (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Susan_B._Anthony) in the US. These two were leading the path for Women in the US, but unfortunately we will have to wait for a little while longer for our first woman president.”

11-12-2016, 12:06 PM

While sailing on port tack in a 20-knot NE’ly, Tanguy de Lamotte informed his team today, Saturday 12 November at 15:15 GMT that he’d suffered damage to the masthead on Initiatives-Coeur. The incident occurred around 150 miles north of the Cape Verde Islands.

11-13-2016, 09:45 AM

One week after last Sunday's start of the eighth Vendee Globe solo race around the world, the British skipper Alex Thomson leads the 29-boat fleet towards a complicated, sticky Doldrums passage.

Thomson wriggled Hugo Boss through between the Cape Verde Islands of Santo Antao and Sao Vicente during Saturday evening in order to maintain his fast, making gybe southwards.
"It's a good win for me," said Thomson this afternoon, "I am surprised no one else came with me."

At the same time, long-time leader Armel Le Cleac'h had to gybe West, to avoid the worst of the wind shadow generated by the high ground of Santo Antao, giving away time and distance to the British skipper. With two deft, well-timed gybes, Thomson emerged into an accelerated breeze with a lead of 17 miles.

TRACKER (http://alexthomsonracing.geovoile.com/vendeeglobe/2016/tracker/)

By the middle of this Sunday afternoon Hugo Boss was 35 miles ahead of second placed Vincent Riou (PRB).
The radical Hugo Boss has proven quickest over recent days but the southwards descent towards the Doldrums is expected to see some compression as the leaders arrive first into lighter winds.
Weather files suggested more even NE'ly winds of 10-12kts for the leaders, the chasing pack still holding onto winds of 15-18kts.

But there was no sign of a Sunday afternoon slowdown on the 'Rosbif Rocket'. Thomson was still polled at 22.5kts. He did report a mechanical problem, water ingress to his engine, which would ultimately have compromised his ability to make power.


But after an afternoon spent up to his bits in engine oil, Thomson had the engine running and was relishing a refreshing shower.
Behind him Vincent Riou, in second, and Le Cleac'h, in third, are racing alongside each other, as if speed-testing during a training mission at the French centre of offshore excellence, the Pole Finistere Course au Large, where eight of the top ten skippers train.

Riou's choice of classical daggerboards rather than lifting hydrofoils, is expected to prove better in the lighter airs. His PRB is certainly proving to be an extremely potent all-round performer, as is the hard-driving skipper who won the 2004-5 Vendee Globe.

Morgan Lagraviere, the Vendee Globe first-timer, racing in fifth place on the VPLP-Verdier foiler Safran, observed today:
"Out on the racetrack Alex’s progress is interesting. He’s either very quick or a bit slow. There’s no compromise. At one point I was close behind him yesterday and then he powered off with the breeze. We’re sailing angles which are too open to really extend our foils and fly. Alex is in prime conditions for his lower foils and for now it’s paying off. We’ll see how things pan out. PRB is much more versatile whereas Alex seems to have a very narrow band of performance.”

The leaders are forecast to be dealing with the vagaries of the Doldrums on Monday afternoon. The Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone has expanded north-south in the last 48 hours, from about 60 miles to 250 miles. There is a passage at about 28˚W, which seems to be a preferred target, but there is a small, active depression embedded at around 30˚W, which is also creating some disturbed air.

Routing based on current weather models suggests the equator should be passed during the night of Tuesday into Wednesday, an elapsed time since the start of around 9.5 days. That would better Jean Le Cam's 2004 record by approximately one day.


One week into the race, mechanical failures are starting to feature. Worst at the moment is the masthead crane and halyard box on Tanguy de Lamotte's Initiatives Coeur. He reported the unexplained damage to the masthead to his shore team during Saturday afternoon. Images showed the carbon top detached and swinging free at deck level. He also has a sail tangled round the keel. He was making steady progress at 7kts towards Mindelo or Tarrafal, which are just about 100 miles away. Tarrafal, on the West of Santo Antao, is an option with a good anchorage in the lee of high ground. De Lamotte reported to Race HQ in Paris:

"It’s the actual carbon tube, which forms the masthead itself that’s snapped off. All the mechanical pieces around it are intact. It’s not a big piece that’s broken off the masthead, 30cm maybe. I have all the pieces so I’ll try to effect repairs. The aim is to be able to set a halyard for the mainsail so I'll be more manoeuvrable. I won’t be able to set it to the top of the mast, but I have two halyards left, which will allow me to set three headsails. I’ll do everything I can to make it work. I have all the resin aboard that I need. I can’t reattach the carbon tube but I have a spare wand I can attach to the transom so I can get wind mode for my autopilot. I have the means and the motivation to pull this off."


Jean Pierre Dick, 11th, spent time battling with his big spinnaker on St Michel-Virbac after the bottom furler unit failed. So too was 17th placed Conrad Colman's Saturday marked by a four-hour fight with an unfurled gennaker. If these two respective sail wars went in the favour of the solo skippers, sadly 22nd placed Koji Shiraishi's Code 7 kite is no more. During a broach on Spirit of Yukoh, the sail dragged in the ocean and was shredded. The sail is reported to have already made two successful circumnavigation racesh - third in the last

Vendee Globe with Alex Thomson and second in the Barcelona World Race with Guillermo Altadill and Jose Munoz.
Hungarian skipper Nandor Fa is as tough as any of the 29 skippers racing. He was brought up by his mother and his father who escaped from a Russian Gulag and walked all the way home through a bitter winter of 1945-46.

Fa admitted his first thoughts this morning on Spirit of Hungary were not of race startegy, trade winds and the route to Cape Verde, but with the people of Paris, one year on from the terrorist attacks:
"This is a special day. Before I talk about sailing I want to talk of my absolute solidarity for the victims of what happened in Paris one year ago. I thought about them this morning in spite of being out here sailing on the ocean. All these kinds of actions follow us and it is a shadow on my day and our day. " Read more at http://www.vendeeglobe.org/en/news/15981/on-remembrance-day

Injuries to the skippers, damage on the boats… the sailors contacted today gave us an insight into their race strategy and their life at sea, which sounds far from relaxing. We hear the latest from Morgan Lagravière (Safran), Thomas Ruyant (Le Souffle du Nord pour le Projet Imagine), Tanguy de Lamotte (Initiatives-Cœur), Alex Thomson (Hugo Boss), Pieter Heerema (No Way Back), Nandor Fa (Spirit of Hungary) and Shota Kanda - spokesperson for Kojiro Shiraishi (Spirit of Yukoh).


Tanguy De Lamotte (Initiatives-Coeur)
“I’m 120 miles from Cape Verde at the moment. At my current speed it’s not going to be possible to moor there in daylight hours today. Several people have warned me not to make landfall at night as there are wrecks and things to negotiate and I have a sail wrapped around my keel. With that in mind I’ll sort out 2 or 3 things on my way down there so I rig up some kind of mainsail to help with manoeuvring. I have a couple of options for tomorrow: either the port of Mindelo or Tarrafal. It’s a carbon tube that forms the masthead itself that’s snapped off, but all the mechanical pieces around it are intact. It’s not a big piece that’s broken off the masthead, 30cm maybe, and I have all the pieces so I’ll try to effect repairs. Essentially, I’ll endeavour to sort out the problems one by one and see what happens. The aim is to continue in solo mode and get back out on the racetrack under 1 reef main. I have 2 halyards left and I have 3 sails with which to make headway. I’ll do everything I can to make it work. I have all the resin aboard that I need. I can’t reattach the carbon tube but I have a spare wand I can attach to the transom so I can get wind mode and force on my autopilot. I have the means and the desire to pull this off. The kids I’m raising money for are added motivation, as are my friends and family. I’ll use all my strength so I have no regrets. Things have worked out harder than planned but I’ll take the time I need and if it’s reasonable to do so, I’ll continue on my way.”


Morgan Lagraviere (Safran)
“All’s well aboard. I had 2 hours’ rest and then with the violent motion of the boat in my slightly groggy state, I knocked my head on the edge of the door and cracked my head open! It’s fine now though! Out on the racetrack Alex’s progress is interesting. He’s either very quick or a bit slow. There’s no compromise. At one point I was close behind him yesterday and then he powered off with the breeze. We’re sailing too open to really extend our foils and fly. Alex is in prime conditions for his lower foils and for now it’s paying off. We’ll see how things pan out. PRB is much more versatile whereas Alex has a very narrow band of performance.”

Thomas Ruyant (Le Souffle du Nord Pour le Projet Imagine)
“The violent motion meant that I hurt my cheekbone, but it’s better now as it wasn’t anything nasty. I feel good out here. The start was complicated but conditions have been really nice in the North Atlantic: 20 knots, downwind sailing, sun, racing… who could wish for more? It’s a good thing I feel so at ease on the boat as I’m here for a while yet! It’s good to have a reference with Yann and Jean close-by too so you can compare yourself and see if you’re carrying the right sail. I’m in good company. I look at every ranking and try to go faster. My primary objective is to finish the race and bring back the big humming bird! (Symbol of his partner Projet Imagine that brings anonymous heroes into the spotlight to inspire us to great things and to carry a message of hope).


Alex Thomson (Hugo Boss)
“It’s not been going too badly for me. I have a slight problem with the engine. I somehow managed to fill it up with water. I’m not really sure how that’s happened but we’ll work on that. I’ll be down below shortly changing the oil out and getting her back to full working order. We’ll see how it all pans out.”


Pieter Heerema (No Way Back)
“It is not too bad. I am finally in line with the others albeit a bit behind them, so I am on the way down to the Cape Verdes. I am happy with that. But I am looking at a big deficit which somehow I have to make good. I’ve just started to look at the Doldrums so I have no real idea about it. I am still two days from Cape Verde and so the Equator is a long way off. Maybe, hopefully, I will have some luck there. I feel better today but the last couple of days have been really bad with back pain. I have been really suffering hugely since the first night and am struggling to move around the boat. It is impossible to hoist the gennaker and therefore impossible to make good speed. That seems a lot better today so I am hopeful that I am on the mend. Generally, it is a nice sunny day, the wind is 17-20kts and it is very pleasant sailing. I’d like to have the gennaker up for really fast sailing but I can’t get it up in the physical condition I am in right now.”


Nandor Fa (Spirit of Hungary)
“This is a special day. Before I talk about sailing I want to talk of my absolute solidarity for the victims of what happened in Paris one year ago. I thought about them this morning in spite of being out here sailing on the ocean. All these kinds of actions follow us and it is a shadow on my day and our day. But there the sun is shining and the boat is going very, very well. I would like to sail further to the West but on my angle it is impossible to sail much deeper. This is absolutely the making gybe and so I don’t want to gybe as it would be completely negative. I’ll stay on this gybe then I will go to the Cape Verde Islands and see what happens. At the moment I cannot get down there. The wind is still changing all the time and so it is still hard to keep the optimum sail plan. That is all I can do. Everyone is a target for me in sailing, especially those around me, with whom I have a special relationship. Conrad is good and I would like to catch him. But the race is long. He is more to the West.”

Shota Kanda - spokesperson for Kojiro Shiraishi (Spirit of Yukoh)
“Yesterday morning Koji was sailing well but suddenly he got a gust of about 30kts and broached. The rudder kicked up and he lost control of the boat. The A7 caught the water, and ripped apart. It is impossible to repair. We think it has already done two round the world races. We kind of hoped it would last for a third. We have a few new sails but what has happened is unexpected. He is still smiling.”

Single Hander
11-13-2016, 10:04 AM
Go Alex!

11-14-2016, 08:31 AM

In the 1100hrs UTC rankings, advantage Alex Thomson. In just four hours, the skipper of Hugo Boss has doubled his lead over his nearest rivals.

We need to view these changes with a certain amount of caution, but for the moment the start of the passage through the Doldrums has been very favourable for Alex Thomson. While this lunchtime, Sébastien Josse said he was practically at a standstill and that he had “changed the sails more in the past few hours than since the start of the race” because he hardly has any wind or just one knot, Alex Thomson has managed to find his way straight ahead towards the south, sailing not as far west as the others. He is at 15 knots, or in other words at least 5 knots more than the other frontrunners.

The result is that in 4 hours, in terms of distance to the finish, Alex Thomson has practically doubled his lead over his closest rivals, who are now between 64 and 89 miles behind him, as opposed to 32 to 70 at 0700hrs this morning. A perfect illustration of how unpredictable the Doldrums can be. Will the British sailor continue to extend his lead or will the reverse happen? Anything is possible in this area in the middle of the Atlantic.



Weather analysis

The leaders entered the doldrums this morning. Some are diving south while others have chosen to move westward before heading south. Who will come out victorious?
The group of leaders entered the famous Doldrums. Speeds have already fallen (between 6 knots for PRB and 10 knots for Hugo Boss at 9:00 am). We see on the satellite picture this morning that the activity is more or les the same between meridians 25W and 30W. Satellites measure the temperature at the top of clouds. The higher the clouds are, the colder it is there. The highest clouds are the most active ones with big squalls and light wind zones They are colored in red, orange and yellow.
The dilemma for skippers on Monday morning was to choose between a southern route which is shorter, but riskier in theory or a late move to the west before crossing the Doldrums. Winds are better established in theory in the West.


Hugo Boss chose to dive south. Alex Thomson has come off rather well at the moment. He managed to pass between the cumulonimbus, those big black clouds which rise very high in the sky. PRB and Edmond de Rothschild chose the West. They are not faster than the British boat. Who will exit the Doldrums first? Answer tomorrow morning.

We see on the second image (forecast for November 15th) that the light wind zone is moving north, which will help the competitors exit the Doldrums more quickly.
29 skippers will also take advantage this evening of an exceptional full moon, because the latter is very close to the Earth. The moon will be bigger than usually. We will notice it particularly at about 7:00 pm after the moon rises. It will be a very bright night, which will help skippers to spot the squalls.
From tomorrow, the question of which route to chose along the coast of Brazil will arise. At what distance from Fernando-de-Noronha Island should they sail?
Christian Dumard and Bernard Sacré / Great Circle


TRACKER (http://alexthomsonracing.geovoile.com/vendeeglobe/2016/tracker/)

Monday looks like being a very stressful day out at sea and an interesting one for those watching. Today the frontrunners are dealing with the first major obstacle in the eighth Vendée Globe after what has so far been an almost ideal voyage down towards the Southern Hemisphere. The leader, Alex Thomson on Hugo Boss has already been significantly slowed down and this is likely to get even worse, as he enters the inter-tropical convergence zone, where he is likely to encounter calms, but also violent squalls, thunderstorms with heavy rain and very unstable conditions.

There is a big fight raging at the front of the fleet to get in good position to find the fastest route through to the Southern Hemisphere. They are aiming for the entry point, where the Doldrums are narrowest. Is it because he is forced to luff to keep a good angle to create more apparent wind that Alex Thomson appears to be going for a route to the east of his four closest rivals, Armel Le Cléac’h (Banque Populaire VIII) Sébastien Josse (Edmond de Rothschild), Vincent Riou (PRB) and Jérémie Beyou (Maître CoQ), who have all aimed to go further west? Or is he gambling on better weather in this part of the Doldrums? Or maybe a bit of both. Thomson is sailing at any rate at 27°02 West, Josse at 28°02, sixty miles away from east to west. The ideal crossing point looks like being between 27 and 28 ° West, so it is wide open. Boatspeeds are very different from one boat to another: around 11 knots at 0800UTC for Hugo Boss and Banque Populaire VIII, while Maître CoQ is still above 16 knots, but Edmond de Rothschild and PRB are down to 8 and 5 knots respectively.

Everyone knows that it takes a certain amount of luck in this part of the race course, but we can look forward tomorrow to a new reference time to the Equator, as the line separating the two hemispheres is just 400 miles ahead of Hugo Boss. The best performance to date was set by Jean Le Cam in just under ten and a half days (10 days, 11 hrs and 28 minutes to be precise) back in 2004.

The brakes are on

The seven leading boats were spread out yesterday with a gap of 110 miles in terms of distance to the finish, but this morning, that gap is down to 71 miles. It is Sébastien Josse, who has achieved the best performance, allowing him for a while to grab second place from Vincent Riou before losing that spot to Armel Le Cléac’h, who had lost some ground after the Cape Verde Islands. The skipper of PRB has regained around ten miles from Alex Thomson. Jérémie Beyou (Maître CoQ) regained 18 during the night, Morgan Lagravière (Safran) around twenty, Paul Meilhat (SMA) forty, but honours go to Yann Eliès (Quéguiner-Leucémie Espoir) in eighth position. In twelve hours he has cut the distance to the leader from 192 to 132 miles. In other words, he has gained 60 miles in half a day…

These figures just go to show how fragile the lead is. We must remember how long this race is, but more immediately, for the next three days, we are likely to see some movement in the rankings as the boats pass through the Doldrums. If the leaders may well get across in twenty hours, with the tricky part coming this afternoon, when speeds are set to fall to 4 knots or so, we must not forget that the boats in 12th to 15th place are between 400 and 500 miles back from the leader, which represents more than a day of sailing.
This is only the eighth day of racing that is coming to an end, so for the leaders, there is still nine tenths of the voyage ahead of them. Armel Le Cléac'h was right to stress this morning that the fifty mile lead he had at the Equator in 2012 melted away in the Southern Hemisphere. So, no one is going to get too excited just yet about seeing the leaders slow down in the Doldrums later today.

Among the group of boats chasing the frontrunners - between 150 and 260 miles from the leader - Yann Eliès, Jean Le Cam, Thomas Ruyant and Jean-Pierre Dick know they are likely to regain some ground today, but are focusing more on what will happen to them, when it is their turn to pass through the Doldrums. The Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone could widen and that would mean that they would see the frontrunners extend their lead once again, but if the reverse happened… It is too early to tell, how things are going to develop in this area in the coming days, but the outcome could be hugely important, if those chasing the leaders get stuck for longer in the Doldrums. Nothing is certain in this tricky area in the middle of the Atlantic.

In the third group currently dealing with the Cape Verde Islands (Kito de Pavant, Bertrand de Broc, Louis Burton, Arnaud Boissières…), they know too that they are not easily going to win back the 400 or 500 miles they have lost. In a message last night, Kito talked about conditions that were a little too calm for his liking.
With the exception of Didac Costa, who is in strong winds sailing downwind, it is pleasant sailing for practically the whole fleet this morning. After eight days of intense racing, the conditions now allow the skippers to look after themselves (sleep, wash, eat) and their boat (check everything over) as they enter the second week of racing.

Tanguy approaching Mindelo
It’s going to be a special day for Tanguy de Lamotte, who is approaching Mindelo, where he will attempt to climb to the top of the mast of Initiatives Cœur to see what is happening and to try to find a solution 28 metres up to allow him to continue to race. He aims to carry out repairs to hoist the sail to first reef. He seems highly motivated and we wish him luck with this work, remembering how in 2008 Marc Guillemot raced the second half of his Vendée Globe (making it to third place on the podium) without being able to go to full mainsail. Fingers crossed for Tanguy, who is expected to start his repairs early this afternoon.
Bruno Ménard / M&M

11-14-2016, 09:18 AM

Black-hulled Hugo Boss has gained and leads the Vendée Globe out of the ‘Pot au Noir’, the Doldrums by over eighty miles. The British skipper has made 40 miles on the chasing group since this morning. Tanguy de Lamotte has reached Mindello, in the Cape Verdes where he plans to make repairs to his masthead.

Vendée Globe leader Alex Thomson’s Doldrums strategy is simple and straightforward. At midday today, after several hours of rain and cloud cover, in a light breeze, the British skipper of Hugo Boss concluded: “I just want to get out of this mess as quickly as possible because I hate it.” Taking the most direct, southerly, shortest route through the Doldrums looks to have paid handsomely. While all of his closest French rivals had first slanted west then – later this afternoon – angled south to parallel the course taken by Hugo Boss – Thomson’s single minded choice had earned him another 40 miles over the course of Monday. The black hulled Hugo Boss looked to be easing out of the ‘Pot au Noir’ this afternoon and was already 87 miles clear of second placed Armel Le Cléac’h on the mid-afternoon rankings.

Satellite images showed Thomson with a further 30 or 40 miles of cloud activity and variable easterly breezes before he should press the bow down in the first of the SE’ly winds which prevail in the north of the South Atlantic. The ‘mess’ should be behind him. And on the mid afternoon rankings the British skipper was still making almost double the speed of his chasing rivals, 12kts versus 6.2. It will be early Tuesday maybe before the real outcome is evident, but it looks for the meantime like Thomson has pulled off a second consecutive coup d’état against his French rivals.

On Saturday evening he gained by passing directly through the Cabo Verde islands to take the lead, making two perfectly timed gybes to exit the island channel on a perfect, accelerating wind shift. It now looks like his lone strategy, sticking as much to gut instinct, experience and simple logic as the appliance of brain curdling science, has paid again. “It is difficult. You can’t really look at the GRIB files because they don’t really mean much in this area, you can look at Satellite pictures, you can look at Quikscat images which show actually what wind angles are at a certain time. But there is still a fair amount of guess work, a fair amount of luck involved. To me there is no fixed science. If you were to speak to Jean Yves Bernot (ace French ‘meteo’ specialist who coaches many of the French skippers) he makes a science of it. But for me, I entered the Doldrums further east than anyone else, but here I am just trying to play my angles, the best VMG, getting south as quickly as possible. I am playing the clouds as they come, whatever local effects there are.”

“I just want to get out of here as quickly as possible.”

Of his Cabo Verde advance which gained him the lead, Thomson – who is the first British skipper to lead the Vendée Globe since December 2008– explained: “I could see on the high resolution GRIBs that they were forecasting a shift and a slight acceleration at the end of the channel there. And a bit of a shift to the east. That meant I could get a good angle out, after I had stuck in my two gybes. My objective was really to miss the wind shadow of the next island which is about 2000m high. So that was my reasoning. I was not sure it was going to work out perfectly. But it worked brilliantly. I am happy with that.” The leader should break across the Equator tomorrow night, potentially setting a new reference for the race, over a day quicker than the best time set in 2004-5.

The South Atlantic ahead looks complicated. But because the Saint Helena high pressure is messy and well displaced to the east there might be a more direct passage in better breeze for the leading group of seven before the SE’ly and E’ly breezes die away and become variable.
Tanguy de Lamotte reached Mindelo in the Cape Verde islands around 1500hrs UTC, where he is expected to start repairs to his masthead. The race rules are very specific. He is allowed to pick up an existing mooring and leave it, unassisted, or he can set his own anchor. If he breaks his engine seal and uses his engine he must tell the International Jury who will apply a penalty, if considered applicable.
Andi Robertson / M&M

11-14-2016, 03:44 PM

HUGO BOSS exits the doldrums in rapid fashion and Alex reports under a bright Super Moon!

Bitchin Bow Dude
11-14-2016, 08:08 PM
65nm ahead of the pentathlon!

11-15-2016, 11:07 AM

Tracker (http://alexthomsonracing.geovoile.com/vendeeglobe/2016/tracker/)

Alex Thomson was expected to lead the Vendée Globe across the Equator during the early evening UTC, the first British skipper ever to lead the solo non-stop around the world race into the Southern Hemisphere. The last British skipper to lead the race was Mike Golding in December 2008. Golding led for a few hours before his mast was felled by a rogue gust, then forced to retire into Fremantle, Australia over 1200 miles away.

Thomson’s lead on Hugo Boss was steady at around 58 miles as he led the French tandem of Armel Le Cléac’h (Banque Populaire VIII) and Vincent Riou (PRB) who this afternoon were still sailing side by side allowing Riou to film Le Cleac’h just a couple of hundred metres behind him.

Thomson said today he expected to move into stronger, more lifted breezes and the leaders to be able to extend away from the chasing pack which is suffering a more problematic passage through the zone of unsettled squalls and light, sticky airs. When he spoke on Vendée Live today Thomson said he previews a fast, reaching passage towards the Cape of Good Hope. But first a new reference benchmark for Les Sables d’Olonne to the Equator seemed likely to be set by Thomson on Hugo Boss at nine days and around eight or nine hours, comparing favourably with Jean Le Cam’s 10 days and 11 hours passage set in 2004-5 on his Bonduelle. “The boat seems good and it seems like we will soon be into some stronger winds, it will free us up and we will start to go pretty fast I think. The routing I am seeing down to the Cape of Good Hope is quite quick. We are getting pretty close to the Cape in 10 days time. So that is very positive.”

Speaking of the hydrofoiling daggerboard system on Hugo Boss he said: “I think this foil is good in the light, no problem. I think our weakness is against conventional boards upwind, whether it is light, medium or maybe in the very strong stuff it might not be so much, that is where our weakness is. But our weakness gets less as we get freer. At the moment we are in quite similar breeze. The GRIB files show they should be a little more lifted, they might have a better angle. I think by the time I get to the Equator I see the wind filling in for me first and so it should be pretty good.”

He added: “I feel pretty confident when this boat is going fast. I don't feel any reason not to be. We had a little snippet of what this boat can do in the New York-Vendee and then since then I have said before we have made leaps and bounds performance wise. But even so I think we are still very underdeveloped compared with a lot of these boats. Considering we were upside down a year ago, followed by six months in the shed, we have not had the time these other guys have had.”

Tanguy bringing his boat home
The French skipper had to make a tough decision this Tuesday afternoon in Mindelo in the Cabo Verde Islands after a full evaluation of the damage to his masthead and possible solutions which might have allowed him to continue to race. De Lamotte will continue with the adventure, refusing to throw in the towel. Instead he will head north, back to France, carrying on in the spirit of the race, solo and unassisted to make it back home. Tanguy de Lamotte: “I’m not retiring. The damage is too important to imagine continuing to sail around the world, but it is not serious enough to stop me from bringing my boat home. I’m taking her back to Les Sables d’Olonne, withou having been all the way, but I shall be continuing my fight for the Mécénat Chirurgie Cardiaque charity. That’s the way it goes. You have to accept these things. I think I have been very lucky. The mast could have broken and injured me.”

De Lamotte, who finished 10th in the last Vendée Globe, was lying in 10th place in the 29 boat fleet on Saturday afternoon – 6 days into the race – when he told his shore team that the top of his mast had come away and was hanging near the deck by the halyards. He had been sailing Initiatives Coeur in 20kts NE’ly breezes when the damage occurred at around 1515hrs UTC. He limped to Mindelo where he arrived Monday afternoon. A full assessment was made today after De Lamotte climbed the mast head. With no masthead sheave box unit and the top of the carbon mast tube effectively open, the structural integrity of the mast tip was considerably compromised.
In comparison to the 2012-13 edition the attrition rate is low, thanks in part to the relatively benign weather over the first week. In the last edition, within the first two weeks of racing seven skippers had to abandon. Marc Guillemot had to retire back to Les Sables d’Olonne with keel damage just four hours and 45 minutes of the race. Kito de Pavant (Groupe Bel) hit a trawler to the east of the Azores. Sam Davies (Saveol) was dismasted off Madeira. Jéremie Beyou (Maitre CoQ) suffered a keel ram failure before the Cabo Verde Islands. Then the Polish skipper Zbigniew Gutowski (Energa) had to retire with electrical issues and Vincent Riou (PRB) hit an unmarked, floating buoy off the Brazilian coast and holed his boat, also damaging his outrigger support.

Doors closing
The Doldrums are expanding and becoming increasingly messy, somewhat closing the doors on the chasing pack. Jean-Pierre Dick, one of the pre-race favourites, was becalmed for some hours in the Doldrums on his St. Michel-Virbac, along with Thomas Ruyant (Le Souffle du Nord pour le projet Imagine) and Jean Le Cam (Finistere Mer Vent). They are not the worst affected at 250-290 miles behind the leaders. Kito de Pavant (Bastide Otio) is more than 100 miles behind them and then 100 miles behind him are Louis Burton (Bureau Vallée) and Bertrand de Broc (MACSF).
Conrad Colman (USA/NZL) Foresight Natural Energy: “All is going well. It is very much a course of learning by doing. That is one of the advantages of ocean racing is that you have plenty of time to sort things out, to learn and try different scenarios. So I have been trying different sail set ups, different ways of trimming. The boat is good upwind and downwind, reaching is not so good. It is going to be tricky after the Doldrums. With a good Doldrums passage I can stay ahead of the group behind me. I think reaching out of the Doldrums I can lose miles but at the moment. Alex made a great passage through the Doldrums, the weather looks pretty stable for my passage too. I hope I can make it through what, for me, is one of the most difficult parts of the race.”
omain Attanasio, Famille Mary-Etamine du Lys: “The Doldrums are complicated, but I can’t wait to get there. I have divided the race up into stages, otherwise it is mind-blowing. The first hurdle is the Doldrums. I can’t wait to get across and complete this first part of the race. It was Catherine Chabaud who advised me to think in stages like that. After there is the Equator, the Cape of Good Hope, the Indian and then it’s by ocean. The Japanese guy is just in front of me, so he’s my pacemaker.”

Kito de Pavant (Bastide Otio): “The Doldrums are starting early. The wind suddenly dropped at 10°N in a squall, which was a foretaste of the difficult day ahead aboard Bastide Otio. I had planned to get some sleep during the night before reaching this area, but the opposite happened...
What wind there is is unstable and thunderstorms are threatening off to the west. This means lots of manoeuvres, even if I’m trying to keep them to a minimum.”

Jean Le Cam (Finistère Mer Vent): "This is an exceptional Vendée Globe with practically no damage. The fleet is spread right out, but we knew that would happen before the start. Hugo Boss is set to smash my reference time to the Equator set back in 2004. It was about time somebody did. Those out in front will get away from us. Hugo Boss is impressive, making it through the Doldrums without even seeing them.”

Yann Eliès (Quéginer Espoir Leucémie): “I think we’re all losers here if we look at Alex Thomson. If we look at the fleet, I am not doing too badly. Alex didn’t get held up at all. He was hardly ever below ten knots. When he is in the trade winds and at the helm, he will be able to double his lead. He is the big winner in the Doldrums.”

11-15-2016, 02:27 PM
Tuesday 15th November 19:05 UTC- British Skipper Alex Thomson onboard HUGO BOSS has crossed the Equator in first place and in the fastest time ever in the Vendee Globe solo, non-stop, round the world race. Having led the fleet since Saturday evening Thomson has set a new race record reaching the Equator in the Vendee Globe. Crossing the Equator in 9 days and 7 hours and 3 minutes.Thomson onboard HUGO BOSS has now entered the South Atlantic Ocean in the Southern Hemisphere.

The previous record to the Equator was set in 2004 by French Skipper Jean Le Cam in 10 days and 11 hours. Le Cam is currently in 9th position in this edition of the Vendee Globe.

The Vendée Globe is a single handed non-stop unassisted race around the world. The race takes place every four years and has historically been dominated by the French. This year’s edition sees 29 IMOCA 60’s in the race. The race is renowned for being one of the most gruelling sporting challenges left in the world today. Just 71 of the 138 starters since the race’s inception, back in 1989, have successfully completed the race, and three have lost their lives along the way.

Alex Thomson is determined to be the first British Skipper to win the Vendée Globe. It is a race which could take up to 80 days. Thomson is one of the favourites to win and currently has a lead of 56.3 nautical miles ahead of Armel Le Cleac’h onboard Banque Populaire VIII.

11-16-2016, 08:01 AM
Southern Star: New southbound race reference for Thomson


Since passing into the Southern Hemisphere last night, setting a new reference time for the passage time from Les Sables d'Olonne to the Equator, British skipper Alex Thomson has continued to gain small miles against the closest rivals who are chasing him, Armel Le Cleac'h and Vincent Riou. The trio on top of the Vendee Globe solo round the world race are well into the SE'ly trade winds and Thomson's Hugo Boss appeared to be showing a slight speed advantage in the 15 kts reaching conditions. Tanguy De Lamotte is heading north, back to Les Sables d'Olonne, solo and unassisted and will not finish his second Vendee Globe. The French skipper decided that his masthead damage represents too great a risk to take his Initiatives Coeur into the Southern Oceans and left Mindelo yesterday evening, he is making 6.7kts northwards this morning.

Thomson's new benchmark time is 9 days 7 hours 02 minutes, one day and four hours faster than the previous best time set in 2004 by Jean Le Cam. Thomson and the lead group benefited especially from favourable conditions across the Bay of Biscay since the start on Sunday 6th November, good reaching all the way to a smooth, quick Doldrums passage. There have also been huge improvements to the IMOCAs over the years, whether they have foils or not. Thomson is the first British skipper to have led the race at this early milestone. Hugo Boss crossed 2 hours and 54 mins ahead of Armel Le Cléac'h (Banque Populaire VIII), 3 hours and 22 mins ahead of Vincent Riou (PRB). Four hours and 59 mins later, Sébastien Josse (Edmond de Rothschild) crossed and 5 hours and 47 minutes later than Hugo Boss it was Paul Meilhat (SMA).


Tracker (http://alexthomsonracing.geovoile.com/vendeeglobe/2016/tracker/)

Thunder and lightning

As for Jérémie Beyou (Maître CoQ), he moved into the Southern Hemisphere just before the 0400 hrs rankings, followed by Morgan Lagravière (Safran) off to the east. The first ten boats managed to get away from the Doldrums and are now on their way to Recife in the SE'ly trade winds, blowing moderately around the Equator (10-15 knots) but which are already stronger for the leaders (18-22 knots). On the other hand, between 8°N and 4°N, the Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone is tending to shrink and the pack are not all slowed down that much, even if there is thunder and lightning in the area.

At 27°W, it looks like there is a crossing point, where the Doldrums are not very active, which should enable the skippers to maintain average speeds above 6 knots, as is the case for Kito de Pavant (Bastide Otio), Louis Burton (Bureau Vallée), Bertrand de Broc (MACSF) and Arnaud Boissières (La Mie Câline). But further back, it is not clear whether the conditions will be as favourable, even if it gets a bit easier once the sun has risen, as this allows them to spot the big dark clouds.


Finally, around the Cape Verde Islands, Irish sailor Enda O'Coineen (Kilcullen Voyage-Team Ireland) is getting away from the disturbed air, while Sébastien Destremau (TechnoFirst-faceOcean) is attempting an unusual route between the islands and the continent. Meanwhile, Tanguy de Lamotte has set sail from Mindelo. The skipper of Initiatives-Cœur has not officially retired, but is heading back to Les Sables d'Olonne under reduced sail.


While the leaders are entering the Southern Hemisphere, those chasing them are stuck in the Doldrums, which are not very active, but have stretched out from the Cape Verde Islands to 5°N. After improving on the benchmark time between Les Sables d’Olonne and the Equator by one day and four hours, Alex Thomson has seen his lead increase in the strengthening SE’ly trade winds. He will be sailing off Brazil this afternoon.

Six skippers are now on the other side of the line separating the two hemispheres. The boats are lining up from Brazil to the Canaries stretching out over 1800 miles between the leader Alex Thomson (Hugo Boss) and Didac Costa (One Planet-One Ocean), but in this string of beads, one pearl has been lost: Tanguy de Lamotte (Initiatives-Cœur) has decided to turn back and while he has not officially retired, as he has not set foot on dry land or received any help on board, he is no longer really in the race. “I’m taking my boat home to Les Sables d’Olonne without going all the way around Antarctica, but will be continuing my campaign for Mécénat Chirurgie Cardiaque.”
Upside down


The British sailor is clearly the big winner in the tricky contest in the Doldrums. Thanks to his straight crossing through the area of squalls and calms, where he was never held up, he has managed to get away from his closest rivals. Above all, he managed to come out of the Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone very far to the east at 27°W, while the duo formed by Armel Le Cléac’h (Banque Populaire VIII) and Vincent Riou (PRB) made their way out at 28°10’W. This position fifty miles to the east is more important than the figures would appear to indicate. In a twenty knot SE’ly trade wind, his position windward of the fleet has several consequences.

The wind will gradually back easterly, which will allow them to accelerate and the British skipper will be the first to benefit from this shift. In this big arc around the St. Helena high, the leader is taking a shorter route. He is also further from the coast of Brazil, where the trade winds are subject to local effects and variations during the day, with lighter winds and more squalls… Logically, Thomson should extend his lead, even if his closest rivals are narrowing the distance from east to west by luffing. But Alex Thomson knows that it is wise to get ahead of them and is managing to get two knots extra speed. The black foiler is the most at ease with the wind on the beam and he is already the first to pass a long way east of the islands of Fernando de Noronha off Brazil.


Those who have lost the most in the Doldrums are Jérémie Beyou (Maître CoQ) handicapped by autopilot problems, Morgan Lagravière (Safran), who lost around 50 miles in this zone, although his position windward is favourable for what lies ahead, and Yann Eliès (Quéguiner-Leucémie Espoir), who dropped back 150 miles in 36 hours… They are now going to focus on passing Cape Frio (at the latitude of Rio de Janeiro), where an area of thunderstorms is developing around an area of low pressure.

This low will be moving towards the Cape of Good Hope this evening followed by a second area of low pressure on Saturday and the first to hop onto this system will find the fast track to get to the Roaring Forties… Unfortunately behind this second low pressure area, there is a calm zone developing on Sunday evening with the trade winds shutting off, leaving those behind with headwinds, calms and squalls. We are likely to see another example of the ten frontrunners getting through, slamming the door in the face of those chasing after them.

Getting out of the Doldrums


For the moment, the pack is still struggling in the Doldrums, which although not very active are stretching out much more than when the leaders got through. An easterly flow between Mauritania and Cape Verde is making it a bit of a slog for the Catalan sailor, Didac Costa, and for Sébastien Destremau (TechnoFirst-faceOcean), who has chosen an unusual route between the islands and the coast of Africa, while Irish skipper Enda O’Coineen (Kilcullen Voyage-Team Ireland) is still sailing off the islands of Fogo and Brava… This air stream has shut off the trade winds and the route towards the Doldrums is a bumpy one with nasty squalls and areas of light winds.
With just a ten knot easterly, most of the fleet is finding it hard to get above ten knots with among those suffering the most, Kito de Pavant (Bastide Otio), Louis Burton (Bureau Vallée), Bertrand de Broc (MACSF) and Arnaud Boissières (La Mie Câline). They still have 150 to 200 miles to go to get out of the Doldrums, or in other words it will be late in the day or even tonight before they see an improvement… The gap to the leaders would not be too worrying, if it were not for the forecasts predicting a change in strength for the trade winds in the Southern Hemisphere. This weekend, we could see a real gap develop between the frontrunners and the pack currently in the Doldrums. All thanks to the mood swings of St. Helena.


Windyty Tracker (http://gis.ee/vg/)

Times to the Equator
1-Alex Thomson : 9d 07h 02’
2-Armel Le Cléac’h: 9d 09h 56’ (2h 54’ after the leader)
3-Vincent Riou: 9d 10h 24’ (3h 22’ after the leader)
4-Sébastien Josse: 9d 12h 01’ (4h 59’ after the leader)
5-Paul Meilhat: 9d 12h 49’ (5h 47’ after the leader)
6-Jérémie Beyou: 9d 16h 49’ (9h 47’ after the leader)
Dominic Bourgeois/M&M

Jérémie Beyou (Maître CoQ):
" I'll be crossing the Equator just before 0400hrs UTC. The wind strengthened as the sun went down and I now have a 14-knot SE'ly and it is set to strengthen further as the day goes on. We're heading for Brazil, and then there's a front, which should take us a long way... The trade winds will be backing easterly and we'll be able to accelerate. So for the moment it's a race towards Recife. Since entering the Doldrums, I have had a lot of problems with the autopilot. I had already had problems with my first two since the start in Les Sables d'Olonne, so I had to get through the Doldrums without an autopilot. I'm now on to my third, as the first two have a problem with the electronics... With the wind astern in 25 knots, it was a bit hairy as we kept bearing away. Fortunately there was no damage. I really have to find a solution."

Conrad Colman (Foresight Natural Energy):
" I've just entered the thundery area marking the start of the Doldrums. Fortunately there's a big moon up to light everything up. I still have some wind (10-11 knots) allowing me to continue southwards. It's hard to know how long it's going to last, but for the moment, it's not looking too bad, but it is harder for those following me. I have people all around me. I had some repairs to do yesterday with the hydraulic system which cants the keel. There was a leak around a screw. I had to cut through the steps in the companionway to tighten it. I don't have any leak any more, but I don't have any steps either."


Sébastien Destremau (TechnoFirst – faceOcean): “We’ll be sailing close to the Cape Verde Islands. We’ll be to the east, but too far away to see them. After that, we’ll have the big decision to take about where to go through the Doldrums. There looks like there may be a straight route south. That would be a real short cut and would meaning getting to the Equator a long way east. It’s very tempting. As the only boat with a fixed keel in the fleet, I can’t compete with anyone. There is a huge difference in performance with canting keels. Around two knots for the boats from the same generation. So you can imagine that you can’t compare us with the newer boats.”

Didac Costa (One Planet One Ocean): “The moon was awesome yesterday. It was magical to surf the waves with its company. In the morning I changed from the A5 to the FR0, as the wind began to drop and shift to the bow. I remember that during the Barcelona World Race with Aleix, it took us about 25 minutes to do this manoeuvre. Sailing solo, this same manoeuvre takes me not less than an hour. These are the steps to follow: take out the sail, spread it on deck, prepare it, furl the other one that is up, drop it, change the outhaul, halyard and downhaul, “travelling” to the mast and piano, hoist the new sail, change the check stay for the topmast backstay, unfurl the sail, trim, keep the other sail, etc. Today I finished the manoeuvre in shorts and without a t-shirt. You have to think carefully before taking the decision... For one day and a half, especially tonight, I have had plenty of squalls and unstable wind. I'm waiting for them to stop, so the wind stabilizes a bit because I've been stopped for a few hours, then I've started to speed up in a lot of wind, with gusts up to 25-30 knots, so it's a little tricky to manage. It seems that weather situation might change but the 'meteo' for the next days is not very clear. ”

11-17-2016, 08:40 AM


The extraordinary step up in performance of the new generation of foiling IMOCA monohulls at the front of the Vendee Globe is evident today as Alex Thomson added more miles to his lead in reaching conditions in which his Hugo Boss clearly excels.

Even the British skipper, who has lead the solo round the world race since last Saturday night, admitted today he, himself, is deeply impressed at the speed of his VPLP-Verdier design in the 16 to 19kts trade winds in which he has been fast reaching in today, some 300 miles east of Salvador de Bahia. "I am just looking at the statistics. It is pretty amazing to be on a boat which in 16-17kts of breeze I can average 22kts," said Thomson, today passing the point where he and Pepe Ribes lost their mast during the Barcelona World Race in January 2015 on the previous Hugo Boss. "It is good for me this. The breeze has finally come left a bit to allow Hugo Boss to lift up her skirts a little bit and go a bit faster. I am enjoying it. I have a bit more breeze for a few hours and then it will lighten up and drop a little bit before tomorrow when we will start a real fast, fast dash for three or four days towards the Cape of Good Hope.”

Between midday and mid-afternoon Thomson added 27 miles to his lead over second placed Armel Le Cleac'h to be 83 miles ahead. As the leaders seek to meet the leading edge of a fast moving low pressure, connecting off Cabo Frio, north of Rio, where a fast train ride awaits them south east towards the Cape of Good Hope, will Thomson be able to pull off The Brazilian Job? As highlighted today by both Thomson and third placed Sebastien Josse, this fast moving low will be the first, big sustained South Atlantic test for the new foiling IMOCAs and the stamina and drive of their skippers: "I guess we are going to find out how strong these boats are now." the Hugo Boss solo skipper quipped. "I think Seb is right. This is going to be the first big test for the boats. I am imagining a wind angle of about 120 to 125 degrees true, sailing in 23-26kts of wind. Depending on the wave conditions, that is what will decide how fast the boats go. To be honest if it was flat water in those wind conditions my boat could average over 30kts. With waves I don’t expect to be going much faster than I am now, to be honest 22-24kts maybe. Today I will prepare the boat a little, a re-tidy up, a re-stack, and I will try and get as much sleep as I can in the next 24 hours. I have a little composite job to do, just to make sure everything really is ready, make sure my sail plan is correct for when it comes, make sure my contingencies are ready, make sure I am fresh to be able to hit the turbo button when it arrives."


Although the passage to the Cape of Good Hope is likely to be at record pace, Thomson also pointed out today that the loads on his boat - and the others around him - are as much right now with full sail area and max load. Indeed he already indicated that proportionately smaller sail area will be required in stronger wind strengths. Replying on Vendee Globe LIVE to the questioning of French ocean racing skipper Sidney Gavignet of Oman Sail, Alex Thomson responded: “It is as demanding now (as it would be in more wind). I have been sailing in 16kts I was averaging 22kts. Now I am in 17-19 and averaging 24kts, we do not need a lot of wind. The more wind, the more waves, the slower you go."

Armel Le Cleach, the Jackal, in a solid second place spoke this afternoon: "Alex Thomson is fast! He’s on the attack. But there’s still a long way to go. I’m sailing my own route. I’m not really watching his average speed. I’m focusing on my boat’s potential. A lot is going to happen. He had a nice crossing through the Doldrums. I’m going to have to keep up the pace not to get left behind. "


The leaders have averaged twenty knots over 24 hours (442 miles in 24h for the British skipper, Alex Thomson and 435 miles for Armel Le Cléac’h), that is unlikely to be the case when the chasing pack reach this point and so the leaders are set to extend further and further ahead. That will be tough for skippers like Jean Pierre Dick (St Michel-Virbac) who is already 575 miles behind the leaders. The past Barcelona World Race and Transat Jacques Vabre winner had some tough times in the Doldrums but was making better speed this morning and afternoon. "So now we’re in the southern part of the globe for some time. A month and a half or so. I like the fact that the water is warm, conditions are more stable. It’s nice thinking of the countries we pass, Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay. Magic countries for me. The wind wasn’t that strong during the night. But it’s shifted to the left since 8 this morning, so we should be able to get more out of the boat. Looking at it positively, the boat is in good condition. But I’ve been left behind by the leaders. I hope things will change and favour us at some point,” said Dick who moved up to tenth and was averaging over 20kts at times this afternoon.


The Chop
At the speed at which the situation is changing in the South Atlantic, there won’t be a second chance this weekend. More than a day behind, the trio formed by Le Cam-Ruyant-Dick will find it hard to stay with them and it is even looking tricky for Yann Eliès (Quéguiner-Leucémie Espoir). For those behind this group, the trade winds are going on strike this weekend… By Sunday midday the door will be closed. The easterly air stream will have dropped below ten knots at the latitude of Salvador da Bahia and there will hardly be any clear breeze for the coming week. The next express train towards South Africa isn’t expected for a week off Cape Frio. The crack in the fleet might open up into the Grand Canyon. Louis Burton (Bureau Vallée) is not far from getting out of there along with Bertrand de Broc (MACSF), but the others behind have a long wait ahead of them with boats bunching up. There are now eleven boats within 250 miles of each other between Arnaud Boissières (La Mie Câline) and Pieter Heerema (No Way Back), trying to get away from the tentacles of “the big, black octopus”. Patience is required with the gap set to widen between the frontrunners and the pack.


Tracker (http://alexthomsonracing.geovoile.com/vendeeglobe/2016/tracker/)

Times to the Equator
1-Alex Thomson: 9dj 07h 02’
2-Armel Le Cléac’h: 9d 09h 56’ 2h 54’ after the leader
3-Vincent Riou : 9d 10h 24’ - 3h 22’ after the leader
4-Sébastien Josse: 9d 12h 01’ - 4h 59’ after the leader
5-Paul Meilhat: 9d 12h 49’ - 5h 47’ after the leader
6-Jérémie Beyou: 9d 16h 49’ - 9h 47’ after the leader
7-Morgan Lagravière: 9d 17h 30’ - 10h 28’ after the leader
8-Yann Éliès: 10h 01h 17’ - 18h 15’ after the leader
9-Jean Le Cam: 10h 10h 17’ - 1d 03h 15’ after the leader
10-Thomas Ruyant: 10d 16h 15’ - 1d 09h 13’ after the leader
11-Jean-Pierre Dick: 10d 16h 51’ - 1d 09h 49’ after the leader

The leaders are making it increasingly frustrating for those chasing them, as they are maintaining high average speeds. As Alex Thomson said before the start, this is a race, where the rich will get richer. Jean-Pierre Dick hopes to find the full potential from his foil assisted IMOCA. Sébastien Josse is back on the podium and we also talked to Armel le Cléac'h this afternoon.

Jean-Pierre Dick (StMichel Virbac): "So now we’re in the southern part of the globe for some time. A month and a half or so. I like the fact that the water is warm, conditions are more stable. It’s nice thinking of the countries we pass, Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay. Magic countries for me. The wind wasn’t that strong during the night. But it’s shifted to the left since 8 this morning, so we should be able to get more out of the boat. Looking at it positively, the boat is in good condition. But I’ve been left behind by the leaders. I hope things will change and favour us at some point.”

Sébastien Josse (Edmond de Rothschild): I haven’t changed my bearing unlike Armel, who has come around slightly. With each Vendée Globe it’s worse and worse. In my first one, I had a comfortable bed, but now it’s really uncomfortable and it’s hard to sleep. With the foils we bounce off the water at speed and that generates vibrations. When the boat is above 18-19 knots, it’s hard to move around. It’s noisy and it’s impossible to sleep with all the banging. It’s less comfortable than a multihull. I didn’t really notice the Equator, as I was so tired. Since the start we haven’t had any deep lows to deal with. It’s been more like a transatlantic crossing. Down in the Thirties, it will be a real wake-up with the strong winds and we’ll need to tackle things differently. I broke two stanchions. But we haven’t had any heavy seas. We’ll see what happens in our first big low. We’re at the maximum loads for the boat. In the Southern Ocean we won’t be able to do that.”


Alex Thomson (GBR) Hugo Boss: “It’s a bit bumpy. I am just looking at the statistics. It is pretty amazing to be on a boat which in 16-17kts of breeze I can average 22kts. The breeze has finally come left a bit to allow Hugo Boss to lift up her skirts a little bit and go a bit faster. I have a bit more breeze for a few hours and then it will lighten up and drop a little bit before tomorrow when we will start a real fast, fast dash for three or four days towards the Cape of Good Hope. I could not have asked for it to be positioned more perfectly. It is a very normal scenario this. It is developing just to the south of us and will move down, and I will be able to stay ahead of it. I think just this lead pack will be able to stay with it. We will be with this low pressure for quite a while. I think Seb is right. This is going to be the first big test for the boats. I am imagining a wind angle of about 120 to 125 degrees true, sailing in 23-26kts of wind. Depending on the wave conditions is what will decide how fast the boats go. To be honest if it was flat water in those wind conditions my boat could average over 30kts. With waves I don’t expect to be going much faster than I am now, to be honest 22-24kts maybe.

Today I will prepare the boat a little, re-tidy up, re-stack, and I will try and get as much sleep as I can in the next 24 hours. I have a little composite job to do, just to make sure everything really is ready, make sure my sail plan is correct for when it comes, make sure my contingencies are ready, make sure I am fresh to be able to hit the turbo button when it arrives. I guess we are going to find out how strong these boats are now. Who will be ready to lift the foot first? Show the French you have learned? I think these boats…well the limit is quite obvious. You know when you have to slow down. Last night I had to slow down. 24 hours before the Cape Verdes you get slowed down. You get told by the boat. The boat tells you when to slow. It is as demanding now as in more wind. We do not need a lot of wind. The more wind, the more waves, the slower you go.”


Armel Le Cléac’h (Banque Populaire VIII): “Alex Thomson is fast! He’s on the attack. But there’s still a long way to go. I’m sailing my own route. I’m not really watching his average speed. I’m focusing on my boat’s potential. A lot is going to happen. He had a nice crossing through the Doldrums. I’m going to have to keep up the pace not to get left behind. All’s well on board the boat. There are no particular problems. I’m trying to get some rest at night, as it is really hot inside the boat. You soon start to sweat. It’s not very pleasant trying to sleep. As soon as the sun goes down, I take a few naps.”

11-18-2016, 08:49 AM

As the leading group in the Vendee Globe close towards Cabo Frio, north of Rio, where today they should join a fast moving low pressure system which they will ride south eastwards into the Roaring Forties towards the Cape of Good Hope, pacemaker Alex Thomson's lead continues to climb towards 100 miles.

Overnight all of the average speeds computed for Thomson's Hugo Boss confirm a continuing speed edge and his margin on the first ranking of this Friday morning is 95.5 miles. As the leaders now curve very slightly more east of south, Armel Le Cleac'h (Banque Populaire VIII) is back up to second place, while third placed Sebastien Josse (Edmond De Rothschild) is now 100 miles to the east of Thomson's line and 100 miles behind. The frontrunners are averaging more than twenty knots, but the atmosphere is set to change going in for days from the tropical heat toTON UP IN THE FORTIES?FRIDAY 18 NOVEMBER 2016, 06H44
the icy cold conditions of the Southern Ocean. The bulk of the pack is beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel that has been the Doldrums. Only two skippers are stuck in this dreaded Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone.


This twelfth day of racing could shake up the rankings and in the medium term will influence the positioning to determine the entry point into the Southern Ocean, the hardest and most demanding stretch of the Vendée Globe. With the frontrunnrs set to catch the low-pressure area coming out of the Bay of Rio this evening, the acceleration should be impressive with an ideal angle of attack for the foil-assisted boats at between 110° and 140° to the real wind. Speeds are set to rise in the coming hours, as a steady breeze of around twenty knots is forecast with slight seas. The position of the British leader is favourable, as it should allow him to take a trajectory towards Gough Island (to be left to starboard at 40° S), which he should reach in around four days. The precise angle of the curve taken by the five foilers and two boats with straight daggerboards (PRB and SMA) is going to be interesting to analyse.

Yann Eliès (Quéguiner-Leucémie Espoir) should still be able to hop onto the tail of this low as it moves quickly down to the Roaring Forties before sliding under South Africa, but it is not certain he will be able to stay with this northerly air stream for very long. The reason being that behind there is an area of thunderstorms developing and the trade winds are likely to be disturbed at the latitude of Salvador da Bahia by mid-week. The gang of three (Le Cam, Dick, Ruyant) are likely to be slowed and those, who are just getting out of the Doldrums will only find trade winds blowing at around ten knots. The gaps are set to widen considerably.


At the rear of the fleet, only Sébastien Destremau (TechnoFirst-faceOcean) is struggling in the Doldrums, while Didac Costa (One Planet-One Ocean), who passed Tanguy de Lamotte going in the opposite direction during the night is continuing to sail down to the Cape Verde Islands in a fairly light NE’ly trade wind. Even Irishman Enda O’Coineen (Kilcullen Voyager-Team Ireland) seems to have got out of the sticky patch following the Dutchman, Pieter Heerema (No Way Back). For most of the pack, there is the pleasure of knowing that the Doldrums are now behind them. In 15-knot SE’ly trade winds, it’s time for a break, time to carry out a check-up and to enjoy quieter and more relaxing times.


A day away from the centre of the thundery low-pressure area leaving Brazil, the leaders are beginning to feel the effect. The trade winds are swinging around more to the north and the frontrunners are gradually pointing their bows towards Gough Island, which marks the way into the Roaring Forties and the Southern Ocean. The foilers should see their speedos go wild in these ideal conditions, as they head down towards the Indian Ocean… while those chasing them and the pack are going to be suffering in fading trade winds.
The leaders off Cape Frio are going to have to deal with the wind backing from the east to the north over the next 24 hours. This will affect their choice of sail. A reef in the main and gennaker to have an angle of attack of around 130° in winds above twenty knots. Logically, these conditions should favour the foilers, which should see speeds above 23 knots…


Heading for a record
On decent seas with a northerly air stream in place now for several days, the swell will push the boa ts along allowing them to accelerate with days of 500 miles or more expected this weekend and they could threaten the 24-hour record set by the previous winner of the Vendée Globe (François Gabart with 534.48 miles). You only rarely find better conditions, as the Indian Ocean tends to be a bumpier ride and the Pacific is still a long way off… This is an ideal opportunity to stretch your legs and gain a real advantage over your rivals.


Tracker (http://alexthomsonracing.geovoile.com/vendeeglobe/2016/tracker/)

For the foilers, this is an opportunity to get away from Vincent Riou (PRB) and Paul Meilhat (SMA), who have so far managed to keep up the pace aboard their monohulls with straight daggerboards. With a wider angle, Alex Thomson is that just bit faster than the French, thanks to a different type of foil and a narrower hull. The skipper of Hugo Boss has been the fastest over the past two days and is already 2° of latitude down the two boats chasing him, which are neck and neck: Armel Le Cléac’h (Banque Populaire VIII) and Sébastien Josse (Edmond de Rothschild).


This morning a new area of low pressure coming out of the Bay of Rio is dragging behind it a 20-25 knot northerly wind off Vitória, but by this evening, a second deepening low will develop (995 hPa) with 30-40 knot winds blowing around its centre on Saturday evening. The tricky part is going to be finding the point of entry. Not too far south to avoid getting too much wind, not too far north to be able to get to the Forties sooner. Remembering that they have to leave Gough Island marking the start of the Antarctic Exclusion Zone to starboard (40°19’S-9°56W).


Tactics and strategy
As they came out of the Doldrums the magnificent seven out in front were not exactly on the same route stretching out some sixty miles from east to west. As they moved south, their course has come around in varying degrees. Alex Thomson chose to head for the strongest winds in the low diving south to find himself downwind of the fleet. He can therefore choose the best angle of attack for the next three days while placing himself in front of his rivals. On the other hand, Armel Le Cléac’h unable to keep up the same pace, got overtaken on the outside by Sébastien Josse, 100 miles further east. His position further off the coast of Brazil has meant he has been able to turn to accelerate, while Le Cléac’h and Vincent Riou have to luff to keep up their speed.

Edmond de Rothschild is therefore able to slide in front of her rivals, but is unlikely to wipe out her deficit of two and a half degrees of latitude in comparison to Hugo Boss, but Josse may well be in second place as they dive down into the Southern Ocean. As for Morgan Lagravière (Safran) and Paul Meilhat, they can only follow the track taken by those ahead hoping to make it in time to catch the express train to the deep south. More than 300 miles back from the leader, Jérémie Beyou (Maître CoQ) will find it even harder to get in position to ride this low.

A major turning point

In any case, they are all having to deal with what is thrown at them as best they can. More than a day and a half back (Yann Éliès), or even two (Jean Le Cam, Jean-Pierre Dick, Thomas Ruyant) or three or more for the pack that has just come out of the Doldrums, the skippers are going to be in different winds this weekend. Behind the second low coming out of Brazil, which is nudging the St. Helena high and squeezing it, the trade winds will be shifting more to the NE off Salvador da Bahia, but will be considerably lighter down to twelve knots or so on Sunday morning.

The situation will only get worse over time, as this change in weather patterns in the South Atlantic will have a serious consequence on the winds. A second area of high pressure will be developing ahead of the chasing boats off Cape Frio. It is no longer just a tiny split developing between the skippers, who manage to hop onto the low and those who are left waiting, but as we said yesterday, it’s more like the Grand Canyon. The closest skippers who just miss out will be the worst hit, as they will see the leaders extending their lead, while the pack is drawing nearer from behind. Stuck at the crossroads in these weather systems, it is going to be hard for the sailors to find a way out off the islands of Trindade and Martim Vaz… This turning point towards the Cape of Good Hope looks like being a major turning point in the race itself.

Times to the Equator
1-Alex Thomson: 9d 07h 02’
2-Armel Le Cléac’h: 9d 09h 56’ 2h 54’ after the leader
3-Vincent Riou : 9d 10h 24’ - 3h 22’ after the leader
4-Sébastien Josse: 9d 12h 01’ - 4h 59’ after the leader
5-Paul Meilhat: 9d 12h 49’ - 5h 47’ after the leader
6-Jérémie Beyou: 9d 16h 49’ - 9h 47’ after the leader
7-Morgan Lagravière: 9d 17h 30’ - 10h 28’ after the leader
8-Yann Éliès: 10h 01h 17’ - 18h 15’ after the leader
9-Jean Le Cam: 10h 10h 17’ - 1d 03h 15’ after the leader
10-Thomas Ruyant: 10d 16h 15’ - 1d 09h 13’ after the leader
11-Jean-Pierre Dick: 10d 16h 51’ - 1d 09h 49’ after the leader
12-Kito de Pavant: 11d 03h 59’ - 1d20h 57’ after the leader
Dominic Bourgeois / M&M

While many of the skippers are focusing on racing, some others are enjoying their voyage around the world, taking time to talk to others or exchange e-mails. For the racers, being close to someone else encourages them to put their foot down or at least pace themselves. For the adventurers, the proximity of others encourages them to se how they measure up, while remaining cautious.


Morgan Lagravière (Safran): "Things have been going well over the past few days, since we came out of the Doldrums. I’ve solved the technical problems I have had since the start. I’m now back up to 100% of the boat’s potential That means I’m covering the miles faster than some of my rivals ahead like Paul (Meilhat) and Jérémie (Beyou). This pace isn’t the most comfortable on board, but it’s nice to be moving back up the rankings. Some people are fairly fast, but too fast in my opinion if we look at what the boats can take structurally. I could be a little quicker, but it’s not for the moment. You have to know how to save yourself and not make the boat fragile. These boats don’t require much wind to be fast. For me the glass is half-full. We’re in fairly standard weather patterns, so we don’t have much thinking to do. It’s more a question of speed.”

Louis Burton, Bureau Vallée : "As planned, we’re in the pack in amongst other boats from the 2008 generation. Bertrand de Broc isn’t far away. There’s a real game on. We can see that the new boats can maintain high average speeds. It’s fairly violent already on Bureau Vallée, so I’m going to have to be in the best of shape in four years from now on to sail a foiler (Louis is acquiring the current Banque Populaire VIII – editor’s note). Since the start, I’ve been in regular contact with Bertrand, especially during the trade winds in the North Atlantic. We were able to talk over the VHF, as we were so close. Each time we get the rankings, that reminds us we are not alone. It’s a kick up the backside. We’ve just done almost two weeks of racing, which is the length of a transatlantic race, but is just the start of the Vendée Globe. It’s hard getting your mind around that.”

Rich Wilson (USA) Great American 4: “We seem to have broken through into the SE trade winds, we broke through into a very distinct line of squalls and then picked up breeze with two reefs in the mainsail and are making 10.5 to 11kts. This morning I have just gone back up to one reef, it is sunny outside, I think I did more sail changes through the Doldrums than I would do in a couple of months at sea. We had some wind and some rain and some no wind in the last 24 hours, we had stretches when we had four knots of wind, these are very discouraging because when you look at things on the charts it always seems like everyone is moving along. But in fact they may be becalmed also.”


“I got pretty tired going into the Doldrums. I made a number of sail changes going in, genoas out an in, gennakers, reefs out and in. These boats are big and powerful and it is a lot of exercise for sure. We have a revolution counter on the pedestal winch and I am usually doing around 2000 a day. That does not include work at the mast winch for the foredeck. I am still not quite reaching my target eating, 6000 a day is the target and I am probably at 5000, so I am not quite getting through my full daily food ration. Compared to the boat we had in 2008-9 when we did not have the ballast tanks, one of the options here – because we have five ballast tanks – we can now add a tank of ballast or two. That is an awful lot easier than putting a reef in or out.”


“It is fun to have others around us for sure and then easing past like Kojiro did the other day, we had a nice little email exchange with Nandor, Alan and Eric as well. That is nice. They are seeming to move a little faster, but one also needs to be the solo sailor and take care of yourself and your boat and not be prompted, for us at this stage in the race for us at least, not to be prompted to do something you would not usually do. That is my own personal conservatism. But it nice to be in this great group.”

Conrad Colman (USA/NZL): “I am out of the Doldrums now and getting bounced around going upwind. We are all very happy and the boat is going well. It is a great day. It was easy in the Doldrums I never stopped, my strongest squall was about 30kts. It was a vanilla crossing. I was very happy. I lined myself up with a nice corridor and stayed in there. It was great. It was a dream crossing. I have no problems with the boat, with the keel rams with the electronics, with the peanut butter. I have a straight line drag race. I am surrounded by boats which are all newer which in theory should be faster than mine. A lot of them have got wing masts and they have sails which are cut for reaching. I think I did OK last night but this morning a couple are going very quickly. Stéphane le Diraison is going well, has changed sails and so has put a turbo in. All I need to do is make it to Recife (latitude of) in in one and a half or two days and start reaching and running again and hopefully I can hold on to my position. It would be easy to sit inside with the autopilot on but I am outside, constantly trimming, trying to go faster. It is great I am really motivated. I can see the guys are coming but I just need to go as fast as possible. It is all good with the energy systems. I did a nice big charge yesterday.”

11-18-2016, 01:53 PM

Following a collision off the coast of Portugal, vibrations aboard the MACSF monohull have led to an unbearable noise. For several days, Bertrand de Broc has heard a deafening noise. The cause of this was a knock off Portugal. As such bangs are very common in a race, Bertrand de Broc did not really worry about it initially. But the noise has grown and has become unbearable, when the boat goes above 14 knots.

Bertrand de Broc has therefore taken the decision this evening to change course and head for Fernando de Noronha to check out what is happening on the boat and try to understand what is causing the noise. Several ideas are being explored by Marc Guillemot, the team Manager for MACSF, to identify the cause. A thorough check will be required, in particular of the hull, keel and rudders. To do that, Bertrand plans to anchor leeward of Fernando de Noronha, to be able to dive to inspect the boat.

Bernard de Broc: “Aboard an IMOCA, there is always a lot of noise and that is part of our every day life. There are the noises we know, which are reassuring and those which are an alert. I don’t wear noise-reducing headphones when I’m sailing, as I want to hear the noises and recognise them. In the long term, when there is a problem, it can become unbearable.”

Bertrand, currently 14th in the rankings, is still in the race.
More information tomorrow after Bertrand de Broc has inspected his boat.

Averaging over 22kts of boat speed during the mid-afternoon hours, Vendée Globe leader Alex Thomson is revelling in his first contact with a low pressure system, 600 miles NE of Rio, which may provide record breaking conditions over the coming days. The British skipper had already clocked up a 24 hour run of 490 miles to midnight Thursday, but with the breeze backing more and increasing to 25kts, conditions should be ideal for record speeds.

With a clear speed advantage, opening his lead to 107 miles over second placed Armel Le Cléac’h (Banque Populaire VIII), Thomson’s entire focus will be on looking after himself and his boat, knowing that these fast speeds will continue all the way down the South Atlantic. That said, with his Hugo Boss in close to perfect reaching conditions, the 24 hour record set by François Gabart during the 2012-2013 Vendée Globe race is 534.48 nautical miles in the Southern Ocean in mid December may fall. And according to today’s weather modelling the record from Les Sables d’Olonne to the Cape of Good Hope, 22 days 23 hrs 48 minutes, set by Armel Le Cléac’h, looks vulnerable. If the current pace was sustained this race could be three days faster by then.

The fast average speeds reflect the combination of ideal weather conditions, a fast doldrums for the leader and the new generation foiling technology on the IMOCAs. But just as in multihull and inshore foiling races, the gaps are already significantly wider in this race. Six different skippers have led this edition of the race. Thomson has lead on 41 of the 73 ranking reports to 1400hrs this Friday afternoon. His lead at this stage, Day 13, is bigger than the 2008-9 and 2012-13 races. The first weeks of the 2012-13 Vendée Globe saw three different leaders. That is fewer than in 2008 (6 leaders and 13 changes). At the same point in the 2012-13 race there were five boats battling down the Brazilian coast in relatively close contact. In 2012 Bernard Stamm (Cheminées Poujoulat) was the first to get out in front, but just for one set of rankings. François Gabart (Macif) was the next leader of the race for 5 days. He achieved a lead of up to 59 miles over his rivals, before falling into a trap in irregular winds off the Canaries. On 16th November, it was Armel Le Cléac'h’s turn (Banque Populaire) then grabbed the lead and was the one in front into the Roaring Forties. In the wake of the blue Banque Populaire, François Gabart, Bernard Stamm, Jean-Pierre Dick (Virbac-Paprec 3) and in fifth Alex Thomson. And in the ‘classic’ 2008-9 race after eleven days of racing, the leader entering the Doldrums, Loïck Peyron had been in the lead with a maximum advantage of 10.7 miles. The ten frontrunners were within an area of 150 miles with Loïck Peyron leading south.

An uphill battle
The deltas are already significant. Yann Eliès now lies around a day and a half behind leader Thomson in 8th, with Jean Le Cam, Jean-Pierre Dick and Thomas Ruyant a further half day back. They might have made it out of the Doldrums relatively unscathed but any hope of them reeling in the frontrunners has been dealt a blow by the forecast. The trade winds, which offer up quick reaching conditions in consistent breeze, are expected to shift to the NE and drop to around 12 knots, considerably lighter than the 15 knots others have already profited from. To make matters worse a high pressure system developing off Cabo Frio is likely to hamper their progress south further while those ahead extend in stronger winds and those behind catch up.

Meanwhile Foresight Natural Energy skipper Conrad Coleman's exit from the Doldrums today is bittersweet. The Kiwi sailor, in 17th, described his crossing of the notorious low pressure system that lies above the Equator as 'vanilla' having not been too affected by its fickle winds. But now, as he races towards Recife and the favourable reaching of the trade winds, he faces a straight-line tight power reach against rivals sailing newer boats capable of higher speeds in the current conditions. “It was easy in the Doldrums - I never stopped, my strongest squall was about 30kts,” he said. “It was a vanilla crossing. I was very happy - I lined myself up with a nice corridor and stayed in there. It was a dream crossing. Now I have a straight line drag race. I am surrounded by boats which are all newer, which in theory should be faster than mine. A lot of them have got wing masts and they have sails which are cut for reaching. I think I did OK last night but this morning a couple are going very quickly.”
Colman said the constant pressure from the chasing pack, which includes Stephane Le Diraison on Compagnie du Lit – Boulogne Billancourt and Nandor Fa's Spirit of Hungary, is driving him to squeeze every last inch of boat speed from his IMOCA 60. “It would be easy to sit inside with the autopilot on but I am outside, constantly trimming, trying to go faster,” he added. “I am really motivated. I can see the guys are coming but I just need to go as fast as possible.”





11-19-2016, 09:06 AM

We have sustained damage to one of the foils onboard after hitting something. Both Alex and the boat are fine.
Here is Alex's account of what happened..


"Having had pretty quick night where the boat was sailing high averages and the boat was super uncomfortable I had retracted the foil 30% early this morning and was sailing the boat pretty conservatively in a building breeze. At 09.35 UT this morning I was down below trying to sleep and the boat was sailing in 22kts of wind with a J2 and one reef in the main. I was averaging 24kts of boat speed when I heard an almighty bang and the boat stopped and turned to starboard by about 30 degrees and the rudder popped up . I quickly went on deck, eased the main sheet and realised I must have hit something. I put the rudder back down, eased the boat down wind and went to take a look and the starboard foil has broken off. Right now I have taken the foot completely off the throttle and changed sails and retracted the remaining part of the foil and will sail on in these conditions until the wind and sea state moderate and I can inspect the damage and assess. I didn’t see anything in the water but it felt like the boat wrapped itself around something and it has caused some pretty significant damage to my foil. I was instructed to carry out an internal inspection of the boat and there does not appear to be any structural damage to the hull that I can see. For now I am going to continue and assess when I get the chance."


Tracker (http://alexthomsonracing.geovoile.com/vendeeglobe/2016/tracker/)

British sailor Alex Thomson was forced to slow his 60ft foiling yacht today after hit a submerged object in the South Atlantic. One of the boat's two foils, which help lift it out of the water to give it more speed, was damaged in the collision with the unidentified object floating beneath the surface

Thomson was sailing at 24 knots in 22 knots of wind at the head of the Vendee Globe fleet, a position he has occupied for a week, at 0935 UTC when he heard a bang and his boat Hugo Boss changed direction. Thomson, who had been down below trying to sleep at the time, went up on deck and turned the boat downwind so he could inspect it. He found the starboard foil to be damaged and also noticed scrapes down the starboard side of the hull. Until the collision Thomson had been on course to set a new 24-hour solo distance world record, and in the 24 hours prior to the 1100 UTC position update had notched up 531 miles.

Thomson has now retracted the damaged foil and slowed his boat. He said there does not appear to be any structural damage but he will further inspect the boat when the weather conditions allow. “Having had a pretty quick night where the boat was sailing high averages and the boat was super uncomfortable I had retracted the foil 30 per cent early this morning and was sailing the boat pretty conservatively in a building breeze,” Thomson said this evening. “At 09.35 UTC this morning I was down below trying to sleep and the boat was sailing in 22kts of wind with a J2 and one reef in the main. I was averaging 24kts of boat speed when I heard an almighty bang and the boat stopped and turned to starboard by about 20 degrees. I quickly went on deck, eased the main sheet and realised I must have hit something. I eased the boat down wind and went to take a look and the starboard foil has been damaged and there are some scrapes on the starboard side of the boat. Right now I have taken the foot completely off the throttle and changed sails and retracted the foil and will sail on in these conditions until the wind and sea state moderate and I can inspect the damage and assess. I didn’t see anything in the water but it felt like the boat wrapped itself around something and it has caused some pretty significant damage to my foil. I was instructed to carry out an internal inspection of the boat and there does not appear to be any structural damage to the hull that I can see. For now I am going to continue and assess when I get the chance.”

Ross Daniel, technical director of Alex Thomson Racing, added: "We spend years pre-Vendee Globe trying to mitigate risk but hitting something in the water is something you have absolutely no control over – it's very frustrating. We always knew that there was a risk that a foil could hit something so we took it into account with the design of the boat. It can sail with or without the foil, so it's not the end of the world, but obviously one tack will now be faster than the other. Alex is going to have to change the way he sails depending on what tack he is on. At the moment there is just the stump of the foil left so Alex will remove that once the weather allows and he will be back up to speed again. Luckily for us the majority of port sailing in this race is down to Cape Town and thereafter there's a lot of starboard. If we were mid-fleet it would be a different story but we've got a nice gap at the front."

Second-placed Le Cléac'h lost another 20 miles to Thomson today as the gap between the pair expanded to 125nm, but the Banque Populaire VIII skipper was also having to constantly look over his shoulder for the threat of Josse in third place. Josse reeled in Le Cléac'h, runner up in the last edition of the Vendee Globe, to narrow the gap between the pair to just five nm at 1400 UTC.
Vendee Globe first timers Morgan Lagravière and Paul Meilhat were enjoying a scrap of their own in fifth and sixth, with Meilhat's SMA doing an impressive job hanging on to the coat tails of Lagraviere's foiling Safran. It might be all smiles in the front pack but life in the peloton is about to get worse. A second centre to the notorious St Helena High is developing right in the path of the group led by Yann Eliès, who now lies some 624nm adrift of Thomson in eighth. The door that welcomed the race leaders through is about to slam shut, trapping the chasing pack in light winds and rendering them powerless to stop the gap growing further.

De Broc to try again later
Veteran skipper Bertrand de Broc this afternoon took shelter in the lee of Fernando de Noronha, a South Atlantic island chain off the coast of Brazil, to inspect damage caused when he hit an object off the coast of Portugal. De Broc dived underneath MACSF and was able to see some damage but couldn't establish what it was before he was forced to board his drifting boat. It is thought he will anchor to allow him to dive for longer.

Meanwhile Dutch competitor Pieter Hereema was relishing the 'champagne sailing' on offer in the south easterly trade winds. Despite being in 24th place, the 65-year-old was high in spirits as he forged a path south on No Way Back. “It's fine, beautiful weather – beautiful sailing conditions,” he said. “It's a shame it's all upwind but that's what it is in this part when you want to go south. I'm enjoying it very much and I hope in a few days to be able to crack the sheets and have a little bit of an easier angle to sail. This part here is not what the Vendee Globe is famous for – this is champagne sailing. The race is not only about big waves, freezing cold and 45 knots of wind. It's a long race and there are many more weeks to come that will be more difficult and more uncomfortable.”

Bitchin Bow Dude
11-19-2016, 09:11 AM
Bummer for Alex. Wonder how the boat will do without that foil?

11-19-2016, 11:41 AM


Following on from the collision that his boat experienced early in the race off Portugal, and after sailing to the island of Fernando de Noronha and diving twice to inspect what was happening under his hull, Bertrand de Broc, skipper of the monohull MACSF, after consulting with Marc Guillemot his Team Manager, has taken the decision this evening to retire from the race.

Bertrand de Broc decided yesterday evening to head for the island of Fernando de Noronha to inspect the hull of his boat. After consulting his architect, Bertrand has been forced to retire from his fourth Vendée Globe. A large part of the hull has in fact been damaged, making it impossible to continue in the race. The deafening noise that is coming from the damaged hull is very handicapping for the skipper, even if he was wearing noise-cancelling headphones. This was a very difficult decision for the successful skipper and his team, who have done their utmost to enable him to continue this solo race around the world. Tackling the Southern Ocean in these conditions, Bertrand knew would be extremely risky. It was therefore the wise thing to do, even if he is very disappointed. "Having to take this decision is very hard to bear. It is bound to happen some time in a skipper’s career, but it doesn’t make it any easier to bear. I’m disappointed. But it would not be reasonable to face the Southern Ocean in this state,” explained Bertrand de Broc

Doctor Philippe Eveilleau, President of the MACSF Group accepts this difficult decision and wanted to offer his full support to the skipper of the boat sponsored by health professionals. “Bertrand de Broc is living up to his legend and has attempted everything to continue. Even if he hasn’t completed the voyage, this has been an extraordinary adventure and we would like to congratulate him on his courage and perseverance. On behalf of everyone at the MACSF, we thank you for taking us aboard for this story with the Vendée Globe.”

11-20-2016, 07:51 AM

Alex explains yesterday's floating debris collision one the starboard foil. Still positive and still making progress.

11-20-2016, 09:46 AM


SUNDAY 20 NOVEMBER 2016, 16H39

Vendee Globe leader Alex Thomson came within a whisker of setting a new world record for the furthest distance sailed solo in 24 hours before a collision in the South Atlantic put paid to his chances. Data revealed today from Vendee Globe HQ shows that Thomson, the sole Briton in the singlehanded round the world race, had sailed 535.34 nautical miles when the starboard foil of Hugo Boss was ripped off by a submerged object yesterday. The distance sailed by Thomson is actually greater than that set by reigning Vendee Globe champion and current record holder François Gabart, who notched up 534.48 nautical miles in the 2012/13 edition of the race. However the official rules of the record state it must be broken by one whole mile in order to be recognised – and Thomson's distance falls short of that by just 259 metres.

The narrow miss is symbolic of Thomson's luck over the past 24 hours. He was pulling away at the head of the 29-strong fleet when Hugo Boss was wounded in the collision at 1035 UTC. Where a foil once exited the boat only a stump now remains, something Thomson will have to deal with for the remainder of the race. The ailment has already started to have an effect on the rankings. Thomson has been forced to take his foot off the gas and his healthy 125nm lead has since been whittled down to under 90 nm. Josse, who has moved into second, and Le Cléac'h, in third, have been trying without success to hunt down Thomson since he snatched the lead eight days ago, but they have now started to move in tentatively.
Despite the gains, Le Cléac'h, runner up in the last two editions of the Vendee Globe, said he would have to wait for calmer seas to take full advantage of Thomson's woes. “The sea state is worsening and with the foils we’re not necessarily faster,” Banque Populaire VIII skipper Le Cléac'h said. “We’re going to have to wait for smoother seas to make the most of these appendages. I’m gradually gaining ground on Alex Thomson, but we need to look after the boat for the rest of the race.”

Thomson said he was hoping to be able to stay in front of his chasers until the Cape of Good Hope on the southern tip of South Africa when he can tack and start using his other foil, but until then he must just live with the breakages. “There's still a bit of the foil there, sticking out and slowing me down, but I can't do anything about that,” he said. “At some point I'm going to have to go over the side and cut it off.” When asked what his plan to stave off the attack from Josse and Le Cléac'h, Thomson simply replied: “Pray to the gods that the rest of the race is all on starboard.”


While Thomson is left licking his wounds, 25th-placed Irish skipper Enda O'Coineen had double the reason to celebrate. This afternoon he was bearing down on the Equator with around 60 miles left to sail to cross into the Southern Hemisphere, a huge feat alone. But to add to his jubilation he also had news that has become a grandfather for the first time after his daughter Roisin gave birth yesterday. “I'm on great form - my daughter delivered my first granddaughter, so that's very good news,” the 61-year-old said. “I'm looking forward to crossing the Equator later on today and getting back in the fleet. I'll have a little bottle of champagne and a big fat cigar and I've made special arrangements to have an appointment arranged with King Neptune himself.”


Tracker (http://alexthomsonracing.geovoile.com/vendeeglobe/2016/tracker/)


Armel Le Cléac’h (Banque Populaire VIII): “The wind has started to strengthen since this morning. We are not far off thirty knots of wind and the seas are getting rougher. It’s a bit like the conditions we find in the Southern Ocean. It’s a whirlwind taking us in the right direction down towards the Cape of Good Hope. We need to find the right sail configuration, and trim well not to damage everything. I’m doing around 22-23 knots at the moment on average. I am not surprised about Alex Thomson’s speeds. Without a foil, she is as fast as a boat with daggerboards and we can see the speeds achieved by our rivals without foils. The sea state is worsening and with the foils, we’re not necessarily faster. We’re going to have to wait for smoother seas to make the most of these appendages. I’m gradually gaining ground on Alex Thomson, but we need to look after the boat for the rest of the race. I set my pace based on the boat’s polars and the sea state. Occasionally some are faster than others, but the most important thing is keeping up a high average. There’s no point stretching yourself too far just to gain the lead right now.”


After Alan Roura (La Fabrique) and Pieter Heerema crossed the Equator at 0256 UTC during the night and at 2000 UTC yesterday evening respectively, there are now only three sailors left continuing southwards in the Northern Hemisphere – Enda O Coineen, Sébastien Destremau and Didac Costa. We talked to the Irishman, Frenchman and the Catalan sailor this morning.

Enda O’Coineen (Kilcullen Voyager Team Ireland): “I'm doing very well – I've got a very stable weather pattern. I'm looking forward to crossing the Equator and getting back in the fleet. I went very far east when I should have followed the old rule of staying west. I thought I could get back but it didn't work. But I'm on great form, my daughter delivered my granddaughter, my first granddaughter, yesterday, so that's very good news. I'm not ready to be a parent yet let alone a grandparent so I shudder at the thought! Maybe this will make me a better parent when I get back. I think the emotion is more amplified. You think an awful lot more and it's more intense because of the isolation. You think through life and all the details 24/7, and that's combined with the physical and mental activities. It is more moving – on land you've lots of other things going on so the brain doesn't have the same ability to focus. The emotional part is much deeper. Whether it's driving me harder or not I don't know - in fact, I'm being more careful to tell you the truth. Every time you get up and walk on deck you're putting yourself at risk. These boats are machines and you've got to keep them turning over.”

“I'll probably cross the Equator later on this afternoon or tonight. We'll have a little bottle of champagne and a big fat cigar [at the Equator], and I've made special arrangements to have an appointment arranged with King Neptune himself. He's going to come and visit and I'm going to ask him to bless my new granddaughter. “I wouldn't say my spirits are high but I'm on good solid form. You have to manage yourself emotionally through the ups and downs but with this extreme sailing in lovely warm trade winds I'm happy on my boat. I can't complain!”

Sébastien Destremau - TechnoFirst faceOcean : "I’m in the middle of the Doldrums and am really stuck. Not a breath of air last night, a few thunderstorms, but I don’t have any violent squalls for now. The forecasts hadn’t predicted so little wind. Yesterday I got knocked down. In a squall, the wind suddenly came around and the boat went over with the sails on the wrong side. What fun! Horrible. The worst squall, I’ve seen. It’s 40° in the boat, so it’s tiring, but we are OK. It’s only been a fortnight since we left and it feels like a thousand years. Time doesn’t exist out here.”

Didac Costa (One Planet One Ocean): “After almost 10 days of sailing I have the feeling of finally being in tune with the boat and the ocean. Everything is going reasonably well on board and I'm fixing everything that goes wrong. The boat maintains her potential for now. I follow the evolution of the leaders and their performance is awesome! I play and think about how ‘Kingfisher’ would sail with foils. The temperature in these latitudes even allows me to have a nap on the deck sometimes and, although today it is cloudy and it is drizzling at times, the last few days I have enjoyed under a radiant sun and a starry night sky. The passage by Cape Verde should not be a problem. It seems that the wind, without being strong, will be stable so I have to think about the strategy in the Doldrums and decide what longitude to cross them.
“I have eaten the last piece of fruit today. From now on, there will be only freeze-dried food. Although it is not like eating with a plate on a table, the landscape around me makes up for it!”



Chasing pair Armel le Cléac'h and Seb Josse began making inroads into Vendee Globe frontrunner Alex Thomson's lead last night following the news that the British skipper's yacht Hugo Boss had suffered damage to its starboard foil.

With Thomson unable to benefit from the lift and speed generated by having the foil in the water, the gap between him and Le Cléac'h, the runner up in the previous two editions of the solo non stop round the world race, shrank from 125 nautical miles to just under 90, with Josse a further 15 miles back. The trio lead a pack of seven boats that were able to hook onto a fast-moving low pressure system, catapulting them towards the Southern Ocean.

Despite his setback, at the latest position update at 0400 UTC Thomson was travelling at 20.4 knots, half a knot quicker than Le Cléac'h and more than a knot above Josse, in around 30 knots of breeze from the north. In fact over the 24 hours that preceded the report his was the quickest boat in the fleet, with an average of 20.7 knots. If he can keep his foot on the gas, Thomson may well be able to fend off the attack from from Le Cléac'h's (Banque Populaire VIII) and Josse (Edmond de Rothschild) until he is able to tack onto starboard at the Cape of Good Hope and begin foiling once more.


But the big news this morning is that Vincent Riou (PRB) has accelerated and is now managing to keep up the pace. Just ahead of a cold front associated with a Brazilian low, the five frontrunners are tightly packed, but are extending their lead over Paul Meilhat (SMA) and particularly Jérémie Beyou (Maître CoQ), who find themselves in different wind conditions – 25-30 knots from the north for the leaders and only around twenty for the chasing boats.

Yann Eliès (Quéginer Leucémie Espoir) has been unable to follow the same route, because of a massive change in the position of the St.Helena high. He has been attempting to remain ahead of the cold front that is propelling the leaders at high speed, but is so far back that the wind and sea conditions are very different. He is going to have to turn his route eastwards

Towards the tail end of the fleet Dutchman Pieter Heerema's No Way Back and Swiss sailor Alan Roura on La Fabrique notched up major milestones in their races by crossing the Equator overnight. That leaves just three boats still to cross into the Southern Hemisphere – Kilcullen Voyager skippered by Irishman, Enda O'Coineen, Sebastien Destramau's TechnoFirst-face Ocean and One Planet One Ocean with Spain’s Didac Costa at the helm.

Irish skipper Enda O Coineen is preparing to cross the Equator later today, but this is rather a special moment for him for another reason too, as there has been a birth in the family. He was proud to announce yesterday that he has a new grand-daughter. This news appears to have compensated for a disappointing day out on the water, as after thinking he was out of the clutches of the Doldrums, he found himself becalmed for several hours, before experiencing some very strong gusts that appeared out of nowhere.
Bertrand de Broc, forced to abandon his race yesterday due to structural damage caused by a collision off Portugal, remains anchored off Fernando de Noronha this morning. It is thought he will take his IMOCA 60 MACSF to Recife some 300 miles away on the north eastern corner of Brazil.

Yann Eliès (Quéginer Leucémie Espoir): “I’m racing against the front and have a tiny opening to get through. I hope that this route will work out for the next four or five days. I hope that the front passing around the high won’t swallow me up. In any case, I can’t keep up the pace set by the leaders. The gaps that have developed mean that we are no longer in the same weather system. I’m in my own race now, while attempting not to get too far behind the frontrunners, when they reach the Cape of Good Hope. But I think I’ll be two days behind them. It’s going to be complicated getting closer to them. I simply can’t keep up that pace, but in my opinion, they won’t be able to stay at those speeds for long either. We’ll see what happens when the get to the Indian.”

Bernaud Boissières (La Mie Câline): It’s been a tropical night with small squalls. I’m continuing my route south with some uncertainty off Cape Frio, as the forecasts are for light airs. For the moment I have between 15 and 25 knots of wind with some rain, but it’s not that unpleasant. I’m around a hundred miles off the coast of Brazil, 130 miles from Recife. I passed a cargo vessel yesterday. The first I have seen since the start. There are six of us relatively close together, which is nice.”

11-21-2016, 08:55 AM

MONDAY 21 NOVEMBER 2016, 17H01

Tracker (http://alexthomsonracing.geovoile.com/vendeeglobe/2016/tracker/)

The door leading to a fast passage south slammed firmly shut on the Vendée Globe fleet today severing the top seven boats from the rest. While the frontrunners continued to rack up the miles in perfect conditions, blasting towards the Cape of Good Hope at speeds of more than 20 knots, life was about to become miserable for those hoping they could stay in touch.

As forecast, the St Helena High has engulfed the chasing pack in light, changeable winds, condemning those caught in it to days of frustration and slow progress in the mid South Atlantic. The breakaway group, still with British skipper Alex Thomson at its head, continues to forge ahead and is due to reach the Cape of Good Hope, the next waypoint on the solo round the world race and the gateway to the Southern Ocean, by Friday. But the 21 sailors behind the lucky seven must now resign themselves to spending more than three days extra getting to the milestone some 2,000nm away. By the time they reach the southern tip of South Africa they will be more than 2,000nm behind the leaders.

Leading the charge for the ninth consecutive day, Thomson is still registering speeds of more than 20 knots from his yacht Hugo Boss despite losing one of its two foils in an apparent collision two days ago. Even more impressive is that, after initially losing around 50nm to closest rivals Armel Le Cléac'h and Sebastien Josse, over the past 24 hours he has added around three miles to his lead to take it to 85nm. Edmond de Rothschild skipper Seb Josse today gave the Brit credit for keeping the fleet at bay, but hinted that Thomson's time at the front could be limited. “Alex is resisting well, keeping up high speeds at these angles,” he said. “He has plenty of wind. But we need to take care of the foils like we take care of the boat. If we're doing twenty knots we're happy, so why push it? We have seen that the boat can reach peak speeds of 25 knots, but now is not the time for that.”


From his position in ninth, French skipper Jean Le Cam echoed Josse's thoughts on Thomson's prospects. He said: “I saw that Hugo Boss had broken a foil. It’s obvious that the time will come when he has to pay the price for that. So there are six of them contending for victory a fortnight after the start. Statistically, it has to be one of them.” Le Cam has problems of his own. Now more than 1,000nm off the pace he is among the majority of the fleet facing days of torment trying to pick their way south through a series of high pressure systems. Their only hope lies in a depression forming in the south west that could bring them more stable winds in a few days' time. The consequences are all too clear for the Finistere Mer Vent skipper. “The gap between the leader and the tail end is crazy,” he added. “We’re going to be 2,000 miles behind by the time we reach the south. For those behind us, it’s going to be horrible.”

Unfortunately for American sailor Rich Wilson, the oldest skipper in the race at 66 years old, he is one of those behind Le Cam. “Those seven boats on the other side of what's going to be a massively confusing weather situation for us,” the 20th placed skipper of Great American IV said. “There's really no telling what's going to be happen. It's going to be a toss of the dice whether one can get to the south east.”


Despite being almost 2,300nm adrift in 25th place, nothing could dampen Irish skipper Enda O'Coineen's mood after he crossed the Equator into the Southern Hemisphere at 1933UTC last night. The 61-year-old reported hearing a loud pop coming from the deck of Kilcullen Voyager Team Ireland – but it turned out only to be the noise from the champagne bottle he had opened to toast King Neptune. France's Sébastien Destremau and Spain's Didac Costa are now the only two skippers still in the Northern Hemisphere.
Will Carson / M&M

11-22-2016, 08:49 AM

The skipper of PRB hit a UFO on Sunday morning, while speeding along with the frontrunners in the Vendée Globe on his way towards the Cape of Good Hope (a different incident from yesterday’s, when his rudder kicked up). Following on from this collision, Vincent Riou did not initially notice any damage and was able to continue to sail normally. It was only three hours later that the keel started to vibrate and emit loud noises, indicating there were huge strains on the appendage. These sounds continued to grow during Sunday night.


Taking into account the weather conditions (25 to 30 knot winds with average speeds around 19-20 knots), Vincent was unable to go and check the keel housing, but informed his shore team of the incident. The PRB team and the boat’s designers (Guillaume Verdier) and the structural calculations team at HDS GSEA Design (Hervé Devaux and Denis Glehen) began to study all the hypotheses based on what they knew (essentially the type of noise coming from the keel).
It was only this morning while sailing in calmer conditions that Vincent was able to carry out the necessary checks. He discovered that the axis of the keel had been damaged in the collision. This titanium part is an essential element on the boat. It allows the keel to be attached to the monohull with a plastic ball joint and it is also this axis that allows the keel to be canted.

When the incident occurred, the plastic ball joint broke leading to permanent wear between the keel axis and the ball joint attachment. In the longer term with the Indian and Pacific Oceans and the climb back up the Atlantic ahead, that means that the integrity of the boat is in danger or even that the keel could break away from the 60-foot boat.


This is a huge disappointment for the winner of the 2004 Vendée Globe. He saw his dream come to an end four years ago (almost to the day) after a collision with a UFO. He set sail from Les Sables d’Olonne on 6th November hopping to keep up with the new boats fitted with foils. This was successful, as PRB has always been up there with the leaders. For a long time neck and neck with Banque Populaire, Vincent was even in second place on several occasions and had an exceptional voyage down the Atlantic aboard his boat fitted with daggerboards. This performance earned him the congratulations of many observers, and gave him hope for the rest of the round the world voyage.
The skipper of PRB is currently sailing in decent conditions (14 knots of wind) and Vincent is not in danger. He is in contact with his shore team to decide where he may stop to repair his monohull before heading back to France. This will probably be Cape Town in South Africa.

Interview with Vincent Riou:
This is a huge disappointment. But as every time, life goes on and for me that means bringing my boat back safely to land somewhere. On Sunday night something hit the bulb. The keel started to vibrate. It then started moving from side to side. That soon stopped. It was not immediate as the boat was going at 25 knots when it happened. I didn’t think much about it. The keel often hits things in ocean races and this bang wasn’t that big.

Later that night, I started hearing cracking noises around the keel. The sort of noise I had already heard, as I had already had noises from the carbon rubbing between the keel and the hull. I said to myself that there was some friction, but that it wasn’t serious. But gradually the noise grew louder. I started to ask myself questions, and think about what may have happened. I started to consult others. (…). We weren’t that worried, but not that relaxed either, as it is not an easy place to get to in the boat. Without removing the keel, you can’t really see what has happened. So what I did was to say I would continue. It could have been a small move by the keel and the carbon will be rubbing on the hull, meaning the noise should fade away. Or it was something more serious with damage to the bearings and then the noise would increase. I continued to sail for 24 hours. The noise continued to grow until late yesterday, when I started hearing metallic sounds as well as noises from the carbon. I could see that the bearings were damaged and that it was beginning to affect the housing around the bearings.

I contacted the people, who worked on the boat. They tried to figure out what might have happened. They came to the same conclusion: in the short term there was no risk, as these are large parts, but this metal against metal rubbing could lead to more serious damage. It’s hard thinking about sailing around the world with damage like that.
This morning, the weather eased after the front went over. I was able to open the keel housing and feel around inside. I could feel that the keel was moving. Around the front bearings, the hole was bigger than the axis of the keel. That only confirmed my fears about damage to the bearings.
I don’t know what to think. This damage happened at almost the same point as the damage four years ago. When I passed Salvador a few days ago, I spent the night thinking about that. As I had passed Salvador, I told myself that I had got rid of my demons. And then just as 4 years ago in the same place, 14 days after the start we collided with irreparable damage being done. It’s hard!

The simplest thing is to head for South Africa, Cape Town. I’m currently checking to see if they have all I need there. We’re sorting things out with the team. I’m thinking about all those, who have been with me and following me since the start. I know there were a lot of people behind us. I’m really thinking of them. I’m disappointed about what has happened, but I’m disappointed for them in particular.”

Jean-Jacques Laurent, President of PRB: “Vincent retiring is a huge disappointment of course. He has had an incredible race since the start in Les Sables d’Olonne racing against boats from the latest generation. He got us dreaming. The whole firm was following him and passionately supporting him. Unfortunately, once again it is a UFO that has blocked him. We went through that 4 years ago. It’s hard accepting that sort of thing over and over again. But we are fully behind Vincent’s decision, as once again, he is reacting as a good sailor. The main thing is making sure he is safe and can bring the boat home safely. That is why he has taken the right decision.”

Prince of Whales
11-22-2016, 09:15 AM
Bummer for Riou, he was really pushing that boat!

Cleveland Steamer
11-23-2016, 07:19 AM
Thomson has extended his lead!

11-23-2016, 08:31 AM


Sébastien Josse had a lucky escape last night after hitting a submerged object causing damage to one of the rudders on his IMOCA Edmond de Rothschild. Josse was in 25 to 30 knots of breeze sailing south east at around 2230 UTC yesterday when his starboard rudder kicked up having hit something in the water.

The 41-year-old Frenchman, who at the time was in second place, slowed his boat to a stop so that he could assess the damage and found the system that holds the rudders down to be broken. With the help of Gitana Team technical director Pierre Tissier, boat captain David Boileau, and Armand de Jacquelot, member of the Gitana design office, Josse was able to repair the damage. He spent more than four hours fixing the rudder system before being able to resume racing but by that point he had lost around 60 miles.

At the 0500 UTC ranking Josse has slipped from second into third and now lies 169 nautical miles behind leader Alex Thomson and 70nm adrift of Armel Le Cléac'h, who moves up into the runner-up spot. The loss of miles is a blow for Josse, who had been fighting hard to stay ahead of the front that yesterday swallowed up the three boats behind him in the front breakaway group. But the fact that he was able to return to racing at all is impressive – Thomson lost a foil when he hit a submerged object while Vincent Riou, who was in fifth place, became the latest casualty of the race yesterday when he retired with keel damage from an unidentified object. Betrand de Broc was forced out of the race after colliding with a submerged object off the coast of Portugal.

The front three skippers of Thomson, Le Cléac'h and Josse were this morning the only boats still profiting from the east-moving low pressure system, and at 0500 UTC their speeds were an impressive 21 knots. The trio behind them – Morgan Lagravière, Paul Meilhat and Jérémie Beyou – were almost 10 knots slower this morning. Yann Elies, Jean Pierre Dick, Jean Le Cam and Thomas Ruyant were the only skippers not in the leading group of six to be making any reasonable headway, with speeds around 15 knots. The rest were having to make to do with fickle, light winds below 10 knots as their St Helena High ordeal continued.

11-23-2016, 08:49 AM



The British skipper Alex Thomson is still leading the way this morning as they prepare to enter the Indian Ocean on Friday morning after nineteen days of racing. They had an incredible route down through the Atlantic, but the situation is changing with areas of high pressure forming from Brazil to South Africa and with the 26 sailors still in the race seeing their speeds yo-yo up and down depending on the local weather situation.


In the long procession down the Atlantic, which has seen many splits develop over the past fortnight or so, there have been upsets in the rankings. The leading group was blown apart when the rear guard lost the 25-30 knot winds as the front passed over and they were left with a gentle breeze and unstable conditions, meaning skippers like Jérémie Beyou (Maître CoQ) and Paul Meilhat (SMA) in particular have had to carry out lots of manoeuvres. They have been gybing to try to get away from this sticky patch separating them from the second front. Unfortunately this second low pressure area from Argentina is set to slide down to below 50°S and so they will have to wait for the next system coming out of South America to finally get moving at speed towards the tip of South Africa on Friday…


Tracker (http://alexthomsonracing.geovoile.com/vendeeglobe/2016/tracker/)

A wall of ice
With Cape Agulhas, the official point marking the entrance into the Indian Ocean only 500 miles ahead of Alex Thomson (Hugo Boss), we can see that the fleet has stretched out from the Equator, (Didac Costa on One Planet-One Ocean is due to cross into the Southern Hemisphere tonight) and the Forties, but the latter are not going to be roaring for much longer. The gentle breeze will give way to light airs. This time, it is the frontrunners, who will be the first to be affected and they will slow considerably. The front which has propelled them at high speed over the past three days is breaking up and will be replaced on Thursday evening by a light westerly air stream, still with slightly more pressure down at 42°S.

That is where the British skipper is heading with Armel Le Cléac’h (Banque Populaire VIII) and Sébastien Josse (Edmond de Rothschild) a hundred miles or so north with winds forcing them to continue eastwards. The gap from north to south is set to increase with the advantage going to Thomson, who will be sailing along the Ice Wall at 42°30S: more wind and a better bearing should see him extend his lead.

The following little group will be busy seeking out the wind. It may well be Jérémie Beyou, who decided to dive south, who comes off best… As for Yann Éliès (Quéguiner-Leucémie Espoir), he will be able to continue his route in the first front, which is gradually disappearing, meaning his speed will also drop off as the cloud masses melt away in the St. Helena high… We can imagine him closing the gap on his former Figaro rivals, but catching or overtaking them would be a different ball game.


Patience as time drags on

More than 1600 miles further back, another trio is already experiencing the building westerly with a low coming out of Brazil: Jean-Pierre Dick (StMichel-Virbac), Jean Le Cam (Finistère Mer Vent) and Thomas Ruyant (Le Souffle du Nord pour le projet Imagine) have finally got to the other side of the area of high pressure, which is also collapsing. However, tonight looks complicated if they want to stay in the air stream backing to the NW between the high, a front and a low.
Kito de Pavant’s situation is even trickier. The skipper of Bastide Otio was more or less halted for two days in a calm and now he has to get away from this tropical area to get down to 25°S before tonight to hop onto the third low moving out of Buenos Aires.
Keep calm


The pack is also in trouble. There are nine skippers within just over a hundred miles of each other with Fabrice Amedeo (Newrest-Matmut) in front and the American Rich Wilson (Great America IV) at the rear a little further north. Their situation is not the easiest, as while they are now taking advantage of some light trade winds from the NE, they are on the edge of a ridge of high pressure which looks like remaining there for a day or so. After that, there are only moderate winds around the St. Helena high. The low coming out of Argentina is too far south for them…


Maybe that is the reason why Dutchman, Pieter Heerema (No Way Back) is diving south only a hundred miles behind Arnaud Boissières (La Mie Câline). He is following the track taken by Kito de Pavant and hopes to make it to Cape Frio to take advantage of the Argentinean Low expected on Thursday evening… Finally, after downloading the software required for him to be able to communicate, Swiss sailor Alan Roura (La Fabrique) is back racing and getting away from the coast of Brazil. He now has Irishman, Enda O’Coineen (Kilcullen Voyager-Team Ireland) in his rear-view mirror.


As for Sébastien Destremau (TechnoFirst-faceOcean), the easterly trade winds around the St. Helena high are propelling him gently towards the south, but the skipper cannot hang around for too long, as the South Atlantic weather is going through an upheaval. The Argentinean Low which will get to South Africa this weekend is changing the pressure charts off Brazil. Another area of high pressure will be developing behind the low. There are no ifs and buts about it. He is going to have to go around the high via the west and Didac Costa will probably have to do the same…
Dominic Bourgeois/M&M


Alex Thomson (Hugo Boss): “The wind is very slowly going down. It'll be nice to have a bit of respite I guess. It's slowly going left, going aft. At some point I'm going to have to stick a gybe in. I think it's going to get very light for a while so it'll be interesting to see how it all pans out. Not everyone's dropped off this front – Banque Populaire and Gitana are still with me. It allows the gap to grow, which is good. It'll be interesting to see when the guys get into the same wind as me how much of a disadvantage I'm at without my foil. I think at the moment I'm in good wind and big seas, and the disadvantage of not having a foil is relatively small. The thing for me now is that I can use my other foil so I'm praying the rest of the race is on starboard."

A quick word on Vincent Riou – I really feel for the guy, he's one of the best out here on one of the best boats. He was well prepared and it's horrible what happened to him. It's very sad, I feel very sorry for what's happened to him. Very clearly things could have been worse for me. Last time he hit a mooring rope in the middle of the ocean...”
Pieter Heerema (No Way Back): “The wind is bouncing up and down from eight knots to 14 and back, and the direction is east-north-east. Actually this light wind is a very welcome thing for me because I have three tasks that require a bit of a quiet period. I need to work on the rudder, which is quite dicey because I need to hang over the transom to do it, and I must not lose parts, then I have a foil that is stuck and I know I should not lose the foil, and I have a watermaker that doesn't work so I have to fiddle around with buckets of water in the boat.”

“It's sad for him [Vincent] – all the preparation and four years looking ahead. He so much wants to complete another Vendee and possibly even win it, though I think that was not on the cards. It's really sad that he's had to abandon more or less the same way as four years ago. It's scary how much there is floating around in the ocean. If you're on a slow boat doing eight or nine knots you maybe hear a thump and that's it, but on boats like we have, the speeds and forces are so enormous and the boats are so fragile that you can immediately have major issues. It's quite scary.”

Jean Le Cam, Finistère Mer Vent: “I think I’ll call up Vincent sometime. In our line of work that happens all the time. There is nothing you can do about it. In the first week, the boat was knocked down and I thought a rudder had snapped; I told myself it was over. We all know it is down to chance. There comes a time when you come across an object. Life goes on and you have to bounce back. Vincent is one of the guys I appreciate. It’s the end of an adventure. It’s happened to Vincent, and will happen to others. You can have all the alarms you want, but if there’s something there in the water, there’s nothing you can do about it. We spend 80% of our time inside the boat.”

11-24-2016, 08:36 AM

Technical damage on board of Saffron: at 12 p.m. CET, Morgan Lagravière, skipper of saffron, to contact his team to earth to inform her of a damaged rudder.
While he was sailing at a speed of 18-19 knots, the monohull saffron has slept, Morgan has now found that the saffron starboard was raised and that part of the rudder was broken, probably due to a clash with a UFO ( Unidentified Floating object).
Morgan's fine, he stays in touch with his team to assess the possibility of repair and to continue the race.
More information will be provided in the coming hours.



Following the damage to the steering late this morning, the skipper of Safran, Morgan Lagravière has confirmed he is retiring from the Vendée Globe, in agreement with his team and partner.

Contacted by his team this afternoon, Morgan explained, “I had a tough night with autopilot worries. I had between 20-25 knots of wind and the boat was impossible to control. I broached 4 or 5 times. While taking a nap towards midday, I felt the boat going over. When I went outside, I could see that the leeward rudder had come out of its attachment and that two-thirds of it was missing. I think it was the result of hitting an unidentified floating object.

Unfortunately, I don’t have what is required to be able to repair such damage, and so it is over for me. I would like to remember the positive things in this adventure: 18 days of extraordinary racing aboard a boat that performs exceptionally well, with which I was always up with the frontrunners. This solo race was also an opportunity for me to find out more about myself and what really matters in life. I would like to thank all my technical team as well as the fans, who have been supporting me.”

Morgan is currently sailing towards Cape Town (South Africa), which he should reach in three days.
Philippe Petitcolin, General Director of Safran, stressed his support for the young skipper: “This is a huge disappointment for Morgan, the Safran Sailing Team, as well as for everyone, who works at Safran and who passionately followed the boat during this adventure. Since the start in Les Sables d’Olonne, the duo Morgan - Safran showed itself to be strong enough to take up this challenge, remaining in the lead group all the time. Morgan showed his competitive spirit and determination, matching the values of Safran. On behalf of all those who work in the Group, I extend my support to him in this difficult moment.”

11-24-2016, 09:39 AM

Thursday 24th November – Today at 15:04 UTC, British sailor Alex Thomson smashed two more race records in the solo, non-stop, around the world race, the Vendée Globe as he reached the Cape of Good Hope in 18d 03hrs 02mins.


Thomson has beaten the previous race record to this milestone by 4d 20hrs 44mins. The former record of 22d 23hrs 46mins was held by skipper Armel Le Cléac'h onboard Banque Populaire in 2012. Le Cléac'h is currently in second place, 89.9 nautical miles behind Thomson onboard HUGO BOSS. Thomson has been consistently leading the fleet since the 12th November 2016, averaging speeds in excess of 20 knots.

Thomson has also broken a second race record from the Equator to the Cape of Good Hope, passing in 8d 20hrs 00mins, which was previously held by Jean Pierre Dick in 2012 onboard Virbac-Paprec 3, at 12d 2hrs 40mins. This means Thomson has set two new race records in one day.

11-25-2016, 09:18 AM

FRIDAY 25 NOVEMBER 2016, 17H06


Vendée Globe leader Alex Thomson was making the most of being able to 'fly' again on Hugo Boss almost a week since he lost his starboard foil in a collision.
The sole British skipper in the solo round the world race has made impressive speeds since breaking the appendage on November 19, not only holding off the attack from second-placed Armel Le Cléac'h but also setting a new race record from Les Sables d'Olonne to the Cape of Good Hope of under 18 days. But after gybing just before midnight UTC, around 12 hours after passing into the Southern Ocean, he was able to deploy his remaining intact foil and boost Hugo Boss to speeds of more than 20 knots.


The speedo didn't stay there for long however as Thomson ran into the back of a front, blocking his path to the next low pressure train moving east. The duel between Thomson and Banque Populaire VIII skipper Le Cléac'h, raging since the November 6 start, is set to continue with the latter opting for a more southerly position to Thomson's route. With the forecast uncertain for the coming 24 hours it is a lottery as to which skipper will be at the front of the fleet tomorrow. “It's going to be a bit shifty for the next 24 hours - it's not entirely clear what's going to happen,” Thomson said. “I've got light winds ahead of me and I'm bumping into a little front that passed me last night. I'm just trying to sail as best and as quickly as I can east. There's slightly more wind to the north so I'm favouring that slightly but our routings probably have Banque Populaire and I ending up in the same position.”


Seb Josse, the only other sailor to pass the Cape of Good Hope, today slipped to 290nm behind the frontrunners and must now wait for a depression forming to the south east of his position to scoop him up. Now in a completely different weather system to the leading pair, fourth-placed Paul Meilhat on SMA and Jérémie Beyou on Maître CoQ were still a day away from the longitude of the Cape of Good Hope. Being several days behind the pacesetters hasn't dampened sixth-placed Quéguiner-Leucémie Espoir skipper Yann Eliès' desire to finish on the podium. “We all know that in the Vendée Globe you have to be fast, but you also have to finish,” he said. “I can remember how, in the 2008 Vendée, Armel finished second while a month before the finish he was back in fifth place. I know that it can be done.”


TRACKER (http://alexthomsonracing.geovoile.com/vendeeglobe/2016/tracker/)

The chasing trio of Jean-Pierre Dick, Jean Le Cam and Thomas Ruyant were the fastest in the fleet this afternoon with speeds cresting 19 knots. Dick, who finished fourth in the 2012/13 Vendée Globe, said he was determined to keep his boat StMichel Virbac at full throttle and his dreams of winning the race alive. “I’m not some old geezer out here for fun,” he said. “I am trying to attack.” More than a day behind there was a race within a race between six boats from Louis Burton's 11th-placed Bureau Vallée to Nandor Fa's Spirit of Hungary in 16th all split by less than 70nm.
Tune into the Vendee Globe Live show from 1200 UTC tomorrow for all the action from the race course, and expert analysis from sailing journalist Justin Chisholm.



Alex Thomson (Hugo Boss): “It's not always foiling conditions. I'm not always going fast enough to be able to use it. I'll be on starboard until about 4.30am or 5am and then I'll be back on port. There's not going to be much on starboard for the next 10 days so I have to make the most of it now."
Conrad Colman (Foresight Natural Energy): “I've recently had a few wiggles in my route – one was when I had to bear away to climb the mast to replace some crucial lashing, and another one I had to luff up to get round a huge storm cloud. Going up the mast is the worst job to do onboard the mast. It's really scary, it's really dangerous. You're 100ft or 30 metres up in the air, so the slightest movement of the boat or the smallest wave sends the tip of the mast swinging through an enormous arc and the thing that's really tricky is there's no-one here to help us climb to the top. We have to climb up a tensioned rope using two climbing handles but that requires two hands to do the job, so we're swinging freely. You can hit the mast easily so I was climbing with a helmet on because I've previously hit my head against the mast. Every time I come down I'm heavily bruised because of the violent movement at the top. You're having to hang on to the spreaders for dear life while getting thrown round like a rag doll. There's no way to come down without bruises unfortunately.”

Yann Eliès, Quéguiner-Leucémie Espoir: “I think Morgan’s decision understandable. The pace set by the 7 frontrunners hasn’t given them any respite. Maybe if he could have taken advantage of a few days with more relaxing conditions, he could have recharged his batteries and would have seen things differently. That crazy pace for 17 days, damage and retirement… it’s not surprising he is feeling down. Morgan is someone, who says what he thinks. It’s not the first time he has said how hard it is to sail on these boats. That hasn’t stopped him from doing really well. I think it’s great that people say what’s on their mind. Morgan has shown that he has what it takes to win and will be back in four years from now.

Jean-Pierre Dick (StMichel Virbac): “It was a busy night with winds strengthening and changing direction. It was fairly tiring. Not much sunshine. The sky is very dark in some of the squalls. We’re going to have to gybe a few hundred miles before the Cape of Good Hope. After that we’ll be entering the Southern Ocean with a SW’ly wind. I’m determined to keep the speed up and stay in the race. Some boats have been forced to retire. That’s not something to be pleased about, but it does mean we move up the rankings. I’d like to get back up with the leaders. I’m not some old geezer out here for fun. I am trying to attack.”
Romain Attanasio, Famille Mary – Etamine du Lys: “We have had fine conditions for a few days now. I’m doing the Vendée Globe, so I’m happy. It is just that it’s a bit too hot. I’ve been stacking for the gybe that is coming up and after half an hour, I was covered in sweat. I’m trying to sail calmly and look after the boat. There are times when I say to myself, ‘wake up, Romain, you’re in a race’, but I don’t want to take any risks. The Southern Ocean is eight days away. I’m looking forward

11-25-2016, 10:08 AM

"This week in the WoW Alex Thomson sans starboard "moustache" foil still leads the Vendee Globe but highly fancied non-foiler Vincent riou in PRB has retired and the youngest competitor goes close to the Brazil coast to get a mobile phone connection to download software to fix a navigation problem and as we go to upload Safran is out with rudder problems. We love the drama of this fantastic race and you can see regukar reports at www.boatson.tv We have had over 600,000 views of all our VG reports "

11-26-2016, 09:11 AM
TRACKER (http://alexthomsonracing.geovoile.com/vendeeglobe/2016/tracker/)


French skipper Armel Le Cléac'h today reclaimed the Vendée Globe pole position from Alex Thomson – only for the British skipper to instantly steal it back.

At the 0800 UTC position update Le Cléac'h moved into first place for the first time since losing the lead to Thomson two weeks ago.
The change in frontrunner came almost three weeks into the solo round the world race as the top two skippers tried to navigate through a tricky patch of light winds on their way to the Southern Ocean's big breeze.

With Thomson gybing north Le Cléac'h chose to continue east, and when the rankings came through the French sailor's Banque Populaire VIII was eight nautical miles ahead.
However, three hours later it was all change again, this time Le Cléac'h opting to head north while Thomson went east.
By 1100 UTC Thomson was back in the driving seat with a 16nm buffer - a spot he has commanded for all but today's three-hour blip since November 12 – but both he and Le Cléac'h were only making 12 knots of speed in similar wind.

Le Cléac'h said the most important thing was not his ranking but that he had caught Thomson up.
“It’s not easy trying to make headway as we’re in a light patch between two lows,” he said. “We’re trying to pick our way through in the shifty conditions, but it feels good to have caught up with Alex. I’ve repositioned myself to the north now because things were stalling and my main focus is staying in some breeze.”

Three hundred miles adrift of the leading pair, third placed Sebastien Josse was today struggling in light winds but speeds will pick up when his Edmond de Rothschild is scooped up by the depression currently being ridden by Paul Meilhat in fourth and Jeremie Beyou in fifth.
“We have a light wind with more high pressure than the others, but it’s set to pick up in 24 hours and then we can sail quite fast and straight to Australia,” Josse said. “Three weeks in and my boat’s in great shape as we haven’t had much bad weather since the start so we’ve been quick, as shown my Alex’s records. It’s amazing how fast the boats are but we haven’t had the real Vendée Globe yet.”

Nearly 2,000nm behind the leaders the tussle between Jean-Pierre Dick, Thomas Ruyant and Jean Le Cam entered a new phase, the latter losing out after the weather front the trio was hooked onto passed over his yacht Finistère Mer Vent.
The 57-year-old, competing in his fourth Vendée Globe, revealed that he lost further miles when he slept through his alarm.
“Last night I was constantly making sail changes, the wind going from 35 to 15 knots in the blink of an eye,” he said. “I finally settled with two reefs in the main and a storm sail up, watched it for a while longer and then got some shut-eye. Unfortunately, I then slept through my alarm and woke up five hours later in very calm conditions, still under two reefs and storm sail… the whole works!”

While Le Cam must now dive south in search of better breeze, Ruyant and Dick are set to extend their lead as they profit from the leading edge of the low pressure.
Further misery awaits the biggest group of boats from Louis Burton's Bureau Vallée in 11th to Enda O'Coineen's Kilcullen Voyager – Team Ireland in 23rd as another high moves into their path.
The only sailor in that back pack still smiling is Alan Roura from Switzerland – the La Fabrique skipper could soon find himself jumping up the leaderboard if he is able to skirt the bottom of the high pressure.

Morgan Lagravière, forced out of racing two days ago with rudder damage, arrived safely in Cape Town at 0830 UTC on Safran. Vincent Riou, also heading to the South African port, was due to make land late this evening.

Meanwhile the international jury decided to hand Jeremie Beyou a two-hour penalty for accidentally breaking the seal on his engine when he fell on it.



Armel Le Cléac’h (Banque Populaire): “It’s not easy trying to make headway as we’re in a light patch between two lows. We’re trying to pick our way through in the shifty conditions, but it feels good to have caught up with Alex. This morning’s conditions have meant that we’ve finally been able to go out on deck and tick off a few jobs and give the boat a once over. I haven’t stopped this morning and my hands are feeling it a bit now with all the Sikaflex, tape and lines.
I’ve repositioned myself to the North now because things were stalling and my main focus is staying in some breeze. It’s good to get a breather in a calmer environment, the wind dropping off from 20 to 10 and below. We’ve been sailing in Roaring 40s conditions for a few days so we’ve been through various shades of grey and fog, you can’t see far and the nights are quite short. We’ll hook onto the next low on Monday which will carry us past Kerguelen and into the middle of the Indian Ocean. It’s complicated with the ice exclusion zone as there’s a very narrow corridor between it and Kerguelen. It’ll be tricky as further North the sea bed rises making for breaking seas and we’ll have to focus on carefully negotiating our way through the islands and fishermen.
I’m taking each day as it comes. I don’t know what day it is but I do know the date. The time that counts on the boat relates to strategy, weather, manoeuvres, heading, sail area and food sacks, which are gradually diminishing.
We’ve had good conditions to go fast and the use of the foils is all about striking a balance. I handle that my way and others do it a different way. Yesterday, I was still using the foil, but that’s not the case now in under 15 knots. Once we’re at the leading edge of the front the average speeds will be high until it catches up with us. One thing for sure, the foils are here to stay.”

Jean Le Cam (Finistere Mer Vent): “I’ve been putting in stacks of manoeuvres of late! A successful manoeuvre is one where you don’t have any issues, which isn’t easy on your own, but I’m happy when it comes off. It’s always important to think the manoeuvre through first and check everything’s ready to go. Personally, I always go through it in my head first, but it’s hard to know what’s normal when you’re a human! People think you’re crazy doing 4 Vendee Globes but isn’t it better to circle the earth than go round in circles at home? Maybe us Frenchies are made differently. In any case, it’d be very dull if we were all the same! Another good thing about doing a Vendee Globe is that nobody can see you when you stuff up! Last night I was constantly making sail changes, the wind going from 35 to 15 knots in the blink of an eye. I finally settled with 2 reefs in the main and ORC, watched it for a while longer and then got some shut-eye. Unfortunately, I then slept through my alarm and woke up 5 hours later in very calm conditions… still under two reefs and ORC… the whole works! Later on, it was pretty breezy under gennaker and I hit the remote to bear away and nothing happened. I was on stand-by mode apparently so we broached right over till we were horizontal, me at the foot of the mast. That was bad enough, but then I did it twice! Still, if you’re going to make a silly mistake, better to do it twice just to be sure!”

Sébastien Josse (Edmond de Rothschild) “Our damaged occurred in a weather phase where it was really important not to fall behind. At the time, we were on the leading edge of a front and I knew it was important not to drag my heels so as to make the most of the breeze. Logically that’s exactly what Alex (Thomson) and Armel (Le Cléac’h) were able to do but I couldn’t follow suit… The four hours’ stoppage time to get the rudder system back up and running cost very dear because I haven’t had the same weather conditions as them since that time and I’m lagging behind the system. That said, you have to keep things in perspective when you see the retirements, especially given that we have a very long way to go. I’m preparing for the next opportunity to pounce. Right now, I’m going slowly as I don’t have much breeze. I’m waiting for the pressure to arrive but we’re not doing too bad. We have a light wind with more high pressure than the others, but it’s set to pick up in 24 hours and then we can sail quite fast and straight to Australia. This is the 12th year of Alex’s Vendee Globe campaign and he’s growing with every edition. We all know he’s a great sailor and now he’s proven that. Foils are not a big deal now as it’s windy and for the next 4 weeks it’s not a big issue whether you have foils or not, but it will be important for the climb up the Atlantic. My boat’s in great shape as we haven’t had much bad weather since the start so we’ve been quick, as shown my Alex’s records. It’s amazing how fast the boats are but we haven’t had the real Vendee Globe yet!”

Jordi Griso, team manager One Planet One Ocean (Didac Costa): “Didac is doing quite well, but there's a big problem onboard. He had a sail that broke two days ago. It was the J1. It was an old sail that was used for the Barcelona World Race in 2010 so it was quite old. We knew that it could happen but it happened too soon for us. We can't do anything about it now, it's impossible to repair. Didac has to manage without this sail now. Conditions are not very easy because he's going upwind with waves. He expects the wind to decrease a little bit and be more of a reach over the next two days, which will be better. He's expecting to negotiate the high pressure and finally reach the southerly conditions in maybe a week. He’s in good spirits. He's happy to be on the boat in the race after all the things that happened in Les Sables after the start. Didac is making nice speeds and heading south. The light winds have been a little frustrating but you can't do anything to change it so you just have to deal it. He's now trying to prepare the boat for the south, making a few repairs to the generator and the electronics. This is the main goal over the next five days. It helps his performance to have a boat 300 miles ahead [Seb Destremau] – it helps to show you that you can win back some miles with every position update. I think he needs to have different wind conditions to catch him, and that's not easy in the current scenario.”

Paul Meilhat (SMA): “The wind’s kicked back in and it’s nice to have Jérémie Beyou alongside. I’m managing to keep pace so I’m happy. Conditions are favouring the foils, so I’m just trying to maintain the same speed. The last 2 days I’ve done a lot of little repair jobs. The boat’s quite lively but I’m managing to eat and sleep well. We’re going to try to stay ahead of this low for as long as possible – 2 days I think. The nights are a lot shorter now and I’ve seen my first albatrosses. Tonight I’ll round the Cape of Good Hope, so it’s a symbolic stage for me!”

11-27-2016, 11:21 AM


Uncertain times… Whilst the leaders are just about done with the first third of the race, the main chasing pack is ensnared in the miasma of a very sticky zone of high pressure. However, those further up the fleet are making up ground on the leading group, pushed along by a meaty low as the top two await fresh breeze that is set to propel them along very quickly to Kerguelen from Monday. As a result, the matches within the match are more striking then ever…

TRACKER (http://alexthomsonracing.geovoile.com/vendeeglobe/2016/tracker/)

The weather scenario off the Crozet archipelago is as uncertain as that further to the right… And it is worse news still for those hoping to get back in contention when the battle is raging so intensely further up the track. Indeed, ‘the Jackal’ (Armel Le Cléac’h) never releases its prey and ‘the Boss’ (Alex Thomson) has no intention of letting go of the reins! On passing the longitude of the Cape of Good Hope, Hugo Boss had a hundred-mile lead on Banque Populaire VIII, but the light airs that have enveloped the entrance to the Indian Ocean have seen the two come right back together and there was even a brief spell where they traded positions.


Since that time, the two adversaries have been embroiled in a gybing battle in a bid to make the break again, but in the light airs reigning off the Prince Edward and Marion Islands, there are no big options on the cards. Instead, they will have to await the arrival of the lows rolling in from South America, a situation that should become clearer from Monday morning. As for the leader’s foil, in the absence of photos detailing the extent of the damage, we remain in a state of uncertainty. Indeed, either it is has broken off definitively level with the hull (which could result from a violent impact with a UFO), or it has broken off at the elbow of the curve where the tip joins the shaft (which could result in excessive stresses during the descent in the Roaring Forties…


A third of the way in

By around noon on Tuesday, the top two will have covered the first third of the course, which equates to 8,150 miles over the theoretical total of 24,450 miles in just 22 days. Four years earlier, Armel Le Cléac’h was positioned 2,000 miles further West! At that point in time, there were still five solo sailors within 130 miles of one another (Le Cléac’h, Gabart, Dick, Stamm, Thomson)… As play continued, it turned into a gradual process of elimination that culminated in a crazy duel at the end of the Indian Ocean.
The leading boats are capable of logging substantial days of over 480 miles (average speed of 20 knots) and from tomorrow we can expect the rest of the Indian Ocean to be especially quick for all the pacesetters. Indeed, from noon on Monday, the 25-30 knots NW’ly will catch up with the front of the fleet and carry them at speed towards Kerguelen.
At that point, the frontrunners will have to choose between a narrow corridor of around thirty miles between the south of the main island and the ice exclusion zone, where the seas will likely be very hard and chaotic, or a passage to the north of the continental shelf that stretches up to around fifty miles offshore. The decision is sure to be influenced by the arrival of a tropical low from Madagascar on Wednesday, to the NW of the archipelago. If the leaders manage to catch hold of its tail, they could be approaching Cape Leeuwin from next weekend…


Nocturnal rumblings

Though the night has shone no light of any sort on the third placed skipper, all alone some 320 miles astray of the frontrunners and with a lead of 450 miles over the chasing duo, Sébastien Josse (Edmond de Rothschild) will certainly have the advantage of reaching the new downwind conditions before the top pair, but in the meantime his two pursuers will also make up ground on him. They too have the massive psychological advantage of sailing in convoy, since Paul Meilhat (SMA) and Jérémie Beyou are just ten miles or so from each other. Naturally the skipper of Maître CoQ will soon have to carry out his two-hour penalty for accidentally breaking the seal on his propeller shaft however.


As for Yann Éliès (Quéguiner-Leucémie Espoir) who is set to round the Cape of Good Hope early afternoon this Sunday, he will likely be just half a day behind the duo ahead. The same cannot be said of the trio behind: Jean-Pierre Dick (StMichel-Virbac), Thomas Ruyant (Le Souffle du Nord pour le projet Imagine) and Jean Le Cam (Finistère Mer Vent), who are about to let the Argentinean low continue its journey without them as it plummets into the forbidden territory of the ice exclusion zone to the south. They will probably have to wait around until the middle of the week to hail a ride on a new disturbance in the Indian…

As for the main chasing pack, they will likely continue to flounder in the Saint Helena High for several more days yet and could well be one whole ocean astern when they pass below South Africa!

Passage of the longitude of the Cape of Good Hope
1-Alex Thomson : 17d 22h 58’
2-Armel Le Cléac’h : 18d 03h 30’ at 4h 32’ behind the leader
3-Sébastien Josse : 18d 12h 42’ at 9h 12’ behind the leader
4-Paul Meilhat : 20d 11h 54’ at 1d 23h 12’ behind the leader
5-Jérémie Beyou : 20d 12h 41’ at 2d 13h 43’ behind the leader

11-28-2016, 10:12 AM

Tracker (http://alexthomsonracing.geovoile.com/vendeeglobe/2016/tracker/)


MONDAY 28 NOVEMBER 2016, 07H04
Armel Le Cléac'h is slowly starting to pull away from Alex Thomson after snatching the Vendée Globe lead from him yesterday. In the last 24 hours the Banque Populaire VIII skipper has gone from 12 nautical miles adrift of Thomson's Hugo Boss to 31nm in front.

Breton sailor Le Cléac'h, runner up in the last two editions of the Vendée Globe, racked up 467 nm in since 0500 UTC yesterday while Thomson was only able to sail 423 miles. And since last night he has averaged between two and three knots faster than the British skipper. The reason for the difference in speed is that both boats are sailing on port tack, meaning Thomson is not able to use his damaged starboard foil. Le Cléac'h however so far remains unscathed, and at 0500 UTC was the quickest boat in the fleet at 22 knots, the 20-knot winds from the north providing prime foiling conditions. The leading pair are due to pass north of the Kerguelen Islands in around 48 hours, by which point Le Cléac'h could have built up an even bigger margin.


Seb Josse on Edmond de Rothschild was this morning travelling east at more than 21 knots but is now 500nm off the pace having paid the price for having to transition between two weather systems. “It took a long time and the transition wasn’t easy,” he said. “I ran into a wall this weekend, where there was no wind, but it got up again yesterday evening and now it’s looking better. Now I’m looking ahead to another transition. We should be able to make good progress for two or three days, which isn’t too bad.” While still in touch with the leaders, Josse will also be looking over his shoulder at the two skippers coming up behind him – Paul Meilhat and Jérémie Beyou. Despite having no weather information due to a broken satellite receiver on Maître Coq, fifth-placed Beyou travelled 470nm in the last 24 hours, the furthest in the fleet.

Meanwhile, almost 3,500nm behind the frontrunners, the main pack of skippers was still caught in the St Helena High in fickle breeze of just five knots. It has given hope to the most westerly skippers of Alan Roura, Enda O'Coineen and Alan Roura, that they might be able to catch and maybe overtake the pack by skirting south of the anticyclone. Conrad Colman, in 15th on Foresight Natural Energy, said he was dreaming of the stronger breeze waiting further down the track. “I’m focusing on getting to the South Atlantic lows,” he said. “I’m fed up with the highs and light airs.”

Tanguy de Lamotte officially retired from the Vendée Globe at 0050 UTC after passing the Nouch Sud buoy off Les Sables d'Olonne. His shore team is now onboard Initiatives Coeur and they will enter the race's home port at midday with the high tide. Prior to entering the famous entrance channel de Lamotte sailed a course that appears on the race tracker as a heart – a nod to the charity he supports which raises money for heart surgery for children.

Sébastien Josse (Edmond de Rothschild): “I’m sailing along averaging twenty knots with lots of birds circling me, petrels, albatrosses… it’s a rather gentle entry into the Indian Ocean. I took advantage to smarten the boat up a bit. Now I’m looking ahead to another transition. We should be able to make good progress for two or three days, which isn’t too bad.”
Conrad Colman (Foresight Natural Energy): “At the moment, I only have six knots of wind, so it’s going to a difficult day. The way out is 200 miles further south and the week has got off to a complicated start. I crossed paths with Kojiro (Shiraishi). We chatted and took photos. I have been talking a lot to Nandor Fa with whom I raced in the Barcelona World Race and we tease each other a bit. There is a nice little battle going on in our group with Fabrice Amedeo, Louis Burton etc… and it is highly motivating to race against each other. Now, I’m focusing on getting to the South Atlantic lows. It’s the Southern Ocean I have been dreaming of in the Vendée Globe, strong winds and heavy weather, where I feel at ease. I can’t wait to get down there…”

Enda O Coineen (Kilcullen Voyager Team Ireland) in his message last night: “It was like a sudden 'wake-up' call when the anticipated wind shift came in. From 9 knots of warm north westerly to a chilling south easterly at 20 knots. No more South Atlantic Residents Association 'gentle 'debates. Now was a call to 'Arms'. The banging and rattling of the carbon boat was once again like being tumbled around in a washing machine. Having negotiated through the permanent cold front coming across from Brazil, we have now headed west of the bunch and the hope is to get down the ice zone and Roaring Forties pronto in a calculated risk. Another 'wake up' was an unexpected landfall in the middle of the ocean. We almost ran into the Brazilian Atlantic Islands, "Ilas Martin Vaz" 600 miles off the coast. I passed within 2 miles of Ilas da Trindade, the largest at 620 meters high and 10 sq. k - majestic rising out of the skyline. During the afternoon, I opened the engine cover to discover the base of the engine almost flooded. The engine and electric pump did not work so it took me 40 minutes to get all the water out manually. Left unchecked within a few days we could have lost the engine and a valuable source to charge our batteries, complimenting the two hydrogenators. I think the water is draining in from the water ballast thanks - another projet to solve tomorrow.”

11-29-2016, 02:48 PM


While the first competitors are still sailing towards the Kerguelen Islands at high speeds, the competitors entering the Roaring Forties will meet tough conditions in the coming days.

The first two competitors are sailing close to each other as they approach the Kerguelen Islands. They are ahead of a cold front which gets closer slowly and brings them Northwesterly winds around 25 to 30 knots. Edmond de Rothschild is on the verge of the front. Sébastien Josse should get behind it during the day and is thus going to slow down a little at he approaches the islands.
The following 6 boats are sailing in the Roaring Forties in usual conditions for these latitudes with the low pressures and their associated fronts which follow one another, but without extremely tough conditions for the moment.


The rest of the fleet should enter the Forties by the end of the week. The atmosphere on the boat is going to change radically. The skippers will have to swap shorts and t-shirts for warm clothes and oilskins. It will be very damp with strong winds and reduced visibility. We indeed see a low pressure system approaching slowly from the West this morning. It is going to strengthen in 36 hours with a small secondary low building in the cold front. It will then move quickly eastwards. This low pressure system is going to pick up first the most westerly group ( Alan Roura, Enda O' Coineen and Pieter Heerema). It will then pass the group which is just sailing out of the St. Helena high pressure system. It looks like being a rough welcome to the Roaring Forties.


Title favourite Le Cléac'h, who has now led for two days, said he needed to be ready for heavy weather to strike his boat Banque Populaire VIII at any moment. “After the Kerguelen Islands there will be a tricky transition zone to deal with, but we’re particularly watching the gales forecast for late this week,” the French skipper said. “Things look very rough at the Australia waypoints and the ice zone with gales forecast. It’s a few days ahead, but we’re keeping an eye on that to see the strength of the wind and the sea state we can expect. There are lows coming down from Madagascar, which deepen fairly quickly.”
Le Cléac'h and Thomson should pass north of the Kerguelens, a remote archipelago of islands in the southern Indian Ocean, tomorrow morning if their speedos remain at today's 20 knots. “Once we get past the Kerguelens and out towards Australia I'd say we could see some quite big winds,” added Hugo Boss skipper Thomson, the only Brit in the race. “Hopefully I can just stay on Armel's heels and by Thursday I should be on starboard, which means I've got a foil in the water and I can sail the boat to its full potential.”


TRACKER (http://alexthomsonracing.geovoile.com/vendeeglobe/2016/tracker/)

For the large group of 10 boats still in the Atlantic battling to get south speeds were starting to rise as they began to pick up the beginnings of a depression that will finally fire them towards the Cape of Good Hope. Within the pack, split by just 200nm, only leader Louis Burton on Bureau Vallée appeared to be struggling this afternoon – at the 1400 UTC report he was making just 2.1 knots compared with the 12 to 15 knots of the boats around him. Having spent almost two weeks floundering in light airs the group are now facing a forecast of 35-knot winds in the next 12 to 24 hours as the depression takes hold.
Five hundred miles west, the trio of Alan Roura, Enda O'Coineen and Pieter Heerema were capitalising on picking up the stronger breeze first. “We are in the process of entering into the Southern Ocean,” said Swiss sailor Roura, at 23 years old the youngest in the fleet. “I have 23 knots of wind, and it should strengthen this afternoon. I’m gradually narrowing the gap to the others - we’ll see tomorrow how that works out. We’re going to have this sort of weather for 40 to 45 days, so we need to get used to it.”

Meanwhile Jean-Pierre Dick became the seventh skipper to cross into the Indian Ocean after passing the Cape of Good Hope at 0915 UTC, completing the passage from Les Sables d'Olonne in 22 days, 21 hours and 13 minutes. Amazingly, despite being almost five days short of Alex Thomson's record-breaking run of 17 days, 22 hours and 58 minutes, Dick's time is still two hours less than that set by Armel Le Cléac'h in the 2012 Vendée Globe. Thomas Ruyant in eighth and Jean Le Cam in ninth are due to pass the milestone later today.
Patrick Viau, technical director for Nandor Fa’s Spirit of Hungary team, will be the guest on tomorrow’s Vendee Globe Live. Tune in at vendeeglobe.org at 1200 UTC.

Alex Thomson (Hugo Boss): “The south is somewhere you have to be really careful – you don't want to get into trouble down here. I certainly approach it differently to the first phase in the Atlantic. Down here it's somewhere else. Around about this spot in 2007 when I was doing the Barcelona World Race with Andrew Cape I got the news that my father at home had had a heart attack. I'll never forget the feeling I had of being absolutely useless, so isolated, hardly being able to make a phone call even. I treat this place with caution. I don't really feel that alone to be honest, there's hundreds of thousands of people following us, I'm only 20 miles away from Armel, so I don't really feel lonely. I feel isolated but not lonely.”

Alan Roura (La Fabrique) “I’m keeping my choice of sails secret, as I know Enda is listening. He is out to get me! I must admit that I didn’t choose the easiest of boats as far as life inside is concerned. It’s really tiny. We spend a lot of time inside. I get the feeling that we are like tramps out at sea. No shower, no toilet. We have gone from temperatures, where we were sweating to the cold in just two days. It’s a bit of a shock in the boat."

Paul Meilhat (SMA): "I can still see Jérémie six miles away. It’s reassuring to have someone alongside. We talk on the VHF and that enables us to keep up a faster pace. If there’s a sail change needed, we try to do it before each other to grab a few extra miles. We are not really marking each other, but we do watch what the other one is doing. It’s good to have a pacemaker. When you’re alone, even with the computer, there are days when you are quicker and others, when you are not as fast. Today, the speed isn’t good at all. We have cross seas and the wind is very unstable going from 15 to 25 knots in the squalls.”

Bitchin Bow Dude
11-29-2016, 08:46 PM
Shits about to hit the fan!

11-30-2016, 09:19 AM


A deep low will be shaking up the pack for a number of days, while the leaders put the Kerguelens behind them and gradually climb back up towards Australia. The weather is worsening in this wide open space around the islands in the Southern Ocean.

Trindade, Martim Vaz, Tristan da Cunha, Gough, Marion, Prince-Édouard, Crozet, Kerguelen, Heard, and later there will be St-Paul and Amsterdam. These islands are one by one being left in the wake of the 25 Vendée Globe skippers still racing. By the weekend, the whole fleet will finally be in the Southern Ocean, but it is a long procession of boats going by these islands with practically 5000 miles between the leader, Armel Le Cléac’h (Banque Populaire VIII) just 50 miles NW of the Kerguelens along with Alex Thomson (Hugo Boss) fifteen miles or so leeward of him and Didac Costa (One Planet-One Ocean) 400 miles SE of Martim Vaz… The Catalan sailor who set off from Les Sables d’Olonne four days after the start is now right behind Sébastien Destremau (TechnoFirst-faceOcean) and should go by him this weekend when they enter the Southern Ocean.


TRACKER (http://alexthomsonracing.geovoile.com/vendeeglobe/2016/tracker/)

While the first ten boats were scattered by the St. Helena high, further back the pack seems to have been thrown back together, as between Louis Burton (Bureau Vallée) and Éric Bellion (Commeunseulhomme) there are just 200 miles, or in other words half a day’s sailing. At least if there is a strong wind, which is what is set to happen. This should start to see them stretch out again depending on how much Neptune throws at them. A 35-40 NW’ly is forecast for this afternoon with the American, Rich Wilson (Great America IV) the first to be affected.

This forecast means that war is about to begin in the Atlantic with fifty-knot squalls, mountainous seas and darkening skies. A nasty cold front is moving in from the west at around fifteen knots, which means that the pack will gradually be affected until they enter the Indian Ocean. They must avoid getting engulfed by this system and try to stay on its northern edge between 35° and 37°S, as further down, there will be 55-knot winds off Tristan da Cunha.

Once this low has sunk into the depths of the Antarctic, a second even livelier low pressure system will take over below the Cape of Good Hope in the middle of the week. And then a third, which looks like being slightly quieter, but which could lead to the seas being whipped up in every direction around Marion and Prince-Edward Islands. NW’ly waves with a SW’ly swell in the warm Agulhas current coming down from Mozambique with the Ice Wall limiting their route to 43°S… In short, the men and their boats will be experiencing extremely tough conditions in these icy, strong SW’ly winds…


Indian summer
For those in the Indian Ocean (plus Kito de Pavant, who is due to enter on Thursday evening), the situation is very different four days in front, as the ocean has been half asleep. The Mascarene High is gradually building at 30°S to the north of the Kerguelens after a tropical low from Madagascar has gone by. Fast moving, it is getting ahead of the two frontrunners close to the islands, who won’t be able to take advantage of it. After a welcome front with 20-25 knot NW’ly winds, moderate westerlies should propel the leaders along the edge of the Antarctic Exclusion Zone. They have no real choice but to follow this border back up to 46°S, towards Cape Leeuwin, which they should have passed by the end of the weekend.

Sébastien Josse will have to remain patient until tonight for a powerful NW’ly air stream to replace the moderate westerly flow between Crozet and the Kerguelens. Once again, the skipper of Edmond de Rothschild finds himself in a transition zone, which means he is set to lose another hundred miles from the frontrunners today. However, he has managed to keep the two chasing boats in check. There are just eight miles between Jérémie Beyou’s foiler (Maître CoQ) and the boat that won the last edition of the Vendée Globe, Paul Meilhat’s SMA.

The big loser in all this is Yann Éliès (Quéguiner-Leucémie Espoir), who gave up a hundred or so miles to those ahead and more than 300 to the duelling boats out in front. Finally the gang of three, which entered the Indian yesterday, has seen the low, which took them to the Cape of Good Hope, get away from them. Jean Le Cam (Finistère Mer Vent), Thomas Ruyant (Le Souffle du Nord pour le projet Imagine) and Jean-Pierre Dick (StMichel-Virbac) are sailing in a SW’ly air stream, which is weakening ahead of the low pressure system moving across from South America to push the pack forward…

Times to the Cape of Good Hope

1-Alex Thomson : 17d 22h 58’
2-Armel Le Cléac’h : 18d 03h 30’ - 4h 32’ later
3-Sébastien Josse: 18d 12h 42’ - 13h 44’ after Thomson
4-Paul Meilhat: 20d 11h 54’ - 2d 12h56’ after Thomson
5-Jérémie Beyou: 20d 12h 41’ – 2d 13h 43’ after Thomson
6-Yann Eliès: 21d 03h 18’ - 3d 04h 20’ after Thomson
7-Jean Pierre Dick: 22d 21h 13’ – 4d 22h 15’ after Thomson
8-Thomas Ruyant: 23d 06h 25’ – 5d 07h 27’ after Thomson
9-Jean Le Cam: 23d 10h 21’ – 5d 11h 23’ after Thomson
Dominic Bourgeois/M&M

Kito de Pavant (Bastide Otio): Yesterday I was treated to a quiet day. Sunshine, light winds, calmer seas and a deck that was more or less dry. It’s true that it’s not that warm for late November (= late May back home). To be honest, I even had to put the heater back on. I managed to get some rest. Had a good nap. Slept a bit too long this morning as I found it hard to open my eyes... I did have plenty of manoeuvres to do because of the light conditions. Getting up a few extra square metres, but then had to bring them down again, when the wind got back up. Gybed several times to get back on track... This morning, it’s dull, dull, dull. And I can’t see any birds in my wake.”

Fabrice Amadeo (Newrest Matmut): “I'm south west of the centre of the high pressure which I'm very happy about because it was a big challenge over the last two days to get around this and get more wind. Finally we're on the road to the Cape of Good Hope. We're waiting for the first low pressure from the south. The wind will increase gradually in the next 24 hours. I'll have to change my sails tonight from the big gennaker to the small one and perhaps put two reefs in the mainsail. Tomorrow I'll have more wind as the low pressure arrives, perhaps 40 knots. There'll be difficult moment tomorrow when the front arrives. The music I listen to depends on the conditions in that moment – when it's calm I like to hear Tracy Chapman or the Eagles, when I'm in competition mode I like Eminem or other rap music, and for other conditions I like the Rolling Stones and pop music.”


For a nice insightful piece on the Kerguelen Islands Click HERE (http://www.vendeeglobe.org/en/news/16613/the-kerguelen-islands)

11-30-2016, 11:28 AM



The battle for the top spot in the Vendée Globe showed no sign of letting up today as the frontrunners prepare to celebrate one week in the Southern Ocean. Three days after snatching the lead from arch rival Alex Thomson, French skipper Armel Le Cléac'h was today clinging to first place by just twelve miles as the pair forge a path east at 48 degrees south.

Since passing the Cape of Good Hope on the morning of November 24 the leading duo have been exchanging blows, gaining and losing miles on a daily basis. Le Cléac'h initially overtook Thomson, whose boat Hugo Boss is lacking a starboard foil, and pulled out a lead of around 30 miles. But since then Thomson, the only Brit in the solo round the world race, has been able to get within throwing distance of Le Cléac'h because the conditions north of the Kerguelen Islands, a remote archipelago deep in the southern Indian Ocean, are not conducive to foiling.


After more than 9,000 nautical miles of racing the evidence seems to point to Le Cléac'h's Banque Populaire VIII having the edge in foiling conditions but Hugo Boss being the quicker boat off the foils. Indeed, in the 24 hours leading up to the 1400 UTC position report Hugo Boss was the quickest boat in the fleet, averaging 20.8 knots compared to Banque Populaire's 20.4. “We’ve been in the Southern Ocean now for a week, switching between fronts and low-pressure areas,” said Le Cléac'h, runner up in the past two editions of the Vendée Globe. “We’re currently ahead of a front but the wind will ease off this evening. We’ll have to wait and see whether we’re still ahead of the record pace at Cape Horn - it’s all down to the weather. There’s a fight on with Alex, which means the pressure is on us to keep up the pace. But we mustn’t do just any old thing either and it’s not a matter of being faster than him all the time. I’m trying to do it at my own pace and with my own way of sailing. Alex is on the attack – but taking into account the sea state and the angle from the wind, we’re not necessarily in foiling mode. A few days ago when that was the case I was a bit faster than him. We’ll see what happens in the next few days.”

Vendée Globe fleet was rejoicing in rising speeds as they began to feel the effects of a South Atlantic depression. French skipper Fabrice Amedeo, in 14th place on Newrest Matmut, reported winds of 20 knots potentially building to 40 knots as the low pressure system strengthens. “It was a big challenge over the last two days to get round this high pressure and get more wind,” Amedeo said. “Finally we're on the road to the Cape of Good Hope. The wind will increase gradually in the next 24 hours. Tomorrow I'll have more wind as the low pressure arrives, perhaps 40 knots.”

Seventy miles to the west 17th placed Hungarian skipper Nandor Fa was in equally good spirits. “I feel good now we're moving out of the high pressure system, and we're on the highway, but we're just on the edge at the moment,” he said. “The wind is getting stronger and I will get faster as I move a bit further south. The boat likes these conditions, so I'm happy.”
French solo sailor Nicolas Lunven will be the guest on tomorrow’s Vendee Globe Live. Tune in at vendeeglobe.org at 1200 UTC.


Alex Thomson (Hugo Boss): “I think it's very nice that Armel is still in touch with me. Obviously if I had a foil he probably wouldn't be. It's good to have him there as a pacemaker, someone to be able to measure yourself against. We've got similar weather, we're going similar speeds, we've got similar software, and the routing we're doing is telling us similar things, but it is interesting cos it's almost like having someone to check your decisions with. If he's going the way I'm going I can feel confident that we're all going the right way. And I guess if he goes somewhere different I get the opportunity to look at where he's going and figure it out. So I think it makes us both faster – it's literally like having a pace maker. As well as that there's the safety, obviously.”


Kito de Pavant (Bastide Otio): Yesterday I was treated to a quiet day. Sunshine, light winds, calmer seas and a deck that was more or less dry. It’s true that it’s not that warm for late November (= late May back home). To be honest, I even had to put the heater back on. I managed to get some rest. Had a good nap. Slept a bit too long this morning as I found it hard to open my eyes... I did have plenty of manoeuvres to do because of the light conditions. Getting up a few extra square metres, but then had to bring them down again, when the wind got back up. Gybed several times to get back on track... This morning, it’s dull, dull, dull. And I can’t see any birds in my wake.”


Nandor Fa (Spirit of Hungary): “I would say things are quite ok but it was a very frightening night, some frightening moments steering my boat, and I'm a little bit tired. I had a digital problem with my computer. I lost the VMG data and I was fighting with it the whole night without sleeping. It was quite tiring for me. There are slight problems still but the boat is alright. I'm a little bit upset because yesterday happened a bit differently to what I was expecting. The wind came from a direction that was not promised by the forecast so that's why I lost quite a lot of miles. Now I'm moving again and that makes me happy.”

12-01-2016, 09:19 AM


British sailor Alex Thomson is once again at the front of the Vendée Globe fleet after successfully hunting down arch rival Armel Le Cléac'h in the Southern Ocean. Four days after French sailor Le Cléac'h moved into pole position in the solo non-stop round the world race, Thomson reclaimed control once more as the epic duel between the two skippers continued. The pair were this afternoon neck and neck as they rocketed east, less than a mile splitting them from the next waypoint and with just seven miles of lateral separation.


TRACKER (http://alexthomsonracing.geovoile.com/vendeeglobe/2016/tracker/)


Hugo Boss skipper Thomson, the only British sailor in the race, had been reeling in Le Cléac'h's Banque Populaire VIII since the French skipper passed him on November 27. Le Cléac'h initially drew out a narrow lead of around 30 miles but was unable to fully capitalise because the weather conditions were not right for foiling. Despite boasting a broken starboard foil, lost in a collision with a floating object some 12 days ago, Hugo Boss has been the quicker of the two boats over the past few days.


The record-breaking pace both boats have been exhibiting since the race start in Les Sables d'Olonne, France, on November 6, seems set to continue thanks to favourable weather conditions in the Southern Ocean. The story couldn't be more different for all but a few of the 16 skippers still in the South Atlantic. After enduring almost two weeks of painfully light winds, they were today being tested by breeze of up to 35 knots from a depression. “We’ve gone from one extreme to the other in a short space of time,” said an exasperated Stéphane Le Diraison, this afternoon in 17th place with winds of up to 30 knots and building. “Yesterday we were in the high. I’m now ahead of the front and things are starting to get rough. The wind is strengthening, the seas are building and the sky is clouding over. I’m finding it hard to sleep, because the boat is so fast and there is an incredible amount of noise. IMOCAs are boats that are noisy, shake you up and sound as if they are cracking.”


American Rich Wilson, around 130 miles to the north west in 20th place on Great American IV, was in a similar situation. “It's noisy, the boat's vibrating all the time, and then there's a motion to it which is this sort of jittery, erratic movement like a freight train going down hill out of control,” said Wilson, who at 66 is the oldest skipper in the fleet. “You've got to hold on all the time, and how you sustain that stress especially at night in the dark is just really hard. It's not comfortable physically or mentally – at least for me it isn't.”
Morgan Lagravière, who was forced to retire from the Vendée Globe on November 24 due to rudder to his yacht Safran, has left Cape Town bound for France. Vincent Riou, who also retired to Cape Town, is tipped to leave later this week after fixing the keel bearings on his yacht PRB.
Volvo Ocean Race CEO Mark Turner and Chinese solo sailor Xu Jingkun will be the guests on tomorrow’s Vendee Globe Live. Tune in at vendeeglobe.org/en/ at 1200 UTC.



Pieter Heerema (No Way Back): “It was a rough night and right now it's rough. I'm in the middle of a front so there's a lot that's happening. I'm getting a big squall coming over right now. I have winds of around 35-38 knots and it's changed direction so the waves are coming from all angles. It's very uneasy going, with all the banging, smashing and water coming over the deck. It's very humid outside but also inside the boat. It's not the kind of weather you'd prefer to see. 35 knots is too much – this boat is much faster and happier when the wind is 25 knots. We will have to pass this – there will be more over the coming few days – and then I hope in a few days we will be in a more stable wind environment. With these waves I just don't want to go full speed because there's still a long way to go and my goal is to arrive back in Les Sables with the boat and myself in one piece. Moving around the boat is difficult, eating is difficult, but we're managing…”


By this weekend, the Forties will be living up to their reputation. A series of deep, fast-moving low-pressure areas will be sweeping across the South Atlantic and Indian Oceans from Tristan da Cunha to the island of St-Paul. While they await this onslaught, the pack can smile again keeping up speeds befitting IMOCA monohulls, thanks to the powerful air stream associated with an Argentinean low.

Between Buenos Aires and Cape Town, in No Man’s Land, there are some big lumps of ice right up to Gough and Inaccessible Island. Conditions have worsened, meaning that some have been left behind, like the young Swiss sailor, Alan Roura (La Fabrique) and Irishman, Enda O’Coineen (Kilcullen Voyager-Team Ireland), who were the first to be engulfed by the front moving in from South America. In the middle of the night, they had to gybe, when the wind suddenly swung around to the west after experiencing some nasty 45-knots squalls. 500 miles ahead of them, it was smooth sailing from sunset with a 20-25 knot NW’ly, which gradually strengthened to reach 30-35 knots at daybreak this morning.

This area of low pressure is propelling the pack towards the Cape of Good Hope, but at the speed it is moving, it will be engulfing the sailors one by one on their way to the Indian Ocean. No one will get away from it, not even Kito de Pavant (Bastide Otio), who is approaching the longitude of Cape Town, which Safran left yesterday evening after her broken rudder was replaced. While the wind is a welcome relief for the ten skippers, who got held up in the sticky patches associated with the St. Helena high, it requires due care and attention. The wind is likely to be violent, when the front arrives, and if they make the wise choice to stay above 40°S, they should avoid the worst of the storm.
Behind this low, another one is waiting in the wings. This second one is deeper, faster and further south. This is the one that is likely to shake up the situation in the Southern Ocean. The skippers are going to have to make the most of the short period of respite between the two systems to sort everything out on board and put on some extra layers of clothing.


A short break
Off the Kerguelens, the view is probably also grey and dull, but things are not looking as bad. Armel Le Cléac’h (Banque Populaire VIII) and Alex Thomson (Hugo Boss) are able to catch their breath after three weeks of hard work. While yesterday the 20-knot NW’ly wind enabled them to keep up high average speeds, things are changing this morning with the wind backing SW’ly and down to around twelve knots. A welcome break, even if they have to gybe to skirt the Antarctic Exclusion Zone at 50°S, before a front arrives to shake things up for them, as they head towards Cape Leeuwin, which they are due to pass this weekend.

On the other hand, the boats chasing them, are not at all in this ideal situation. Sébastien Josse (Edmond de Rothschild) is almost certainly going to be forced to go a long way north of the Kerguelens to avoid the continental shelf and prepare for a fast moving front, which should overtake him tonight. As for Beyou and Meilhat, they are in a complicated situation, as a tropical low is coming down from Madagascar to block their route just after the Kerguelens. If they head towards the SE, the danger is that they may well face some violent winds head on. The timing is tight and the skippers are going to have to make up their mind before the weekend, particularly as Maître CoQ is handicapped by her gennaker, which cannot be brought down, as the hook has jammed at the top. Jérémie Beyou really needs to find a solution to resolve this problem, as in the forty knot winds that are forecast, it is highly likely that the sail will unfurl and the sailor will then find himself in great difficulty.

Lots of wind for everyone
400 miles further back, Yann Eliès (Quéguiner-Leucémie Espoir) is not in that good a situation either, as he has to work out how this system is advancing. As it hits the cold waters in the Forties, the winds are likely to become extremely violent between the Kerguelens and Australia. The choice is going to be that much harder as before that, a high is building to the north of the French islands.
In any case, while the two frontrunners will get away from the angry weather during the weekend as they approach Australia, that is not going to be the case for the rest of the fleet, which is now all in the Southern Ocean, with violent lows sweeping across from Tristan da Cunha to St-Paul Island. Even the two tail-enders, Didac Costa (One Planet-One Ocean) and Sébastien Destremau (TechnoFirst-faceOcean) will find themselves exposed to these conditions by Saturday.

Dominic Bourgeois/M&M


Rich Wilson (Great American IV): “We're going pretty fast here, but boats around us are going faster. I think the light winds part coming up through that high was just random – you couldn't really tell much from the grib files. They were 50 or 70 degrees off in terms of wind direction, but then weather forecasting is a really hard thing to do. I think that part was really frustrating but here we have the breeze now so it's about what you do with it, how strong are your nerves. One of the things I'm always amazed by, particularly by the sailors in the front of the pack, is how they can sustain these incredibly high average speeds. You've got to hold on all the time, and how you sustain that stress especially at night in the dark is just really hard. I have great admiration for sailors who are able to do that. It's not comfortable physically or mentally – at least for me it isn't.”
Paul Meilhat (SMA): “What a great surprise this morning, when I opened my bag of food. We’re into December, the month of advent calendars. There was a surprise from family and friends waiting for me with number one on it. I can’t wait to see what there is tomorrow morning. I’ve got a 25-knot NW’ly win and am continuing to surf along the front with Maître Coq at high speed. I finished the last of my fresh fruit today. After that it’s going to be vitamin tablets. It’s looking pretty complicated for the days ahead. We’re going to have to avoid getting trapped by the low and not take too many risks.”

12-02-2016, 10:18 AM


02 DECEMBER 2016, 10H36
A tropical low passing over the Kerguelens this weekend will once again be creating a major separation between the leaders and the chasing boats. This powerful weather system will be moving at thirty knots bringing warm air and colliding with the icy Antarctic breezes.

WINDYTV VENDEE TRACKER (https://gis.ee/vg/)

Hellish conditions are forecast east of the Kerguelens late this weekend and the entry into the Indian Ocean will be tough too. After a relatively quiet period between Brazil and St-Paul Island, conditions, which have tended to favour the two frontrunners on their way towards Cape Leeuwin, have returned to their usual pattern with a series of low pressure areas coming out of Argentina, to sweep across the Atlantic and out of Mozambique to dive down across the Indian Ocean.


The former are huge, deep areas, but moving at moderate speed (around 20 knots) with the main action centred around 50°S, while the latter are smaller, extremely powerful systems going diagonally across the race course between 30°S and 55°S bumping into the Mascarene High, usually located between Madagascar and Western Australia. They developed in the tropical heat, so the air mass is going from 25°C on the eastern edge as they develop to 10°C less than two days later. This thermal shock creates a considerable amount of energy over the sea which is at 3°C in the Furious Fifties, leading to a column of rising damp air with violent cold fronts. It’s like pouring boiling water over an ice cube…

The skippers are carefully watching how these systems develop in the Indian Ocean. For the two frontrunners, the risk is behind them. Alex Thomson and Armel Le Cléac’h (who has seen the gap widen with the black monohull on the starboard tack using her undamaged foil, are moving quietly towards Australia propelled along by the tail of a low pressure system, which should accompany them to Cape Leeuwin, even if they will probably have to carry out a lot of gybes off the SW tip of Australia.




Stir it up in the Kerguelens

For Sébastien Josse, in third place, 600 miles back, the configuration has been favourable for 24 hours after losing a hundred miles or so on Wednesday, as he made up for these losses during the night. Taking advantage of a front, he passed a long way north of the Kerguelens without encountering too many difficulties around the continental shelf as he was averaging more than 21 knots. The skipper of Edmond de Rothschild will also get ahead of this tropical low and is likely to gain back some ground from those ahead of him. As for Jérémie Beyou and Paul Meilhat, they are going to have to work hard to get to the eastern side of the low, as otherwise they will encounter 35-40 knot easterly headwinds in nasty seas… The problem is that ahead of this system, there is an area of calms being pushed along. So they have to avoid getting stuck there to avoid getting hit by the storm that follows.


Yann Eliès is the only skipper to find himself exposed to this tropical low. 700 miles from the Kerguelens, he is heading downwind north-eastwards on the edge of the calms in front of the storm. He will probably try to pass it getting away from the Antarctic Exclusion Zone to let the system go by and then hang onto its western edge with its powerful SW’ly winds. He should be able to cope with these winds, but the sea state may slow down his progress eastwards tomorrow evening…

TRACKER (http://alexthomsonracing.geovoile.com/vendeeglobe/2016/tracker/)

As for the other four in the Indian Ocean, they will be spared by this phenomenon, but Jean-Pierre Dick, Jean Le Cam and Thomas Ruyant will be watching their mirror, as the Argentinean low, which fuelled the pack last night will be reaching them tonight with a strong NW’ly air stream, which will force them once again to sail along the limit of the exclusion zone towards the Kerguelens.
Those in the Atlantic do not have the same problem… Now that the cold front has affected them one by one, they have to find their way towards the Cape of Good Hope, which is not that easy in the light westerlies associated with a transition, before a new Argentinean low moves in. This should affect them at sunset; firstly Rich Wilson, Éric Bellion and Romain Attanasio before concerning the pack, where six skippers are battling it out within a hundred miles of each other…

There will be plenty of manoeuvres to carry out in the coming hours in this 10-knot westerly. The wind is set to strengthen as it veers to the NW and will reach 25-30 knots or more as the new front moves in… This is fast moving and once again, they are going to have to deal with a sudden wind shift under threatening clouds and winds in excess of 45 knots, before the situation stabilizes and they enter the Indian Ocean. Now, the pack and those chasing them (Pieter Heerema 350 miles back, Alan Roura and Enda O’Coineen 450 miles further west) will not have much time for resting, as a series of lows pass over them two days apart from each other over the coming week.

This deep low from the Tropics, which is creating the problem in the race course in the Indian Ocean should lead to us seeing a fleet separated out with the two leaders out in front, followed by one isolated skipper and then another pair. But 1500 miles back from the leading pair, Yann Eliès is likely to be the most affected by this weather depending on his options off the Kerguelens.
Dominic Bourgeois/M&M

12-03-2016, 08:02 AM

TRACKER (http://alexthomsonracing.geovoile.com/vendeeglobe/2016/tracker/)


The lead has changed again between the two frontrunners in the eighth Vendée Globe. Faster in the 0400 rankings sailing at 18 knots, while Alex Thomson was averaging 16 knots, Armel Le Cléac’h carried out fewer gybes with the result that Banque Populaire VIII has regained the lead This is the fifth change in leader since 26th November between the two skippers.

Banque Populaire VIII has an advantage of 4.5 miles over Hugo Boss in the 1100 UTC rankings. The wind is set to strengthen and the two IMOCAs will be ahead of a front in a stronger NW’ly air stream (25-30 knots), meaning they will be on the port tack, which is less favourable for the British sailor since he damaged his starboard foil. The duel is set to continue as they make their way towards the longitude of Cape Leeuwin, which they are expected to cross tomorrow evening.

Armel Le Cléac’h (Banque Populaire VIII): “We have between 15 and 20 knots if wind from the NW. It’s not as cold as in the Kerguelens, even if it’s still pretty cold. It’s nice to have two or three degrees more. I must have done 7 or 8 gybes and it was quite tough. We’re going along the edge of the exclusion zone and the wind keeps changing direction.
It’s my son’s birthday today. He is six and I wanted to give him a nice present. I told him I would be in the lead for his birthday, so I had to put my foot down to catch up. I spoke to my son and he was getting ready for a party this afternoon. It was the same four years ago. He was two then and I was off the Cape of Good Hope. This time I’m closer to Cape Leeuwin, which we should reach on Monday morning.

There are some similarities with the duel from 4 years ago, as we keep changing over at the front, but we don’t have many weather options and the corridor is fairly narrow between the Ice Zone and the front to the north. We saw each other jus now. Four years ago, we saw each other too, but with François it was later in the Pacific, even if we were never far apart. We’ve been sailing for a month, so it’s great to be at the front.”

12-03-2016, 09:45 PM

Kojiro Shiraishi informed everyone at 0230 UTC today (Sunday) that his mast had broken above the attachment for the small jib.The Japanese sailor is not in danger and is busy trying to set up a jury rig. Kojiro is fine and in contact with his shore team to judge the extent of the damage and to determine whether it is possible to continue the race. He is safely heading for Cape Town.

Kojiro Shiraishi informed us late yesterday that the wind had increased a notch (35-40 knots) and that he had switched to J-3 (small jib) with three reefs in the mainsail. In the middle of the night the spar broke above the second layer of spreaders. The skipper is fine: he is remaining in contact with his shore team to judge the extent of the damage and identify whether it is possible to continue the race aboard Spirit of Yukoh.

The powerful winds which are blowing across practically the whole of the Southern Ocean has led to several incidents with damage reported. Jérémie Beyou (Maître CoQ) had to lower his mainsail in the night following a problem with his mainsail traveller car: he is heading towards the NE towards Amsterdam Island in the middle of the Indian Ocean to see what can be done in calmer conditions. Arnaud Boissières (Le Mie Câline) also had the same problem during the night 350 miles SW of South Africa in winds that were not that exceptional (25-30 knots) but with heavy seas. Finally in Cape Town, Vincent Riou (PRB) set off again in the middle of the morning on Saturday from South Africa with part of his shore team to head for Brittany

Arnaud Boissières (La Mie Câline): “I’m getting ready to carry out repairs. In the night my mainsail car broke away from the mast. I am waiting for the wind and especially the sea to calm down to do something about it. The sun is coming up here and I need to get the sail down to change the car… The wind has been very irregular since yesterday evening when the front went over: There isn’t that much wind (25 knots), but the seas are very nasty. I have to find the time today. I’m going to have to slow down… I have a spare part (a brand new car) but I hope the mast track hasn’t been damaged. In fact, I carried out three gybes yesterday and the last one was a little more violent, but I didn’t hear any noise. It was when I looked at the mainsail with two reefs in and the small jib that I noticed that there was a problem. I was surprised by the sea state, as it is very heavy and cross.”

12-04-2016, 04:08 PM

At 1900 UTC yesterday evening, Jérémie Beyou alerted everyone that there had been damage on Maître CoQ. While sailing in thirty knots of wind, the mainsail suddenly came down. Jérémie decided to head further north to get away from the low-pressure system and analyse the situation. Since then, the skipper of Maître CoQ has managed to replace his damaged mainsail hook with a spare part. He has hoisted his mainsail, part of which was torn and will continue his repairs when he finds the strength to do that. Still in fifth place in the 1700 UTC rankings and now more than 250 miles behind Paul Meilhat (4th on SMA), Jérémie Beyou, who has experienced a number of problems since the start of the Vendée Globe, is now heading south at an average speed of thirteen knots. The sailor from Morlaix Bay is clearly determined...


One month since Vendée Globe solo round the world race started in Les Sables d’Olonne on Sunday 6th November the majority of the 24 boat fleet spans some 4000 miles. As leaders Armel Le Cléac’h and Briton Alex Thomson – 39 miles apart this afternoon – close towards the longitude of Cape Leeuwin 220 miles away from them on the south west corner of Australia, a posse of nine skippers are approaching or have just passed the line of the Cape of Good Hope. The southern oceans are exacting a toll.

The Vendée Globe dream of popular Japanese skipper Kojiro Shiraishi is over for this edition. After the top third of the mast of his Spirit of Yukoh fractured around 0230hrs early this morning, breaking just above the second spreaders, Shiraishi made the tough decision to abandon. He is the fifth skipper of the 29 solo sailors who started in Les Sables d’Olonne to abandon the course because of damage.


TRACKER (http://alexthomsonracing.geovoile.com/vendeeglobe/2016/tracker/)

Ironically Shiraishi appeared to have just weathered the worst weather of his race. During Saturday he had reported safe passage through 40-50kts winds with six metre waves. But when the mast top snapped he reported that the wind had dropped back to just 20 or so knots. He was inside the boat and heard a loud crack. He is heading to Cape Town which was about 305 miles to his NNW when the breakage happened. The first skipper from Asia to compete in the Vendée Globe, competing in memory of his late friend and mentor Yukoh Tada, received a large number of messages of solidarity from fellow skippers. “Your Spirit and the Spirit of Yukoh will carry on with me. I will keep taking it for you. My thoughts are with you and you are with me in spirit. Yukoh is with me and I think a lot about you. Keep the spirit up,” offered Hungarian skipper Nandor Fa from Spirit of Hungary. He was only 17 miles from Spirit of Yukoh and had been racing closely with Shiraishi. The two skippers were firm and long time friends after meeting in 1994-1995 during the Around Alone race, and Fa knew Yukoh from competing in the preceding race.



But damage caused in the strong winds and seas generated by three different low pressure systems has been a recurring theme on this fifth Sunday of racing. Failure of the halyard hook on the mainsail mast track has affected both Jérémie Beyou on Maître CoQ in seventh place and also Arnaud Boissières on La Mie Câline 2200 miles further back in 14th place. Beyou had sailed north east without his mainsail towards the more sheltered waters of Amsterdam Island and had slowed to three knots late this afternoon.Arnaud Boissières was making 13kts and appeared to have solved most of his problems.
Fa, who became the 12th skipper to pass the longitude of the Cape of Good Hope at 1219hrs TU this afternoon, confirmed he had to cut his personal favourite A7 gennaker free after it split in half in a big gust yesterday. “After my autopilot turned off by itself for the second time, my boat gybed with the mainsail and the A7 gennaker. I stopped the boat to repair the autopilot. The cable was so corroded I couldn’t even unplug, I had to cut it. I cleaned the cables, and reconnected them. Everything went all right until the morning. I just went outside when the wind increased. An enormous wave and a big gust came at the same time. Then I heard a loud crack and the A7 sail was torn in half with one quick motion. I had no other choice, I had to cut it off and let it go. Unfortunately it took one of the halyards too, I couldn’t save it.”



His former co-skipper Conrad Colman (Foresight Natural Energy) has also been ‘in the wars’, knocked flat. “An electric bypass destroyed one of the solar charge controllers and it damaged the electric cables next to it. It stopped the electronics and thus the pilot, and I lost control of the boat as I wasn't at the helm. By the time I got there the boat was on its side and the gennaker in the water. It took me a lot of time to regain control and then to try to save the sail.”


Thomas Ruyant, the French Vendée Globe rookie in ninth place, reported that he had been to hell and back replacing broken battens in his mainsail on Le Souffle du Nord pour le projet Imagine and sounded desperately tired when he spoke to Vendée Globe LIVE. And since breaking into the Indian Ocean for the first time, Louis Burton has not had to look far for problems on his Bureau Vallée. “Since the Cape of Good Hope, I have had a series of problems,” Burton reported, “There was a problem with the autopilot. I got knocked down three times. So as a result, I am very tired. I don’t know if it’s a problem with the compass or wind instruments at the top of the mast. The autopilot pushed the helm over several times during the night, but I don’t know why. With all the equipment stacked, when the boat comes right around, it’s on the wrong side. I have a tear in the J3 and a little one in the J2. Some diesel got spilled inside too.”

Even Alex Thomson cannot quite believe the pace at which the race is unfolding at the front of the fleet. The Hugo Boss skipper says he is trying as much as possible to sail his own race and not concern himself about periods of relative strengths and weaknesses compared to leader Le Cléac’h. On Vendée Globe live today Thomson said: “It is unbelievable that in five days or something like that we will be half way through the race. That seems incredible. It has been amazingly fast. I am pleased about that. I am pretty tired. It has been very gusty, very windy. It is damp inside the boat and really not great living conditions. Apart from that I am well fed. But I am looking forwards to the next front which will bring northerlies, the nice stable warmer air and I will be able to rest. It is virtually impossible for me to pace myself with Armel because on the one side I am significantly slower than him and so I am trying not to. I am trying to sail my own game and not worry too much about Armel. He has got different speeds to me and is likely to go different ways and so I am trying to play my own game. I think if I try to pace him I will probably push the boat too hard.”


Alex Thomson (GBR) Hugo Boss: “It has been a difficult night, very windy, not really good for going fast because of the sea conditions. So I had to throttle back a fair bit, to try and keep calm and concentrate on not breaking anything. It is unbelievable that in five days or something like that we will be half way through the race. That seems incredible. It has been amazingly fast. On my first Vendée Globe I was only south of Africa after 30 days. This time after thirty days I might be south of New Zealand. It is incredible.”

Enda O'Coineen (Kilcullen Voyager Team Ireland): “I am especially saddened to learn of the withdrawal of Kojiro from the race and, with deep upset from a personal perspective. We were first introduced in an Irish pub in Tokyo eight years ago and built a friendship. We had kept in contact and our friendship deepened through the build-up to the Vendee. Also the Japanese Team has a special Irish Interest in that in the background it was superbly managed by Tony O'Connor. It was through Tony's language and business skills that the projet became possible and the team qualified. As not being a French team or European, it was an added achievement in getting to the start line for Kojiro. And, such is the nature of this weird and wonderful event, encompassing every aspect of humanity, we never know what’s going to happen next as skippers live on the edge 24 hours a day and, as Winston Churchill famously said "If you're living on the edge you're taking up too much space". At least there is some consolidation for Kojiro in that it’s Summer in Capetown and they have good golf since he is a passionate golfer.”

Didac Costa (One Planet One Ocean): “Sunday began with a fright. The wind had come back early in the morning and I was making a good progress again, with a good course at 10 knots of speed. I was at the nav desk and I suddenly heard a bang. I went out quickly and saw what appeared to be a rather large plastic structure in the wake of the boat. The remains of ropes were left wrapped around the rudder and hydro-generator. I have checked the keel and there is no damage; and it seems that there is nothing serious in the hull, although it is not easy to see. These last few days have been quite frustrating in terms of wind. I have been almost stopped with a strong SW ground swell that gives the measure of the strength of the storms that are a little further south. Let's see if I can start surfing the waves soon. The tail of another front is approaching us now and the wind will progressively shift from NW to SW. We will have to gybe at the right moment and then position ourselves for the arrival of the first serious front in two or three days.”
Jean Le Cam, Finistère Mer Vent: “I have never seen such big gaps. They’re huge! We knew that it would happen before the start, but not to that extent! From the first day, the frontrunners got away while we were stuck in light airs doing two knots. The richest get richer. I’m in eighth place. It’s funny. Well, not exactly funny… I am more than 2000 miles back from the leader.”

12-05-2016, 07:39 AM


MONDAY 05 DECEMBER 2016, 15H50
At 0930 UTC this morning (Monday), while he was sailing 600 miles west of the longitude of Cape Leeuwin, Sébastien Josse contacted his shore team to inform them that he had suffered major damage to the port foil on Edmond de Rothschild. Taking into account the weather conditions the skipper of Gitana Team has had over the past 24 hours and the worsening weather that is forecast in the area in the coming hours, the skipper in agreement with the team’s owners, has temporarily put the race to one side and is currently studying the best possible options to allow the worst of the storm to go by.

Since yesterday, Sébastien Josse has had to face some very rough conditions ahead of a tropical low coming down from Madagascar. This morning, while sailing on the starboard tack in a westerly air stream blowing at between 30 and 35 knots and on heavy seas with waves in excess of 4m, the 60-foot monohull, Edmond de Rothschild got swept along on a wave and then ploughed into the bottom. The boat came to a sudden standstill and in the incident the port foil suddenly went right down. It slammed into the top of the housing, which damaged the upper part of the appendage and its trimming system. Sébastien Josse was inside when the incident occurred and was not injured.

In order to make safe the foil, which threatened to come out of its housing, which could have had serious consequences for the structural integrity of the hull in this part of the boat, Sébastien Josse gybed to change tack and continue on his starboard foil while trying to carry out temporary repairs. Gitana 16 was on a N-NE’ly heading towards Australia, but for safety reasons was unable to continue on this course for very long. This is in fact the precise trajectory taken by the centre of the low pressure system that the sailor has been trying to avoid for the past 24 hours by making headway towards the east as quickly as possible along the Antarctic Exclusion Zone. According to the latest forecasts, the sailor was likely to be facing 50-knot winds and very heavy seas with 10 m high waves. Since 1300 UTC the 60-foot monohull Edmond de Rothschild has gone back to a SE’ly heading.

Cyril Dardashti, Director of Gitana Team, and all his team, are in constant contact with Sébastien Josse to find the best possible solutions as quickly as possible and put them in place.
More information to follow in the coming hours.

12-05-2016, 08:37 AM

MONDAY 05 DECEMBER 2016, 16H37
Romain Attanasio, skipper of the Famille Mary - Etamine du Lys boat hit a UFO (unidentified floating object) at around 1130 UTC today (Monday 5th December). Romain was around 470 miles south of Cape Town (South Africa) when his boat, Famille Mary - Etamine du Lys collided with the UFO, which has damaged both his rudders.

Romain is safe and sound and is not in danger. He has taken the decision to head for Cape Town to attempt to carry out repairs without any external help. More than ever, Romain has the full support of his partners, Famille Mary, Etamine du Lys and all the members of the Sixième Océan Club. His partner Samantha Davies, team manager for the boat declared: “I could see that Romain was initially deeply upset, but he is not giving up and is already feeling more positive. He will be doing his utmost to repair his boat and continue his adventure. I hope he will be encouraged by as many people as possible.” Romain Attanasio should take two or three days to get to Cape Town.



Conrad Colman Provides Details On Yesterday's Fire:

I saw Arnaud on the horizon and was happy to gybe away from him in nearly 30 knots on a shift to improve my age to the east. Then inside I started to smell a faint plastic smell. Thinking maybe that the batteries were having a problem I ran my hands over all the electrical system and ran diagnostics on the computer. Everything was fine... maybe it was just a figment of my imagination! I went outside to take a reef and when I came back inside I saw black smoke and yellow flames leaping from behind the chart table. One of the solar charge controllers was burning and was in the process of taking down the entire electrical system as several important cables pass close by. I took the fire blanket and smothered the flames, ignoring electrical shocks and the burning heat in my desperation to save my boat. When the flames were gone I heard one beep from the autopilot and my world turned upside down.

The burnt cables next to the charge controller had short circuited the auto pilot and the boat bore away from the wind and did a crash gybe with me still inside, hands full of molten plastic. The copious ballast tanks and canting keels that make these boats some of the fastest in the world also contribute to them being very unstable when things go wrong because all of their weight is on one side and after my crash gybe the boat was actively trying to capsize itself. When I poked my head out from the door the boat lying heeled over at 80 degrees, the tip of the mast only a couple of meters way from the water. As you have seen in the video I shot, I stood on the side of the cockpit to furl the gennaker and arrange the mainsail and stays so I could right the boat.

With the boat righted, I was still in a tight spot. The wind was increasing, I had a poorly furled gennaker that could flap itself to pieces and no instruments or autopilot. I had to drop the gennaker before I could secure the boat so I could start to repair the electronics. Unfortunately, the bad furling job I had done when the boat was on its side, combined with the strengthening wind, meant that it started unfurling backwards and thrashing around so that I was afraid it would take the mast down. It took me a long time to try to furl it again while sailing downwind with the helm between my knees so I could use the pedestal to control the winches but eventually I had to resign myself to dropping the twisted mess.

I managed to tangle the sail around the other forestays and stop it from falling in the water. However with the sail down it still took me two hours of solid effort to control the writhing inflated mess as the wind gusted 40 knots, spray blew horizontally off the tops of the mountains heaving under, and over, boat as I danced on the foredeck with sail ties and pocket knives.

With the boat finally secure I came back inside to find everything swimming. Because the boat had spent so much time on its side the keel box had leaked hundreds of litres and I found my food bags, carefully packed spares clothes bags dripping wet or actively floating. My team and I had vacuum packed most of the equipment on the boat in thick plastic so the damage was minimal but some cold weather clothes, spare boots and sleeping bag were soaked.

I was eventually able to dig through the ashes of the fire and splice important cables back together and get the autopilot back online. I screamed with joy when the little lights danced across their screens again because the alternative was to hand steer to Cape Town and abandon the race. Now, as I write this we're back in action, surfing at 25 knots down the thundering wave crests that looked so foreboding when the boat was suffering a blackout.


MONDAY 05 DECEMBER 2016, 10H20
Armel Le Cléac'h crossed the longitude of Cape Leeuwin in the SW of Australia at 0814 UTC on Monday 5th December after 28 days, 20 hours and 12 minutes of sailing. He has smashed the reference time set by François Gabart in 2012 by more than five days and 14 hours.

The leader of the Vendée Globe, Armel Le Cléac'h, is already south of Australia. Banque Populaire VIII crossed the longitude of Cape Leeuwin in the SW of Australia at 0814 UTC on Monday 5th December after 28 days, 20 hours and 12 minutes of sailing, confirming the incredible pace that has been set since the start of the race in Les Sables d'Olonne on 6th November. The previous reference time was held by François Gabart with a time of 34 days 10 hours and 28 minutes. Armel has smashed the reference time set by François Gabart by five days, 14 hours and 16 minutes.


TRACKER (http://alexthomsonracing.geovoile.com/vendeeglobe/2016/tracker/)

12-06-2016, 07:32 AM

At 0800 UTC this morning (Tuesday), the Vendée Globe Race Directors were alerted by Kito de Pavant’s technical team about serious damage aboard his boat Bastide Otio. Kito de Pavant, who was sailing at 16 knots under mainsail with two reefs in very heavy seas, informed his shore team that the boat had experienced a very big shock to the keel, hitting an unidentified floating object, which has led to a significant ingress of water aboard the boat.

Contacted by telephone, Kito de Pavant declared, “I hit something hard with the keel. It was a violent shock and the boat came to a standstill. The rear bearings of the keel were ripped off and the keel is hanging under the boat kept in place simply by the keel ram, which is in the process of cutting through the hull... The keel housing has been destroyed and there is a huge ingress of water there, but for the moment, it is limited to the engine compartment. I currently have forty knots of wind and 5-6m high waves. The boat is stopped. I brought down the mainsail so that she is heeling less. The situation has been stabilized for the moment. I have my survival kit alongside me. Someone is going to have to come and get me. I am trying to contact the Marion Dufresne to ask them to come here.”

The Vendée Globe Race Directors immediately alerted the MRCC (Maritime Rescue Coordination Center) Gris Nez to inform them of the damage and to organise the rescue.

The rescue centre has been in contact with the Marion Dufresne, which is currently 110 miles north of Kito de Pavant’s location to the north of the Crozet Islands. The Marion Dufresne is expected to reach the area in around ten hours.
More information later today.

Images of the damaged keel box




TRACKER (http://alexthomsonracing.geovoile.com/vendeeglobe/2016/tracker/)


The Marion Dufresne, the supply ship for the French islands in the Southern Ocean and Antarctic (Terres australes et antarctiques françaises TAAF), is heading at full steam to go to the rescue of Kito de Pavant - Made in Midi.



French skipper Kito de Pavant was enduring an anxious wait this afternoon aboard his Bastide Otio after he struck an object which destroyed his keel housing, ripped off his aft keel mountings and left the appendage supported only by the hydraulic keel ram.

De Pavant, from the Occitanie region in SW France is placed 10th in the Vendée Globe round the world race some 120 miles to the north of the Crozet Islands. He reported a significant ingress of water, flooding the engine compartment. Race Direction have been working closely with the MRCC authorities at Gris Nez to organise a rescue. The MRCC have been in contact with the Marion Dufresne, the 120m long research and supply vessel of the TAAF (Terres australes et antarctiques françaises) which supplies the remote French archipelagos of Crozet, the Kerguelen, Saint Paul and Amsterdam islands. The Marion Dufresne was reported to be around 110 nautical miles away and had an ETA in the area during the early part of this evening with a plan to evacuate the skipper by rigid inflatable boat when daylight occurs around 0200hrs UTC.

lain Gautier, the Vendée Globe Safety Director, explained: “We’re hoping they will arrive at around 1700 UTC, but by then it will be dark there, so iti is down to the commanding officer of the ship to decide what sort of operation to carry out. They are likely to want to wait until day breaks at around 0100 UTC to launch a RIB to recover Kito. It will all depend on the conditions. We can imagine that the Marion Dufresne will position herself windward of Kito to try to calm down the seas. But she’s not that big a boat, so we don’t know if that will be enough to ensure a safe operation. Sunrise is at around 0130 UTC, but they may wait a while for the weather to ease. Already the winds will not be as strong during the night. Our goal is to get Kito aboard the Marion Dufresne. It will be up to Kito’s team to deal with the boat, but that’s not going to be easy in that zone. Meanwhile he has called us when he finds the time. After the shock this morning and the obvious disappointment, we can see that he is more in control of the situation now.”

De Pavant, 55 years old had battled through more than 48 hours of strong winds and big seas and was racing with a double reefed main making around 16kts in 40kts of wind and 4-6m seas. The popular skipper has been forced to retire from two previous Vendée Globe races, in 2008-9 when he was dismasted 18 hours after the start and in 2012-13 when he retired into Cascais after a collision with a trawler. In the previous editions, de Pavant’s target was to win the Vendée Globe or at least to finish on the podium but prior to the start of this race he had stated several times that his primary objective this time was to achieve a finish. He had been sailing a mature, solid race since the start, taking no risks. “He had been sailing intelligently so far and this was his third Vendée Globe, so he really deserved a finish,” a shocked Yann Eliès told the Vendée LIVE programme when the news was broken live to the French skipper, who is in sixth place, and who himself had to be helicopter rescued after sustaining a fractured leg in December 2008 when south of Australia.

Cleveland Steamer
12-06-2016, 07:58 AM

IOR Geezer
12-06-2016, 09:26 AM
Hang in there Kito!

12-07-2016, 08:41 AM

Sébastien Josse and the Mono60 Edmond de Rothschild announce their retirement

Over the past 48 hours, Sébastien Josse, currently in third place in the Vendée Globe, put his race on hold to focus on his own safety and that of the Mono60 Edmond de Rothschild. Major damage to the port foil, which occurred at 0930 UTC on Monday morning meant that he was in a tricky situation facing extreme weather conditions – 40 knots of wind and 8m high waves to the south of Australia, sailing along the edge of the Antarctic Exclusion Zone. On Wednesday, the situation had markedly improved allowing the skipper of Gitana Team to carry out a thorough assessment of the damage done to Gitana 16. Unfortunately, the news is not good and the possible solutions that could be put in place to carry out repairs are not deemed good enough to allow him to sail more than half way around the world, or almost 15,000 miles. This is a very difficult moment and a huge disappointment. Sébastien Josse and the Gitana Team have announced their retirement from the 2016-2017 Vendée Globe.

Reminder of what happened and the repairs that were considered

On Monday morning at 0930 UTC, Sébastien Josse informed his team that he had suffered major damage to the port foil on Edmond de Rothschild after the boat slammed into the trough of a wave. "I wasn't really pushing her any harder when the incident occurred, but conditions were rough ahead of the area of low pressure. The wind was blowing at 35 knots and the seas whipped up to around 4m. While surfing along, the boat reached thirty knots before slowing right down to ten knots as she dug in. It only lasted for a few seconds. I was under the protective cover between the two doors in the companionway. When the boat got going again, I felt that something wasn't right and I soon saw that there was a problem with the port foil. It was in the water, although I had been sailing with the foils up. I opened the cover to the foil housing and I could see there had been damage. The attachment to the top of the foil, which is a part made of carbon and designed for such strains, had broken. I had to act quickly, as the foil was just being held in place by two screws and if it came out of its mounting, the consequences would be much more serious. It could damage the whole housing by slipping sideways, which would lead to an ingress of water. I quickly gybed to secure the foil and stop that from happening, but unfortunately the timing wasn't good in terms of the weather. To protect the damaged equipment, I would have had to continue towards the NE, but the worsening weather meant I dived to the SE resting on the damaged foil in some nasty weather. On this boat I have already been through worse weather, particularly in the Transat St Barth – Port-la-Forêt, when we had winds up to 50 knots, but here in the Southern Ocean, that is completely different because of how isolated we are. The situation was complicated on Monday night."

While Sébastien weathered out the storm and sailed with three reefs in the main, several repair solutions were considered and suggested by his shore team, so that he could choose the most appropriate. "When you do the Vendée Globe, you know that every day, you will have work to do on the boat. But that means we're talking about patching the boat up. I am a first aid nurse, not a surgeon," explained the solo sailor.

That is why after a series of conversations and a few attempts, the options appeared too complicated to be applied on the open sea by one person and were seen only as a temporary repair rather than a permanent solution to allow him to sail safely the 15,000 miles remaining to complete the race, with in particular the Pacific crossing at between 40 and 50 degrees S, which is one of the most remote areas on Earth. The goal shared by Gitana Team and Sébastien Josse is not to complete the race at any cost and take unnecessary risks in what is already a dangerous situation, but to be a serious contender. That is now compromised. Neither the sailor, nor the team wanted to expose themselves to the risk of the foil dropping out, as that could lead to an ingress of water and an emergency situation on Edmond de Rothschild depending on her geographical position.

Sailing at 41° S and 107° E, the Mono60 Edmond de Rothschild is currently heading towards Australia. The members of Gitana Team are working on finding the best option and will determine later today where Sébastien Josse will head for, maybe Perth in the SW or Adelaide on the southern coast, depending on how easy it is to bring the boat home from these two Australian ports. After 31 days at sea and a race, where he was always up with the frontrunners, Sébastien Josse is therefore retiring from the race and has given us his initial reaction: "I can't hide the fact that it's been very hard, as these boats are very demanding and uncomfortable. To sail quickly, you have to foil and to foil, you need to stay hard at it all the time. But I was pleased to be here. I gave it my all and I don't have any regrets about this race concerning the way I sailed the boat," concluded the skipper of Edmond de Rothschild.

The whole world collapsed in a few seconds
For his third go at the legendary Vendée Globe race, Sébastien Josse was one of the favourites in this eighth edition. After all the hard work and energy spent on the Mono60 project Edmond de Rothschild over more than three years, this retirement is a huge disappointment for the sailor, the owners and the team. "My world over the past month has been focused on asking myself questions to perform well. So the decision to retire was bound to have been hard, but it is one that was carefully thought about and accepted by everyone. It's going to take weeks and months to get over the disappointment, as it is not just that the race is ending here, but everything that has gone into it. The passion, energy and commitment that we have all shown in these projects. In the Vendée Globe, we are solo sailors, but these projects are a real team effort. I am lucky to be able to rely on such a great team that is united around this project and I can't thank them enough. The trust shown by Ariane and Benjamin de Rothschild and the Edmond de Rothschild Group, which supports us and have always been at our side in the good times and at other times too, like today," declared Sébastien Josse.

"If competition is at the heart of ocean racing and what motivates most of the skippers and their teams, the real priority must always be the safety of the men and their boats. There are bound to be risks, when you set off around the world alone in a non-stop race without assistance, but that is only acceptable within certain limits. This is a huge blow for our team. We are very disappointed, but we will bounce back and the project that lies ahead, involving a maxi-multihull, is in itself an opportunity," declared Cyril Dardashti, Director of Gitana Team.

12-07-2016, 08:54 AM

Shortly before 0700 UTC this morning, Thomas Ruyant - Le Souffle du Nord pour le Projet Imagine – informed his boat captain, Laurent Bourguès, that damage to the boat had led to an ingress of water.


While operating his port ballast tank system, the end of the snorkel tube, which allows him to fill the tank when the boat is at speed, broke off without causing any further damage to the hull. Thomas immediately saw that a lot of water was coming inside the boat. He quickly blocked the leak with bags and anything else he could find within reach.

He immediately gybed to move to the port tack to keep the hole out of the water. Thomas has already managed to dry out part of the boat and is dealing with the situation.

With the support of Laurent Bourguès, he is currently looking for the best way to stem the flow of water. He has the required equipment on board.
Le Souffle du Nord pour Le Projet Imagine is currently experiencing 30-40 knot winds and heavy seas (3-4 m high waves).



Kito de Pavant, the 55 years old French skipper of Bastide-Otio, who suffered damage to his keel when racing in the remote South Indian Ocean while racing in the Vendee Globe solo round the world race, was successfully recovered from his stricken yacht around 0100hrs TU this morning and taken aboard the research and supply ship Marion Dufresne II approximately 110 miles north of the Crozet Islands. The solo skipper was immediately assessed by the ship's doctor. De Pavant is uninjured but is extremely tired and disappointed.

images © Anne Recoulez TAAF


The vessel which supplies the French territories in the Southern Ocean and Antarctic was on a mission from Reunion Island touring around the southern islands. Captain Dudouit was informed of the situation by the Vendée Globe Race Directors in collaboration with the MRCC and rescue centre at Gris-Nez. Around 110 miles north of Kito de Pavant’s position, the Marion Dufresne accelerated to reach the monohull as quickly as possible, as her keel threatened to drop off at any moment endangering the life of the skipper. As night fell in the area, the vessel reached Bastide-Otio at around 1530 UTC and established radio contact with Kito de Pavant, who described the situation, with winds still blowing at around thirty knots and on very rough seas.

Captain Dudouit (Marion Dufresne II): “We picked up Kito de Pavant with our rigid inflatable this morning, in spite of the weather remaining fairly rough with force 6-7 winds and huge waves. We were able to launch the inflatable and took him off his boat. We were on a supply mission in the southern islands, which is our usual job in December. We left Reunion Island on 2nd December. The MRCC tried to contact me, but could not get through and so it was via the safety centre in Marseille that we got into contact at around 0900 UTC on Tuesday. At that point we were around 110 miles north of the boat’s position. We moved to maximum speed. In spite of the weather conditions, it took us less time than forecast to get into contact with the skipper. We reached the area at around 1530 UTC, as night was falling.



We were in visual and VHF radio contact with Kito de Pavant, but as it was growing dark and the weather was still rough, it was not possible to act immediately, and in any case, the skipper was in control of the situation on his boat. We jointly agreed to wait until daybreak to launch our rigid inflatable boat to take him off. He described the situation to us: he had controlled the ingress of water and we agreed that if his boat capsized after losing her keel, we would recover him from his life raft. We remained in regular contact with him, which allowed him to get some sleep. This morning the situation started to worsen, as the water level had risen. Kito de Pavant was therefore directly picked up by our rigid inflatable and taken aboard the Marion Dufresne II. He was tired and above all very disappointed to have had to abandon his race and his boat. The ship’s medical officer is taking care of him.”

Kito de Pavant (Bastide-Otio): “I was lucky with my bad luck. The Marion Dufresne was in the area and that only happens four times a year… The conditions were nasty and late in the night, I was no longer able to get rid of the water. The boards were floating. It was hard leaving my boat and abandoning her in the middle of nowhere, and it’s really upsetting losing my boat. But that was the only solution, as I no longer had much energy left for the pumps and I was unable to recharge the batteries, as the engine was under water… A large section of the hull has been damaged, as the bottom of the hull went with the aft keel mountings. The keel ram ripped through more than a metre of the hull. It was sickening to see the boat in that condition. It was getting too dangerous for me…
So now I’m on the Marion Dufresne II on her way towards the Crozet Islands and then the Kerguelens and Amsterdam. I’ll be staying on the French supply ship for three weeks. I don’t know this part of the world, but I’ll be doing the tour of all these remote islands.

It was a very violent smash. I was doing between 15-20 knots in 25-30 knot winds on heavy seas. I was being cautious and not too fast and well away from the direction of the wind. I hit something, but I don’t know what. I heard a big bang and I immediately thought it must be something hard. But when I looked behind the boat, I couldn’t see anything. What I heard must have been the crash into the boat… The smash broke the aft part of the keel and hull around it and the aft keel mountings were ripped off too. When I went to look, the keel was still hanging there, but by the time I had furled the staysail (J-3) to slow the boat down, the keel had dropped around four inches. It only got worse. There was nothing I could do. I changed tack to head northwards, but I quickly understood that the boat could no longer advance. I lowered the mainsail and called the Race Directors.

The Marion Dufresne was fortunately 110 miles north of me. The other possibility was Louis Burton, who was two days away from my position. He would only have got to me tomorrow morning. It’s horrible leaving the boat like that and I have lost a lot and there are some very serious consequences. It’s the first time I have lost a boat. In terms of how I feel, it has hit me hard, but physically I’m fine.”

Jacques Caraës (Vendée Globe Race Director): “Kito, I fully understand your disappointment. We were extremely relieved to see that you had managed to control the situation when we had you on the phone. It was a very important moment finding out that you weren’t overwhelmed by the stress with such serious damage in that remote location. We were able to stay calm thanks to you. Thank you. We’re really thinking about you.”





Éric Bellion informed his shore team at 1720 UTC that his starboard rudder had been seriously damaged. He had been sailing in heavy seas with winds averaging thirty knots. The boat was knocked down in a gust in excess of fifty knots. Due to the violence of the crash, the rudder stock twisted. The rudder blade is still joined to the boat, but canot be used.

A spare rudder was stowed aboard the boat before the start and Eric will have to replace the damaged one to continue his race. He is heading for 47° (NE) under reduced sail to find calmer seas which he should reach late in the morning. That is when he intends to carry out repairs in finer conditions. The skipper is in good shape and has not identified any other damage. He is currently in 17th place and has not asked for assistance.

IOR Geezer
12-07-2016, 09:36 AM
Good to see Kito was pulled off before she rolled over!

12-08-2016, 09:01 AM


Leaders Armel Le Cleac'h and Alex Thomson, 144 miles apart this morning, should enter the Pacific Ocean later today after only 32 days since the Vendee Globe solo round the world race started in Les Sables d'Olonne. While the progress for the pacemaking duo remains fast, others among the 22 skippers competing are in repair mode or have just completed significant fixes to keep them in the race.


TRACKER (http://alexthomsonracing.geovoile.com/vendeeglobe/2016/tracker/)

French skipper Romain Attanasio stopped in Simon's Bay by Simon’s Town near Cape Town last night around 1800hrs UTC where he aims to make repairs to his rudders. He planned to sleep before replacing one of the broken blades with his spare and making some kind or repair to the other rudder which has the top snapped off.


Both Eric Bellion and Thomas Ruyant are back on course after completing repairs yesterday which have kept their Vendee Globe dreams alive. Ruyant repaired his ballast scoop area and was making 15kt this morning. Bellion, in 16th, spent more than 12 hours making repairs yesterday. Ruyant explained this morning: “In fact it was the water scoop for the ballast tank which damaged part of the bottom of the hull, when it split open as we crashed down onto a wave. I had an eight inch column of water, so needed to act quickly. I blocked it off, to start off with the trousers of my foulies as i gybed, furled the headsail and assessed the damage. Then I filled it in using foam from the inside and a carbon seal. It seems to be working. It’s the port intake that can no longer function. When it happened I thought it was over for me. The engine wasn’t affected and I have already managed to start it twice. I lost a day with all that and the repairs themselves took me eight hours.”

The Japanese sailor, Kojiro Shiraishi (Spirit of Yukoh) arrived in Cape Town on Wednesday afternoon, while the final two competitors still in the Atlantic are expected to enter the Indian Ocean early this weekend.
A tough welcome to the Pacific


Le Cleac'h and Thomson face a period of stronger winds tomorrow, a tough welcome to the Pacific, and then should be south of New Zealand in around 48 hours. They have been a SW'ly breeze on starboard gybe and the British skipper has had periods when he has been notably slower than his French rival. This morning Thomson is polled around two to three knots slower. There is now over 1100 nautical miles back to third placed Paul Meilhat (SMA) who should pass Cape Leeuwin this morning. The 34 years old rookie who seems to have ably taken up the mantle of the race winning Francois Gabart aboard his former MACIF had around five hours before he could check off his second Great Cape of the course, and is around 155 miles ahead of Jeremie Beyou in fourth. In seventh Jean Le Cam (Finistère Mer Vent) has an opportunity to catch miles on the fast moving group ahead as he is taking advantage of a front passing over which is currently 400 miles behind Jean-Pierre Dick.


Skippers that have so far retired from the eighth Vendée Globe
- 19th November: After colliding with a UFO, which damaged his keel off Portugal, Bertrand de Broc stopped for repairs aboard his MACSF off the island of Fernando de Noronha, but was finally forced to throw in the towel. Bertrand arrived back in Lorient in Brittany yesterday.
- 22nd November: Vincent Riou (PRB), the only previous winner of the Vendée Globe, announced he was retiring after his keel hit something and was damaged. He headed for Cape Town and set off for home on Saturday 3rd December.
- 24th November: Morgan Lagravière (Safran) hit a UFO, damaging one of his rudders. He retired and headed for Cape Town.
- 28th November: Tanguy de Lamotte (Initiatives Cœur) officially retired. Two weeks earlier on 13th November, Tanguy announced he was going to carry out repairs in the Cape Verde Islands after his masthead broke. On 16th, he was forced to turn back to head for les Sables d’Olonne.
- 4th December: the mast on Kojiro Shiraishi’s Spirit of Yukoh broke just above the staysail attachment. The Japanese sailor headed for Cape Town, where he arrived yesterday.
- 5th December: Sébastien Josse suffered damage to his foil after slamming into the trough of a wave. He put his race on hold to attempt to carry out repairs, but was forced to admit defeat yesterday.
- 6th December: Kito de Pavant had a violent collision with a UFO damaging the keel housing on his Bastide Otio, which led to an ingress of water. Forced to retire from the race, Kito was rescued by the Marion Dufresne on Tuesday night.

WindyTv Live Tracker (https://gis.ee/vg/)

Alan Roura (La Fabrique): “It was a complicated night, especially early on, when there was quite a lot of wind. I broached, the boat was knocked down. I thought I was going to go all the way around. I banged my pelvis, but it’s better now. We seem to be alternating each day between fine weather, storms and grey skies. It takes time to get used to. Physically, it’s tiring and it gets you down too, as the conditions are so tough, but the boat and sailor are fine.”

Enda O Coineen (Kilcullen Voyager Team Ireland): “They call this the Roaring Forties for a good reason. It Roars. We had some respite for 12 hours, sunshine and winds of only 20 knots! Then it swiftly powered back again to 30 knots plus. It seems never to end. Our worry is that since the wind had moved into the north some, we could run out of sea room to avoid the ice exclusion zone. The wind chill and cold is also relentless. On deck are also concerned about not been seen or running into something - having lost our radar dome and the Activ Echo attached.”

Buzz Light Beer
12-08-2016, 09:19 AM
A full news cycle with no new retires is good news!

12-09-2016, 09:08 AM

FRIDAY 09 DECEMBER 2016, 11H02

The storm is raging in the Tasman Sea and the two leaders are having to deal with a powerful southerly, requiring them to pay close attention to their boat and equipment and preserve their foil in particular. For the two boats that passed Cape Leeuwin during the night, they can now dive south, while the pack is struggling in another area of severe gales near the Crozet Islands.

While those following on behind have already suffered in stormy conditions in the Indian, this is the first big blow for the two frontrunners with more than 40 knots forecast. In this powerful SSW’ly flow, gusts in excess of 55 knots can be expected with mountainous, confused seas. Waves being pushed up from the Antarctic are running into waves from the Tasmanian front and this situation is set to continue until Saturday evening. Even when the wind eases off, it will take time for conditions to improve off Campbell Island.


Once the final islands of New Zealand are in their wake, the long voyage across the Pacific will begin. They will be sailing close to the edge of the Antarctic Exclusion Zone to stick with what remains of the low pressure system, which will head down towards the Antarctic, leaving very little wind behind it. Once the roller coaster ride is over, there will be light and variable winds offering calmer seas, but frustrating the hopes of the chasing boats. They will then have to climb onto the edge of the high, which is expanding to stretch right out in no man’s land in the South Pacific, which for once will indeed be pacific…

Tracker (http://alexthomsonracing.geovoile.com/vendeeglobe/2016/tracker/)

Two Sundays for the price of one

The two leaders will have to adapt to their calendars in two days as they pass SW of Chatham Island. Armel Le Cléac’h (Banque Populaire VIII) and Alex Thomson (Hugo Boss) will be crossing the International Date Line to go through the same day twice. So it’s a three day weekend for the pair with two Sundays. When it is midday in Paris, it will be midnight in New Zealand, 1900 off Cape Leeuwin, 1600 in the Kerguelens and 1400 off the Cape of Good Hope.

This storm, which they will have to weather out today will be followed by a less violent system propelling the next couple of skippers, who are making the most of the front. Paul Meilhat (SMA) and Jérémie Beyou (Maître CoQ) are able to accelerate and head further south along the edge of the Antarctic Exclusion Zone and slide down gradually from 45°30S to 51°30S to sail under Tasmania. Sailing further south also means shortening the distance to the Pacific. The two skippers will be experiencing a moderate westerly air stream and getting away from the high developing behind them. Yann Eliès (Quéguiner-Leucémie Espoir) and Jean-Pierre Dick (StMichel-Virbac) are likely to pay the price, while Jean Le Cam (Finistère Mer Vent) and Thomas Ruyant (Le Souffle du Nord pour le projet Imagine) are able to narrow the gap from behind with the decent winds ahead of another front…


A long way off the Kerguelens
The pack is now some 1200 miles behind these boats. While they are not in a real storm, conditions have been very windy off the Crozet Islands. The worst is coming down from the NW and will engulf the five grouped together - Stéphane Le Diraison (Compagnie du Lit-Boulogne Billancourt), Nándor Fa (Spirit of Hungary), Conrad Colman (Foresight Natural Energy), Arnaud Boissières (La Mie Câline) and Fabrice Amedeo (Newrest-Matmut), who are likely to get a real battering this afternoon before the front passes over tonight. 300 miles ahead, Louis Burton (Bureau Vallée) will also be able to take advantage of this a day earlier and he should benefit from it longer thanks to his position to the south, as he passes a long way down below the Kerguelens, which may mean he can avoid the light airs developing behind this system.

Finally, while Dutch sailor, Pieter Heerema (No Way Back) has wisely chosen to stay at 40°S to avoid the worst weather, that isn’t the case for the multi-national group of four entering the Indian. Irishman Enda O’Coineen (Kilcullen Voyager-Team Ireland), the young Swiss sailor, Alan Roura (La Fabrique), Frenchman Éric Bellion (Commeunseulhomme) and American Rich Wilson (Great America IV) are going to have to gybe in relatively moderate westerly winds throughout the weekend. Not that stressful, but very demanding with a lot of work to do out on deck.


Talking of work, Romain Attanasio (Famille Mary-Étamine du Lys) is still hard at it. He is still sheltering near the Cape of Good Hope to repair his rudders. He has been stopped there now for 36 hours. Spaniard, Didac Costa (One Planet-One Ocean) is due to pass 400 miles south of the tip of South Africa tonight and this weekend Sébastien Destremau (TechnoFirst-faceOcean) should be the final competitor out of the 22 still racing to enter the South Indian Ocean, where it is currently daylight for twenty hours a day.

Times to Cape Leeuwin from Les Sables d’Olonne
1-Armel Le Cléac’h: 28d 20hrs 12mins
2-Alex Thomson: 29d 01hrs 28 mins - 5hrs and 16 mins after Le Cléac’h
3-Paul Meilhat: 31d 21hrs 38mins – 3d 01hr 26 mins after Le Cléac’h
4-Jérémie Beyou: 32d 05hrs 45 mins - 3d 09hrs and 33 mins after Le Cléac’h

Dominic Bourgeois/M&M

The Indian Ocean is living up to its reputation with low pressure systems following each other and offering a nasty welcome to the Pacific Ocean for the two leaders.

With an average speed of 20 knots over the last 24 hours, Banque Populaire and Hugo Boss have not slowed down. They are sailing in winds of 32 to 40 knots close to the depression which is moving from Tasmania to the South of New Zealand. This low-pressure system is going to accompany them for the next two days. Behind, the conditions are not any easier for a large part of the fleet. SMA and Maître CoQ are sailing in a Northwesterly flow of 30-35 knots and on heavy seas. Finistère Mer Vent and Le Souffle du Nord are sailing in front of a low pressure area also in North-Westerly winds between 30 and 40 knots.



Behind, if Louis Burton still has relatively decent conditions, the five boats following him are also sailing in heavy weather. Stéphane le Diraison, Nandor Fa, Conrad Colman, Arnaud Boissières and Fabrice Amadéo have between 30 and 40 knots from the Northwest.

For the others, the calm is only short lived while they await the arrival of the next depression within the next few hours. Only Sébastien Destremau could be caught by a high which could slow him down during the weekend.

The Indian Ocean is thus very faithful to its reputation with a series of depressions which follow one another without leaving much respite for the skippers. The Pacific Ocean does not seem different with a low welcoming Banque Populaire and Hugo Boss.
CD / BS - Great Circle

12-10-2016, 10:01 AM


For Alex Thomson and Armel Le Cléac’h the leaders of the Vendée Globe, Sunday morning should provide some time to regroup mentally, to snatch some rest, to thoroughly check their boats and to somehow prepare for the next battering.

Their passage of the International Date Line does in theory give them two Sundays in succession – a proper long weekend – but sadly there is no chance of their anticipated short break from a brutally tough sequence of storms being doubled. There will be little time before a second system tests Thomson and Le Cléac’h and their boats, and sets a fork in the road, a choice of options which may have a significant bearing on the time difference between the two at Cape Horn in around 11 days time.



Armel Le Cléac’h, who has stretched out his lead over Alex Thomson in the gales off Campbell Island, is set to cross the ante meridian or international dateline tonight with two Sundays for the price of one! Meantime, 10,000 kilometres further West, Romain Attanasio is preparing to get back out on the racetrack having spent nearly two days fixing his rudders at the foot of the Cape of Good Hope…
The traffic is moving smoothly in the Southern Ocean and some boats are even managing to speed… Among them Armel Le Cléac’h (Banque Populaire VIII) is maintaining his ‘cruising’ speed of an average of over 18 knots with which he’s stretching out his lead over Alex Thomson (Hugo Boss) who’s now 180 miles behind. This separation has to be counterbalanced by the fact that the Briton is some 120 miles further North and even likely to skirt Campbell Island, New Zealand, a desolate, uninhabited archipelago aside from the odd scientist at 52°S! The sea state is such that the two leaders cannot use their foils and are having to endure the repeated slamming of brutal waves and breakers rolling in from the South-West.


Hunkering down

The Briton is facing some particularly extreme, testing conditions making it hard to move around the boat, impossible to go out on deck, complicated to make yourself something to eat and not conducive to any restorative sleep… And this situation is due to last until daybreak local time (mid-afternoon GMT) in what is a murky, wet and still lively atmosphere. Indeed, the low pressure centre is rolling towards the Antarctic and the two skippers will find themselves in a zone of light pressure as another unsettled system is moving in to the South of Chatham Island on the second Sunday of this long weekend! As such, tomorrow they’ll cross the international dateline at which point they’ll save one day and one minute as they’re going around the world in the opposite direction to the way it spins around its axis.


Divergence of trajectories?
Will this lateral separation also be an opportunity for two different options for tackling this new low pressure system? It’s possible that Armel Le Cléac’h will attempt a passage below the centre, albeit with a strong possibility of upwind conditions or even a beat to traverse this low pressure before the centre, with the aim of getting ahead of it and hence into a N’ly breeze. This option is not viable for Alex Thomson as his deficit means he’ll have to slip along above this centre, still linked up to a beefy SW’ly wind. If the Breton does manage to make the break midway through this afternoon, his lead over the Briton could stretch significantly!

Over 1,300 miles behind, the chasing duo are being carried along by a moderate W’ly, with Paul Meilhat (SMA) maintaining his 150-mile lead over Jérémie Beyou (Maître CoQ), and set to gybe tonight as he hooks onto a muscly NW’ly wind, which will carry him to New Zealand. Here too, there may be a choice of two routes, skirting South Island or diving down towards Campbell Island, so the two may well have a rare opportunity to mark each other, with the waters off New Zealand likely to be fairly gentle at the start of the week!
A day behind this duo, Yann Éliès (Quéguiner-Leucémie Espoir) is eleven hours ahead of Jean-Pierre Dick (StMichel-Virbac) who’s just passed the longitude of Cape Leeuwin. Astern, Jean Le Cam (Finistère Mer Vent) is really powering along and has racked up the best day of the fleet with 482.5 miles clocked up on the speedo… This equates to a twenty-knot average speed which he is achieving thanks to the powerful thrust of a front, which should stay with him until Australia, as it’s been joined by another system. And though Thomas Ruyant (Le Souffle du Nord pour le projet Imagine) is less favoured in a moderate W’ly, Louis Burton (Bureau Vallée) had up to 40 knots of NW’ly last night.


TRACKER (http://alexthomsonracing.geovoile.com/vendeeglobe/2016/tracker/)

Meantime, towards the back end of the fleet, Romain Attanasio (Famille Mary-Étamine du Lys) is readying to leave Simon’s Town with both rudders operational, but unfortunately he’ll be on a beat initially.

Passage time at the longitude of Cape Leeuwin from Les Sables d’Olonne
1-Armel Le Cléac’h : 28d 20h 12’
2-Alex Thomson : 29d 01h 28’ some 5h 16’ astern
3-Paul Meilhat : 31d 21h 38’ some 3d 01h 26’ astern
4-Jérémie Beyou : 32d 05h 45’ some 3d 09h 33’ astern
5-Yann Éliès : 33d 04h 52’ some 4d 08h 40’ astern
6-Jean-Pierre Dick : 33d 15h 53’ some 4d 19h 41’ astern
Dominic Bourgeois

“It’s brutal. Absolutely brutal.”
“I do wonder why I do this sometimes.”
“It’s now when your mind starts to wander. What happens if the structure fails? What happens if you hit something? It is much harder to deal with the whole thing in the pitch black.”

British skipper Alex Thomson pulled no punches in his powerful, succinct description of his battle to get clear of a tough depression to the South of New Zealand. Battling 35-45 knot winds, gusts over 50, and huge seas, Thomson speaks of how Hugo Boss is crashing from 30-knot surfs to a sudden, jarring halt as it ploughs into yet another wave trough.
On a course which is now 100 miles to the north of Vendée Globe race leader Armel Le Cléac’h and about 170 miles behind, Thomson expects the buffeting to reduce later today. He looks set to pass to the north of Auckland Island, one of the two final islands before nearly 5,000 miles of lonely, hostile seas to be crossed to Cape Horn. Le Cléac’h had been slowed to around 15 knots early this morning, Thomson still making around 19. Around the middle of today the winds for the leaders will finally back to the west and Thomson should benefit first.

But there will be little time to recover before another low hits them. On Monday a powerful depression will descend from the north, with warm tropical air spinning to the cold south. This may be a defining period for the leaders. If they were to stay too far to the south, pressed against the Antarctic Exclusion Zone, they would be forced to sail upwind.

Behind the leading duo, the Vendée Globe fleet are working a train of five different depressions now evident in the Southern Ocean as far back as the Cape of Good Hope, which Spanish skipper Didac Costa should pass today. After making his rudder repairs in Simon’s Bay, South Africa, Romain Attanasio (Famille Mary-Étamine du Lys) should be back on the Vendée Globe racecourse today. And while mental toughness in extreme conditions is being tested aboard the leaders’ IMOCAs so too are these difficult hours for Sébastien Destremau at the back of the fleet. He is experiencing the opposite extreme, struggling in light airs as his nearest rival Costa escapes, reeling off miles eastwards.

Louis Burton (Bureau Vallée) in ninth place has been keeping a sharp eye out as an iceberg has been spotted to the North of the Kerguelen Islands. This chasing pack is being caught up by a new front, as is the case for Arnaud Boissières (La Mie Câline) who has made the most of a lull to repair his mainsail cars.
South of Australia, Paul Meilhat (SMA) holds third with a 150-mile lead over Jérémie Beyou (Maître CoQ), racing in a moderate W’ly breeze towards the Furious Fifties. Yann Éliès (Quéguiner-Leucémie Espoir) crossed the longitude of Cape Leeuwin on Friday evening and Jean-Pierre Dick (StMichel-Virbac) has just crossed some eleven hours later.


Rich Wilson (Great American IV): “Last night the next front came through, about 3-4 hours earlier than forecast. I was taking a nap, and suddenly the boat started pounding – crash crash – crash – as if going upwind, or at least into the waves, which we were. The wind had shifted with the front by 100 degrees, and so we were sailing due North. I got my foul weather gear on to go on deck, and then went through the protocol that I had thought through earlier. Gybing will be more dangerous than tacking, so I rolled up the staysail (we had the staysail and mainsail with 3 reefs) and headed upwind with the mainsail alone, then tacked, and headed due south. Because the front was so early, I was suspicious and so paid close attention to the True Wind Direction data, but it stayed steady, this was the front.

As the wind speed had dropped to about 10-15 knots, I reluctantly (because I was very tired) decided to go up to 2 reefs in the mainsail, and then go back for another nap. I did that, 180 hard grinds on the pedestal, then took another nap for an hour, then it was getting light out and so was up for the day.


Last evening I had 2 wonderful email exchanges with my friends out here, Alan Roura and Eric Bellion. Alan had had a terrible night a few nights back with the boat crash-gybing and laying over with the mast almost in the water, and water coming in his cabin door. It took him an hour to get it sorted. And Eric had sailed north into calmer conditions to exchange one of his damaged rudders for his backup.

He said that took him 11 hours straight and he was very tired.
5 nights before the start, Eric had invited me and Alan to dinner at his rental house, and it was a wonderful evening. We are like the three multi-generational amigos, me at 66, Eric at 40, and Alan at 23. But we all have the same dream, and all are pursuing it, and it just so happens that at this point in the race, we are all within about a hundred miles of each other. There is a wonderful camaraderie among solo sailors.


Louis Burton (Bureau Vallée): “We’re going quick, quick, quick, quick! I’m around 150 miles to the North of the Kerguelen Islands: there’s a fair amount of wind (40 knots) and heavy but relatively manageable seas. The problem is that there’s an iceberg that’s been spotted not very far from my position: I’m fast approaching it. We’ve estimated a zone where it’s likely to be drifting… In principle, it’s a piece of ice measuring around thirty metres, which has been identified by the satellite images, because it’s a zone being monitored for illegal fishing. I’m heading due East because if everything goes to plan, I ought to pass within just a hundred miles or so of the archipelago. It’s a bit of a detour, but I should still manage to hold onto the low pressure system that’s pushing me along for the next two to three days. I have a NW’ly breeze ahead of the front with up to 45 knots: it’s stronger than the weather charts had predicted. It’s complicated carrying a fair amount of sail as the wind is shifty with the gusts. Right now, I’m under two reefs and small gennaker, but I’m going to dump the latter… It’s very wet and very cold: I’m kitted out like a mountain dweller. In any case, I’m happy with my progress over the past few days. The boat still needs a few odd jobs to be done on her but it’s okay: there’s work on a daily basis. The nights are very short fortunately and every day the sun rises a little earlier…

You barely have time to finish your dinner and it’s already day! There’s very low cloud and it’s very grey: we’re doing well at the end of the world though I’m a bit isolated.”
Arnaud Boissières (La Mie Câline): “It’s the second time the mainsail cars have given up the ghost! I kept them loose all night and I’ve just replaced them now. I modified the system for fixing the lashings and with all that going on I’ve slipped behind the front and now there’s no longer much breeze… And it’s raining! I’m soaked.”


Conrad Colman (Foresight Natural Energy): “It's getting windy and cold again, the passage of the cold front just hours away. After getting smacked with a 55-knot gust that could have torn my mainsail and stopped my race I have taken the second reef earlier this time. Now I'm a little stressed not about the boat, but about the race as the rest of my group are still a little bit faster. They all have newer and faster boats that are more optimised for these reaching angles (my strong points are upwind and downwind) so I guess it's inevitable but still I do my best to walk the line between giving up miles and assuring that I won't wreck the boat before I escape the South.

I was just up on deck trimming, dressed in a waterproof top with tight latex seals at the neck and wrists, neoprene hat underneath my helmet. With all the flying spray and waves breaking over the deck the visor on the helmet is the only thing that allows me to still be useful on the boat in the constant deluge. Oh what I wouldn't give to have a solid roof and Perspex windows in the cockpit like the newer boats!

I was standing in the cockpit considering whether I should perhaps shake out a reef to power up the boat to get through the confused seas when a stronger 35 knots gust came through and the boat slammed its nose down the valley of a wave and accelerated to 27.2 knots of speed. "Nope" I said to myself, I think we have all the power we need right now!

Down below there is little respite as I pump all the compartments dry twice a day to recover the water that forces its way past my continued efforts to stop every hole. All things considered, Foresight Natural Energy is a pretty dry boat, but even the best seals on doors, winches and deck fittings cede ground to the constant watery attack. Fortunately, the rhythm of the South means that there's a ridge of high pressure and lighter winds to recuperate from the last blasting and prepare for the next!”

12-11-2016, 09:55 AM


SUNDAY 11 DECEMBER 2016, 18H19

The fact that the time and distance that separates Alex Thomson from race leader Armel Le Cléac’h has more than halved in 24 hours is of little real consequence to the British skipper as he sets up for the strong winds brought along by a second successive low pressure system and then a messy area of high pressure thereafter.
The track of the depression has altered enough to force the French skipper, who has led the Vendée Globe now for over one week, to gybe and move back to the north-east. As he slants back towards the course of his British rival, Le Cléac’h’s margin has reduced again, from a comfortable 195 miles last night to 80 miles this Sunday afternoon.

But Thomson (Hugo Boss) is unmoved by the gains. It is the outcome after this new low, which is of more interest.
Speaking as he emerged from a brutal two days in the Tasman Sea and the Pacific, this afternoon, still in a ‘mere’ 30kts of breeze, he outlined:
“We just have to look and see what the situation is like after this second low. Armel is a little further east than me, so he should cross through it quicker, but then he will be held up in the middle in the light airs like me and then it depends on the wind angle when we all come out. I think where we are at the moment is irrelevant. We have to look further ahead.”
Some 1,200 miles behind perennial leader Le Cléac’h, both third placed Paul Meilhat (SMA) and Jéremie Beyou passed the theoretical midway point of the course today. Jean-Pierre Dick (St Michel-Virbac) and Jean Le Cam (Finistère Mer Vent) have crossed Cape Leeuwin. Passing in eighth in 34d 07h 08m Le Cam is exactly three hours faster than the race record pace set by François Gabart in 2012. At 57 years old on the optimised Farr design which won the Vendée Globe as Foncia in 2008 and triumphed in the last Barcelona World Race when he raced with Bernard Stamm the redoubtable, incorrigible Le Cam is four days and 9 hours quicker than his time on Synerciel in 2012. Dick is two days and one hour faster than in 2012.

Living the dream
Finishing the Vendée Globe is the universal dream, even if the actual expectations and aspirations among the 22 skippers still racing, are wildly different.

At the aft end of the fleet Sébastien Destremau is back at peace with his own world. After 36 hours trapped in a doldrums-like calm, his ‘office’ - as he refers to his 1998 IMOCA, which started life as Josh Hall’s Gartmore and went around in 2008-9 as Steve White’s Toe in the Water – is trundling along at 10kts in a good NW’ly breeze.

Destremau was resplendent in T-shirt and shorts, enjoying regular coffee breaks on his aft ‘patio’, despite the fact that he is sailing in the Roaring Forties, in fact at 41 degrees south. Destremau passed the first of the Vendée Globe’s three biggest milestones, the Cape of Good Hope, at 1430hrs UTC this afternoon, about 17 hours after Romain Attanasio (Famille Mary-Etamine du Lys) who – because he had to return to Simon’s Town to repair his rudders – has crossed the Cape of Good Hope twice!
It was only in May last year that Eric Bellion, at 39 years old, sailed seriously on his IMOCA 60 for the first time. Helped by Michel Desjoyeaux’s Mer Agitée and the young British skipper Sam Goodchild – who joined Bellion on Vendée LIVE today – Bellion took on a tentative Transat Jacques Vabre last autumn in the Finot-Conq designed former DCNS. It is not Bellion’s first time around the world though. When he was 26 he sailed around on a tiny 8.6m boat, and has subsequently skippered a number of ocean sailing initiatives which highlight the values of inclusion and diversity. This Vendée Globe started relatively steadily for Bellion but now he is living every element of his dream, even down to an enforced rudder repair.


TRACKER (http://alexthomsonracing.geovoile.com/vendeeglobe/2016/tracker/)

“At the start, I didn’t really care about the race itself, I just wanted to be in harmony with the sea and my boat. It was so difficult to find my rhythm and my pace. The Vendee Globe doesn’t fit in with my expectations. I knew it was something crazy and I knew it was a long way around the planet… I knew many things. Now though I feel very, very lonely and I’ve only covered a third of the race with all the rest of the planet to go. It’s not something you can imagine unless you experience it and when you’re racing in it you feel so vulnerable and weak up against nature and the sea. Anything could happen, you could collide with a whale, have electrical issues… There’s always a big depression on its way, the clouds are tricky here and the swell is huge, which tells me I have to be very careful and find a pace that’s reasonable for me. The race is something huge and crazy and in other ways it’s incredibly beautiful. I am enjoying myself too though.”

And veteran Nandor Fa’s race goes steadily from strength to strength. He finished fifth in the 1993 edition of the race and retired in 1996 but his dream of a third attempt at the Vendée Globe stayed on hold while he raised his daughters and built a successful marina pontoon construction business. He largely designed his own IMOCA and oversaw the build, doing much of the work himself. But he has had many bumps on the road to the start line, not least having to all but rebuild the hull because of a structural issue with the wrong specification of carbon fibre. Consequently he ran very late with his entry to the last Barcelona World Race. And in the last Transat Jacques Vabre he was dismasted early on.
But right now the Spirit of Hungary skipper, 63 years old, is absolutely in his element, seizing every opportunity with both hands. A transient sniff of the top ten, momentarily ranking ahead of French rival and sparring partner, Stephane le Diraison, who is only 14 miles ahead, Fa is pressing hard, averaging 17kts.
“I am going out to race. I am a racer. I love speed and going fast,” warned Fa pre-start to anyone who inadvertently mentioned him in the same sentence as other skippers aged north of 60.


Eric Bellion (CommeUnSeulHomme): “It’s not something you can imagine unless you experience it and when you’re racing in it you feel so vulnerable and weak up against nature and the sea. Anything could happen, you could collide with a whale, have electrical issues… There’s always a big depression on its way, the clouds are tricky here and the swell is huge, which tells me I have to be very careful and find a pace that’s reasonable for me. The race is something huge and crazy and in other ways it’s incredibly beautiful. I am enjoying myself too though. I’m sailing downwind and I just gybed near the exclusion zone making 15 to 20 knots. I only discovered solo sailing last year and it was my first solo sail in an Imoca in May!”

Thomas Ruyant (Le Souffle du Nord): “I was fairly well spared at the start of the race but I’ve had a few issues since I arrived in the Indian - that’s just how it is at the moment. The boat’s back up to 100% now though. I was up the mast this morning fixing the lazy bag and I have a few odd jobs to do but nothing very important. The cars, the battens and the leak are all fixed now but I can no longer use the original system for filling my ballast tanks. I’ve rigged up another tube system but I’m yet to test it. If that fails, I’ll have a go at using the bilge pumps so there are a few options. I’m on port tack right now so that’s not really a concern at the moment but psychologically it’s difficult to know there’s an issue there. I have 30 knots of breeze and I’m making 20 to 25 knots of boat speed under small gennaker and a slightly reduced mainsail. Now that my lazy bag issue is resolved I’ll be able to hoist more sail area as there are no gales forecast. In the coming days, I’ll have a westerly wind so there’s lots of gybing on the cards.”

Alex Thomson (GBR) Hugo Boss: “I still have 30 knots of wind. It’s coming more from the south now, so I’m heading more towards the low pressure, aiming to go through the top of it, out the other side and into some warmer air hopefully. We just have to look and see how the situation is evolving after the second low. Armel is a little further east than me, so he should cross through it quicker and then be held up in the middle in the light airs the same as me and then it depends on the wind angle when we come out. I think where we are at the moment is irrelevant. We have to look further ahead. I have no problems right now. The boat is good except for a few little leaks. Much as I am not looking forward to going on the non-foiling side (port gybe) it will be nice to be on port and getting some warm air.

Conrad Colman (Foresight Natural Energy): Since the beginning of my project I have always said that the Vendee Globe is so much more than "just" a solo nonstop race around the planet, as if that wasn't already a lot! That’s why I converted the boat to be zero emissions, so I could better convey the values that are important to me. I would also like to use this race to inspire a love for our oceans and help nurture an appreciation for the fact that they need protecting. The first step is education and today I launched a scientific buoy from the Argonautica programme, which teaches French school children about the ocean's currents as part of their science syllabus at school. The buoy has a tracker on it, just like our boats, and will be used to show the path of the surface currents in the southern ocean. Using race boats for the programme is a great idea because it saves the cost and impact of a huge research vessel and is just one more example of how the miniaturisation of technology democratises these great projects and allows students to launch interesting projects with fewer and fewer resources. I may well be wrong, but I think it was Teddy Roosevelt who said that he didn't need to see inside the wonders of the Yellowstone National Park, just knowing it was there, and protected, was enough. I may be one of the few people crazy or privileged enough to come here and enjoy the wild blue oceans but if I can help share an appreciation for them then this participation in the Vendee really will have been about more than just a race. Ah, the race! Well, the pace has changed a lot in the past day. Gone is the constant deluge and the grey skies. They've been replaced by bright sunlight smooth(er) seas and gentle reaching conditions. Conditions were so mild down at 45 degrees South today that I was able to emerge from my wet layers and spend the day barefoot and topless in order to soak up some Vitamin D and scratch some itches that are normally buried by several layers. I am unfortunately in prime sailing conditions for the gennaker that was destroyed in my firey wipeout and as such am scooting along under smaller sails than would be ideal. To put things in perspective, instead of sailing with my big gennaker I am sailing with my small spinnaker, which is more than 50 square meters smaller, so I am missing the equivalent of an entire inner city apartment! While I'm under-performing now I'll be able to send it with the big spinnaker again soon!”



The disturbed weather system off New Zealand is dropping down so quickly towards the Antarctic that Armel Le Cléac’h has had to rejig his gameplan. He’s now set to pass to the North of this low pressure centre and will lose the bulk of his lead over Alex Thomson. For a second time, the two leaders are set to endure 36 lively hours, whilst their pursuers will have a calmer transition into the Pacific… However, a new, meaty and pacey system is flexing its muscles and seems to have its sights on Yann Éliès and Jean-Pierre Dick…

A long corridor
For Armel Le Cléac’h (Banque Popualire VIII) and Alex Thomson (Hugo Boss), the 5,000 miles of water, ice and all-pervading solitude that make up the Pacific Ocean feel all too real right now. Is it any wonder then that Armel Le Cléac’h is reassured to have Alex Thomson alongside him and doubtless vice versa as they negotiate this corridor of mist, cold, breeze, uncertainty and isolation and far beyond, at the end of this dark tunnel, the deliverance that is Cape Horn.
In the meantime, the low pressure system rolling down from New Zealand has ultimately managed to outsprint the leader, who will no longer be able to slip ahead of it and steal a march on the Briton. As a result, Armel Le Cléac’h put in a gybe this Sunday morning to get around to the north of the obstacle created by the eye of this system, giving Alex Thomson the chance to cross his trajectory and reduce some of his deficit.

A much reduced delta
From tonight, GMT, the duo will be drawn back together again as they tackle a muscly south-westerly breeze blowing off the back of this disturbed system and producing 35-40 knots of gusty conditions and breaking seas. Foils will clearly have no place on this bumpy road in the middle of nowhere on the far side now of the international dateline. In the immediate future, 36 hours of seriously tough, stormy conditions will be coloured by an all-encompassing greyness and by doubt.


And on this Sunday, where the days are the same but different (two 11 Decembers for the two leaders), the situation isn’t likely to calm down until Tuesday, caught up by one of the tentacles of a zone of high pressure. Yet this haven will be short-lived as a new, angry depression is heading their way, first scooping up a worried Jean-Pierre Dick off New Zealand as it trucks across the Furious Fifties! Though Paul Meilhat (SMA) and Jérémie Beyou (Maître CoQ) will only have to deal with a slightly angry foretaste of this system, it is likely to be seriously riled by the time it hits the skipper of StMichel-Virbac, who has closed to within a hundred miles or so of Yann Éliès (Quéguiner-Leucémie Espoir), at which point he will be right in the middle of the 400-mile corridor between the ‘ice wall’ at 54°S and Stewart Island, to the South of New Zealand. As was the case during the tropical depression that prompted Éliès to ease off the pace and change his heading at the heart of the Indian, this weather system needs to be studied in detail before the skippers sign up for the ride: verdict on Monday evening.


Riding the low pressure waves in fits and starts
However, this big bruiser of a weather system is but a locomotive ahead of a whole train of depressions stirring up the Indian Ocean. Indeed, as part of a vast, whirling system, oscillating its way through Argentina and Chile via the southern islands, the wind is set to blow and blow. As such, whilst the two leaders zigzag around the centre, their pursuers will be pushed and jostled around by the incessant NW’ly wind, backing round to the SW, a tempo that will be repeated endlessly like a metronome, the sailors switching from moderato to fortissimo according to the rhythm of their progress. Dancing to its tune, Jean Le Cam (Finistère Mer Vent) has temporarily bid farewell to the stormy conditions upon passing the longitude of Cape Leeuwin, whilst Thomas Ruyant (Le Souffle du Nord pour le projet Imagine) is getting swept up again by a bracing westerly, Louis Burton (Bureau Vallée) is still kicking over the traces of a lively front that Stéphane Le Diraison (Compagnie du Lit-Boulogne Billancourt) and Nándor Fa (Spirit of Hungary) are devouring with delight and speed. Meantime, Conrad Colman (Foresigh Natural Energy) and Arnaud Boissières (La Mie Câline) are plunging into a light patch to hunt down Fabrice Amedeo (Newrest-Matmut), who’s headed off on his own to more distant yet noisier horizons to the South.


Further behind, the compact international pack is preparing for another lively phase. Indeed, Sébastien Destremau (TechnoFirst-faceOcean) is enjoying slightly more energetic conditions than of late, a few dozen miles from the longitude of the Cape of Good Hope and he is set to hook up with Romain Attanasio (Famille Mary-Étamine du Lys), who has been navigating his way around a rather breathless zone of high pressure since leaving South Africa. However, once they’re into the Roaring Forties, the situation is likely to get feistier again with the arrival of a hard new system barrelling into the Indian Ocean from Brazil.


Eric Bellion (CommeUnSeulHomme): “We’re going very fast. I’m enjoying my race and the albatrosses and sailing like this around the world sure is crazy. At the start, I didn’t really care about the race itself, I just wanted to be in harmony with the sea and my boat. It was so difficult to find my rhythm and my pace. The Vendee Globe doesn’t fit in with my expectations. I knew it was something crazy and I knew it was a long way around the planet… I knew many things. Now though I feel very, very lonely and I’ve only covered a third of the race with all the rest of the planet to go. It’s not something you can imagine unless you experience it and when you’re racing in it you feel so vulnerable and weak up against nature and the sea. Anything could happen, you could collide with a whale, have electrical issues… There’s always a big depression on its way, the clouds are tricky here and the swell is huge, which tells me I have to be very careful and find a pace that’s reasonable for me. The race is something huge and crazy and in other ways it’s incredibly beautiful. I am enjoying myself too though. I’m sailing downwind and I just gybed near the exclusion zone making 15 to 20 knots. I only discovered solo sailing last year and it was my first solo sail in an Imoca in May!”


Thomas Ruyant (Le Souffle du Nord): “I was fairly well spared at the start of the race but I've had a few issues since I arrived in the Indian - that’s just how it is at the moment. The boat’s back up to 100% now though. I was up the mast this morning fixing the lazy bag and I have a few odd jobs to do but nothing very important. The cars, the battens and the leak are all fixed now but I can no longer use the original system for filling my ballast tanks. I’ve rigged up another tube system but I’m yet to test it. If that fails, I’ll have a go at using the bilge pumps so there are a few options. I’m on port tack right now so that’s not really a concern at the moment but psychologically it’s difficult to know there’s an issue there. I have 30 knots of breeze and I’m making 20 to 25 knots of boat speed under small gennaker and a slightly reduced mainsail. Now that my lazy bag issue is resolved I’ll be able to hoist more sail area as there are no gales forecast. In the coming days, I’ll have a westerly wind so there’s lots of gybing on the cards. Conditions are good and now that the boat’s intact I’m enjoying myself! My priority was on fixing my problems so now I can power up again. There’s a long way to go and my rivals are a long way ahead but anything possible and I’m not giving up. We took a hit with the damage so you have to learn to trust in your boat again to really go on the attack and that’s the case now. I’ve slept well and eaten well and Cape Leeuwin is on the horizon. Leeuwin is a legendary cape but I’m focusing on making headway step by step, happy about where I am today and the fact that I’ve made it this far. The Indian’s been complicated due to the damage caused by my errors but I’ve learned so much. I’ve got a good swell with lots of birds and a very majestic atmosphere.”
Fabrice Amedeo (Newsrest Matmut): “We are being escorted by albatrosses and a lovely ray of sunshine, which is magical and physical. We’ve been hit by 2 fronts in the past 48 hours with 40 knots of breeze, which has been good and the best reward the ocean can give us. It’s enabled us to dry out the boat a bit, which was getting very wet.”


© Alan Roura - La Fabrique / Vendée Globe
Alan Roura (La Fabrique): “I’m in seventh heaven! I’m among a group of talented sailors and I’m doing really well! The Indian Ocean is a bit hard, a bit temperamental and you have to learn to understand it and play with it. It’s what I was expecting. Nothing’s changed on the boat. She’s in the same condition as she was at the start and that’s the objective I set myself. To download a grib file takes 1hr and everything’s slow. I’d love to be able to show you what’s going on around me and it means I can’t see the videos from my family either. There are several races within the race, between the leaders, the old hands battling with the rookies. It’s incredible! The sailors are making very different strategic choices, which makes for an incredible race.”

Louis Burton (Bureau Vallée): “After my encounter with all types of dolphins in the Atlantic and a whale to welcome me into the Indian, on Saturday morning it was the turn of a raft of penguins to come and greet Bureau Vallée! Once I’d got over the joyous amazement at seeing these creatures I said to myself: "but wait, usually a penguin doesn’t swim for long does it? Oh my g…! That means there’s ice around!” Just thought I’d share my morning anxiety with you… clearly this is not a race like any other. And if anyone knows anything about penguins, I’m all ears! Thanks in advance!"

Jean-Pierre Dick (St Michel-Virbac): “For some it’s the tube, work, sleep and for me it’s manoeuvring, eating and resting.”

Kito de Pavant (Made In Midi): “I’m making the most of my sightseeing tour, which is pretty special aboard the Marion Dufresne with the albatross around us. Psychologically it’s tough. I wasn’t expecting things to pan out like that. It’s very rare. I’ve also lost 8 kilos since the start of the race, but the cook on-board reckons he’s going to plump me up again! Fortunately, I’m lucky to have partners who are supporting me and trusting in me. There’s a real sense of solidarity and it’s motivating me to find solutions. I’ve received hundreds of messages!”

12-12-2016, 09:34 AM

Jean-Pierre Dick is attempting to get away from a huge low forecast for tomorrow and to do that is set to pass through the Bass Strait between Tasmania and Australia. At the front, Alex Thomson has just come out of the centre of the low, where there was no wind and has lost quite a few miles to Armel Le Cléac'h.



It is not every day that we can say that Alex Thomson is the slowest in the fleet. It is fact the first time since the start, but that is what happened between 5 and 9 this morning, when Hugo Boss found herself totally becalmed in the centre of the low that he was trying to round via the north at 50°00 S, while Armel Le Cléac'h was battling it out 120 miles further south at 52°03. They were both slow this morning, but Banque Populaire VIII found the wind earlier than Hugo Boss. During that 4-hour period, Armel Le Cléac'h managed to keep up an average speed of 10.3 knots, while Alex Thomson was down to 4.4 knots with speeds occasionally down to less than 2 knots and a VMG that was practically nil between 0700 and 0730 hrs for example. The result is that the British sailor has lost a lot of miles to the Breton, whose lead has now grown again to 121 miles, which is more or less the double it was yesterday evening. However, this unusual situation is not likely to last as Alex Thomson was back up to speed again at 1100 hrs to around 12 knots, while Armel Le Cléac'h has been slowed. We are going to have to watch the movement of the low, which could upset things for either of them.

TRACKER (http://alexthomsonracing.geovoile.com/vendeeglobe/2016/tracker/)

Jean-Pierre Dick: "periods of 60-knots or even 70-knot winds”

In the other duels in the Vendée Globe, we can see that those being chased are warding off the attack of the chasing boats. Yann Eliès (Quéguiner-Leucémie Espoir) has been on level pegging in the battle over the past 24 hours with Jean-Pierre Dick (StMichel-Virbac), but for both of them and Jean Le Cam, the main question for the moment is how to deal with the big storm that is approaching in the next 48 hours. For Jean-Pierre Dick, "The safety of the boat and the sailor comes before the race. This is a very powerful low and will last for three days from tomorro with winds above 45 knots reaching 60 or even 70 at times. The seas will be huge with waves in excess of ten metres. There’s no way we are going into that as the situation is dangerous.” The skipper of StMichel-Virbac added, “There are two major options. Either we slow down before the low staying close to the exclusion zone, but the risk is that the seas will be very heavy, if the direction of the low changes. Or you go through the Bass Strait, which means more sailing, but less wind and calmer seas.” It is this second option between Tasmania and Australia that Jean-Pierre has chosen. "I shall be going through the Bass Strait. There are too many uncertainties via the south. In the next few hours, we’re going to have to forget the rankings and try to be reasonable. I’m going for maximum safety.” Yann Eliès and Jean Le Cam, the other two affected by this storm from tomorrow, have not yet made up their minds, but they must be wondering about the same matter too.


In the rest of the fleet, Paul Meilhat (SMA) is hanging on to his place on the podium. He even sailed twelve miles more than his challenger Jérémie Beyou (Maître CoQ), who is having to work hard to try to win back third place. If they keep up this fast pace, they should remain ahead of the forecast low. Further back in the Indian, the duel between Stéphane Le Diraison (Compagnie du Lit-Boulogne Billancourt) and Nandor Fa (Spirit of Hungary) for tenth place is also intense. And there’s a great battle raging between four skippers within 85 miles of each other further back from 15th to 18th place - Enda O'Coineen, Alan Roura, Eric Bellion and Rich Wilson. Yesterday, Alan Roura was amazed at his position battling it out for 15th place with more recent boats. Right at the rear of the fleet, Romain Attanasio (Famille Mary-Etamine du Lys) and Sébastien Destremau (technoFirst-faceOcean) are within a mile of each other in terms of distance to the finish. They have just swapped places at the back in the last two rankings.

Bruno Ménard / M&M


Conrad Colman (Foresight Natural Energy): “The world has changed back to grey although conditions are still pleasant. Notice that I'm talking in general terms here because my instruments are still uncooperative so I have no notion of wind angle or speed other than my experience of years at sea. However it's not the air that bothers me at the moment, it's water. The sea is really cold and even short exposure to it during a sail change leaves my hands so cold and weak that I can't even rip open a soup packet! Also, falling off the train that Stephane and Nandor are still on has forced me to dive south, close to the Kerguelen Islands and close to an iceberg detected by satellites four days ago. As I write this I have just crossed over the waypoint for the observed 30 meter iceberg as I figured the best way to avoid a moving target is to sail exactly over the point where it was last seen!”

Paul Meilhat (SMA): “A dull and rainy day after some sunshine yesterday. The seas are still heavy but the wind should ease this evening. With Maître CoQ we should get ahead of the severe gales. Getting past New Zealand looks complicated, as a high will be blocking our route. We will probably have to go some way north to get around the small low-pressure areas developing around it. In a few days we may get some calms to allow us to check everything on board and do some little repair jobs.”

MONDAY 12 DECEMBER 2016, 17H19

While the two leaders should sail in better conditions tomorrow after rounding a low pressure system, the following boats have to deal with a big storm expected tomorrow south of Tasmania.
Banque Populaire VIII and Hugo Boss will have completed rounding the depression which caused them problems. After sailing in the calms, close to the center of the low pressure system, the wind should settle again and they will pursue their route in the South Pacific.
For the 5 boats following the two leaders, the next few days will not be easy. Jean Pierre Dick even announced that he had put his race on hold and that he was going to sail through the Bass Strait between Australia and Tasmania. The second low pressure system which is expected in the days to come is actually very explosive and can cause a lot of damage to the fleet with winds blowing at more than 50 knots and gusts at more than 80 knots (150 kph) with 10 metre high waves.


We see in the 4 pictures how quickly this low pressure forms. On Tuesday morning (13th at 00:00 am), it is only a small undulation in the continuation of an existing depression (in the trough for initiated sailors). At noon, it is already a real depression with more than 40 knots of wind. It circulates very quickly and continues to deepen. On Tuesday at midnight, that is only 24 hours after its appearance on the models, the wind will be blowing at more than 70 knots in gusts south of Tasmania with 8 to 10 metre high waves. Colors on the second image represent the height of the waves. In orange, we refer to waves from 5 to 7 metres and in red waves of 10 metres and more.


The question for Yann Eliès and Jean Pierre Dick is how to escape this phenomenon of a rare violence. By taking the Bass Strait, St-Michel Virbac should get some shelter. The winds should not be as strong as south of Tasmania. Queguiner Leucémie Espoir is also sailing towards the Northeast, probably to look for some respite in the North before resuming the race in normal conditions.
For SMA and Maître CoQ, it will be important to maintain a good speed not to be caught up by this depression before New Zealand, after which it should ease gradually.
Christian Dumard and Bernard Sacré / Great Circle

12-13-2016, 09:27 AM



Thomas Ruyant passed Cape Leeuwin in eighth place at 1809hrs UTC yesterday. Along with Louis Burton he is one of the fastest and most isolated skippers in the fleet. Scattered across the Indian Ocean, thirteen other skippers are battling it out. Certain are struggling with low pressure systems, others with technical problems. And indeed some are dealing with both at the same time.
In the Pacific the four frontrunners are racing two by two, Cléac'h/Thomson and Meilhat/Beyou, while the three chasing boats (Dick, Eliès, Le Cam) are seeking to avoid the worst of the storm off Tasmania. But today, we look more closely at the fifteen others struggling in the Indian Ocean at a time when the leaders are back up to speed and Yann Eliès appears no longer to be hove to. All fifteen are getting a pummelling in the Indian Ocean.

Thomas Ruyant (Le Souffle du Nord pour le Projet Imagine) has been one of the main beneficiaries over the past 24 hours. He was the eighth sailor to cross the longitude of the legendary Cape Leeuwin yesterday evening and having sailed 427 miles in 24 hours, was one of the fastest in the fleet. He has regained 300 miles from Yann Eliès. Louis Burton (Bureau Vallée) is not much slower having clocked up 393 miles and is doing well in ninth place. He is currently sailing at 18 knots, 900 miles SW of Australia.

Around 350 miles behind Louis, there is a battle raging for tenth place between Stéphane Le Diraison and Nandor Fa. And it is very tight with 425 miles sailed in 24 hours by Compagnie du Lit-Boulogne Billancourt and 410 miles by Spirit of Hungary. This is the same distance as that sailed by the current leader, Armel Le Cléac’h (410 miles). Stéphane is currently 70 miles ahead of Nandor, who is surprised to be doing so well, as he told us yesterday. This pair is sailing around a thousand miles from the longitude of Cape Leeuwin.


Amedeo and O’Coineen have to climb their masts

It is also very tight between the New Zealander, Conrad Colman and French sailor, Arnaud Boissières. Around 350 miles NE of the Kerguelens, the skippers of La Mie Câline and Foresight Natural Energy are only two miles apart in terms of distance to the finish and ten miles apart out on the water. They are not exactly side by side but almost. Advancing at 15 knots at the moment, they are watching how a low-pressure system is developing, as it may block their route south of Australia later this week.


TRACKER (http://alexthomsonracing.geovoile.com/vendeeglobe/2016/tracker/)

A little further south and 200 miles back, Fabrice Amedeo, 14th, has not managed to catch them in spite of a good southerly option. It is true that the skipper of Newrest-Matmut has a halyard that is stuck and he is going to have to climb his mast some time or other, preferably in calmer conditions. That is also the case for Irish sailor, Enda O'Coineen (Kilcullen Voyager-Team Ireland, 15th) who is also waiting for the right momnt to try to resolve a similar problem. "Technical problems? Everyone has them. We have to get the toolkit out every day,” Eric Bellion explained this morning. The skipper of CommeUnSeulHomme left the international gang comprised of Irishman, Enda O’Coineen, Swiss sailor, Alan Roura (La Fabrique) and American Rich Wilson (Great American IV) to head towards the NE. The reason for this radical choice? To avoid the worst of the low-pressure system expected tomorrow to the west of the Kerguelens.
Heerema: “I’ll be getting 40 knots but not for so long”

Around 600 miles further back, it’s safety first for Dutchman, Pieter Heerema. "I’m heading towards the NE. I’ll be getting 40 knot winds, but I hope they won’t last as long," explained Pieter in a short message. No Way Back is in nineteenth place and one of the most isolated boats in the fleet: he is sailing 600 miles behind Eric Bellion and 600 miles ahead of Catalan sailor, Didac Costa (One Planet One Ocean), twentieth. Pieter is not going to be disturbed by his neighbours, with the nearest boats more than 600 miles away.
At the rear of the fleet, 750 miles SE of the Cape of Good Hope, yesterday’s summery condition are over now for Sébastien Destremau (technoFirst-faceOcean) and Romain Attanasio (Famille Mary-Etamine du Lys). No more jokes about being outside sunning themselves or wearing shorts in the cockpit while filming. Romain has got nine miles ahead of Sébastien and confirmed that the Indian is not being friendly to them either. "I have thirty knots of wind and am surfing along at more than 25 knots. I have to go and reduce the sail now." 6700 miles behind Armel Le Cléac'h and Alex Thomson, the fight is on. It is not because you are an ocean apart that you are not allowed to enjoy yourself a bit.”
Bruno Ménard / M&M


MONDAY 12 DECEMBER 2016, 19H45
Almost 4600 miles back from the leader and currently in twelfth place, Conrad Colman is around thirty miles ahead of his closest rival Arnaud Boissières (La Mie Câline). In addition to the threat of being caught, the New Zealander also had the worry of an iceberg warning on his mind, as he explained in his blog this morning.


The world has changed back to grey although conditions are still pleasant. Notice that I'm talking in general terms here because my instruments are still uncooperative so I have no notion of wind angle or speed other than my experience of years at sea. However it's not the air that bothers me at the moment, it's water. The sea is really cold and even short exposure to it during a sail change leaves my hands so cold and weak that I can't even rip open a soup packet! Also, falling off the train that Stephane and Nandor are still on has forced me to dive south, close to the Kerguelen Islands and close to an iceberg detected by satellites four days ago. As I write this I have just crossed over the waypoint for the observed 30 meter iceberg as I figured the best way to avoid a moving target is to sail exactly over the point where it was last seen!

In addition to my work on the boat, planning the navigation, trimming etc I now turn my binoculars to the horizon at regular intervals looking for hard water. I saw an iceberg in my first race around the world in 2012 near Cape Horn and it was impressive and scary for all that it represented... a near invisible, undetectable by radar, solid dangerous lump! I have good visibility and only one target to miss so I'm not too concerned about this Vendee cocktail being served on ice, although an encounter would leave me both shaken and stirred!

The three skippers in the Vendee Globe solo round the world race who are having to avoid the worst of the violent Southern Ocean storm all are deploying different strategies. Two, Jean Le Cam in eighth and seventh placed Jean-Pierre Dick are headed in different directions as they outrun the worst of the winds nearest the centre of the low, while Yann Eliès in sixth has hove to and slowed right down - to just two or three knots at times - to hold a position which should ensure the strongest winds pass to his north.
Cold as ice Cold as ice Perchance to dream Perchance to dream


Armel Le Cléac’h has come off much better than Alex Thomson in the low-pressure system that was holding them up. The Breton sailor has regained the lead he previously had over the British sailor. Banque Populaire VIII is almost 175 miles ahead of Hugo Boss, or around a hundred miles more than 48 hours ago and almost as far ahead as three days ago. The battle for third place continues between Paul Meilhat and Jérémie Beyou. Jérémie has regained around thirty miles from Paul in the past 24 hours, but SMA is still just over 85 miles ahead of Maître CoQ. Both of them have managed to get ahead of the deep low. They already have a lead of 800 miles over Yann Eliès in fifth place and this figure will grow because of the storm blocking those behind.
For the meantime the prudent trio, Dick, Eliès and Le Cam have put performance to one side and are prioritising looking after their boat and themselves. Jean-Pierre Dick has chosen to go a long way north. He has said he will pass through the Bass Strait between Tasmania and Australia, but the recent weather files show the low moving east faster than predicted and the area of strongest winds - 50-60kts - passing to the south of Tasmania this evening. Jean Le Cam has slowed and stayed south, looking to pass under the bullet of violent winds but still has 30-35kts of wind this morning. He may be the one to gain the most here, but only in relation to Eliès and Dick and not the others. Eliès has sailed just 120 miles in the past 24 hours, while Jérémie Beyou covered 380. The cost is high. In terms of the race itself, the situation clearly gives an advantage to the boats out in front.

Thomas Ruyant (Le Souffle du Nord pour le Projet Imagine) may also make gains narrowing the gap, even if he is still some 600 miles behind Jean Le Cam this morning. The same is true for Louis Burton (Bureau Vallée), who is in front of the pack in the Indian Ocean and should be the next to cross the longitude of Cape Leeuwin in two days from now. Back around the Kerguelens, they are preparing to deal with another low-pressure system, which is why some skippers like Eric Bellion and Pieter Heerema are starting to head further north. What they are about to face is certainly not as nasty as what is developing south of Tasmania, but it will be far from comfortable. Eric Bellion is playing it safe, telling us “I prefer to sail a greater distance than face 55 knot gusts with 6-8m high waves.”

Eric Bellion / Commeunseulhomme: “Conditions aren’t that good and keep changing with winds going from 25 to 40 knots. I’m starting to head further north. It’s not really the right direction, but I have to deal with the low-pressure system that is arriving. This low coming from South Africa is a long way north, so it means we have to go a long way back up to get around the top. I gybed at around one, as it looks like being very aggressive. I’m doing what any good sailor would do – looking after my boat and sailing as best I can. I just got knocked down and there was a real mess with the sheets, so I had to go out on the bow to sort that out. But hey, this is the Vendée Globe and we are in the Indian! Everyday you have your toolkit out. The Vendée Globe is a race by elimination and you can’t put off dealing with any problems, as you know the next day you’ll have something else to deal with. I have my doubts at times, telling myself I have another two months of this and wondering what I’m doing out here. But at the same time, this is the reason why we are here and I really want to continue. Cape Leeuwin is the only major cape missing from my list of major capes and I’m doing my best to get there.”

Sébastien Destremau (TechnoFirst faceOcean): “Good news. 25 knots of breeze with a TWA at 140degres. The waves are now coming from astern and it should be more comfortable. We could obviously carry more sail area and less water in the ballast. But I prefer to be safe rather than sorry. Bad news. As we broke another two hydrogenerator blades yesterday, we have decided to customise one of the strong propellers we have in stock. They are very strong and made to work well under 10knots so we decided to cut each blade and take off 20% of their surface area. (Less surface area=less rotating speed) For the moment it works a treat and we are charging very well however there is no doubt that we are very vulnerable in the energy department So we are seriously thinking about building some sort of propeller with what resources we have aboard.”

The Flasher
12-13-2016, 09:00 PM

The next round of updates should be interesting!

12-14-2016, 09:11 AM


The two pairs of racers out in front avoided the hammering from the big blow in the Southern Ocean, while the three skippers chasing them had to deal with the heavy weather for two days with winds in excess of fifty knots and mountainous seas. All three have made it through these conditions, each using their own method. Jean-Pierre Dick opted to race through the Bass Strait, Yann Eliès hove to and Jean Le Cam slowed down before taking off and making big gains.

StMICHEL-VIRBAC in Bass Straits


The big blow had been forecast for several days and required drastic measures. The winner was Jean Le Cam, who thanks to his position further back and further south, was able to continue to make headway under reduced sail without ever getting stopped or changing his heading. This is something that Yann Eliès was unable to do and in the end it was the skipper from St. Brieuc, who bore the brunt of the angry weather in the south. This is the second time in the eighth Vendée Globe that skippers have had to modify their trajectory to avoid getting battered by a deep low. The first time was when a tropical low crossed the middle of the Indian Ocean. Yann Eliès suffered the most, being forced to slow down on that occasion while Paul Meilhat and Jérémie Beyou put their foot down to get away from the worst conditions, although the skipper of Maître CoQ did see his hook ripped off and mainsail torn…


This time the skipper of Quéguiner-Leucémie Espoir was accompanied by two other sailors: Jean-Pierre Dick headed 800 miles NE to pass through the Bass Strait and even between the Furneaux islands and Tasmania. This is the first time that a Vendée Globe skipper has raced through these straits, which are well known for being nasty and angry at times, but it was an opportunity to avoid the heaviest weather. However, the cost in terms of the race has been high, as while the skipper from Nice has maintained his advantage over Eliès, he is now 450 miles further north and has given up sixth place to Jean Le Cam (Finistère Mer Vent), who has gained almost 400 miles in 48 hours. The skipper of StMichel-Virbac will benefit from a decent angle to head back down towards Stewart Island to the south of New Zealand in a moderate breeze and calmer seas than his two closest rivals, but it looks like he has lost 300 miles in this northerly option. However, he has ensured that his boat is safe and avoided damage to his equipment. The contest looks like being interesting in the coming days between these three, as they enter a lively Pacific today.



The Campbells are coming
What is unusual about this storm is that it deepened as it approached the Pacific. In the worst of the storm, there are winds in excess of 55 knots this morning, as it slips south-eastwards to pass to the south of New Zealand. The three skippers, who have spread right out in the Tasman Sea can see that this storm will be affecting the pair ahead of them, Paul Meilhat (SMA) and Jérémie Beyou, who passed Auckland Island this morning and then Campbell Island. Since the Indian Ocean, when Maître CoQ got left behind losing 250 miles, Jérémie Beyou has got back up to speed and is now only sixty miles or so behind.

D38 : Alex Thomson is doing his own race

The pair will be pushed along by this area of low pressure, which is still not filling, as it continues to head down to the pack ice. This should allow them to accelerate and close the gap slightly on the two frontrunners. At the front, the pace has changed. They are still fast for the moment, but that is set to change over the next few hours. The shallow low will even be offering headwinds to Armel Le Cléac’h (Banque Populaire VIII), as he makes his way along the edge of the exclusion zone at 52°S. This shallow low will be moving slowly eastwards. Positioned some 200 miles further north, Alex Thomson (Hugo Boss) hopes to make the most of a small low, but before that he is going to have to cross the area of light SE’ly winds and a transition to very light northerlies with areas of calm. At this point, it is hard to say who will come off best and get first to the huge high, which has settled ahead of Cape Horn. This could be the big turning point in the race, as another low is expected to develop this weekend on the edge of the high. But in general, the next few days look quiet for the two out in front. It is hard to plan a route to Drake Passage with a lot of uncertainty ahead.

As for the pack in the Indian Ocean, they are dealing with a series of low-pressure systems, which come after each other every couple of days. Louis Burton (Bureau Vallée) is alone out in front approaching the longitude of Cape Leeuwin that he should cross late today, while the rest of the fleet are between 45°S and 47°S with more or less wind. It is those at the back that tend to be getting the roughest conditions with a front moving towards the Kerguelens. That is why Eric Bellion (Commeunseulhomme) and especially Pieter Heerema (No Way Back) have moved back up to 40°S for the former and 37°S for the latter. They still have 4000 miles to sail to get out of the Indian Ocean.
Dominic Bourgeois/M&M



If British skipper Alex Thomson aged 42 ¾ , the second placed Vendée Globe skipper, wrote to Santa Claus?......
According to the current weather models, and as also supported today by the British skipper Alex Thomson in his Vendée LIVE call to Paris Race HQ, the two Vendée Globe solo round the world leaders Thomson and Armel Le Cléac’h should be at Cape Horn at Christmas. But, faced with probability of sailing on his unfavoured port tack for almost all of the remaining 3000 miles to the legendary ‘corner’ where the solo round the world race fleet turn left to climb back up the Atlantic, Thomson is rather hoping for an early Christmas present.

After snapping his starboard foil on November 19th he suffers a speed deficit in the moderate to fresh wind strengths on port gybe. Right now the Pacific Ocean is living up to its name for the two leaders, British skipper, Thomson is close to 300 miles behind leader Armel Le Cléac’h and has been racing in less than 10kts of breeze for some of today. The harsh reality is that he will likely have to wait until Rio before he can spend any sustained period on his favoured gybe, and hopefully pulling miles back on the French pacemaker Le Cléac’h. “In terms of the race, and winning the race, every mile you lose is significant,” Thomson said in today’s lunch time call. “Armel is a long way away from me right now. In terms of real distance he is 270 miles away. I am not really racing him. I am racing myself and trying to make the boat go as fast as possible. We will see what happens. At the moment to be truthful I am not going to catch up the miles I have lost in the next couple of days. Maybe if the wind gods are with me I can pull back a few miles, generally here the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.”

He added: “ I am concentrating on getting myself and the boat in the best possible condition for the final surge. I am just looking forwards to getting round Cape Horn, Christmas Day or Boxing Day will be nice, but really I just want to get off Rio, get off port tack and on to starboard.” The leading duo look set to have just one small low pressure system to negotiate early in the weekend but before then mainly light winds in a messy, mixed up zone of high pressure. Reported regularly in the French media as Welsh, Thomson considers himself British, laying the Welsh or English matter to rest today: “I am British. My parents are both English. I was born in Wales. And my great grandfather owned a house where Murrayfield the Scottish rugby ground is. So I am bit of everything!”

Thomson spoke today to New Zealand yachtsman Mike Sanderson, two times winner of the Volvo Ocean Race, CEO of Doyle Sails based in New Zealand, who supply the British based team’s sails. Sanderson confirmed that between Thomson’s performance and that of Conrad Colman, the very first New Zealander ever to compete in the Vendée Globe, there has been a huge upsurge of interest in the solo round the world race in the ocean racing Mecca that is New Zealand. Correspondingly Colman, in 12th place 4800 miles behind anticipates passing his home islands at Christmas: “I am going to be rocking up around Christmas,” Colman told Sanderson. “The heart strings will be pulling me left. But there is no doubt. There have been so many challenges so far there is no way I’m stopping in New Zealand.” Sanderson affirmed, “We will be like the Team New Zealand ad here, we will be standing on the beach waving you past. It is very cool. We are all super proud in New Zealand. You have that boat punching well above its weight. You are having a fantastic race, even with some testing issues with your pilots. We have learned all about them in this house. I look forwards to waving you past. The country is Vendée Globe obsessed now thanks to you and Alex Thomson. You’d be blown away how many people are talking about the race.”

JP Dick through the Bass Strait.
Jean Pierre Dick emerged from the Bass Strait this morning after detouring to miss the worst of a violent Southern Ocean storm. Rivals Yann Eliès and Jean Le Cam stayed further south and bore the brunt of some seriously big seas and winds, winds to 60kts and an unruly breaking swell of nearly eight metres at times. Dick has dropped a place to Le Cam but was back at full charge this afternoon, angled back to the south east. From being 300 miles behind, Jean Le Cam was this morning sixty miles ahead of Dick and only fifty miles behind Yann Eliès, currently directly south of Tasmania. Dick reported: “It’s always strange getting back to civilisation, seeing earth and saying that we were in the Roaring Forties just a few days ago. Suddenly you are back in civilisation and it’s a bit of a shock. It’s quite emotional going through the Bass Strait. It’s incredible to experience that in the Vendée Globe! I’m just passing Barren Island. It’s very impressive with the wind getting up to 40 knots. There are steep seas. I decided to furl the headsail, as it was a bit hairy with the sandbanks around here. I’m now going down towards New Zealand to get back into the Southern Ocean. I have been busy navigating my way around over the past 24 hours and had to spend some time at the nav station. You only get this sort of excitement in the Vendée Globe. I saw the coast of Tasmania and Clarke Island, which looked amazing.”

12-15-2016, 10:49 AM
Persistent light winds in the middle of the Pacific, nearly half way between New Zealand and Cape Horn means the chasing pack, led by rookie Paul Meilhat (SMA), are slashing their distance to the two Vendée Globe leaders Alex Thomson (Hugo Boss) and Armel Le Cléac’h (Banque Populaire VIII).


TRACKER (http://alexthomsonracing.geovoile.com/vendeeglobe/2016/tracker/)

Meilhat was 1300 miles behind the second placed British skipper five days ago. The difference between the two this afternoon is reduced to 835 miles. Thomson’s speeds remain slower than that of the leader, with long time rival Le Cléac’h making 19kts today to the 11kts of Hugo Boss some 200 miles to the north. While the Pacific is proving a strategic and tactical chessboard for the two leaders, the messy high pressure areas mixed with a couple of small depressions which will serve more as obstacles than a chance to be propelled faster towards Cape Horn, the South Indian Ocean is baring its teeth for the main peloton of the race. In particular, 450 miles east of the Kerguelens the oldest and youngest skippers Alain Roura (La Fabrique) and Rich Wilson (Great American IV) and Irish skipper Enda O’Coineen (Kilcullen Voyager Team Ireland) have the worst conditions for the fleet, with 35 to 40kts. Alan Roura, 23 years old, reported: “We’re in survival mode. There is a lot of wind and heavy seas and the boat is slamming. I have to keep up the speed, otherwise everything would break.
The Indian is a real devil. You have to fight hard every day. Conditions are going to stay difficult for three days. We are prepared for this sort of stuff, but you never know exactly what it is going to be like. It’s impossible to get any comfort here. It’s impossible to eat and we’re soaked when we sleep. Even opening the door is complicated as there’s so much water. I hope to get away from this soon and will have a sip of rum to celebrate.”

The stormy low is now catching Arnaud Boissières and Conrad Colman 450 miles ahead. The skipper from Les Sables d’Olonne who is seeking to finish his third consecutive Vendée Globe has taken a course 150 miles to the north of Colman. “This evening, we’re likely to get a real kick up the backside. I am adopting a cautious position. I don’t want to find myself with 45 knots of wind gusting to 60, close to the exclusion zone, which comes back up at the longitude of Cape Leeuwin,” said Boissieres.


Nandor Fa, the indefatigable Hungarian skipper, has lost a three metre composite fairing off the after edge of his keel blade on Spirit of Hungary. There is no structural compromise, but Fa says he feels the difference and the lost fairing leaves an audible hum off his keel. He lies 11th, 560 miles ahead of Colman who was his co-skipper in the last Barcelona World Race.
Thomas Ruyant, the 34 year old French rookie, who steps up to the Vendée Globe with the VPLP-Verdier design which was formerly Kito de Pavant’s Groupe Bel, has tasted success in the Mini 6.50 class, the Figaro and Class 40 before taking on the famous solo race around the world. He lost touch with the leading group when he had to divert north to make repairs to his ballast scoop, but has been making back miles in eighth place. Ruyant crossing into the Pacific tomorrow, is now 370 miles behind Yann Eliès, profiting from the enforced slow down by the two skippers in front who had to negotiate a big storm. He is the first skipper since Joé Seeten in 2000-2001 from NE France to take on the Vendée Globe.

Supported by Le Souffle du Nord, a collective of some 200 companies and enterprises from the region, Ruyant spoke in the French Vendée LIVE to Géry Trentesaux, the well known French owner who has more than 20 years of offshore racing successes to his credit, including the 2006 Route du Rhum and winner of the 2015 Fastnet Race, second in the last Sydney-Hobart, who is a prominent successful businessman and investor from the France’s far north spoke with Ruyant: “Before entering the Pacific, we have to deal with a small transition between Tasmania and New Zealand. It’s not easy, as we saw with the boats ahead. It’s hard to determine the right route. My boat is in perfect shape. I took the time to do things properly. The repairs are good and now I can focus on the performance of the boat and the conditions that lie ahead. I’m spending a lot of time inside and managing to eat and sleep well. That’s important to be able to continue. I’ll be on the port tack for a while before the transition. Unfortunately, I have had a problem with my special sail, which is designed for the Southern Ocean. It was Michel Desjoyeaux, who came up with that. It’s used for sailing downwind and is efficient in 30-40 kts of wind. After my ballast problem, I didn’t feel too happy about getting my water scoop back in the water. When I had the leak, it was like a geyser inside the boat and you don’t forget that. But now I’m back to 100% and have narrowed the gap with the boats ahead. It’s going to be my turn to have some complicated conditions. I might ease off to stay in acceptable conditions and let the worst of the heavy weather go off to Tasmania. There’s still a long way to go. The most important thing is looking after the boat and ensuring the boat is in good edition in the Pacific. This is the final narrow stretch before the open seas, where there are more choices of trajectory. I’ll feel more relaxed in the Pacific. This is one of the key moments in the Vendée Globe for me.”


Enda O Coineen (Kilcullen Voyager Team Ireland): “They say that life on the ocean wave is romantic. Well going to bed in your long johns, top layers, huddled in one sleeping bag, inside another sleeping bag with a sleeping cap to boot - and one eye almost always on the compass and wind instruments - would swiftly shatter any romantic notions. If this is their Summer - I would rather have two 'mothers-in-law' than spend winter here. Like the madman replied when asked why he was banging his head against the bed post "it’s great when you stop." And that's how I sleep in the cold Southern Ocean from time to time. Always in an extra alert position to movement changes in the boat - different to the normal battering, clanging and pounding in the waves. Like a musical instrument, the musician instinctively, like the sailor, knows if there is something not quite right. Lovers are the same.”

Pieter Heerema (No Way Back): “After the front yesterday it became really nice. Last night was fabulous: wind, huge swell, not like mountains but like mountain ranges. Fantastic full moon made it a splashing orgy of silver light and boat speed. Very early this morning on top of the L it got rougher and the last bit I am experiencing now. It should all even out soon though and give the opportunity to speed up again. Happy with my choice to make the detour north to avoid the strongest of the fronts and L's, even if the price has been more distance to the pack ahead. Autopilot did very well in the big swell at high speed last night and the rudders are also now proven under control, so hopefully the second part of the Indian Ocean will be quicker.”

Banque Populaire and Hugo Boss are sailing in a complex weather system in a light wind zone. The first one to get out of it will have a nice north-westerly flow on the edge of the high pressure system.


Banque Populaire and Hugo Boss are confronted with a complex weather system -with a zone of light winds (in blue on the chart) in the south east of a small depression which is situated to the north-west. This zone will be extending on Friday moving eastward. The question is to know if they will manage to get away from it quickly and sail in the Northwesterly flow generated by the Pacific high pressure system or not.


Behind, conditions have improved for SMA and Maître CoQ after the passage of the front while Quéguiner (in grey) and Finistère Mer Vent (in orange) still sail in a wind of more than 40 knots with squalls and heavy seas. St-Michel Virbac has better conditions in the North, which allows Jean Pierre Dick to maintain high speeds.
The group led by Enda O' Coineen also has to deal with a low pressure system which built up yesterday and is now moving quickly towards the East. It is going to sweep through the fleet in the coming days to Stéphane le Diraison.


We shall monitor finally a very deep low pressure system expected south of New Zealand on Sunday, December 18th. It should mainly concern Thomas Ruyant on the Souflle du Nord pour le Projet Imagine.

Big Brass Balls
12-15-2016, 09:00 PM
Alexis making one bad routing call after another.

C'mon man, don't quit now!

12-17-2016, 02:03 PM
At 1742 UTC on Saturday 17th December, Stéphane Le Diraison informed the Vendée Globe Race Directors that his Imoca Compagnie du Lit / Ville de Boulogne-Billancourt had dismasted

The skipper was not injured and sounded in good health on the phone, when he called. He is currently in the process of sorting out the rig and will then carry out a complete check-up on his boat.

He was sailing in a 30-35 knot NW’ly wind, when the incident happened and is currently located 770 miles from the coast of Australia.
All of the project’s sponsors are relieved that Stéphane is fine and remain in awe of his performance during the race, during which he showed rigour and determination.

More news to follow.

12-18-2016, 07:01 AM
French skipper Stephane Le Diraison, who was lying in 10th place in the Vendée Globe solo round with world race, is making a course for Melbourne, Australia 950 nautical miles away, after his IMOCA 60 Compagnie du Lit / Ville de Boulogne-Billancourt was dismasted yesterday evening.

Stéphane Le Diraison’s Compagnie du Lit / Ville de Boulogne-Billancourt has dismasted Stéphane Le Diraison’s Compagnie du... Different weather systems for Hugo Boss and Banque Populaire Different weather systems for Hugo...


TRACKER (http://alexthomsonracing.geovoile.com/vendeeglobe/2016/tracker/)

Stephane Le Diraison (FRA), skipper Compagnie du Lit - Boulogne Billancourt, talking on pontoons of the Vendee Globe in Les Sables d'Olonne, France, on November 1st, 2016 - Photo Jean-Louis Carli / AFP / DPPI / Vendee GlobeStephane Le Diraison (FRA), sk
The solo skipper spoke to Race Direction around midnight last night and explained that he has cut away the damaged rig and rigging, he is in fair spirits, and was working hard to set a jury rig - probably with his boom. He was working as fast as he could while he had daylight until around 0400hrs UTC. Le Diraison had told Race Direction at 1742 UTC last night that his mast had failed when he was sailing in 30-35kts NW'ly winds. This morning he is reported to motoring north for a few hours in 25.30kts of NW'ly wind. He has about 300 nautical miles to make before he can escape the usual zone of the low pressure train.

The match race between Jérémie Beyou (Maitre CoQ) and Paul Meilhat (SMA) 1350 miles east of South Island New Zealand, sees the advantage swing back to the younger rookie on the former MACIF. Ironically the two boats the ex MACIF and former Banque Populaire are the same two which were also similarly locked together all the way around the course in 2012-13 before Armel Le Cléac'h prevailed on Banque Populaire. Dealing with an unpredictable low pressure the duo, 34 miles apart laterally, are now in less breeze than they expected yesterday. Beyou reported this morning “I suddenly got 50 knot winds 24 hours ago. I hadn’t seen that coming. So I quickly went from mainsail and small gennaker to just the mainsail with three reefs. The mainsail didn’t appreciate that and my repair job didn’t hold out with the tear getting worse. For the moment, it’s in one piece with patches stuck on it by me from the end of the boom, but I’m going to have to do something about it later. My impression that I’ve no idea where I’m going has been strengthened. My aim is to get to Cape Horn in one piece, even if that means being conservative in my sail choices to avoid any nasty surprises. I spent the night close to SMA so we talked a bit. He’s got his problems, but the fact that he has access to weather data means he can feel more relaxed than me. Then, this morning I lost sight of him. All down to a cloud? With me upwind and him sailing downwind. You really get the feeling you’re not in control.”

All of the skippers are making good speed on this 42nd day of racing, except for Armel Le Cléac’h (Banque Populaire VIII). As forecast, the race leader has slowed in a wind hole. His speed is down to eight knots, while Britain’s Alex Thomson continues to make progress at 16 knots. We could see a slight narrowing today in the 442-mile gap recorded in the 0400 rankings. Jean-Pierre Dick (StMichel Virbac) has gained more ground in ideal conditions. Averaging 18 knots, he is now ahead of Yann Eliès (Quéginer Leucémie Espoir) by 8 miles.

Thomas Ruyant has got back up to speed after fleeing the big low pressure system, which was chasing him. He managed to avoid the 60-70 knot winds that were forecast. The skipper of Le Souffle du Nord pour le Projet Imagine told us this morning that the seas were still heavy with more than 40 knots of wind. “I avoided the worst of the area of low pressure, but did get up to 45 knots of wind. I managed to keep going, even if this little detour to the north meant I lost a lot of time and sailed extra miles. Since 2200 UTC I have been heading towards the SE, but I won’t be able to hoist more sail for another 24 hours.”

Louis Burton is in moderate conditions and is about to pass into the Pacific Ocean today. Behind him, 653 miles astern, Nandor Fa is disappointed to have lost his long time running mate and rival Le Diraison with whom he raced the Indian Ocean in a close and friendly rivalry. But the proud Hungarian skipper does become beneficiary of tenth place even if he will doubtless say he would prefer to still have Le Diraison racing. As he indicated yesterday Enda O'Coineen has sailed north since yesterday, recalibrating his racing attack, as he seeks to find a solution to his computer and other small problems on Kilcullen Voyager. Alan Roura has therefore taken 15th place. The so called gang of four,

O'Coineen, Roura, Bellion, and Rich Wilson have strong SWly winds today of 35kts. Spanish skipper Didac Costa is just west of the Kerguelens and will get the front of the low that the two match racing skippers Romain Attanasio and Seb Destremau are in, yielding 35-45kts of wind.

12-19-2016, 08:27 AM
Vendée Globe solo skipper Thomas Ruyant is edging towards South Island New Zealand and, ideally, the sanctuary of Bluff with as much urgency has he dare, nursing his broken IMOCA Le Souffle du Nord pour le Projet Imagine, which threatens to break in two after he hit a large, hard object on Sunday late afternoon.
The young skipper from the north east of France was motor sailing at around 7.5 to 7.8kts trying to reach the shelter of the South Island coast before another big stormy low pressure arrives in the middle of Tuesday. At 1500hrs TU this Monday afternoon Ruyant had about 205 miles to make to Bluff, the most southerly town in New Zealand. Race Direction of the Vendée Globe is in constant contact with his team and the local MRCC – the Wellington based RCCNZ – with an evacuation plan ready to be actioned if required, and track the progress of Ruyant and his wounded IMOCA every six minutes.

Ruyant sent video footage of the damage sustained when he hit what he believes to be a shipping container when he was sailing at around 17kts. It clearly shows vertical open cracks down to below the waterline on the port side especially, cracking in the deck and water inside the boat. He spent several hours hove to (stopped) during Sunday night into Monday. He told Vendée LIVE today: “The damage at the front of the boat is spreading. The hull is opening up and the frame coming away more, everywhere. I’m sailing to the south of New Zealand. I’m not sure if it will all stay in one piece until then. What’s good is that I’m in helicopter range, which is reassuring. The inside hasn’t been affected and with my watertight doors, I’m safe. The shock was exceptionally violent. It gives me the shivers just thinking about it. I was at 17-18 knots and came to a sudden standstill hitting what was probably a container seeing the damage it has done to the hull. The whole of the forward section exploded and folded up. Luckily the boat was not dismasted. It was really very violent. I was sleeping on my beanbag and fortunately I had my head down in that, as I ended up hitting the mast bulkhead. I found things that were stowed in the stern right up against the forward bulkhead. They got thrown 10m forward.”

Earlier Reports:

At 1545 UTC on Sunday, the 60-foot monohull, Le Souffle du Nord pour Le Projet Imagine skippered by Thomas Ruyant, currently taking part in the eighth Vendée Globe, collided with a UFO. Thomas then discovered an ingress of water in the sail locker in the bow. The incident also caused damage to the starboard rudder, the bottom frame as well as some other structural damage in particular to the deck of the boat. The sailor from NE France is fine and has not asked for assistance.


“Thomas is in the process of carrying out an appraisal of the damage and ensuring his boat can sail without suffering. He has already prepared his safety gear in case the situation worsens. At the time of the incident, he was sailing in winds blowing in excess of forty knots and on very heavy seas. Thomas is trying to find a solution to make his way to New Zealand,” explained Laurent Bourgués, technical director of Le Souffle du Nord.
The Vendée Globe Race Directors are in contact with the New Zealand maritime rescue authorities, in case the skipper asks for help, should the situation deteriorate.

Following the collision with an unidentified floating object late yesterday afternoon, the skipper of Le Souffle du Nord pour Le Projet Imagine competing in the Vendée Globe is in serious difficulty. He is in good health, but his boat is on the point of splitting in half. As a good sailor, after spending the night hove to, Thomas Ruyant is attempting to motor to Bluff in New Zealand, which is 260 miles away from his seriously damaged boat.


“The port shell has split open down to below the waterline,” declared Laurent Bourguès, technical director of Le Souffle du Nord. “The starboard shell is also delaminating. The structure of the deck is gradually deteriorating. The danger is that the front section may break completely away from the stern section. Thomas has attempted to fill in the holes. The boat is holding out thanks merely to its longitudinal structure. The starboard rudder is still in place, but only just. Thomas has been working on that. The idea is to get as quickly as possible to the southern tip of New Zealand in order to shelter, as the wind will be becoming much stronger tomorrow morning. Thomas has still not asked for assistance, but the Race Directors are keeping a close eye on the situation, should he asked to be taken off, which is quite possible.”



Thomas is getting ready for that possibility and has gradually got over the huge shock following the collision. “It was a bit like a car accident. The boat came to a sudden halt. It was an extremely violent shock. I felt extremely down about it yesterday, but I’m finding the motivation to bring my boat safely to port. That is my priority,” explained an undaunted Thomas.

The 180 partners and over 1000 supporters of Le Souffle du Nord pour Le Projet Imagine are offering their strongest support to Thomas Ruyant in this difficult time.

12-19-2016, 09:27 AM


MONDAY 19 DECEMBER 2016, 11H42

The skipper of Compagnie du Lit/Ville de Boulogne-Billancourt looks at the circumstances, which led to his boat dismasting on Saturday evening. Stéphane Le Diraison is expected to take over a week to reach Australia under jury rig. He explains how he reacted in these nasty conditions.

“I was inside the boat. I went surfing along at 28 knots and heard a lot of noise. I thought it was an outrigger, and rushed outside in my socks, as I was inside trying to sleep… I grabbed the helm and saw that I didn’t have any mast. It was a huge shock, as there was nothing left. Usually when masts break it is at the level of the first or second spreaders, but mine broke at deck level right at the bottom. The mast was in pieces on the deck with bits of carbon everywhere. A three metre long piece was cutting through the deck with its spreaders. All the sails (Jib top, J3, mainsail) were in the water and pulling down. I cut all the stays to allow this to float behind like a floating anchor. I tried to get the gennaker back, but it was impossible. The seas were huge with breakers. My boat kept getting stopped by these breakers and the water was above the guard rail flooding the cockpit. It was impressive. I was clipped on in the stern. I tried to lift up my sails, but it was too risky, so I let everything go. That really hits you hard… It’s so tricky finding the funding to pay for a set of sails and when you see them drift away liker that, it really gets to you. Particularly seeing everything was fine on board before that. I’d coped with a rough Indian Ocean. A couple hours before I was telling them at Race HQ that everything was going well.”


“I motored for three hours and tried to eat and sleep after so much effort to secure the boat. I then put on my foulies to go out on deck to clear things up. I’ve never found anything so hard in my life. There were 35 knots of wind and cross seas in the front. I was frozen and the boat was getting tossed around in spite of weighing 9 tonnes and measuring 60 feet. My first analysis showed that the dismasting was due to a backstay padeye breaking. I don’t know why that happened. It shouldn’t have broken, especially seeing we changed the part just before setting off. There’s nothing left on the deck. Not a single cable. The lifelines got ripped off and it’s quite dangerous now, so just as well I decided to clip on.”

“I spent twelve hours cleaning everything up. I found a way to set up a jury rig. I now have a 7m mast and it’s fantastic. I don’t think this one will come down. I hoisted my storm sail to get north as quickly as possible and away from the ice zone, where I was drifting. I was completely exhausted and you really have to dig deep to find the inner strength. Firstly I had to look after myself, as I was drifting in the Southern Ocean not far from the ice, which means it wasn’t very comfortable psychologically.”

“The first punishment is my Vendée Globe has come to an end, after things were going so well. I would have preferred it to have been my mistake messing up a gybe or choosing the wrong sails or being too aggressive. But that wasn’t the case. I had the right sails and was sailing wisely and calmly. It was just bad luck… so is very frustrating. The second punishment is what I have had to go through in the past few hours, the worst in my life It’s not over yet. I managed to set up a jury rig, but now I need to get to Australia which is a thousand miles away. My third punishment is that I shall end up in Melbourne right on the other side of the world from Lorient, so I have a heap of logistical problems to deal with. I am now motivated to come home, but it’s not going to be easy. But that is part of the Vendée Globe – a real maritime adventure and I can tell you that the adventure continues. I’m on a wounded boat and not able to manoeuvre well, so it’s not exactly safe.”

“People often talk about jury rigs, but when you get involved alone on a 60-foot boat, it’s not easy. I’m proud of being able to get back heading north 15 hours after the incident. It’s true that it’s better to complete the Vendée Globe, but if you look at the race course, what we come here for is also excitement and the need to take up a personal challenge. These past few hours in a disastrous situation without help correspond exactly to that spirit.”

Unable to use his hydrogenerators at such low speeds, Stéphane wanted to start his engine to charge his batteries but the alternator burnt out. Compagnie du Lit-Boulogne Billancourt is this morning sailing at reduced speed towards Melbourne (Australia): a little over 3.5 knots, which must feel odd after the averages in excess of fifteen knots in the Indian Ocean. At around a hundred miles a day, it should take between a week and ten days to complete this voyage back to civilisation.
Source: Compagnie du Lit-Boulogne-Billancourt



D43 : Video from Alex Thomson


D42 : Serious damages for Sebastien Destremau

Day 41 Highlights

Buzz Light Beer
12-19-2016, 11:42 AM
I thought those IMOCA boats were built to take a hit like that, no?

Big Brass Balls
12-19-2016, 04:52 PM

Was launched in 2007 and did the 2012 Vendee as Groupe Bel sailed by Kito de Pavant.
Was involved in a collision 2 days out and retired.

12-20-2016, 08:45 AM


The coastguards have reached Thomas Ruyant’s boat and two sailors have gone on board with a pump. Thomas told his team that he now hopes he can save his boat. They hope to reach Bluff at around 2100 UTC.


Coastguards on their way to Thomas Ruyant Coastguards on their way to Thomas... Pacific Wall Pacific Wall

Thomas Ruyant was reassuring this morning at 1030 in a message to his shore team. “I have two New Zealanders aboard my boat and we’re currently setting up the pump to empty the forward compartment. I have eight knots of wind and calms seas. I think I can say that I am going to save Le Souffle du Nord and that we’ll manage to bring her safely to port. Since rounding the southern tip of New Zealand, everything has been made safe. We are in sheltered waters. The boat is nose down but we are stabilizing the situation. A few hours ago I thought it was all over for my mighty boat. I could no longer make headway in 45 knots of wind. I was below with one finger on the beacon button to ask to be picked up. I thought I was going to lose Le Souffle du Nord forever. I rounded up every couple of minutes. I couldn’t control my boat with the damage to the steering system. The rig was limp and I no longer had any backstays. It was all hanging by a thread. After that tricky moment and rounding the famous cape, I understood that I as going to make it. There was an incredible moment of satisfaction with the sun going down along the coast of New Zealand.”

Le Souffle du Nord is due to reach Bluff at around 2100 if everything goes well, although the situation still remains tricky.



The NZ coastguard boat is on its way and should be alongside Le Souffle du Nord at around 1000 UTC. It is not too soon, as the situation has grown worse with the boat sinking her bow down into the water. Thomas Ruyant has officially announced his retirement. He hopes however to save his boat.
The seas and winds are now not as strong for Thomas Ruyant approaching the coast of New Zealand, after a very stressful night aboard his broken boat. He had to deal with winds in excess of fifty knots for several hours with 58 knot gusts. The good news is that the NZ coastguards set off at 0730 UTC this morning and should be alongside him at 1000 UTC. Thomas Ruyant should then be less than fifty miles from the port of Bluff, which he is aiming for.

On this coastguard vessel, two sailors are ready to go aboard with Thomas Ruyant. They are experienced sailors - Stuart McLachlan is well known in the world of ocean racing for being the boat captain of Camper in the Volvo Ocean Race. Marine Viau, who is in charge of logistics for the Le Souffle du Nord team explained, “There is a pump aboard, diesel and some equipment to reinforce the structure of the boat, if required. Two sailors including Stuart McLachlan, who has been involved in several Volvo Ocean Races, are ready to go aboard Le Souffle du Nord, if Thomas feels the need.”

Thomas Ruyant has just officially announced to the Race Directors that he is retiring. That may seem unimportant at this stage, but it does change things, as

Thomas Ruyant would risk being disqualified, if sailors went on board before he carried out this formality.


Technically, the clock is ticking. While the coast of New Zealand is protecting him from the worst of the weather, the state of the boat has become very worrying. Laurent Bourguès, technical director for the Le Souffle du Nord team, explained, “The boat is continuing to open up.” Thomas Ruyant told the Race Director, Jacques Caraës, who receives the boat’s position every six minutes and is closely monitoring the situation, that he is now unable to bail out the water entering the boat (at least one of the two pumps is no longer working) and this led him to close the watertight compartment between the sail locker and the inside of the boat. Theoretically, if she doesn’t break up, the boat should not sink with this compartment closed. But she is advancing at 5 knots with her bow down into the water, and the stern of the 60-foot boat is so far above the sea that it is hard draining the water when waves come over the deck. The situation is therefore very tense, “but we have every hope that he will manage to save his boat, once they get the pumps going,” commented Jacques Caraës. It’s going to be a very stressful day, but if the operation is successful, Thomas Ruyant and Le Souffle du Nord Pour le Projet Imagine are due to reach the port of Bluff this evening.

Bruno Ménard / M&M
Jérémie Beyou, (Maître CoQ) : “It’s been a tricky night on Maître CoQ. The wind got up to over thirty knots. I grabbed some time to rest and when I woke up, it felt odd, as if the boat had stopped. After a quick inspection, I discovered the sail hold had been flooded. The ballast hole cover out on deck was missing and with the boat heeled over, the leeward section was filling with water. At the same time, the foil housing, was leaking water into the sail hold due to the pressure of so much speed. I opened the inspection hatch a few days ago and it probably wasn’t sealed right when it closed. I blocked the hole with some underwear and tarpaulin and that’s working for the moment. I haven’t managed to stop the leak from the ballast housing and will have to be down to less than 15 knots to do that. Consequently the pumps have been working all out for the past few hours. I’m hoping for some calmer conditions in the coming hours to repair all that.”

12-20-2016, 09:23 AM



This afternoon at 1415 UTC, Paul Meilhat contacted his team to inform them of a problem with his keel ram. The ram has a 40 cm (16 inch) crack and this has led to the keel canting leeward of the boat. Paul is in the process of blocking the system to try to get the keel in the middle. To carry out this operation, he bore away and is heading towards the north.

It was after hearing an unusual noise early this afternoon that the skipper of SMA went to inspect his keel housing. He immediately realised that oil from the hydraulic circuit had flooded the ram compartment. He thought first of all that it was a pipe that had burst in the hydraulic circuit, but then noticed a 40 cm crack in the ram itself.

SMA is currently in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, 2000 miles east of New Zealand.
More information to follow...

12-21-2016, 09:52 AM

In two cruel days the hopes of the Vendée Globe’s two top rookies have been dashed by mechanical failures. On Sunday afternoon it was the 35 year old race first timer Thomas Ruyant who was forced to abandon his race after 42 days while lying in eighth place. His seamanship in bringing his badly broken IMOCA, which threatened to break up and sink at any minute, 220 miles through some horrendous weather conditions, writes him into the race’s history books.


TRACKER (http://tracking2016.vendeeglobe.org/gv5ip0/)

Paul Meilhat’s mechanical failure, a 40cms (15 inch) crack in the keel ram, thankfully has not had the same dramatic impact as Ruyant’s self rescue, but the outcome in the meantime is as cruel for the gifted, fast learning 34 year old from Lorient who already had one foot on the Vendée Globe podium. Meilhat has had to route north, leaving the optimum east-going route, and considers his race over, with the future destination as yet undecided aboard SMA, the record breaking 2012-13 race winning boat. After the retirals of Morgan Lagravière (Safran) back on November 25th, Ruyant yesterday and the re-routing of Meilhat, this has not been a good edition for the ‘bizuths’ – as the French call race first timers. The keel ram, which weighs 90 kg has a 15 inch crack in it, which makes it impossible to repair at sea. His team said, “After the incident happened the most important thing was ensuring the safety of the boat. Without its ram the keel would be free to swing from side to side at 45° to the boat, which could easily threaten the structure of the monohull in certain conditions.” The skipper – who had been racing side by side with friend and rival Jéremie Beyou (Maître CoQ) – for 25 days reported this morning: “I made the keel secure using the blocking system and I stowed the sails, as I had a lot of sail up. Since then, I have been heading towards the NW to get away from the violent winds. I haven’t yet determined my route, as this will depend on the weather in the next couple of days. With a keel like that, I wouldn’t make it around Cape Horn. I wouldn’t feel safe, so I secured everything for the boat and myself.”


There is no immediate danger with the keel fixed in place, but any heavy seas could lead to a series of events and much more serious damage. Meilhat will choose his destination based on the weather. “New Zealand is the closest land 1900 miles away. The problem is that would mean quite a lot of upwind sailing in deep lows, which would be dangerous for the boat. I’m heading towards the NW for the moment and depending on the weather in two or three days, I will choose whether to head for New Zealand or up to Polynesia.” The decision to head away from what was his initial goal is the only safe option and Meilhat is well aware of that, in spite of the disappointment. “I’m keeping myself busy,” he explained yesterday evening. “I don’t want to think about it too much for now. I have at least a week of sailing to do to come to terms with that. It’s really hard going from a state of mind where you are giving it your all to this doubting. I am trying to get things into perspective and doing what is required to ensure the safety of the boat. It’s not yet over. It’s still a worrying time for me.” The skipper of SMA added, “As for the race itself, it’s hard, but it will take a while for it to sink in. This is a race that is not like any other. I had really entered a world I didn’t know before and found a different mindset. It’s going to take time to get back to normal.”
Warriors Wrestling



Two of the toughest, older warriors in the fleet, Nandor Fa in ninth and Enda O’Coineen in 14th are having to dig deep. Ex-wrestler Fa is now very much on his own, with 620 miles ahead to Louis Burton (Bureau Vallée) in front of him and 503 miles behind to Conrad Colman (Foresight Natural Energy). The Hungarian skipper, who finished fifth in the second edition of the Vendée Globe, was knocked flat and fought for some time to get his boat and race back on course. Fa said: “I’m just over my most difficult night in the race so far. A 40-knot gust knocked over the boat. I jumped to furl up the reacher, with which we’ve been progressing perfectly until that moment. I was still winching the sheet when another sudden gust hit us and made the boat gybe. I was in hell. A huge wave swamped us from the back which came into the cabin as of the doors was open - luckily just one. By the time I was finished with the whole chaos. I furled the J2 and sat down on the beanbag. Just a few minutes later I was alarmed by a loud noise and the boat being knocked over. Afterwards I crawled into the cabin, soaking wet, trying to change my sodden clothes. Then I sat next to the galley to eat something. As I was sitting there, the boat suddenly stopped in a wave and my flying in the boat was stopped by the chart table, having my ear smashed. My ear was throbbing like it was hanging off, just like back in the days when I was a wrestler. This was all I could take. I screamed out, swearing and cursing like a madman, I was so angry. But I pulled myself together. I ate something, hauled myself on to the beanbag and passed out.”

At dawn I was awakened by huge silence. I got up to see what’s happened. Every single part of me was in pain. Somehow I got to the companionway door to see that everything was all right, we were sailing in the right direction. It just seemed too silent and serene after all the drama and noise. After breakfast I saw that the power was too low, so I started the engine. A few minutes later I heard a hissing sound. I already knew what it was: The engine was cooked. I grabbed the tools and started to repair it. It took two hours. After that, the engine has an even sweeter, more beautiful sound than before. So, this is how I entered the Pacific on 20th December at 09:30 UTC.”

O’Coineen is sailing ‘in the dark’ with limited comms and navigation instruments. After crossing Cape Leeuwin among the peloton of five skippers who passed the longitude of the second great Cape within 13 hours of each other, O’Coineen admits he has some considerable trepidation about his passage into the Pacific, but ever stoic and positive, he reiterates that this is the challenge he has come to take on. His lack of internet connection and email means he gets a weather update from Race Direction at midday each day by phone as well as the positions of all of the boats around him. Similarly, Jéremie Beyou, who lies third now, gets a text only forecast by Skyfile as his only source of weather information. But despite his lack of communication tools, the Irish skipper who wrote an autobiographical book, ‘The Unsinkable Entrepreneur’ still could not help himself from doing business! He almost certainly became the first Vendée Globe skipper to buy and sell pubs or bars during the solo round the world race. O Coineen said today: “I do miss the connectivity, the being able to go on the internet and see what is going on, to see what is happening with other things in the world. Even so I have been doing a little bit of business over the phone. I actually managed to sell an interest in a pub and buy an interest in a pub in the same day. That is something I said I would not do, but there you are. I am an amateur sailor sailing around the world. I will have earned my spurs when I get around.”

Following Meilhat’s diversion north away from the race course, Jean Pierre Dick (StMichel-Virbac) is now up to fourth place 430 miles behind Béyou and 250 miles ahead of the duo Yann Eliès and Jean Le Cam who are now 38 miles apart.


Pieter Heerema (NED) No Way Back: “I am completely wasted. I have had three wipe outs. I have had crash tacks, the sails flapping, the boat flat in the water, an enormous mess, an avalanche of stuff through the boat three times, sails flogging. It has been a disaster. And it is the same problem I have had nearly since the start. I am at this moment on the back up autopilot which I have some questions about because I have never had a chance to use it. There are certain functions which I don’t know if they are in it. My plan is to just trundle along very very slowly. I have food enough for 140 days. And if need be I just cruise. I am doing 10 knots right now, I am doing 53 per cent of polars, it is fantastic circumstances, I should be at 18 to 20. But if needs be, I take it easy and get home that way. It is very sad. That is not the Vendée Globe.”


Earlier this month, on 7 December, Sébastien Josse and Gitana Team announced their retirement from the Vendée Globe 2016-2017 following serious damage to the port foil of Edmond de Rothschild. A huge disappointment to the whole team in their quest for victory. Sébastien Josse has made no secret of the fact that it is something that will remain with him for many months to come. With her keel and mast removed, the 60-foot Edmond de Rothschild is now on her way to Europe. In forty days, she will be back home.

On 5 December 2016, Sébastien Josse alerted his shore crew to the serious damage aboard Edmond de Rothschild. Following the breakage of a mechanical part on the head of the port foil, the appendage came close to pulling out of its casing, which could have had serious consequences. “The risk of water ingress aboard was very high and that was the first thing we focused on so that Sébastien could lock the foil in the upper position and tackle the storm that was expected (40 knot winds and waves in excess of 7 metres) with a reasonable degree of safety. At that point, the competition goes right to the back of your mind. The situation was tricky and could easily have taken a turn for the worse. Sébastien had 36 really complicated hours to deal with, which he dealt with perfectly,”pointed out Cyril Dardashti, Director of Gitana Team.
Making headway some 900 miles from the south-west tip of Australia when the incident happened, it was decided that Sébastien Josse would make for Fremantle, to the North of Cape Leeuwin, a journey he was able to complete on Saturday 10 December after three days of sailing. Two members of Gitana Team and a logistician were waiting for him there with the aim of organising the 60 footer's repatriation to Europe and her technical base in Lorient, Brittany, as quickly as possible. “

“The weather conditions in the area enabled me to get up to Australia pretty quickly. At that stage it crossed my mind that the hardest part was behind me, however the arrival in Fremantle was certainly no picnic as we had a string of administrative issues related to Australian protectionism'. In short, the customs officers were calling for the team to have work visas, which were impossible to provide in the timeframe allowed. Our time there proved to be incredibly complicated, but fortunately we were able to count on the help of Philippe Péché, who has been based there for a fair number of years and that enabled us to remove the mast and keel within the allotted time as the boat had to be loaded on the ship by Friday 16 December at the latest,” explained the sailor from Nice. “I’m happy to be back in France, even though I know that it's not necessarily going to be a pleasant time. In Australia, I was still caught up in the action and rather disconnected from the race. I'm going to try to remain that way for a few more days, recharge my batteries with family and enjoy some quality time with them during the festive season before getting back down to it in early January in Lorient.””
Source Gitana Team

12-22-2016, 09:36 AM



The approach to Cape Horn looks to be relatively benign for the two leaders of the Vendée Globe now 560 miles apart. Leader Armel Le Cléac'h is now closer to the race course's most emblematic milestone than second placed Alex Thomson is to him.

Rather than the blast of a fast moving low pressure carrying lots of wind, as might be expected, Thomson is upwind in 10kts of breeze towards the centre of a low, while Le Cléac’h is slightly quicker. Routing models have Banque Populaire VIII at the famous island tomorrow afternoon and Hugo Boss on Sunday afternoon, Christmas Day. Both should get the chance to pass relatively close to the Horn in daylight.


TRACKER (http://tracking2016.vendeeglobe.org/gv5ip0/)


Since Paul Meilhat (SMA) started making his way north after damage to his keel ram, Jérémie Beyou (Maître CoQ) has been alone in third place, sailing on the back of a small area of low pressure. The wind is variable in strength and direction but Jérémie is making good headway in spite of all the problems he has encountered during his third attempt at the Vendée Globe. He still has a comfortable lead over Jean-Pierre Dick (StMichel-Virbac): 469 miles separated them in the 0400 UTC rankings. Dick is dealing with a ridge of high presure this morning and it looks like he will have to wait until tomorrow morning to accelerate again.


Yann Eliès (Quéguiner-Leucémie Espoir) and Jean Le Cam (Finistère Mer Vent) are sailing ahead of a low pressure system, but will be running into a high later today. The battle continues for fifth place with just 37 miles between them this morning with the advantage going to Eliès. “It’s nice sailing along with Jean. We have been together since the storm that we had to deal with off New Zealand. Sailing with someone else means doing battle, checking your speed and strategy. It’s also an advantage in terms of safety in these isolated waters.”

Conrad at the half-way mark, Happy Birthday Didac!

On the edge of the Antarctic Exclusion Zone, Louis Burton (Bureau Vallée) is making the most of some fine conditions. He has passed New Zealand and entered the real Pacific with Cape Horn the next piece of land. Just over 500 miles behind Nandor Fa (Spirit of Hungary), Conrad Colman (Foresight Natural Energy) has passed the halfway point and is about to enter the Pacific and say hi to his homeland as he goes by. Further back, the group of five are catching Arnaud Boissières (La Mie Câline). This morning there were only 140 miles between Alan Roura (13th on La Fabrique) and Rich Wilson (17th on Great American IV). Eric Bellion is performing well on CommeUnSeulHomme, which was the fastest in the fleet over the past 24 hours, covering 410 miles. Eric has overtaken Rich Wilson and Fabrice Amedeo (Newrest-Matmut), and is getting closer to Enda O’Coineen (Kilcullen Voyager-Team Ireland). Tomorrow these five will be facing the nasty low, which is currently affecting those at the rear: Pieter Heerema (No Way Back), Didac Costa (One Planet One Ocean), Romain Attanasio (Famille Mary-Etamine du Lys) and Sébastien Destremau (TechnoFirst-faceOcean). While they have avoided the worst of the weather by heading north, conditions remain very rough as they advance towards Cape Leeuwin. Didac Costa, who is celebrating his 36th birthday will be happy to be getting close to the second major cape. The Catalan sailor, who set off from Les Sables d’Olonne four days after everyone else, is catching Pieter Heerema.

Jérémie Beyou (3rd on Maître CoQ): “I’m still sailing on the back of a low with variable winds going from 15-30 knots and huge shifts. I have 34 knots at the moment in fact. While on the charts I managed to get, they were talking about fifteen. My thoughts go out to Paul (Meilhat) who had been doing so well. When someone who has been close like that drops out, it hits you hard. I still have a few problems, which are ruining things for me. The boat isn’t at 100%, but I’m doing what I can. Some of the others are suffering more. I am up with the frontrunners after all. I’m giving myself one goal at a time. The next is to get to Cape Horn without things getting worse on the boat.”

Yann Eliès (5th on Quéguiner-Leucémie Espoir): “I have been sailing in exceptional conditions for the past couple of days: not too much wind, sunshine, and a nice swell which is pushing me along. It’s really a pleasure in this first part of the Pacific. I managed to air out the boat, get some sunshine out on deck without having to wrap up and I was even in my bare feet. Conditions are expected to be light in the next 48 hours. I’ll take advantage of that to recharge my batteries, inspect the boat and do some odd jobs. After the incidents affecting Stéphane (Le Diraison), Thomas (Ruyant) and Paul (Meilhat), I know how lucky I am to have a boat in good shape at this point in the course. I think that with my shore team we made some wise choices. But I shouldn’t cry victory too soon. I haven’t yet done two-thirds of the race course.”

12-23-2016, 09:23 AM


FRIDAY 23 DECEMBER 2016, 14H29

Vendée Globe solo round the world race leader Armel Le Cléac'h (Banque Populaire VIII) passed Cape Horn at 1234hrs UTC this Friday afternoon (23rd December), setting a new reference time from Les Sables d'Olonne where the race started on Sunday 6th November. Le Cléac'h's elapsed time is 47 days and 32 minutes, bettering the 2012-2013 record of Francois Gabart by 5 days 5 hours and 38 minutes, set during the last edition.

After racing 17,480 miles, making an average of 15.5kts since the start, the Banque Populaire VIII solo skipper passed Cape Horn for the third time of his career, progressing from third around in 2008-9, second behind Gabart in 2012-13 to lead around the great cape for the first time. He holds a lead of 762 miles ahead of Briton Alex Thomson (Hugo Boss) in second, who is expected to pass Cape Horn on Sunday, Christmas Day.

Armel Le Cléac’h, Banque Populaire VIII said: “I have the champagne out for the Horn. I try each time to raise my glass. I shall be taking advantage of the sight as land isn’t far away. It will do me good to see land so close. I can see Cape Horn on the horizon. It’s magnificent. There are dark clouds in the sky with some bright patches and the wind is going from 17 to 30 knots.”

12-26-2016, 10:49 AM
MONDAY 26 DECEMBER 2016, 18H15

Holding a solid third place in the Vendée Globe, French skipper Jérémie Beyou should pass Cape Horn around midday Tuesday. After starting the last two editions of the Vendée Globe, in 2008 and 2012 and never making it to the Southern Ocean, it will be an important moment in the career of the 40 year old from Morlaix on Brittany’s Finistère peninsula.



Lying third he is, once again, more than 750 miles behind the fast moving Brit, Alex Thomson on Hugo Boss and some 1100 miles behind the race leader Le Cléac’h. Beyou grew up on the Bay of Morlaix with Le Cléac’h and when they were young, Beyou took the young Armel out on his father’s Quarter Tonner. Armed with the Le Cléac’h’s former Banque Populaire, which finished second in the last race, Beyou has found himself at times frustrated by satellite comms problems – he cannot access high resolution weather information – he has struggled with his mast track and his mainsail hook. But he has battled on resolutely, latterly sailing fast on the approach to his first solo Cape Horn. His watchword has always been to sail within his limits to reach the Horn.

Beyou also retired from the first Barcelona World Race in 2007-8 after being dismasted with Sidney Gavignet in the Indian Ocean. After each disappointment, Beyou has come back stronger and fought harder for his Vendée Globe. In 2008-9 he had to retire into Recife after only 16 days of racing when two spreader roots failed and his rigging was damaged. His second Vendée Globe, the first in the colours of Maître CoQ ended with keel ram damage after just over one week of racing. “They say real champions are those who can fight back,” said Beyou at the time. He bounced back and claimed a third Solitaire du Figaro title in the interim and prepared his Vendée Globe programme immaculately, not least winning the Transat New York Vendée and taking second in the 2014 Route du Rhum. “I have set out around the world in the Vendée Globe, the Barcelona World Race and the Jules Verne Trophy, but have never made it around the Horn. So it’s about time!” Beyou said today.


“The seas are very rough, so it will be a relief to get around. Especially after all the previous failed attempts. It’s time also to see something different as down here it isn’t that nice. After that maybe we will be back into real racing mode and I’ll be able to see where I am in comparison to the two ahead of me. It’s a new race that starts. I’m going to have to work hard in these final weeks…” He added: “The Pacific was a bit long with conditions that were not that easy. So I’m pleased to be arriving at Cape Horn and getting out of this zone. I crossed through a front during the night with quite a lot of wind. I should be downwind until Cape Horn and afterwards too I hope as the wind is set to strengthen at the longitude of the cape. So I’ll have gybes to do and it’s going to be fairly technical. We’re going to have to be careful to avoid doing anything silly with these winds.”

A complex South Atlantic


Alex Thomson has managed to pull back small miles on leader Le Cléac’h today, Monday, reducing his deficit to the skipper who has led the race since December 3rd to under 400 miles. Le Cléac’h faces another slowdown tonight with a high pressure ridge. The climb up the South Atlantic remains complex.
Behind Beyou, Jean Pierre Dick (St Michel-Virbac) has moved another 100 miles clear of the chasing duo Yann Eliès and Jean Le Cam who have continued to struggle with the centre of a low pressure system. Dick is making 22kts this afternoon on his foiling St Michel-Virbac while Eliès is making seven knots.


Conrad Colman (Foresight Natural Energy) is racing north and east to avoid the worst of a big, stormy low which is spinning down from the north and west of him, but his timing and strategy should see him safe from the worst of a bad system which is predicted to hold more than 70kts. And behind the system, the group of six which had slowed to miss the storm, are now making faster progress again. Eric Bellion (Commeunseulhomme) said this morning: “I have had a gust of 37-38 knots and I’m making twenty knots. The idea was to follow the low and not to go too fast and hit the worst of it. I have three reefs in the main.

We went from total calm to a storm. I had my coffee with Alan a couple hours ago. It suddenly changed. Everything went flying in the boat. The wind is whistling around. I slept for eight hours during the night. It was a bit like a pit stop before as I checked everything on the boat. It’s always a bit frustrating when you have thousands of miles left to sail to see your speed down to five knots.”

Jean Le Cam (Finistère Mer Vent): “I got slowed in light airs, so had time to do a video and check out everything on the boat. In my dreams I’d like to complete the race in less than 80 days. It will chiefly depend on what the conditions are like when we sail back up. Conditions there can be very random. As far as the Cape of Good Hope, we can’t complain about what we’re getting. It’s straight ahead, while in front they are likely to get held up a bit. And we may make it through just as things are getting easier. Before we get there it looks like it’s going to be light airs off the cape. But we’ll see, as the forecasts change very quickly in this zone. I’ll be getting to the Horn on 31st at 21h06 (laughs).”


Didac Costa (One Planet, One Ocean): “The last front has allowed me to sail fast and on course for almost 48 hours, but the Christmas truce is over. The wind has begun to drop and a storm is forming to the south of Australia in the next few hours and will deepen quickly making difficult the path towards the East in the coming days. This area between Australia and New Zealand, in addition to being meteorologically complex due to rapidly developing phenomena, has an added difficulty: the shore to the north and the ice exclusion zone to the south limit the possibilities of "negotiating" or dodging the lows. To avoid sailing upwind -the course that these boats least like- I am trying to go as far south as possible and maybe I will end up waiting for the new favourable wind. I repaired the damage in the J3 some days ago, but after a full check I detected principles of delamination in several areas of the sail. I decided to repair it properly before hoisting it again. So far with the boat’s movement it has been impossible to do this job and I will try to do it when the sea state calms down. I passed the second of the great capes yesterday: Cape Leeuwin. I hope to be halfway soon. From then on, I will stop moving away from Les Sables to approach it...”

Eric Bellion (Commeunseulhomme): “Twelve years ago I crossed the Pacific with a couple of friends on a small 8m boat. It took us 47 days. So crossing the longitude of Auckland it will feel like I’m back somewhere I know. I know the route and that is reassuring.”

Candor Fa (HUN) Spirit of Hungary: “I ran out of breeze yesterday morning completely. There was nothing. I had to sail 80 miles to the north to find new breeze which is what I now have SW’ly in 20kts, making 12-16kts now which is good but in effect that is half a day which I lost. I wanted to make some maintenance on the boat but sometimes I made only three knots of boat speed. The sea was smooth and the sails flapping. For the next couple of days I can move with this NW’ly wind I will get, and can make eight or nine hundred miles with it. I will need to sail close to the ice border because when a huge anticyclone forms above me then just 50 miles to the north there will be nothing. Before the start I said I did not care about what place I finish in. I still don’t care. To be eighth just now is really nice but it so far from the finish. I am more interested in keeping the boat alive, moving as fast as possible and as safe as possible.”

12-27-2016, 09:44 AM

Day 52: Third placed Beyou makes Cape Horn for his first time

After setting out on five different round the world races or record attempts, Jérémie Beyou today rounded Cape Horn, laying to rest the spectres of his past attempts as he holds an excellent, hard earned third place overall in this eighth edition of the Vendée Globe solo round the world race.

Beyou passed the famous Cape at 1344hrs UTC, rounding some four days, one hour and 10 minutes after the race leader Armel Le Cléac'h (Banque Populaire VIII) and two days two hours and two minutes after the British sailor Alex Thomson (Hugo Boss). He abandoned early in the Vendée Globes of 2008-9 and 2012-13, but Beyou has sailed an astute race so far, dealing with several significant technical issues, not least the failure of his communications equipment. He can receive only limited weather information through a Skyfile service. He passed Cape Horn 51 days 1 hour and 42 minutes after the start, the third successive skipper to break the benchmark set in 2012 by François Gabart at 52d 6hrs 18min. Beyou has made fast progress in to Cape Horn over the last 36 hours approaching his first Horn with 20-30kt westerly winds. Although he is 800 miles behind second placed Alex Thomson, the weather models seem to suggest there may be a chance for the skipper of Maître CoQ to pull back some miles on both the leaders by being able to sail a more westerly course, so cutting the corner.

Race leader Armel Le Cléac'h, some 900 miles to the SE of Mar del Plata, Argentina, appears to have crossed the high pressure ridge which has been blocking his course northwards with a band of lighter winds. With his lead to second placed Alex Thomson cut to 284 nautical miles now, the French skipper's losses are stabilised for the moment but there is one more blocking high pressure zone to be breached before the leaders can even contemplate the Saint Helena anticyclone which appears complicated.

Thomson confirmed this morning that he had struggled to download good weather information as he has had internet communication problems: "I have just slowed down a bit because it is quite windy, I am just going to chill out for a few hours. I don't have any wind instruments right now. It is windy. So I have slowed down in the meantime. And also I don't have much weather information. When I was going really fast with all the water coming over the bow, over the satellite antenna, that is the last antenna I have left and I can't get any internet. I can't make any calls and so I have rolled the jib away just now and I am sailing with just the mainsail but I am still making averages of 17-18kts. I will sail like this for a few hours. So otherwise it is all good, no problems. I could do with a little bit of sleep, I will do that now as I go slowly."

Next to pass Cape Horn should be Jean-Pierre Dick who holds fourth place on StMichel-Virbac. He is now 300 miles ahead of Yann Eliès. Conrad Colman (Foresight Natural Energy) appears to be set for the toughest 48 hours of his Vendée Globe as he negotiates a nasty low pressure system which he is trying to stay in front of for as long as possible. Colman reported good initial sea conditions on the front of the low earlier this morning and had sorted out a technical problem with his pilots before the worst of the storm arrives.


Rich Wilson spoke today to 2004-5 Vendée Globe skipper Bruce Schwab who became the first American skipper to finish when he took ninth on his Ocean Planet. Schwab quipped that the five skippers grouped just in front of him, all slowed to avoid this same stormy low, could not wish for a better shepherd coming along behind them. In 15th place Wilson, on his second Vendée Globe, said today: "We are coming back into the tail end of the depression. It is not moving away quite as fast as we thought and so we got a little into the seaway which is quite chaotic. The others up ahead are getting it worse than I am. We are really lucky in that when this was forecast to develop, our group of six were back far enough. When it started out we would have been in the middle of it. I was quite surprised at how big the seas got for the amount of wind we did have. And then in fact as the wind diminished how the sea state maintained itself. It is just totally chaotic. I went up on the foredeck this morning to get the fractional gennaker ready to go and I could not stand up. I had to crawl. It was chaos. I was thinking about the bull riders who have it easy by comparison as they only have to stay on the bull for eight seconds. We have to stay on all the time."



The lead of Armel Le Cléac'h looks much more assailable after Alex Thomson has chipped another 100 miles from the Banque Populaire VIII's margin since yesterday afternoon. At 295 miles on the 0400hrs UTC position report, with Le Cléac'h up against a barrier of light to moderate airs, the British skipper still shows a speed advantage of seven knots.


TRACKER (http://tracking2016.vendeeglobe.org/gv5ip0/)

Thomson is passing to the east of the Falkland Island on the edge of a low pressure system which is travelling east, which is giving him 20-25kts of breeze. He will continue to benefit from this weather system for a few hours more. At the same time there is no immediate sign of an increase in breeze for Le Cléac'h. Meantime Jérémie Beyou had 110 miles to sail at 0400hrs UTC to make his first rounding of Cape Horn. Considering the technical problems that the French skipper has had over his last month of the race this is a huge achievement. Beyou has a lead of 800 miles over Jean-Pierre Dick. This is a decent cushion but as seen over the last 72 hours with the battle at the front of the Vendée Globe between Le Cléac’h/Thomson, it would appear that no lead is a guarantee in the South Atlantic.

In fourth, the same position he finished in in the 2012-13 race, Jean-Pierre Dick (StMichel-Virbac) and the duo formed by Yann Eliès-Jean Le Cam are also relatively quick this morning. In the middle of the Pacific, Louis Burton is also going well along the edge of the Antarctic Exclusion Zone on his Bureau Vallée, in a moderate northerly air stream. Around 800 miles back from him, the Hungarian Nandor Fa (Spirit of Hungary) is still in eighth place, but a little slower (12 knots), because of a small transition zone, which is affecting his westerly wind.

The progress of a storm to the south of New Zealand is being monitored closely. It is generating winds in excess of fifty knots with fears of gusts of sixty or even eighty. The system separates Conrad Colman (Foresight Natural Energy, 9th) from the pack behind him. The New Zealander sailing at thirteen knots is just ahead of this deep low, seeking to stay as far ahead as possible to escape the worst of the weather. Colman has previously stated that he feels at ease in heavy weather and it looks like he is in for some, but he has adjusted his course back to the east rather than north, and clearly has his strategy prepared.

On the other side of the weather system, to the west, the group of six have been able to hoist more sail after slowing down together to let this big storm go by. That has enabled Fabrice Amedeo to get back in the game. The skipper of Newrest-Matmut has made up almost all his losses and is now in 14th position between the American, Rich Wilson (Great American IV) and the young Swiss sailor, Alan Roura (La Fabrique). However, Amedeo has had to sacrifice his gennaker, which was stuck at the top of his mast. He climbed up, but had no other choice but to cut it free. In this same group tackling the start of the Pacific behind the storm, Eric Bellion (CommeUnSeulHomme) has taken 10th place from Arnaud Boissières (La Mie Câline), while Irishman, Enda O’Coineen (Kilcullen Voyager Team Ireland) is in twelfth position 5740 miles behind the leader.


A thousand miles further back, Didac Costa (One Planet One Ocean, 16th) has sailed 304 miles in the last 24 hours, which is about average for the fleet. On the contrary, Pieter Heerema (No Way Back) is still attempting to find a solution to his autopilot problems. The Dutchman only sailed 53 miles towards the finish in the past 24 hours. Heerema does not want to tackle the Pacific without solving these problems. That has helped Romain Attanasio, who has had two pieces of good news this morning. Firstly, he has reached the longitude of Cape Leeuwin at the SW tip of Australia – after 50 days and 14 hours, or 22 days after Armel le Cléac’h – and he has also taken 17th place from Pieter Heerema. The latter is now next to last only 113 miles ahead of Sébastien Destremau’s TechnoFirst-faceOcean.

12-28-2016, 10:55 AM
Lighting the Match

The big losses which Vendée Globe leader Armel Le Cléac'h has suffered over recent days to the British skipper Alex Thomson have stabilized today but the French solo racer who has topped the solo round the world race since December 3rd seems set to come under more pressure from his pursuer in the coming days.


TRACKER (http://tracking2016.vendeeglobe.org/gv5ip0/)

A wide swathe of lighter, variable winds blocks the northwards climb up the South Atlantic. Some weather routing models have the two leading skippers racing at the same latitude at the weekend.


After making a net gain of some five miles during this Wednesday afternoon, Thomson was 269 nautical miles behind on the 1700hrs UTC ranking.
While the leaders’ problems in the South Atlantic are largely about the mental stress of routing through a network of light airs and transition zones, New Zealand skipper Conrad Colman has been forced to push his Foresight Natural Energy close to the limit to stay ahead of a ‘terrifying’ low pressure system. And one thousand or so miles to Colman’s west, Ireland’s Enda O’Coineen has had to take the prudent, but tough decision, to turn back north and separate away from the six strong pack of boats he had been racing closely with, playing tag with the back of that same depression. O’Coineen is diverting to Stewart Island, just off the tip of South Island New Zealand in order to make repairs and continue his race.


After remaining hove to, stopped, for nearly 48 hours to the south west of Australia, seeking to avoid a windy depression to his south and east, the beleaguered Dutch skipper Pieter Heerema has resumed his eastwards course in 19th place, holding high hopes that the ‘complete rebuild’ of his automatic pilot system will be reliable enough to allow him to finish his Vendée Globe. “I am going to speed up a little now, as long as the technology holds out. If it does then I am a happy man. I have completely changed out every part, every thing except the wiring. I am on a completely new pilot, a new ram, everything, new processors, computer. The gurus, the brains were not brainy enough to find out what the problem was. I have tried for days and that is the answer this morning.”


Conrad Colman (Foresight Natural Energy): “I was really concerned about this massive depression behind me because in the days before it struck the pilot started acting up again and I was terrified that it would force a wipeout in 40+ knots of wind. The solution was to put in place my spare wind instruments on the back of the boat instead of continuing to repair the primary units on at the mast head. Positioning myself in front of this system was a gutsy move but it has worked out better than expected. I just needed to maintain enough speed in strong conditions to avoid being caught up by the truly terrifying wind and waves in the center. However as the barometer dropped to 980 mb (!) and dark clouds gathered on the horizon behind I didn't feel quite so clever! Thankfully I judged my pace to not break anything and I have still outpaced the center and the barometer is rising again so it looks like another well informed gamble has paid off.”

“I was really afraid I would have to face the full anger of the Southern Ocean. I have avoided the worst, but it’s still quite rough. The boat is bouncing on the waves and it’s hard to stand up even inside. It’s complicated getting any work done, as it is so cold. After a few minutes out on deck, you can’t feel your fingers any more. You need to be fast and efficient. Later, I’ll be able to hoist some more sail to try to catch Nandor (Fa). I should have good conditions to be fast. It’s fantastic to be in the Southern Ocean in these conditions. That’s what I came to the Vendée Globe to find.”


Stéphane Le Diraison (Compagnie du Lit-Boulogne Billancourt): “I dismasted eleven days ago. Since then, I have been making slow progress towards the coast of Australia. I’m heading for Melbourne. I should get there in around 36 hours. I hove to off Portland to make sure I could continue. I’m currently using my jury rig rather than the engine. I have had my best surf for eleven days- sailing along at eight knots. I haven’t yet come to terms with retiring. I see it as fate. I did everything I could to avoid something like that. I was let down by the gear. There are several ways to experience the Vendée Globe. The best is to finish of course, but even if you don’t complete the course, you have still overcome a number of challenges. I learnt a lot out on the water. I didn’t have any real experience of IMOCA sailing before. I now understand these boats much better and know their limits. I’m going to make the most of what happened to get something positive out of it.”

12-29-2016, 10:05 AM

In pursuit of Armel Le Cléac'h - also known as 'The Jackal' - who has held the lead of the Vendée Globe solo round the world race since December 3rd, British skipper Alex Thomson has seen his deficit to the French skipper plummet to under 200 miles as the pacemaker slows into a wide zone of light winds.


Although his reputation is as a predator, his nickname was gained on the race courses of La Solitaire du Figaro, the multi stage summer classic French solo race which is the proving ground for so many French Vendée Globe, today the Jackal will feel much more the hunted rather than the hunter. As his chaser holds on to the stronger breeze by virtue of the fact he is behind, and yet to run into the high pressure ridge, today Le Cléac’h will be focused on finding the best exit point, the 'out' door. Meantime the advantage is usually with the hunter, especially if his prey stalls in the lightest winds and Thomson can alter his route accordingly. There is always something of a lottery to the passage of an evolving high pressure ridge like this in the South Atlantic, the system spreading out in each direction, but the outcome may yet prove significant as to who is first the finish line in Les Sables d'Olonne in the middle of January. They say a week is long time in politics, but in this Vendée Globe Thomson might even see a swing from over 800 miles last Friday in the Pacific to well under 100 miles as we go into the last Friday of 2017 in the South Atlantic.


TRACKER (http://tracking2016.vendeeglobe.org/gv5ip0/)

While this forecasted, inevitable slow down of Le Cléach's Banque Populaire VIII occurs at 35 degrees south, Thomson some 950 miles east of Buenos Aires this morning, in third place Jérémie Beyou is passing the Falkland Islands, Jean Pierre Dick in fourth is losing ground to his pursuers Yann Eliès and Jean Le Cam. Conrad Colman is emerging unscathed today from his close encounter with a fearsome depression and Enda O'Coineen - sailing in the wake of Yves Parlier, whose solo, unasissted repairs at Stewart Island are the stuff of legend - is this morning 210 miles to the island off the south of New Zealand where he plans a series of small repairs which should keep him in the race.


This may be an opportunity for third-placed Jérémie Beyou to learn some lessons from those ahead of him. 1300 miles back, he will probably narrow the gap, but above all, he will be able to take advantage of very different weather conditions. Passing the Falklands, Maître CoQ is being pushed along by a SW’ly air stream, which should allow him to reach the Forties very quickly. That is not the case for Jean-Pierre Dick, as StMichel-Virbac has slowed approaching Cape Horn in a disorganised weather pattern. Behind him, the systems are better established giving a helping hand to Jean Le Cam (Finistère Mer Vent) and Yann Eliès (Quéguiner-Leucémie Espoir).


Louis Burton (Bureau Vallée) is experiencing almost perfect sailing conditions. Downwind sailing, some sunshine, a long swell and practically calms seas. Sailing close to the Antarctic Exclusion Zone, he is being followed 900 miles further back by Nándor Fa (Spirit of Hungary) and Conrad Colman (Foresight Natural Energy), who did extremely well to get away from the storm coming up behind him. The Kiwi has managed to regain 200 miles from the Hungarian since passing New Zealand. Off Auckland Island, the pack has lost one of its members, as Irish sailor, Enda O’Coineen (Kilcullen Voyager-Team Ireland) has decided to head north to Stewart Island to carry out repairs and give a thorough check up to his boat before the long Pacific crossing.

Sébastien Destremau (TechnoFirst-faceOcean) is also planning a pit stop. He is at the rear of the fleet with Pieter Heerema (No Way Back), who appears to have finally solved his autopilot problems. As for Paul Meilhat (SMA), he has reached Tahiti and Stéphane Le Diraison (Compagnie du Lit-Boulogne Billancourt) is in the process of mooring up in Melbourne.

Louis Burton (Bureau Vallée): “It’s great. For several days, I have been sailing along smoothly in the Pacific. I’m on the edge of the exclusion zone in a 20-30 knot NW’ly wind on calm seas. It’s like being in Quiberon Bay! I have around 1800 miles to go to Cape Horn and got a message this evening from the Chilean safety teams. I’m going to have to gybe to avoid a wind hole forming off Patagonia and will be sailing along the coast of Tierra del Fuego. There won’t be much wind when I reach the Drake Strait. In any case I’m getting away from the difficulties of a Pacific, which was indeed very quiet.”

El Capitan
12-29-2016, 01:19 PM
If Alex can pull this off, I might buy something from Hugo Boss!

12-29-2016, 02:12 PM

TRACKER (http://tracking2016.vendeeglobe.org/gv5ip0/)

Alex Thomson apparently has found some incredible mojo and is now just 34.5 nm behind Armel Le Cléac'h
and is making 14.5 knots to Armel's 4.1

Even more amazing, is Alex's current position and predicted forecast Clicky (https://gis.ee/vg/) has Hugo Boss
passing Banque Populaire in the next 3 hours and then sling-shotting past his rival to take complete control of this race!

Panama Red
12-29-2016, 02:36 PM

He was more than 800 miles back a week or so ago!

12-30-2016, 09:46 AM


FRIDAY 30 DECEMBER 2016, 11H18
While Armel Le Cléac’h may be able to breathe a sigh of relief with Alex Thomson stuck in a wind hole, the worries are not over for the Breton skipper. Until he passes Cape Frio, the British skipper remains a threat. There is another duel raging in the approaches to the Horn with Le Cam and Eliès closing the gap on Jean-Pierre Dick, who rounded earlier this morning.


TRACKER (http://tracking2016.vendeeglobe.org/gv5ip0/)

Apart from some of the skippers who were there at the front being forced to retire due to structural damage (Vincent Riou, Morgan Lagravière, Sébastien Josse and Paul Meilhat), meaning that the debate to foil or not to foil more or less ended, this 2016 race will be remembered for the duel at the front of the fleet. Who would have thought that the 800-mile lead off Tierra del Fuego would vanish in six days? Between Drake Passage and Cape Frio, we find what is the most unpredictable part of the race course, as we have seen in many record attempts in the past.

The Andes act as a natural barrier and the lows get blocked by it. To the South, the Antarctic offers cold air, while to the north Brazil and the Amazon puff out warm air. It is when these air masses come together that the weather patterns change. Going right back to the 16th Century, sailors talked about how hard it was to predict what would happen in these waters – huge storms, flat calm periods, chaotic waves and a cross swell. This makes it hard to look more than two days ahead. The key is often to try to make your way north as best you can and that may be close to or further away from the coast of Argentina. Armel Le Cléac’h, who has just got out of the sticky patch, is doing just that, while Alex Thomson is still crawling along in the light airs between two high pressure cells. It looks like the solution will come from the coast of Brazil with upwind sailing ahead in a NNE’ly air stream.

However this Brazilian coastal route may lead to a dead end. Once into the bay of Rio, it could be hard getting back out. They need to look towards the medium term, where to the east, there is currently very little wind, but this could become the wiser choice for two reasons. The St Helena high will be shrinking back to South Africa by the end of the weekend taking with it its wind holes as an Argentinean low moves in. The second reason is that when sailing, the usual tactic is to place yourself between the finish and your rival. Moving back to the NE, as Banque Populaire VIII is doing on Friday morning is a way to keep Hugo Boss in check.


But taking into account how these two have ben pushing hard since the start 54 days ago, we can imagine that the fight will continue until the Nouch South buoy is in sight. The Breton sailor finished second in the last two editions of the Vendée Globe, while the British sailor has clocked up four round the world voyages on IMOCAs, so they both have plenty of experience to help them. While their boats are more or less from the same mould, they each have their own advantages. Banque Populaire VIII seems to be in good shape and does better tacking upwind, while Hugo Boss is handicapped by the loss of her starboard foil and is not as fast upwind. The former seems to be a good all-rounder, while the second excels with the wind on the beam on the starboard tack.

Before reaching, there will be upwind sailing in the NE’ly trade winds for at least 500 miles. So the gap as they approach the Equator might not mean very much. Armel Le Cléac’h will be hoping to extend his lead again until they get to Cape Frio, but Alex Thomson may narrow the gap again before they reach the Doldrums. So it looks like it could all be decided in the North Atlantic. So far, the British sailor has been in front for fifteen days and the Breton for 37. Thomson was first to the Equator (9d 07h 02’ with a lead of 2h54 mins) and the Cape of Good Hope (17d 22hrs 58 mins 4hrs and 32 mins ahead), while Le Cléac’h was first to Cape Leeuwin (28d 20hrs and 12 mins witha lead of 5h 16 mins) and Cape Horn (47d 00h 32 mins with a lead of 1 day 23hrs and 8 mins).


While Jérémie Beyou (Maître CoQ) is following more than 700 miles behind the two frontrunners, Jean-Pierre Dick has just passed Cape Horn at 0634hrs UTC, but needs to worry about the pair chasing him (Le Cam-Eliès). Tierra del Fuego is living up to its reputation of being unreliable. All three are being pushed along by a moderate Westerly, but the wind eases off after Staten Island. By tonight, there will hardly be ten knots blowing off the lighthouse at the end of the world and all three will be affected.

New Year’s Eve looks complicated for all three between Patagonia and the Falklands and it will not be until dawn on the following day that easterly winds will develop from a new low coming out of Argentina. New Year’s Day looks like being windy with the centre of the low in their path with SW’ly winds in excess of forty knots. This system should propel them quickly towards the Thirties offering them a rapid climb up the coast of Brazil. However, they will have to be attentive in the squalls and the front will be very aggressive. The rest of the fleet will be in relatively quiet conditions, with the exception of the trio formed by Bellion-Boissières-Roura, who are experiencing a big southern low.

Dominic Bourgeois / M&M

Alex Thomson (Hugo Boss): “It is very light winds right now, just three to four knots, I am not really going very fast and I don’t imagine I will go very fast today at all, I have to wait for the high pressure to come past me. I will lose some of the miles I have been gaining. It was the luck of the draw. It could just as easily be Jérémie catching up to me or I could have been Armel going another eight hundred away from me. We got close but Armel has always been in front, he was always going to get to the other side of the high pressure before me. And he will extend away. But it means I am going to be closer than I was. It looks like some reaching after the light winds and then upwind until we tack and start going north again. He will always be in more wind and more freed, more lifting conditions, so he should be going faster. We will just have to wait and see what happens in the Doldrums. The target is to be in contention at some point up the Atlantic, close enough to have a chance at the title coming into the finish. The chances of making a remarkable comeback are quite slim but to be this close is much better than being eight hundred miles away.”

12-31-2016, 10:50 AM


Freshly shaven wearing an immaculate clean shirt 55 days after starting the Vendée Globe in Les Sables d’Olonne, leader Armel Le Cléac’h shows little emotion as he records a broadcast for a New Year special for French TV. Clearly there is a job still to do, winning the Vendée Globe for the first time, and his unwavering focus, his tunnel vision if you like, is once again evident.

Le Cléac’h is giving nothing away as ever. Indeed, it would not be breaking ranks to reveal the interviewer left the stage shaking his head, bemused that, once again, there was not even the slightest sniff of a ‘scoop’. It was seemingly perfectly scripted for the sailor, who is hard-wired to try and win this race at the third time of asking.
In fact he gives away precious little at all, other than revealing that he, the skipper who has led the solo round the world race since December 3rd and now leads it into the New Year, has also had his problems, his DIY repairs to do. But, he asserts, the boat Banque Populaire VIII, and skipper are at 100 per cent.

The Breton sailor pointed out that he has the advantage, if it might be considered as such, of having duelled up the Atlantic in the last edition. Indeed, he pointed out, four years ago he was about the same distance behind François Gabart as the Briton Alex Thomson is behind him today.
“Four year’s ago, off Argentina, Francois had about the same lead that I have, and he managed to keep that up right the way to the finish. Right now, there’s only three hours separating me and Alex so I’ll hopefully be able to use my experience of that time to push harder and that will be helped by the close contact
racing I’ve had of late. But Alex has that same experience of course so we both know what needs doing.”
Of losing a cushion of more than 800 miles to Thomson, Le Cléac’h explained:

“The last few days have been pretty hard to bear after losing a big lead, that was the fruit of a massive amount of hard work in the Pacific, due to having unfavorable weather.
“Now the zone of high pressure has certainly reshuffled the cards and got things back in some kind of order and logically it has broken Alex Thomson’s progress as it was impossible for him to get around it so we’ve both been slowed a lot.”


“My slight cushion of a lead now will be good, at least for the coming days, as we’ll have to tack our way up the coast of Brazil in search of the tradewinds. The situation is certainly better for me now than it was three or four days ago, which I’m happy about.”
“You just have to take the cards you’re dealt and make the best of your hand without getting too annoyed. I’m just trying to sail my own race right now. Naturally, I’d have preferred different weather so I could have held onto my lead but that’s not the case. I am still in the lead though and that’s the most important thing. With this high pressure area the strategy’s always hard to decipher as there is variance between the forecasts and what’s on the water.”
“We’ve sorted the bits of damage aboard and now we have to focus on negotiating the numerous tricky sections ahead including the Doldrums.”
The turning of the year has been a time for reflection, a chance to look back and to glance forwards, even if it is only to the next set of weather GRIB files and what they bring.


TRACKER (http://tracking2016.vendeeglobe.org/gv5ip0/)

Irish skipper Enda O’Coineen will hopefully have time to raise a glass and wish his Celtic brethren a huge ‘slainte mahaith’ during January 1st in Ireland. Ne’er Day in the south of New Zealand was taken up fully by repairs and recovering from the huge effort and stress of recent days. After sailing 280 miles to the north west of his original track, the skipper of Kilcullen Voyager has completed an exhausting set of repairs to his computers, reset his automatic pilots and secured his mainsail with two reefs and the option to go just a little smaller, before getting back on the racecourse today.

He was due to maximise his rest and recovery time today, looking to replenish his energy after two failed attempts to anchor in Pegasus Bay on Stewart Island to the south of New Zealand, but heads across the Pacific towards Cape Horn in better shape.

Elsewhere, skippers like Eric Bellion have been reflecting on how appreciative they are that their Vendée Globe dream is still alive. The skipper of Commeunseulhomme, leading a quartet of skippers towards the middle of the Pacific in 10th place, said today:

“It is a very strange day. I am in a strange mood. Sometimes you are not happy, you just do your jobs. Today I look back a bit at what I did in 2016 and I say to myself that I worked a lot. I worked like hell in 2016 to be at the start of the Vendée Globe. And from that point of view I am very happy to still be in the race. There are many who aren’t. I hope that the first greatest day to come in 2017 will be Cape Horn. It would be a dream. But there is a lot of work to do to get there. I am fully concentrated on what is next. I am totally focused.”


Conrad Colman has now lost two sails, his number two Solent jib torn after being hit by a rogue 50kt gust. He refused to be drawn on the duel, which seems likely to develop between the young Kiwi and his former Barcelona World Race co-skipper Nandor Fa. Colman says, in the meantime, that Fa is ‘the boat in front, but we are both racers and we both want to do the best we can.’ But with Fa getting into lighter, high pressure just now Colman is likely to catch a few more miles.

He talked about finding his IMOCA, Galileo, now Foresight Natural Energy, describing the boat which was designed by a South African who is based in Auckland, New Zealand, built in Brazil and which Colman walked past every day near his home in Lorient, quietly recognising the boat which was being used for day charters as a bit of an uncut, unpolished diamond.

“It was built in Brazil and designed by a South African guy called Angelo Lavranos who lives in New Zealand in Auckland, which is my home town. From its birth it has been an international boat as has been my project.” Colman recalled, “Since 2007 it has been in France after it pulled out of the 2008 Vendée Globe with electronic problems, and I have been working day in day out to make sure I have not succumbed to the same fate. And it has been hard with my pilots because I have now done ten Chinese gybes and wrecked two of my key sails as a result. But I have kept the boat in the race.”
He adds:

“In 2008 the boat was turned over to a charter company and did lots of day charters in Lorient, my home town, and so I have been walking past this boat every day and really never gave her a second look. Then as the field narrowed in terms of the potential boats for the Vendée Globe I kind of realised there was great boat with really solid foundations right under my nose. And at that point it was the best boat on the market. And I have been really happy with the Galileo. It has a great turn of speed.”

Dumass Head
12-31-2016, 02:05 PM
Well THAT was a short lived dual.

01-01-2017, 09:38 AM


In a few unfortunate moments the Vendée Globe solo round the world race came to a premature end for Irish skipper Enda O’Coineen. A sudden, unexpectedly strong gust at 35kts of wind overpowered his autopilot, resulting in two crash gybes leaving no time to get a running backstay on to support the mast.

In seconds the mast of Kilcullen Voyager-Team Ireland is broken, falling over the side of the boat.

Lying in 15th place in the famous round the world race, which represented the pinnacle of his lifetime of sailing and adventuring, O’Coineen had only just completed a series of necessary repairs 24 hours earlier, whilst sheltered in the lee of Stewart Island, at the very southernmost tip of New Zealand. Ironically only two hours previous to his mast crashing down, he had made a New Year’s video, promising to recalibrate his natural affinity for risk.

Having just effected his repairs – principally to his autopilot and computers - and actually having profited from his experiences and his solid speeds in the Indian Ocean, O’Coineen today spoke of his deception and disappointment, which are felt all the deeper and harder because he considered himself to be in good shape to take on the second half of his round the world race:
“I am devastated. Things were going quite well. O’Coineen said, “I was in good shape. Having got this far I felt we could handle anything. There was just that little malfunction of the self-steering that set a whole train in motion. I have to accept responsibility. What happens, happens.”


In terms of his Vendée Globe, setting out on the 5,000 miles to Cape Horn, O’Coineen, 60, is fortunate to have been a little less than 200 miles SE of Dunedin when his mast came down. He cut is rig free but reported that he did not save the boom, or any part of the mast, and so has very limited jury rig options. He was heading slowly downwind towards New Zealand this Sunday afternoon.

“You roll the dice,” he told Race HQ in Paris after prefacing his description of the incident by wishing all a Happy New Year. “I was caught a little bit unawares. I was in 20-25kts of breeze and a very vicious 35kts squall came through and the self-steering malfunctioned just at the wrong moment. I did an involuntary gybe and then a gybe back. The boat was out of control and I was caught without the runner properly on and the mast snapped. I have to laugh because if I don't I will cry. The mast came clean off at the deck and in fact it was intact. But the whole rig went over the side. I had the difficult decision to make whether to try and save the rig or whether to save the hull of the boat.”

O’Coineen’s humour, philosophy and his larger than life character, his predilection for wearing his big and passionate heart on his sleeve will be missed over the remaining weeks of this Vendée Globe.

“Look, you have to be philosophical. This sort of sailing is living on the edge. I have been doing this for 57 days and as the fella says if you are living on the edge you are taking up too much space. I was taking up too much space on the edge.”

“Ironically I had just done a little interview with myself for New Year. I celebrated with a small bottle of champagne. My alter personality asked me what my New Year's Resolution is. And my New Year's Resolution was to take less risk with my life. In business, in my life, I have taken a lot of risk. The risk enabled me to make enough money to buy this boat, to pursue the dream and to pursue my adventure. Bizarrely, only two hours earlier, I had recorded a video pledging to take less risk. And here I am. Risk is a four letter word, like a lot of meaningful four letter words in the English language.”


Of the 18 boats still actively racing, 29 having started in Les Sables d’Olonne on November 6th, some eight weeks ago, the leadership battle sees Armel Le Cléac’h having gained 43 miles in the 24 hours to 14:00hrs UTC. Second placed Alex Thomson (Hugo Boss) will seek to minimise his time upwind on port tack because he has no foil to provide lift and traction. As the duo sail upwind in search of the E’ly tradewinds which, albeit light at 10-12kts, are to be found about 300 miles upwind, to their north. Thomson may be able to cut some miles back on his rival as the high pressure system to their east drifts south and therefore brings the more favourable easterlies with it as it goes.

In 2015 they were shipmates, co-skippers aboard Nandor Fa’s Spirit of Hungary during the Barcelona Round the World Race. Today the younger New Zealander Conrad Colman is still gaining on Nandor Fa because the Hungarian skipper has a ridge of high pressure blocking his way. Fa was making under 10kts while Colman, 288 miles behind, was making headway at 11.3kts.

Of the ‘rivalry’, Lili Fa, Nandor Fa’s daughter, said on the Vendée Globe LIVE today:
“Conrad is like family. His wife Clara communicates with us all the time. Nandor cares very much about Conrad and always talks about him. They have a special bond, but both are racers and want to beat each other.”

01-01-2017, 12:13 PM
Not much luck of the Irish there!

01-02-2017, 09:06 AM

The duo which are clear leaders in the Vendée Globe, Armel Le Cléac'h 160 miles ahead of Alex Thomson, are still making only moderate speeds beating upwind in contrary, N'ly winds. They are making east as they seek to connect with the E'ly trade winds which are still a further 400 miles - or just over 24 hours to their north.

The British and French skippers should reach the more favourable breezes at around the same time, tacking on to starboard for the long climb north towards the Doldrums. Because Thomson is further to the east - albeit always playing with slightly less wind in recent days - his payback should come when he reaches the trades at around the same time as his French rival. Weather modelling shows another small comeback for Thomson against Le Cléac'h, the north south separation of 130 miles this morning reducing progressively. The tension is set to continue into the North Atlantic, assuming both have a similar Doldrums crossing. But the duo do seem to remain connected, in some ways reprising the 2012-13 battle between Le Cléac'h and eventual winner François Gabart.


TRACKER (http://tracking2016.vendeeglobe.org/gv5ip0/)


So too the duel between Nandor Fa and Conrad Colman, eighth and ninth at 213 miles apart, takes an interesting turn. The combination of a thalweg - a elongated ridge of low pressure - which Fa is behind as well as high pressure to the south means the duo are having to detour almost 400 miles to the north of their rhumb line course to Cape Horn. They are in the middle of the Pacific, 1200 miles behind Louis Burton, and Colman was fairly slow last night losing some ground to the Hungarian, Fa (Spirit of Hungary, but he may regain as he is now sailing downwind in a 30-knot SW’ly wind, while Nandor Fa – just 200 miles ahead of him – is upwind in a 25 knot NE’ly wind.


Everything is going well for the four other boats in the South Atlantic. Jérémie Beyou (Maître CoQ) is firmly in third place, just over 720 miles ahead of Jean-Pierre Dick’s StMichel-Virbac. The latter has just dealt with another low and has picked up speed again 400 miles NE of the Falklands and 150 miles north (75 miles in terms of distance to the finish) of the inseparable pair, Yann Eliès and Jean Le Cam. Just under 1700 miles from the leader, the skipper son Quéguiner-Leucémie Espoir and Finistère Mer Vent are fighting it out for fifth place and to be come the first non-foiling boat to finish. Yann Eliès has a slight advantage this morning (15 miles) but Jean Le Cam has just gybed in his wake. It looks like this duel could also continue all the way to the finish. Even if he has to go a long way north to avoid an area of light winds, the seventh skipper expected to round the Horn is Louis Burton (Bureau Vallée) on around 48 hours from now. He is 660 miles from the famous rock and is advancing well.

Enda O'Coineen officially retires: 18 left in the race

As for the group of five with in order Eric Bellion (CommeUnSeulHomme), Arnaud Boissières (La Mie Câline), Alan Roura (La Fabrique), Fabrice Amedeo (Newrest-Matmut) and Rich Wilson (Great American IV), they are gradually getting caught by a low with strong winds up to 40 knots forecast with Wilson the first to be affected. Catalan sailor Didac Costa (One Planet One Ocean) has got further ahead of Romain Attanasio, slowed in an area of calms this weekend, but the skipper of Famille Mary-Etamine du Lys has finally got moving again (at 13 knots), after entering the Pacific yesterday evening after crossing the longitude of South East Cape, Tasmania. Costa and Attanasio will be facing another problem with a deep low forming east of New Zealand, and they will be attempting to avoid the worst of the winds in the next 48 hours.


At the rear of the fleet, Pieter Heerema (No Way Back, 18th) and Sébastien Destremau (TechnoFirst-faceOcean,17th) are sailing close to the coast of Tasmania. Sébastien Destremau expects to reach a bay north of Hobart on Monday evening, as he explained this morning in a message. “Port Esperance is the most likely destination. ETA sometime Monday night but will most probably wait offshore for daybreak. Length of the pit stop will depend on the state of the mast/rigging up there. Say between a few hours and a couple of days. It will be the first time I have seen land since seeing Madeira in the distance on November 11 and the first time I have seen faces since the start on November 6.”


Rich Wilson (Great American IV): “We are in the gale. We have 35-40 knots of wind now and it looks as though this will last for another 18 hours. Then we get to the center of the storm, and then the same, about 24 hours of storm from the south. Depressions rotate clockwise here in the Southern Hemisphere, thus the two directions on opposite sides of the storm. We have 3 reefs in the mainsail and the storm jib up. We are trying to be very conservative to save the staysail that was laboring in the beginning of the storm with a higher wind angle. As the wind has shifted from North to North Northwest, we have continued to go east, and so the angle to the wind has gotten bigger, which helps. The waves are about 12-15 feet, and now starting to get angry. One wave just hit the boat and pushed it to starboard about 3-4 feet, almost hammering my face with the port side of the chart table. I have my helmet here and may use it at the chart table.”

01-03-2017, 09:48 AM

TUESDAY 03 JANUARY 2017, 18H24


The ability to repair at sea is absolutely fundamental to completing the Vendée Globe solo round the world race. Michel Desjoyeaux, the only skipper to twice win the legendary singlehanded race, which forbids any kind of outside assistance, often speaks of the skipper needing to be able to deal with one battle each day – one fix, one problem – to stay competitive on the 24,500 miles course from Les Sables d’Olonne to Les Sables d’Olonne. Of the 18 skippers still racing on Day 59 of the race four different solo skippers are having their self reliance and repairing skills tested, some of them in extremis.


Conrad Colman has made a temporary fix, re-attaching his flailing forestay to the bow of his Foresight Natural Energy using a lashing which he managed to secure despite 50kt winds and huge seas. Some 1300 miles west of Cape Horn, Colman has been making slow, but steady progress to the north east this Tuesday afternoon after the most challenging period of his race yet. The pin which secures the primary forestay is reported to have been lost during a vicious storm between Sunday and Monday. When the forestay broke free his headsail quickly unfurled and the 34 year old Kiwi-American’s boat was held on its side for several hours in huge seas and violent gusts of over 60kts. “He currently has the sail shredding itself in the wind as a flag from the top of the mast but the risk of dismasting has reduced. He managed to get out to put a length of 12mm dyneema as a supplementary stay from mast head to bowsprit and has 2 other lower forestays in place and a triple reefed main,” his shore team reported earlier today. The exhausted skipper told Race Direction that there came a point where he had just closed himself inside the boat and left it to take care of him. He has been recovering since. Colman is reported to have a replacement pin which he will try to replace when the winds reduce sufficiently. This is no simple task.


Eleven hundred miles west, in 13th place, the race’s youngest skipper Alan Roura, 24, had to take emergency action last night when he broke one of his rudders on La Fabrique when it was struck by an object in the water. He was able to stop and replace it with a spare relatively quickly, in spite of the 40kts winds. In 15th, due south of New Zealand, Didac Costa, the Spanish skipper of One Planet One Ocean, is running out of sails. He has had to drop his mainsail after tearing it. He anticipates it will be some time before he can have conditions suitable to make the required repair.


TRACKER (http://tracking2016.vendeeglobe.org/gv5ip0/)

The stress of negotiating the narrow entrance to the bay at Port Esperance in the south of Tasmania, where Sébastien Destremau is making a short pit stop, nearly proved too much. The French skipper struggled with the pressure and admitted he found himself ‘crying like a baby’ for 15 minutes when he felt he could not pick up the required mooring under sail – as required by the race rules. He made an initial U-turn and headed back to sea despite his desperation to check over his rigging before the passage of the Pacific to Cape Horn. The manoeuvring proved successful and Destremau has climbed his rig, discovering that he has to make a carbon composite repair to a spreader. “The stress level to come all this way and try to get in with no charts, no detailed charts - there are rocks and fish farms – and it is very narrow channel – I did not like it,” Destremau recalled today. “It was a nightmare. I even turned around this morning and said ‘I am not going in’. I thought ‘I can’t do this, I am going to smash this boat on the rocks. And believe it or not, I was so tired, so desperate, so disappointed that I cried. I was on the deck crying like a baby. I thought I am going to sail away and just take my chances. And good luck to me in the Pacific. I cried for a good 15 minutes. That was how tired and stressed I was. But now the boat is tied up I am good. I am fine.”


At the front of the Vendée Globe fleet Alex Thomson in second is 190 miles behind leader Armel Le Cléac’h. The British skipper of Hugo Boss has struggled at times to find the best of the light, fickle tradewinds. In third, Jérémie Beyou has gained more than 400 miles on the leaders since the Pacific. Now 400 miles, or about one day behind Thomson, Beyou was making 17kts this afternoon to the leading duo’s speeds of eight to nine knots. Three times winner of La Solitaire du Figaro Beyou said: “I have narrowed the gap a little. It had been a while since I was less than 1000 miles from the leaders. It was largely down to the weather. That has cheered me up. When I’m in good weather, I can use my phone or get data down to the computer. Sometimes it takes 3 or 4 hours to get one file. On some days I have managed to get one or two and on others none at all. I don’t have any major worries on Maître CoQ and can use all my sails. I managed to sleep last night and recharge my batteries, which is good as it has been very lively since Cape Horn. It isn’t over yet, as I have a transition to deal with in a few hours from now. I don’t know how that is going to go. If things work out, I’ll be upwind after that along the edge of the high. I’ll then have stronger winds to the Equator.”

Louis Burton (Bureau Vallée): “If I manage to keep up my speed, I should reach Cape Horn as the wind shifts. I’ll arrive reaching from the north and when I go by, I’ll be close hauled for two or three hours. When the wind shifts, I’ll head further south, but I should be very close to the Horn. I don’t want to miss it. After that, there is the Lemaire Strait, then the Falklands to deal with. I got a message from the Chilean authorities warning me of the dangers down there. That makes it exciting but also stressful. I should be able to go inside the Lemaire Strait leaving the Falklands to starboard. I should be able to make the most of the current there. It should be fairly quick before I get a lot of wind to deal with off the Falklands. If things go well I shouldn’t have too much upwind sailing before picking up the Brazilian trade winds. I should be getting into the Doldrums on 16th or 17th.”


Armel le Cléac’h, Banque Populaire VIII: “The trade winds are not very well established. We’re heading north on the right tack. After tacking several times to get the right angle, we’re making headway and should get some more wind tomorrow. For the moment, we’re playing around with the squalls and clouds. We’re trying to find the best route to les Sables d’Olonne, but it’s not easy. It’s the same for everyone, as we are under the influence of the high. I have been exercising since the start. There is the physical and mental fatigue. We’re on the home run and we have to keep going. Manoeuvres seem harder than at the start; but after fifty days of racing, we know what to do. We’ll see the state of play after the Doldrums, which are the next hurdle I hope to have a good lead to be able to tackle the Doldrums with a clear head."

Fabrice Amedeo, Newrest-Matmut: "It’s getting calmer. I have 25 knots of wind and I’m going to hoist some more sail. I have just been through the toughest conditions since the start of the Vendée Globe with 48 knots of wind. I didn’t suffer any damage, but I had to weather the storm for several hours. It’s the first time I have had to do that on an IMOCA. The rankings are incidental. We’re grouped together here. It’s safer to cross the Pacific like that. The ultimate goal is to finish the Vendée Globe.”


Nandor Fa (HUN) Spirit of Hungary: “I had a beautiful sunrise and am sailing upwind in light conditions. It was tough for me when the depression hit us, I was on the east side of it and Conrad was on the west. That was tough for both of us. Maybe I was luckier because I only had 40+kts of wind. The front passed me quite quickly and then I had two small sails and no wind. I had six metres of waves and it was terrible for the boat. I could hardly move at all in the boat or in the cockpit because it was so violent. I have some software problems and the electrical problems I cannot solve. I lost some GPS antennae. I have one left and it is working. I am often frightened. You are scared, tense about losing something. Sometimes you worry about every gust, but if there is anything to be afraid of it is major damage that would not allow me to keep going. Sometimes it feels like it was just yesterday when we started. When you are moving well it feels like that. But now it feels like two months away from land. Physically I am not tired but you feel it mentally.”

Panama Red
01-03-2017, 02:31 PM
YIKES! [shoked]

01-04-2017, 11:52 AM


For the Vendée Globe leaders, this eighth edition of the solo round the world race is increasingly feeling like a game of two very distinct, contrasting halves.

From the start on Sunday 6th November in Les Sables d’Olonne the pace was fast and furious, smashing records at each key point to Cape Leeuwin and into the Pacific Ocean. Even when Armel Le Cléac’h (Banque Populaire VIII) rounded Cape Horn on 23rd December, the French skipper had an advance of five days, five hours and 38 minutes on the existing record to the legendary cape, set on January 1st 2009 by François Gabart. But a complicated and slow climb up the South Atlantic for the leading duo, Le Cléac’h and British skipper Alex Thomson (Hugo Boss) – who this afternoon is 246 miles behind his French rival – has seen their margin against the record melt away like snow in the sun. By comparison, in January 2013 Le Cléac’h and leader Gabart had a relatively straightforward ascent of the Atlantic, pushing each other hard to the line.


TRACKER (http://tracking2016.vendeeglobe.org/gv5ip0/)

As it stands this Wednesday afternoon the leaders are now only about 1150 miles or about three ‘normal’ days ahead of the existing record. And, ahead of them, though the next two and a half to three days to the Equator should see a small acceleration in ‘foiling’ conditions – 15-17kts E’ly then SE’ly tradewinds, the Doldrums look wide and active and the passage to the Canaries – at this time – is predicted to be atypical. Once out of the Doldrums the NE’ly trades do not look to be too reliable at the moment. And so any Christmas time great expectations that Gabart’s record would be blown apart by days now seem a little more fanciful.

Over the last two days, pre-race favourites, Jérémie Beyou and Yann Eliès, have sounded increasingly content with their position in the race. Both are ultra competitive, three times winners of La Solitaire du Figaro and for sure harboured aspirations of winning. But as they, too, sail northwards up the Atlantic, Beyou in third and Eliès in fifth, it is immediately apparent that they are now much more comfortable in their own minds with their positions in the fleet. In third, Beyou has been fortunate to slash more than 400 miles from his deficit to Alex Thomson and yesterday sounded almost light hearted, a notable evolution for a skipper who has had some dark days, struggling with technical problems.


Today it was Eliès’s turn to relish his northwards passage and his emerging intact from the Big South and in fighting form. For all that he might have hoped to beat veteran Jean Le Cam, 57, who is 13 miles behind him in sixth and who he has raced closely with since they entered the Pacific and to have outwitted Jean-Pierre Dick who is 59 miles ahead. Eliès is now 75 per cent of the way through his second attempt at the Vendée Globe. Eliès’s first shower in one month, in South Atlantic water of 12-13 deg Celsius, not only was about getting clean, but was as much about resetting his mind, purging expectations and re-focusing on the business of beating his two nearest rivals who between them have six Vendée Globe finishes to their credit. “I am in good company. They are stars of the Vendée Globe.
I don’t think I’ll be able to catch Jean-Pierre (Dick). It’s nice to be having this close contest. The other two are exceptional sailors. I’d like to be in front of them, but it’s not that easy as they are sailing so well,” said Eliès today, saying that he has read many books so far on his two Kindles, his way of switching off from the stress and noise.

Conrad Colman has tacked back towards the east late afternoon Wednesday and so is believed to have completed enough of his repairs to gradually power up his Foresight Natural Energy after struggling for more than 48 hours since losing the pin which secures his primary forestay, in a major storm during January 1st and 2nd. The Kiwi skipper had less than ten knots when he set his course back towards Cape Horn which is 1300 miles away for him, and he looks set to have light conditions for some hours to come.


Yann Eliès, Quéguiner- Leucémie Espoir: “It’s a bit like a battlefield out here with boat-breaking conditions in thirty knots of wind. There should be 4 or 5 more hours like this before it eases off. We’re beginning to feel stressed about the gear. There are huge strains on everything. If I was all alone, I would take it a bit easier. Those with me seem to be pushing even harder. It’s like summer here after being down at 58°S five days ago. I managed to take a shower even if it was saltwater and cold. It’s something I haven’t been able to do since the Cape of Good Hope. We’re now on a long stretch on the port tack. You have to be patient in these conditions. It’s time to start thinking about the finish in Les Sables d’Olonne even if it’s a long way away."

Eric Bellion, CommeUnSeulHomme: “I spent two days reaching in the low getting shaken around. I’m soaked but I’m happy as I’m making headway. We’re trying to keep up with the front. The past two days were the ones where the boat got the worst battering. I think the others suffered more than me, as they were further south. I’m not the same person as when we set sail. There has been a change. I think the deep low was the turning point. I’m more relaxed and am sailing. It doesn’t mean I have fewer problems, but it is more fun. I know my boat much better. We talk things over the two of us. It’s really a pleasure to be out here. Even I feel at home here, I still want to get back to land. I have an extraordinary boat and she is in good condition. And I’m in good health.”

Jean le Cam, Finistère Mer Vent: "We’re still slamming in this low, but it should ease off this evening. There will be an area of light winds to deal with and then we’ll be on the starboard tack to the Doldrums. I have been with Yann (Eliès) for quite some time. When you have a ridge of high pressure like that it’s hard to know what is happening, as the forecasts aren’t very accurate. It’s in light winds that there is the greatest uncertainty. From the Cape of Good Hope to where I am now, I have regained 700 miles from the leaders. I’m an expert at repairing things. I gybed. I heard clac clac and the damage was done. I went to bed as it was dark. I spent the night with the mainsail damaged. I woke up and set about sorting that out. I started at 9 and finished at 6 in the evening. In the end I didn’t lose that much, but it was a tiring day. I had the mainsail down on the deck. I thought I had sailed about a hundred miles, but it was only 35.”

Rich Wilson (USA) Great American IV: “We took a little bit of a beating the other night in the front when a couple of tack-gybes did not go so well. There was lots of wind and 15-18 foot seas and the wind changed direction. The boat got beat up, I got beat up. It was pretty scary. It was very tiring. It took about a day to recover. We have come north to position ourselves for the next depression which is bigger but I think we are better positioned.”


Alex Thomson and Armel le Cléac'h are probably looking closely at the wind models for the North Atlantic. It does not seem to be easy.
The first skippers are beginning to look closely at the weather situation in the North Atlantic. A depression situated West of the Canary Islands January 8th will arrive to disrupt the classic scenario. It fills on January 10th and moves slightly to the West, which leaves a big zone with light winds. How are they going to round this zone?
The question of the position of the Azores high will raise itself then. Is it going to reestablish itself in its usual location? There will be many questions on the way to the finish line. The race is not over. In the shorter run, crossing the Doldrums without losing too much distance will be the major objective for the skippers.


Behind, Jérémie Beyou pursues his straight route while the trio made up of Jean Pierre Dick, Yann Eliès and Jean Le Cam are sailing in 30 knots of wind, in a in a rough sea and at a close wind angle, conditions which are testing for the equipment and the sailors. The South Atlantic is once again faithful to its reputation. The conditions are not easy, the weather models are unstable and the wind variations are brutal in this part of the world.
Christian Dumard and Bernard Sacré / Great Circle

01-05-2017, 09:48 AM

Conrad Colman is in recovery mode. The Kiwi skipper in ninth place in the Vendée Globe is recovering physically after three epic days battling to keep alive his ten year dream to complete the famous solo round the world race.

Rest is the best medicine for his cut hands, his strained and bruised limbs and battered body and the 34 year old solo skipper, who is on his third racing circumnavigation, has enough experience as a sailor and endurance athlete to know he can deal progressively with that requirement. But at the same time as his relief is palpable that his strength of character and the toughness of his boat and rig proved enough to keep him in the race, so too it is impossible for him not to reflect on the miles lost while he was in his fight with the elements.
Keeping his Foresight Natural Energy on the race track, heading east towards Cape Horn since yesterday evening, when he came within a hairsbreadth of losing his mast, should feel like a triumph in itself. But to the hard bitten competitor who has been punching above his weight since the start, the 350 or so miles he has lost to Nandor Fa in front of him and now with Eric Bellion just some 203 miles behind, the miles lost to his exhausted mind have the feel of a knockout punch.

Colman told today how his IMOCA 60 was held on its side for several hours in 60kt winds and huge seas after he ended up in the most violent part of a vicious low. The situation was precipitated by the loss of a mainsail batten which, he reported, broke the intermediate fixings holding his mainsail to the mast. Because he slowed to fix this problem he ended up in the storm which turned out to be much worse than initially forecast. “I was sailing in 50-60kts of wind and it was gusting higher. And so I was sailing with just the third reef and no foresail. I was actually outside helming when I came off a wave with a big bang and saw the forestay go limp. I saw the pin at the bottom had broken and fallen out. That meant the primary forestay which holds the mast up, which had a sail furled on it, was then free to fly about. And so as soon it was not held at the bottom any more, it unfurled and was whipping the forestay about. That was in 50-60 knots of wind. And on that point of sail with the sail flying like a flag from the top of the mast it pulled the boat over, almost capsized,” Colman said today. “And it stayed like that for several hours while the mast was shaking. I was very afraid to lose the rig at that point.”
There was nothing more Colman could do than protect himself as best he could inside the boat, waiting until the worst of the storm had passed. He then spent the best part of a day, including three periods, totalling six hours, up his mast in 30kts of wind, trying to cut away his knotted headsail. “And to cut the sail away took five or six hours hanging in the harness, to separate it off the bottom of the forestay,” Colman continued,

“That was a whole day to separate it off the bottom of the stay. Finally the wind reduced, now I was able to put a new pin in and to put a lashing in place to secure the forestay. The mast stayed up. It is secure. I can keep sailing but as far as my race goes. I am down three sails now and I have lost eight hundred miles on my lead on the guys behind me. It will be really difficult to maintain my position in the race. But having seen my race coming so close to ending, I am pleased to be still floating, to have a mast, and the ability to keep on going. Physically I am shattered. Emotionally I am very disappointed I felt like I was doing everything right, I was sailing very conservatively at the time, I was let down by a technical failure. The fact I ended up where I did was not because of my seamanship, but just the wear and tear on the boat. It is disheartening to see my position in the fleet come under risk as a result of a couple of really, really hard days. I just need to look at it relatively and say I have had a really good race. I have been punching above my weight for most of this race. I am now down three sails. And I have lost most of my lead on the boats behind. But if I can get round Cape Horn in this position, then if I lose places coming up the Atlantic then it will be inevitable. I no longer have the ability to fight against other boats which are in better condition.”


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Miles are coming more easily for Alex Thomson and Armel Le Cléac’h as the top duo extend into SE’ly trade winds which have built to be closer to 20kts now. Le Cléac’h on Banque Populaire VIII has less than 400 miles of Southern Hemisphere sailing left. The Doldrums are enlarging, becoming more active as they approach, but it is the North Atlantic ascent to the Bay of Biscay which is taxing their minds right now, looking ahead. Thomson, back sailing at even speeds with his rival who is 340 miles ahead, said this morning: “By this afternoon I should be matching him. And then on the approach to the Doldrums I might be able to catch up a little. Things are not too bad. Everything is good on board. These are easy miles to make and I am quite comfortable. The only thing I can think about right now is the Doldrums, once get across that I need to look at the strategy for the North Atlantic which looks quite daunting at the moment. It does not look very normal. And so that is where I am looking at the moment. I am looking at how to get to the finish as fast as possible, not thinking at all about the finish.”


In fifth and sixth places Yann Eliès and Jean Le Cam were racing half a mile apart this afternoon. Irish skipper Enda O’Coineen who lost his mast on New Year’s Day has arrived in Dunedin this afternoon, towed the final miles there. And Sébastien Destremau is expecting to leave the haven of Port Esperance, Tasmania tonight (daytime local) after checking his rig and repairing a spreader, now ready to take on the Pacific.



Armel le Cléac’h, Banque Populaire VIII: "Right until the end, it’s not going to be easy. The weather is not in the usual configuration. There’s a low off the Canaries, which is upsetting the weather patterns. The Doldrums are going to be a bit complicated. We’ll have to deal with what comes our way. Since rounding the Horn, the weather hasn’t been kind. I’m focusing on the charts and my trajectory. With less than a fortnight to go, I’m trying to stay in front. The final stretch is looking complicated.”

Jean-Pierre Dick, StMichel-Virbac: "It was tough – a day with thirty knot winds and choppy seas. It’s hard to sleep when it’s like that. I have more or less got the situation under control. The battle for fourth place is going to be close. It’s important for everyone to finish the race. These projects take such a long time. It’s really satisfying to see the finish.”


Nandor Fa (Spirit of Hungary): “I’m in the transition zone. This light wind varies between 4 and 10 knots. I must manage to get through the zone with this little breeze somehow, at least 20 miles to reach the real wind. There’s no wind, the sails are luffing and clapping in the never-ending waving, the whole boat is suffering. It’s really frustrating but there’s nothing I can do. Meanwhile, there is a strong current that is running East with me. The organizers notified me about new icebergs. In front of me, way above the exclusion border there are several icebergs drifting - five to be precise. I’m going their way so it will be crucial to keep the radar on. The temperature has fallen significantly, this could be because I’m near the 55th latitude, but it could also be due to the icebergs nearby. I really wanted to complete the race within 90 days, but I don’t see any chance for that. Okay, it’s going to be 90 plus 1-2 days… so what? At least my record will be easier to break by the emerging Hungarian youth.”


Alan Roura (La Fabrique): “I’ve come off quite well. It could have been much worse. We were close to disaster. But I’m feeling fine! I got some messages from other competitors, from the gang of five and Romain Attanasio who were amazed. They told me I was a great sailor and really crazy. They called me MacGyver! The Race Directors were equally impressed… It’s unheard of to fit a rudder so quickly in such conditions. They told me I was a champion!”

Big Brass Balls
01-05-2017, 08:50 PM
Alex better be careful or he will get passed soon!

01-06-2017, 09:44 AM


FRIDAY 06 JANUARY 2017, 17H31

Hungarian Vendée Globe skipper Nandor Fa is having the race of his life in the Vendée Globe. The 62-year old wrestler, turned canoeist turned Olympic sailor, who came back to solo ocean racing after a 20 year hiatus to compete in this pinnacle event of shorthanded sailing, is expected to pass Cape Horn on Sunday morning. This Friday afternoon Fa is some 620 miles shy of Cape Horn and his release from what has been a tough Pacific ocean for him and the IMOCA 60 which he designed himself.

When, 30 years ago, he was making his first passage round the famous cape in a 31 foot cruising yacht which Fa and his friend had built from a bare hull, the current Vendée Globe leader Armel Le Cléac’h was a nine year old in his Optimist at home in Morlaix Bay. Fa and his friend had sailed away around the world as their expression of freedom from a political regime which, showing solidarity with the Russian boycott, banned Fa from taking his place as the Finn class representative at the 1984 Olympic regatta in Los Angeles. Since then Fa has been round the Cape two more times solo, during the BOC Challenge in 1990, in his first Vendée Globe in 1993 in which he finished fifth, and more recently during the Barcelona World Race when he sailed with Conrad Colman in 2015. Fa’s Vendée Globe is far from finished, but the Cape will mark a big emotional milestone. No skipper has the right to finish the Vendée Globe, but Fa has certainly endured enough hardship and frustration in recent years trying to get to the start of this race to at least be granted a safe passage round the Horn.

The Spirit of Hungary which he built in Hungary, overseeing most of the construction, hands-on for much of the time, suffered structural delamination in the Atlantic in 2014 on his way to New York for his first race. He had to repatriate the boat by cargo ship, re-laminating and refitting much of the hull, before only just winning a race against time to start the Barcelona World Race. Some weeks from the start his chosen co-skipper chose to stand down as he feared that he had not yet the experience to contribute safely alongside Fa. Colman stepped in. But the Pacific is not giving in easily to Fa, who said this afternoon, “It makes me happy to be getting closer, but it does not come easy. I am fighting for each and every mile. The wind is not easy. Yesterday I had a terrible night and day and all the waves were coming from ahead and the boat was so slamming I was afraid for the boat. I am moving and I am happy. It is so freezing cold. You can only work outside for a couple of minutes. It is six degrees in the cabin. The boat is OK. I check everything regularly and I always find something. I am really, really keen to be there. It is so cold. It is so difficult, everything. I am really fed up with the Pacific Ocean right now.”


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The Doldrums are becoming slow and sticky at times for race leader Armel Le Cléac’h (Banque Populaire VIII) but sometimes he has still been managing to make 15kts in the squally gusts. Second placed Alex Thomson (Hugo Boss) is still with a decent SE’ly trade wind and so scything into the French skipper’s lead once again. Already today he has reduced Le Cléac’h’s deficit by 100 miles to 235 miles and was still making 21kts of average speed.

In third place Jérémie Beyou gets into more established E’ly trade winds and also starts to accelerate at some 700 miles behind Thomson. There seems little doubt that the Doldrums will compact the first three, while the North Atlantic is a strategic chessboard. Alex Thomson said today: “It will be interesting to see how it all pans out in the next couple of days. After the Doldrums into the North Atlantic and we are upwind, it is kind of an unusual situation and the models are not really agreeing. It is not really clear how to find a path through the mess and in to Les Sables d’Olonne. With these scenarios in the North Atlantic it does create some opportunities and what I need is an opportunity to close in on Armel and be able to challenge for the lead. Change is good for me.”


On the Epiphany, the day of the Three Kings is celebrated in European countries, but the wily King Jean Le Cam – also a three times winner of the Solitaire du Figaro – has proven masterful at staying with Jean-Pierre Dick and Yann Eliès. It is the consistent speed and rhythm of Le Cam that impresses his nearest rivals at the moment. The veteran 57 year old who finished second in 2004-2005 and fifth in 2012-13 is now up to fourth, moving ten miles ahead of Eliès and 20 miles ahead of Jean-Pierre Dick. Le Cam races the Farr designed yacht which won the 2008 race as Foncia which was extensively remodelled before winning the Barcelona World Race with Le Cam partnering Bernard Stamm.

Arnaud Boissières, La Mie Câline: “It’s a bit cold. There is not much wind. It’s a bit odd as I’m sailing upwind in the Southern Ocean. I’m keeping an eye on my car, when I do something with the mainsail, but for the moment, it seems to be fine, so the repair seems to be holding out. It’s funny being so far into the race and yet so close to others. It’s reassuring. It was a bit stressful in the low. It was forecast, but I found myself right in it, so I eased off to avoid damage. I’m careful not to push too hard. When we get to the Horn, it’s a huge relief, but if I’m doing the Vendée Globe, it’s to be in the Southern Ocean and face the elements.”

Alex Thomson (GBR) Hugo Boss: “With these scenarios in the North Atlantic it does create some opportunities. I am running my routing to Les Sables d’Olonne at the moment, but then we are running routes which are looking two weeks ahead. Two weeks in terms of weather forecasting is pure and utter fiction. I am in good shape and the boat is in not bad shape at all. There are one or two problems, the anemometer issue is one thing, but apart from that it is not bad at all. A lot of people consider this to be an individual sport. I see it as a team sport like Formula 1. Although there is one driver who drives the race, you have a huge team behind you to make the boat fast and to make it reliable.”

01-07-2017, 10:03 AM



Vendée Globe leader Armel Le Cléac'h has crossed the Equator into the Northern Hemisphere, signalling the start of the drag race through the north Atlantic towards the finish line. The French skipper of Banque Populaire VIII passed the famed zero degrees line of latitude at 0023 UTC today after 61 days, 12 hours and 21 minutes at sea in this eighth edition of the solo non-stop round the world race.

Le Cléac'h spent 52 days in the southern hemisphere and after rounding Cape Horn, the southern most tip of South America, has taken 14 days,11 hours and 49 minutes to reach the Equator. The time from Cape Horn is 16 hours behind that set by winning skipper François Gabart in 2012-13 but Le Cléac'h remains more than four days ahead of Gabart's race record. At the 0400 UTC position report Le Cléac'h still had a jump of 145 nautical miles on second placed Alex Thomson, whose yacht Hugo Boss is expected to cross into the northern hemisphere within the next couple of hours. But with the dreaded Doldrums, the area of low pressure just to the north of the Equator notorious for its light, fickle winds, to pass in the next few days Le Cléac'h's lead could easily evaporate with one wrong move. Indeed, with the Doldrums extending north almost as high as the Cape Verde islands, the moves played out by the two frontrunners over the course of the weekend could likely decide the winner of the 2016-17 Vendée Globe.


Third-placed Jérémie Beyou on Maître CoQ still has some 800nm to sail to reach the Equator but with stable easterly trade winds he was this morning making just shy of 15 knots towards the target. The trio of Jean Le Cam, Jean-Pierre Dick and Yann Eliès have a small patch of light wind to transition through before resuming the charge north. Currently some 300 miles apart west to east, it is likely their courses will converge in the next few days. Around 600 miles from the Argentinean coast Louis Burton, the only other sailor in the Atlantic, was this morning dealing with winds of up to 35 knots from a strong depression that is set to last all weekend.

The 11 sailors still in the Pacific are now split by more than 4,000nm. Hungary's Nandor Fa in 8th leads the pack with just over 500nm to sail to reach Cape Horn while at the rear, in 18th, Sébastian Destremeau has left the shelter of Hobart and resumed his passage east. Tenth-placed Eric Bellion on Commeunseulhomme was this morning celebrating passing Point Nemo, the most remote place on the planet, more than 1,700nm from inhabited land in any direction.

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“I have left Point Nemo behind and am now approaching land,” he said. “That’s nice, because it’s very complicated if there’s a problem down here. I’m going along the edge of the Antarctic Exclusion Zone and it’s getting bitterly cold - I got my gloves and fleece out for the first time. But it’s not unpleasant sailing in the Pacific. I feel great here. Conrad Colman is to my north-west and it looks like a nice race for us to Cape Horn.”


Éric Bellion (Commeunseulhomme): “I have got away from the high and the wind has returned, a 20-knot Sw’ly with fairly calm seas. Conrad Colman is to my NW and it looks like a nice race for us to Cape Horn. We should get some good conditions to leave the Pacific around 11th January. I’m going along the edge of the Antarctic Exclusion Zone and it’s getting bitterly cold. I got my gloves and fleece out for the first time. It’s cold air coming up from the Antarctic. I have left Point Nemo behind (the most remote location in the Southern Ocean- editor) and am now approaching land. That’s nice, because it’s very complicated, if there’s a problem down here. But it’s not unpleasant sailing in the Pacific. I feel great here. I heard there are blocks of ice ahead of me, so I’m in contact with the Race Directors to find out the exact position of these icebergs.”

Rich Wilson (Great American IV) in his log: “We got through the night OK, close reaching across the waves and into them a little bit, with staysail and 2 reefs in the mainsail. Mostly 25 knots of wind, and 30 plus across the deck. The motion was tolerable except for the occasional huge crash, but the noise was what became intolerable. The constant howling of the wind through the rigging just reminds you, second, to second to second, that it is not hospitable outside. That is reinforced by the noise of sheets of spray, from almost every wave, hitting the cabin top. The combination puts the nerves on a razor edge, and it’s difficult to take a nap or get any rest.”

01-08-2017, 10:20 AM

SUNDAY 08 JANUARY 2017, 07H06

Alex Thomson has become the second Vendée Globe skipper to pass the Equator back into the northern hemisphere, setting a new race record in the process. The British skipper of Hugo Boss passed zero degrees latitude at 1712 UTC yesterday, 16 hours and 49 minutes behind leader Le Cléac'h. Thomson's passage from Cape Horn has taken 13 days, five hours and 30 minutes, smashing 2012-13 Vendée Globe winner François Gabart's existing record for the passage by 14 hours.


The 42-year-old Brit took 62 days, five hours and 10 minutes to cross the Equator heading north after starting the solo round the world race from Les Sables d'Olonne in France on November 6 – more than three days ahead of Gabart's record-breaking run. Incredibly Thomson rounded Cape Horn on Christmas Day lagging behind Le Cléac'h by almost 500 nautical miles, but favourable conditions in the South Atlantic saw him reel in his French rival, at one point getting to within 50nm of Le Cléac'h's Banque Populaire. The delta separating the pair was this morning fixed at 146nm as both skippers tried to wiggle their way through a very active Doldrums located just north of the Equator. Le Cléac'h had a slim advantage at the 0400 UTC rankings with speeds of seven knots compared to a painful four knots for Thomson. The unstable, light winds currently stretch around 600 miles to the north of the duelling pair, hampering their progress towards the finish line.


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The same can't be said for third-placed Jérémie Beyou, who is making the most of the south-easterly trade winds to eat into the deficit between first and third. In just 24 hours the French skipper of Maître CoQ has clawed back 300nm on the leading duo, and more miles are expected to tumble throughout the course of the day. Hungarian sailor Nandor Fa, currently in eighth place, is expected to pass Cape Horn today, having only 270 miles to go at 0400 UTC. The quickest skipper this morning was 10th-placed Frenchman Eric Bellion, making 17 knots towards Cape Horn in south-westerly wind of around 13 knots.

In a call to Vendee Globe HQ this morning, TechnoFirst FaceOcean skipper Sébastien Destremau revealed he had carried out a major repair to his mast after leaving the shelter of Port Esperance in Tasmania. “The opportunity to exit the bay though the very narrow passage was too good to be missed so I took it even if I still had a mega job up the mast outstanding on my 'to do' list,” said Destremau, who spent three days at anchor making repairs to damaged rig. I sailed for a few hours to be well offshore then slowed the boat right down and went up the rig to sand, glue, laminate carbon fibre and so on. The boat is now in perfect condition and I am very confident the mast is as strong as it can be.”
Will Carson / M&M


While all eyes are on the Vendée Globe's leading pair Armel Le Cléac'h and Alex Thomson as their epic tussle heads into its 64th day, third-placed Jérémie Beyou has been quietly sneaking up on them. In three days French skipper Beyou has reduced the gap between his raceboat Maître CoQ and the two favourites from 1,000 nautical miles to less than 700nm.

Beyou has been able to shave more than 300nm off after le Cléac'h and Thomson were snared by the Doldrums, an ever-changing band of low pressure close to the Equator that is notorious for its unpredictability. With Le Cléac'h's Banque Populaire and Thomson's Hugo Boss sufficiently trapped inside the system the Doldrums ballooned to around 350nm wide from north to south, spelling several days of misery for the leaders with boat speeds down to as low as two knots. The growth of the Doldrums is thanks to a big low pressure system forming some 1,500nm to the north of Le Cléac'h and Thomson, west of the Canary Islands. And while they have been powerless to escape the clutches of the Doldrums, Beyou had been more than happy to capitalise on the misfortunes of his rivals by charging north through the South Atlantic trade winds at a constant 15 knots.

According to four-time Vendée Globe competitor Mike Golding, there's a chance for Beyou to reduce the deficit even further in the coming days. Golding, the first sailor ever to finish three editions of the race, said an uncertain forecast for the North Atlantic could also benefit Jean-Pierre Dick, Jean Le Cam and Yann Eliès in fourth, fifth and sixth, around 500 miles behind Beyou. “Normally as you get out of the Doldrums you get into a steady and building north-easterly flow but that's been disrupted by a depression to the north,” the British sailor told the Vendée Live show today. “The band of light winds that the Doldrums generally represents is much wider and less distinct than normal and that's bad news for Armel. Potentially Jérémie could close the gap up. Even the guys behind – Jean Pierre, Jean and Yann - have an opportunity, because the weather forecast for the North Atlantic is so disturbed and unpredictable.”


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lthough currently trailing Le Cléac'h by 143nm, the advantage is with Thomson as the pair prepare to pick their way through the complicated weather thrown at them by the North Atlantic. “It's certainly a stressful time for Armel and Alex, but probably more so for Armel,” he added. “He's been in the lead so long but he's watched that very substantial lead evaporate to almost nothing. Now with a weather forecast like this ahead of them he's going to be in a very difficult situation. The course ahead looks blotchy – there are pockets of wind and pockets of no wind. What's more it's going to be all on starboard, the tack where Alex can use his foil, and we know that his boat is quick in the nominal, low speed foiling conditions. The ball is very much in Alex's court – he's behind and can watch what happens to Armel. Armel has his work cut out but he's done a fantastic job hanging on to the lead this far and I don't expect him to give it up easily. It makes for a very interesting last 10 days for the frontrunners.”

Eighth-placed Spirit of Hungary skipper Nandor Fa was today within 200 miles of Cape Horn. It will be the fifth time the sailor, now 63, will have passed the famous landmark having first rounded it on a small cruising boat in 1987, then again in the 1990 BOC Challenge, the 1992 Vendée Globe, and the 2014 Barcelona World Race. Speaking to Vendée Globe HQ in Paris from his position 200 miles west of Cape Horn, Fa said his fifth rounding would be a 'special moment', spoiled only by the fact that he would not get to see the milestone in daylight. “I will see the lights from the lighthouse at the Horn but I won't see the island itself and that makes me a little bit upset,” he said. “I was dreaming about a daylight rounding in nice sunshine, and having a feast, but I'm afraid that won't happen now. This is the fifth time I've been here and maybe the last time. I will say hello and goodbye to the Horn, and drink some champagne. It will be a special feeling – it is already.”
Will Carson / M&M

01-09-2017, 09:16 AM

MONDAY 09 JANUARY 2017, 16H39

The next 12 hours could prove crucial to the outcome of the 2016-17 Vendée Globe, according to British sailing star Ian Walker. Walker, the reigning champion of the Volvo Ocean Race, has been glued to his computer following the exploits of fellow countryman Alex Thomson, currently locked in an epic battle for first place with Frenchman Armel Le Cléac’h

As the solo non-stop round the world race enters its final 3,000 nautical miles Le Cléac’h's Banque Populaire VIII leads Thomson's Hugo Boss by just 88 miles. After slowing to just two knots yesterday in the depths of the Doldrums, Le Cléac’h was this afternoon back up to speed making 14 knots just prior to the 1400 UTC position report. The Breton skipper lost more than 100 miles to Thomson in the Doldrums, allowing the Brit to get to within 50 miles of his position, but this afternoon he had started to pull away again with Thomson only making nine knots.


With the pair apparently breaking free of the grasp of the Doldrums today, Walker, who was recently made an MBE for services to sailing, said what happens in the coming few hours could prove critical in the sprint to the finish in Les Sables d'Olonne, France. “Alex has had a great few days, there's no denying that,” Walker told the Vendée Globe Live show today. “He's had a much better passage through the Doldrums and if he can stay within 100 miles of Armel then he's within half a day's sailing, and there's still a long way to go. The next six or twelve hours is quite important because if Alex isn't quite out of the Doldrums and Armel is able to double his lead, and it was just a stretching of the elastic that we've just seen, then that won't be good news for Alex. But while Alex will make a few losses now I don't think he should haemorrhage too many miles before they're back on an even keel.”

While admitting Le Cléac’h is the favourite to win, Walker said there were plenty of variables which could effect the overall outcome of this eighth edition of the Vendée Globe. The double Olympic silver medallist added: “What we don't know is what state both their boats are in – do they have all their sails still available, what damage do they have? It looks like Alex will be on starboard tack for most of the trip home and we saw earlier in the race he had excellent boat speed against the other competitors, but we don't know how much Armel has been holding back. What we do know is that we've got a fantastic race on our hands.” For his part Thomson appeared upbeat today after latching on to an unforeseen but welcome breeze. “There's been some wind that wasn't expected and I'm currently going quite fast although I'm on port tack,” he reported. “Hopefully this breeze will last for a while but there's definitely going to be a slow down before we get the north-easterly breeze after the Doldrums. It's not all plain sailing at the moment.”


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French sailor Jérémie Beyou became the third skipper to feel the effects of the Doldrums, slowing to just a few knots this morning. “A few hours ago I was completely stopped,” he said. “I thought the Doldrums would be kinder to me.” By the 1400 UTC ranking the skipper of Maître CoQ was travelling at 13 knots, firmly focused on reducing the deficit to the leaders further. “Ahead of me there’s a gap of 500 miles and behind me a gap of 800 miles, so I prefer to watch what’s happening in front of me,” he added.

Fourteenth-placed American sailor Rich Wilson, having caught up more than 100 miles on the three skippers immediately in front of him by riding an easterly-moving depression, said his immediate aim was to get to the Atlantic as quickly as possible. “I was lucky, as sometimes us sailors get,” he said. “I was at the front of a depression while the group just ahead were stuck in a high without any wind. I've been able to close up to Alan Roura. My fondest hope right now is that the fog would clear so I could see where Alan is. We're only about five or six miles apart but I don't see him on the AIS and that makes me a bit nervous. The chatter among the group down here on email is 'let's get to Cape Horn as fast as we can and get out of the Southern Ocean.”


Alex Thomson (Hugo Boss): “I had a terrible night last night – it felt like I did one or two knots for most of it and into this morning. Today's not been too bad, there's been some wind that wasn't expected and I'm currently going quite fast although I'm on port tack.”

Jérémie Beyou, (Maître CoQ): "I’m not out of the squall. I’m in the rain, but at least I’m moving. I don’t know whether this is good news. If the squall moves northwards with me, I’m going to find it hard to keep going. I had a complicated night. A few hours ago, I was completely stopped. I had managed to regain 500 miles from the leaders, so have been looking ahead of me. As far as my sails are concerned, I don’t have any worries. I don’t have a staysail for stronger winds, but I still have my code 0 and can use that. That is allowing me to get out of the calms.”

01-10-2017, 09:24 AM


TUESDAY 10 JANUARY 2017, 15H56

Vendée Globe leader Armel Le Cléac’h today spoke of his frustration as erratic weather in the North Atlantic complicates his path to the finish line. At the latest position update the Frenchman had a narrow lead of 99 miles over British rival Alex Thomson as the pair forged their way north, around 350 miles south west of the Cape Verde Islands.

A costly passage through the Doldrums for Le Cléac’h has now been compounded by complex weather uncharacteristic of this part of the ocean. By rights Le Cléac’h should be enjoying fast sailing on Banque Populaire VIII in steady north-easterly trade winds, conditions that could have allowed him to consolidate his lead over Thomson's Hugo Boss. Instead a large depression 1,500 nautical miles to the north is disrupting the trades and playing havoc with Le Cléac’h's bid for a first Vendée Globe title. “The situation isn’t very clear in comparison to the forecasts,” the exasperated Breton skipper said. “For two or three days it’s been hard getting north. It’s been thundery weather since the Equator. The Doldrums travelled up with us with big clouds and heavy squalls. It hasn’t been as thundery since yesterday, but is very cloudy, and we’ve got some more complicated patches ahead. It’s different from the usual scenario and I’m at the limit of my understanding of the weather.”


Still hurting from seeing his 500nm lead at Cape Horn reduced to 146nm at the Equator, Le Cléac’h's quest for glory was dealt a further blow when he was snared by the Doldrums. Thomson's passage, by comparison, was much quicker and at one point he came to within 50nm of Le Cléac’h. Now the pair must deal with whatever the weather throws at them as their race for the finish line enters its final week. “We don’t have manoeuvres like we did in the Southern Ocean,” Le Cléac’h added. “It’s just a question of trimming depending on what the wind throws at us. I thought I had got away from the Doldrums but that wasn’t the case. It was more favourable for Alex and that's hard to take. For the moment, we’re in front. We are going to have to see what happens.”


Six hundred miles south, third-placed Jérémie Beyou joined Le Cléac’h and Thomson in the northern hemisphere after passing the Equator at 1329 UTC. Beyou is likely to have a much simpler traverse of the Doldrums, which are forecast to shrink in the west in the next 24 hours. That will also be good news for fourth-placed Jean-Pierre Dick, who has gambled on his route close to the coast of Brazil paying off by allowing him to skirt round the western edge of the Doldrums.


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French sailor Eric Bellion is set to become the ninth skipper to round Cape Horn tomorrow, followed closely by New Zealander Conrad Colman. Three thousand miles west, Dutch sailor Pieter Heerema was temporarily celebrating after the wind hole that has held him for several days started to relinquish its grip. “The position of the area of no wind was a little different to what I was expecting,” the 65-year-old explained. “I've been locked up and the waves were coming at me from everywhere. It was a bit bouncy without much progress, but in the last two hours a little bit of breeze has started to establish and I think that will build and we'll be on our way again.” No Way Back skipper Heerema, in 17th, said the waves had been so bad that he had not been able to carry out any routine maintenance despite the lack of wind. “The boat was moving so badly there was nothing I could do – I couldn't stand or sit so I was just lying in my bed being bored for a long time,” he added. “They aren't big jobs though, nothing that will hamper my progress. I'm just trying to point the nose east as much as possible in the direction of Cape Horn - I want to get out of the Pacific as quickly as possible.”

Will Carson / M&M

01-11-2017, 09:04 AM
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French sailor Armel Le Cléac’h has almost doubled his lead on arch-rival Alex Thomson overnight after finding breeze to the west of the Cape Verde islands.

After several days of painful progress through the Doldrums that allowed Thomson to close the gap to under 100 nautical miles, Le Cléac’h was this morning 180nm ahead of the Brit. In fact in the 30 minutes leading up to the 0400 UTC report the speedo on Banque Populaire VIII was up to 17 knots while Thomson's Hugo Boss was only making 11. The new buffer will be welcomed by Le Cléac’h, who yesterday spoke of his frustration that an unlucky Doldrums crossing had allowed Thomson back into the game.

Jérémie Beyou, on the other hand, has barely felt the effect of the Doldrums after he passed the Equator yesterday at 1329 UTC. With the Doldrums dissipating, Beyou's Maître CoQ was this morning making a steady 10 knots north, 700nm behind Le Cléac’h. Eric Bellion was today just 150 miles from Cape Horn, with Conrad Colman a further 100 miles behind.


In the Pacific French sailor Arnaud Boissières was this morning relishing in a fantastic battle for 11th place with fellow countryman Fabrice Amedeo. Boissières was this morning around 20nm to the north of Amedeo, and around 10nm closer to Cape Horn, which they should both pass this weekend. “I had a fantastic day in the Pacific - I picked up some wind, did some manoeuvres, hoisted the spinnaker and met Fabrice Amedeo,” said La Mie Caline skipper Boissières, on this his third Vendée Globe. “What more could you want? We’ve been talking a lot. He’s my guardian angel. We have got going again after a few quiet days. We just split up under a cloud with me getting away under spinnaker. We got back together again when the sun appeared. It’s encouraging to see another boat after so long. I managed to stay under spinnaker for longer than him and we’re out of sight again now.”

Will Carson / M&M


Rich Wilson (Great American IV) in his daily log: “We have 1500 nautical miles to Cape Horn. A few days ago we were on the Asia Pacific satellite, with a declining elevation of the satellite over the horizon, and we switched to the Americas satellite. We study the weather to Cape Horn. One more depression coming along in a day and a half. We hope that we can skirt its southern side, up against the Antarctic Exclusion Zone, to minimize the wind strength that we will see. The group ahead, although within a hundred miles, is still going faster than we are. Today’s more moderate conditions mean that that’s a bit slow. But within a few hours we should get more, so in my decision-making, I don’t think it’s worth the effort, and mileage lost, to do two more sail changes, up with the full main, and then back down again into a reef, which will surely be needed.”

01-12-2017, 09:00 AM

Day 68: Thomson eyes final assault; Dick fourth in the north

British skipper Alex Thomson today said his last chance of winning the 2016-17 Vendée Globe lies with a ridge of high pressure close to the finish line. Thomson said his only hope of overtaking Le Cléac'h, barring mechanical failure, will be if he could get to within 50 miles of the Frenchman's boat Banque Populaire VIII by the time they reach the ridge. If he were able to do that he believes he will be within striking distance of the Le Cléac'h on the final sprint to the finish in Les Sables d'Olonne, France.

Thomson, who has been attempting to hunt down Le Cléac'h since he stole the Vendée Globe lead from him in early December, began the day 250 miles adrift but by the 1400 UTC update the gap had narrowed to 216nm. Around 300nm west of the Cape Verde Islands, Le Cléac'h, the runner-up in the last two editions of the Vendée Globe, had this afternoon slowed temporarily in slightly lighter winds, his eight knots of boat speed significantly less than Thomson's 13.


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Although the pair still have around 2,000 miles to go before they reach Les Sables, Thomson admitted Le Cléac'h is now odds-on favourite to win. But he vowed to push his arch rival right the way to the end of the solo non-stop round the world race in his pursuit of the title. "There's a ridge and I could catch up with Armel - it depends who gets across the ridge first," Thomson said. "If there are no dramas, he should cross the ridge before me and then he'll win the race. It's getting more and more difficult to make a move, but I remain pragmatic and optimistic. Maybe something's going to happen. I certainly see us closing up. According to the computer I'll finish five hours behind him but we'll have to wait and see - you never know." Thomson said he expected two days of fairly light winds, then two days of fast sailing before hitting the ridge. "After this light patch I need to be within fifty miles of him," he said. "In a few days I could make up the fifty miles. If I don't get within fifty miles by the end of this light stuff, my chances of beating him are quite slim."


Frenchman Jean-Pierre Dick today became the fourth Vendée Globe skipper in the northern hemisphere after passing the Equator for the second and final time. Dick, competing in his fourth Vendée Globe, passed the line of latitude that divides north from south at 1033 UTC, just shy of 67 days after starting the solo round the world race from Les Sables d'Olonne in France. He now joins Le Cléac'h, Thomson and third-placed Jérémie Beyou on the relative home strait to the finish line some 3,000 nautical miles away.

Following successful Cape Horn roundings for Eric Bellion and Conrad Colman, the next skippers to pass the milestone will be Arnaud Boissières on La Mie Câline and Newrest Matmut skipper Fabrice Amedeo. The pair, currently enjoying fast downwind conditions, are expected to reach Cape Horn on Sunday. "For sailors this is the Holy Grail and particularly for me," Amedeo said. "My two goals at the start were to round the Horn and make it to the finish. I'm close now to my first goal, so I'm pleased."

The current ETA in Les Sables for the Vendée Globe leaders is Thursday January 19.

Due to the storms sweeping across Western France, the local authorities have postponed the installation of the Vendée Globe race village in Les Sables d'Olonne. Consequently, the next Vendée Live in English will be on Saturday at 1200hrs UTC.


Nandor Fa (Spirit of Hungary): “During the whole night we were having a very tough ride in 40 knots base wind with even stronger squalls, sometimes at 25 knots boat speed. With such a speed, the waves were slamming and punching us hard, it was impossible to move around in the boat without having to grab onto something. By this morning it had calmed. It will increase again sometime I’m not sure when exactly, we’ll see later. The boat bangs into the waves in front of us as we reach them with our greater speed, then we run forward. Splashes fly several metres high in the air, then descend onto the deck, into the cockpit. Water is flooding everywhere, I’m not completely safe under the protection either as the spray is blown in here by the wind. It is tough and serious, especially when the water is so cold as it is.”

Fabrice Amedeo, Newrest Matmut: “I feel two different things. Each time I get close to land after sailing out at sea, even in a transatlantic race, there’s always that apprehension about getting back to civilisation, as you start to encounter cargo ships, shipping and bits of land. That represents a threat when you are in a boat. There is also the excitement of getting to the Horn. I don’t think I did too badly in the Southern Ocean. I sailed well on the way down the Atlantic. In the South, I had a problem with my halyard, I tore my mainsail and that made me lose 500 miles. After I had repaired that, I had a problem with the hook. I should be rounding Cape Horn in a westerly on Sunday, sailing downwind in thirty knots of wind.”

Kito de Pavant: “A third Vendée Globe, which comes to an end. A boat that is lost. A lot of hard work that is at the bottom of the Indian Ocean… I have continued to write about this experience. Maybe I’ll write a book. A Vendée Globe leads to other adventures. To begin with, it always involves lots of people. You don’t do a Vendée Globe all alone. The adventure before the start is already something fantastic. I was lucky to be able to set up a project with lots of partners. What I did in the race was incredible. My first two finished too soon. This time I felt like I had done part of it at least. I shared that with lots of people. Before the Vendée Globe, my partners said that they wanted to do the 2018 Route du Rhum. I shall be using up a lot of my energy trying to find a boat. The experience has not calmed me down!”

01-13-2017, 09:21 AM

FRIDAY 13 JANUARY 2017, 13H28

Friday the 13th might be unlucky for some, but not for British skipper Alex Thomson who has pulled back 76 crucial miles on Vendée Globe leader Armel Le Cléac'h in the last 24 hours.

Thomson revealed yesterday that in order to stand a chance of overhauling French skipper Le Cléac'h before the finish of the solo round the world race he must get to within 50 miles of him in the next few days. At the 1100 UTC position report yesterday Thomson's Hugo Boss was 227 miles adrift of Le Cléac'h's Banque Populaire VIII as the pair passed to the west of the Cape Verde Islands. At the same time today that deficit was down to 151 miles as light winds forced Le Cléac'h to slow to just three knots, almost four times slower than Thomson's 11.9 knots. Thomson too will see speeds drop as he hits the dead spot but with several days of light-wind sailing ahead before stronger south-easterlies fill in near the Azores even the smallest of gains were welcome.



Thomson was not the only one with reason to celebrate. Crossing the Equator yesterday 13 days, three hours and 59 minutes after rounding Cape Horn, Jean-Pierre Dick set a new race record for the passage. Incredibly he shaved almost 16 hours off the reference time of Vendée 2012-13 winner François Gabart of 13 days, 19 hours and 29 minutes. In fact, Dick was just the first of four skippers to beat Gabart's time. Thomson posted a time of 13 days, five hours and 30 minutes, Yann Eliès took 13 days, seven hours and 20 minutes while Jean Le Cam was just 37 minutes behind. In stark comparison, race leader le Cléac'h was almost 32 hours slower than Dick over the same distance, but his woes did not stop there. His losses caused by a painful crossing of the Doldrums were today laid bare. Fifteen of the race's remaining 18 skippers made gains on Banque Populaire over the past seven days. Frenchman Eric Bellion has been by far the biggest winner in the last week, pulling back 641nm on Le Cléac'h, with Jean-Pierre Dick was next in line making back 388nm. Only Thomson and 17th-placed Pieter Heerema lost ground on Le Cléac'h, Thomson dropping 26nm to the leader and Heerema losing 10nm.


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The Vendée Globe finish line is now within 1,800 miles of Le Cléac'h, and his ETA in Les Sables remains Thursday January 19th. Race HQ has now moved from Paris and is set up in Les Sables ready for the opening of the race village tomorrow. Doors to the village, at Port Olona, open to the public at 10am local time and visitors can enjoy an exhibition on the race, shop for official Vendée Globe merchandise or relax in the race's legendary bar and restaurant, the VOG. A huge screen will show the arrivals live from the finish line to the pontoon, and skippers will then be interviewed on the main stage.

Tune in to the Vendée Live show tomorrow on the race website at 1200 UTC for the latest news from the Vendée Globe.


Rich Wilson (Great American IV): “We are in the depression, with 25-30 knots of wind, and forecast to go higher into the high 30s. The challenge with this storm is how big it is, and that the waves will continue to grow larger, since the wind will last for so long. We started with 2 reefs in the mainsail and the solent. We went through the night with that, I tried to escape with the noise-canceling headphones in the sleeping bag, as once we were setup there was not much to do on deck. I would get up every hour and go out and look to see how we were getting on. All was fine in the low 20s, but when we got higher, the boat was taking off on huge 22 knots runs, but the pilot was having increasing difficulty keeping us from a big broach or a potentially catastrophic gybe. So we have made two sail changes, to the staysail from solent, and to reef 3 from reef 2. We are slower, but we are in better control. How this will affect our future position relative to the weather at Cape Horn, we will have to wait and see.”


Nandor Fa (Spirit of Hungary): “The main dilemma is where to go next. Based on one of the two versions I would have to keep going this way, and in this case I would reach the Northerly edge of cyclone with its 45-50 knots of wind around the evening. Those conditions would affect us for about 4-5 hours. A rather huge cyclone is being formed; its center is about 250 miles below me and it’s moving very fast to the E–SE. In its Easterly wing there are serious 50+ winds. If I follow the second version I would have to gybe right now and go 80 miles towards the East. Even then, the edge of it would reach me but I would have to stay inside for a shorter time, and we wouldn’t be as close to the front. I chose the second version. I gybed and headed towards East for a little while. I don’t want to risk my boat in conditions that are possible to avoid. At the moment we are slightly slower than the routing but in the given situations this could even come in handy later on.”

01-15-2017, 09:55 AM

SUNDAY 15 JANUARY 2017, 17H00
The race to the Vendée Globe finish line today became an all-out, neck-and-neck sprint as the leading pair's speedos rocketed into the 20s.


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After several days of slow progress north in light winds, Armel Le Cléac'h and Alex Thomson were today blasting towards the home straight of the solo round the world race in winds of up to 30 knots.

The skippers, split by just 95 nautical miles, were eating up the 1,300nm standing between them and the finish line in Les Sables d'Olonne, France, as they try to squeeze every last bit of speed from their foiling IMOCA 60 raceboats.

At the 1400 UTC position update British skipper Thomson, who led the race through most of its early stages, had a narrow speed advantage as he hurtled north on Hugo Boss at 24 knots. French skipper Le Cléac'h, who has topped the rankings since December 2, was more than two knots slower as he closed in on the Azores. With the ETA in Les Sables currently Thursday, the Vendée Globe is shaping up to go right down to the wire.



“We have 17 to 20 knots of breeze at the moment and not very nice seas to be honest with the waves coming in from the east,” Thomson told Vendée Globe HQ in Les Sables today. “It’s difficult to go fast but I’m not complaining because I am making good speed. It’s going to get windy in the next 24 hours, up to 30 knots. We'll be going fast, and we'll have to see how things pan out.”

Thomson is competing in the Vendée Globe for the fourth time and is aiming to become the first Briton ever to win the race in its 27-year history. If he can continue to eat into Le Cléac'h's lead there is a chance he could realise his goal. Le Cléac'h, meanwhile, is hell-bent on ensuring he scores his first ever Vendée Globe win after posting runner's-up finishes in the past two editions.

The anticyclone currently blocking the duo's path to Les Sables is moving towards the English Channel and in another 36 hours the pair will be able to point their bows towards the finish line for an upwind drag race to glory.


Some 6,000nm behind the leaders the quartet of Fabrice Amedeo, Arnaud Boissières, Alan Roura and Rich Wilson from 11th to 14th were fighting a battle against Mother Nature as they approached Cape Horn, the southernmost tip of South America. North-westerly breeze of up to 40 knots was making for a testing passage past the legendary milestone, not only battering the boats but whipping up seas of up to six metres high.


Amedeo, a sports journalist-turned-solo sailor, said his primary focus was to preserve man and boat in order to keep his dream alive of finishing the Vendée Globe. “It's an amazing moment for me because it's my first rounding of Cape Horn, and it comes after one month in the south,” he said. “But because of the wind I feel a little bit stressed and it hasn't quite sunk in that I will round Cape Horn in a few hours. I'm very concentrated now but I will feel better in two days – then it will feel like a victory. I'll have a lot of wind today and tomorrow so my psychological Cape Horn will be tomorrow evening.”

The enormity of the task at hand is not lost on Swiss sailor Alan Roura, who at 23 is the race's youngest skipper. “It’s my first Cape Horn and it’s no holiday that’s for sure,” he said. “It’ll be a big, big relief to round it as it’s a key passage and marks our return home. I hope we’ll have milder conditions in the Atlantic.”

Log on to vendeeglobe.org at 1200 UTC tomorrow for the Vendée Live show, with all the latest news from the racecourse.



Conrad Colman (Foresight Natural Energy): “Entering the "Roaring Forties", the band of latitude between 40 and 50 degrees south, is always a great moment. When going down the South Atlantic it means the beginning of the south, the long swells, the grey days and the start of the strong winds that roar, hence the name. Entering this band going back up again means an escape from all that and the promise of calmer days and the opportunity to untangle the nerves that were wound tight by weeks of stress. Even now at 48 degrees north, the constant dampness of condensation inside the boat is drying out with the rising temperatures and I am blessed with bright sunshine, puffy white clouds dancing in blue skies. Eric has had a dream run since the Horn, with one tack taking him straight up the direct route home whereas conditions just a few hours behind have meant that I have sailed more miles with more manoeuvres in order to find the wind I need to maximise my limited sail wardrobe. I am currently in stable running conditions in up to 30 knots of wind and am making great progress. All that is set to change however as today the wind will come more from the north and I will start a long upwind march that will have the boat banging into the crests of the waves, instead of sliding over them downwind, until I get up to the level of Rio. This is one of the least interesting parts of the race as it's just one long port tack towards the north east on boats that are optimised for running and reaching, not hundreds of miles of upwind! Still, if that's the price for thousands of miles downwind I'll take it but first I need to find my earplugs!”


Didac Costa (One Planet One Ocean): “Yesterday I launched the two Argos beacons I had on-board. Over the coming months they will drift through the Pacific at the mercy of the currents providing valuable information to scientists about the dynamics of the oceans. The most elongated of the beacons is a prototype that feeds on the kinetic energy generated by the motion of the waves. Another of the four oceanographic studies I’m doing in this Vendée Globe is the project Citclops-Eyeonwater. Through an application on a mobile I take a daily picture of the surface of the sea. As the colour of the sea is determined in part by the presence of phytoplankton, scientists can measure the quality of the marine environment via these photos. This phone also has an unplanned dual-purpose now too as I ran out of batteries for the headtorch (the Tupperware container where I kept them got wet when I had the incident at the start and most of them are unusable) so I use the phone as a light whenever I can. It won’t illuminate the mast, but it helps me when I am on deck or doing things inside the boat. The rechargeable handset stopped charging a few days ago, so I do everything I can with the phone to keep the few batteries I have left for when they are really needed.
The wind shifted a few hours ago and I now have a very cold S’ly wind. I have all my possible layers on. If all goes well I could reach Cape Horn next weekend. There are still more than 1,500 miles to go, but the Cape, for all that it stands for, is already part of my thoughts…”

01-16-2017, 08:04 AM

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MONDAY 16 JANUARY 2017, 16H33
The Vendée Globe is going down to the wire with the leading pair of Armel Le Cléac'h and Alex Thomson split by just 78 miles as they enter the final 1,000 miles to the finish.

Thomson has been playing catch-up since Le Cléac'h took the lead on December 2 but as the race enters its final few days he has transformed from the chaser into the hunter, ruthlessly stalking his French rival in the hope of being able to deliver the killer blow before the race is up. The British skipper delivered a timely warning to French skipper Le Cléac'h today when he smashed the world record for the greatest distance sailed solo in 24 hours. Hugo Boss skipper Thomson maintained a staggering average speed of 22.4 knots in the 24 hours leading up to the 0800 UTC position update to notch up 536.8nm. The distance breaks the 534.48nm record set by François Gabart in the 2012-13 Vendée Globe that he went on to win, beating Le Cléac'h by just three hours. In that respect the new record could be considered a good omen by Thomson, who is aiming to become the first Brit in the race's 27-year history to win it. He actually beat Gabart's record two weeks into the race, sailing 535.34nm in 24 hours, but the rules of the record state it must be superseded by one whole mile. Thomson previously held the record between 2003 and 2012 with a distance of 468.72nm. The new record will now be ratified by the World Sailing Speed Record Council.


Banque Populaire skipper and pre-race favourite Le Cléac'h has hardly been easing off on his run into the finish. Over the same 24-hour period he covered 515 miles at an average of 21.5 knots. By the 1400 UTC report Le Cléac'h was matching Thomson's 21 knots of boat speed with a slim buffer of 78 miles at the latitude of Cape Finisterre on the north-west point of Spain. Rather than head for the finish line in the Vendée port of Les Sables d'Olonne the duo must continue north east to avoid the centre of an anticyclone currently blocking their path east. By tomorrow the winds and therefore boat speeds will have dropped, and several days of light-wind sailing lie ahead. Both skippers are expected to finish on Thursday January 19, potentially just a few hours apart.

Throughout the fleet, today split by 9,000nm from head to tail, there has been admiration for Thomson's new record. “Alex's record is seriously impressive,” said New Zealander Conrad Colman, some 6,000nm behind the leaders. “I've been watching his average boat speed closely, and the idea of staying at 23 knots for 24 hours is absurd. I think the new generation of IMOCAs are incredible and as soon as I put my feet back on the ground I'll be looking to cement a new project for myself and join the club 'flying'.” Yann Eliès, skipper of fifth-placed Queguiner-Leucémie Espoir, added: “It’s a great performance. Alex seems to be able to keep up average speeds a little above those of Armel, so we’ll be watching the final four days closely.”

Thomson was not the only skipper with cause for celebration today. Fabrice Amedeo in 11th and Arnaud Boissières in 12th both rounded Cape Horn, the southern tip of South America, to begin their ascent through the Atlantic to the finish line. Amedeo rounded at 0140 UTC with Boissières following suit just over four hours later. Thirteenth-placed Swiss sailor Alan Roura will be next round Cape Horn, adrift by just 30 miles at 1400 UTC. Rich Wilson in fourteenth still has 150nm to go. Meanwhile 65-year-old Dutch sailor Pieter Heerema passed Point Nemo, the most remote place on the planet more than 1,700 miles from inhabited land. “Now I want to get around Cape Horn as quickly as possible,” he said. “It's a really key landmark. We're now 70 days into this race and there's still a long way to go. I'm enjoying it but I've also more or less had enough.”

01-17-2017, 09:10 AM

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TUESDAY 17 JANUARY 2017, 15H50

Vendée Globe leader Armel Le Cléac'h has an advantage of just 69 miles on second-placed Alex Thomson as the solo round the world race enters its final 500 miles. After an action-packed 73 days the pair were practically neck and neck today, Thomson nipping at Le Cléac'h's heels as the pair prepared for their penultimate night at sea.

Frustratingly for the battling duo, despite already reaching the latitude of the finish line in Les Sables d'Olonne, France, they are being forced to sail much further north due to an anticyclone currently blocking their path home. The routing the pair must follow could take them as far north as the Scilly Isles, an archipelago off the coast of Cornwall in the south-west of Britain, before they can tack and finally point their bows towards the finish.

In the last 24 hours, Hugo Boss skipper Thomson has scythed another 10 miles off Le Cléac'h's advantage, and at the 1400 UTC position update was doing 20.4 knots compared to his French rival's 19.7. But even at that rate he will not be able to reduce the deficit enough to overhaul Le Cléac'h before the finish line. Thomson's hopes of becoming the first Brit to win the Vendée Globe in its 27-year history lie in tactics, namely the precise moment to tack and head for Les Sables. Although the advantage is now firmly with Banque Populaire VIII skipper Le Cléac'h the race will not be over until the finish line is crossed. Indeed, in the 2004-05 Vendée Globe fellow Brit Mike Golding lost his keel 50nm from the finish line and had to limp home in third place at two knots. The current ETA for the leaders is Thursday, with the routing suggesting Le Cléac'h will cross the line between 1200 and 1400 local time followed closely by Thomson.


The two frontrunners are under no threat from third placed Jérémie Beyou, his Maître CoQ some 850nm behind, but equally he is safe for now at least from fourth-placed Jean-Pierre Dick, who trails by the same amount. Just 200nm adrift Yann Eliès and Jean Le Cam are now his main concern. “If Jérémie has no technical problems it will be very difficult to catch him up,” Dick said. “The danger will come from Yann and Jean so I will have to be very careful to stay in fourth.”

Louis Burton in seventh was 160nm from the Equator at 1400 UTC while 1,700nm behind him Nandor Fa was relishing in champagne sailing in the south-easterly trade winds. Talking to the Vendée Live show today 63-year-old Fa said he would slow only very briefly in the St Helena High but that it could swallow up ninth and tenth-placed Conrad Colman and Eric Bellion. “I don't think I'll have much problem with the St Helena High – maybe one day of lighter winds but no more,” Fa said. “Behind me a huge high pressure is forming and the guys behind me could be much more affected. Maybe I'll be lucky – let's see in the coming days.” Fa also heaped praise on Le Cléac'h and Thomson, but remained tight-lipped when asked to pick a winner. “I've watched these guys match race round the world and what they've done has been fantastic,” he added. “Both of them deserve to win because their performances have been incredible.”

Bringing up the rear of the fleet in 18th Sébastian Destremau was rueing lost miles to 17th placed Pieter Heerema after he was snared in light winds at the halfway point between Cape Leeuwin and Cape Horn. “I was pleased to have won back 300 miles from Pieter Heerema after Tasmania, but he has just gained back 200,” Destremau lamented. “I hoped to be within 500 miles of him by the time I got to Cape Horn, but that isn’t looking likely, as he is advancing at 14 knots. It’s not easy seeing how much route still has to be covered before I get home.”



Fabrice Amedeo (Newrest Matmut): “It’s not easy getting back into the swing of things with the coast and islands. Yesterday, Staten Island got in the way. I found myself in its wind shadow. And now it’s the Falklands. I’ll probably have to gybe to get around them. A low passed over during the night with 35/40 knot winds. It didn’t last very long and everything was fine. After that, the wind eased off, which wasn’t really forecast. For the past 46 hours or so, the forecasts have not been reliable. There is the effect of the Andes and so nothing is as expected. The sea is quite heavy and was nasty during the night. After Staten Island there was a two-knot current and the boat was slamming. I’m going to continue towards the NE with another low moving in tomorrow, which should allow us to head north sailing downwind at high speed.”


Jean-Pierre Dick, StMichel-Virbac: “Conditions are variable with light winds, occasional squalls and a fairly unpleasant swell. But I am making some headway this morning after the light airs yesterday, which is good news, as Yann and Jean are speeding towards me… Armel has managed to keep Alex in check and it’s a similar scenario for me. I haven’t been very lucky in spite of having a fairly easy time in the Doldrums. A low will be sweeping in in the next two days, so unfortunately I will have to take the long way around to get to Les Sables d’Olonne.”


Nandor Fa (Spirit of Hungary): “It's a beautiful day for me. At last I have this beautiful wind which I've been expecting for two days. Now it's blowing with 12-16 knots and I can make 11-15 knots of boat speed in a good direction. The sun is out and I'm seeing flying fish again. The warmth is very welcome. The air temperature is good and I'm enjoying this kind of sailing – it's the Premier League. I don't think I'll have much problem with the St Helena High.”

Prince of Whales
01-17-2017, 09:23 AM
Alex needs Armel to sail into a a fishermans net about right now.

01-18-2017, 08:07 AM
TRACKER (http://tracking2016.vendeeglobe.org/gv5ip0/)


British sailor Alex Thomson today conceded that his chances of overhauling Vendée Globe leader Armel Le Cléac'h on the home strait were slim, despite narrowing the gap to just 35 miles. In the last 24 hours Thomson, 42, has halved Le Cléach's lead of 70 miles but as the pair prepared to enter the final 300 miles of the solo round the world race this afternoon he said the advantage was now firmly with his French rival.

Thomson revealed that for several days now he has been battling problems with the wind instruments on his cutting-edge 60ft race boat Hugo Boss, which in turn have prevented the yacht's autopilot from working properly. In spite of knocking miles off Le Cléac'h's lead overnight he said he had not slept for two days and was now dangerously tired. Speaking to the Vendée Live show today Thomson said his thoughts were on getting Hugo Boss' anemometers working again rather than the impending finish in Les Sables d'Olonne, France. "I don't think I can catch Armel," he said. "The routing is very clear – we will go nearly to the Scilly Isles, wait for a left shift and when it comes we tack. There are no real options for me any more, I think my options have run out. It might be possible to catch a few miles but it's difficult for me at the moment. Until I can get my autopilot driving on a wind angle it'll be very tricky in the conditions I have. I can't imagine another few days like the last couple of days. I don't have any tension about the finish. I have tension about trying to make the autopilots work. I've got an anemometer in my hand and I'm trying to splice wires. I don't care about the finish right now, I just want to sleep.”


Le Cléac'h, runner-up in the past two editions of the Vendée Globe, might now be odds-on favourite to claim his first race win but he was not taking anything for granted as he prepared to tack and head down the west coast of France to Les Sables. The race mantra of 'to finish first, first you have to finish' will be ringing in his ears as he sails into his final night at sea in 74 days. “For the moment I’m holding my own against Alex,” the 39-year-old Breton said, “but the final 24 hours are going to be complicated. I'm going to have to be careful as there are a lot of dangers - we have been seeing fishermen and cargo vessels since yesterday. I’ll be passing the tip of Brittany tonight, then going along the south coast of Brittany. I have to remain cautious to avoid doing anything stupid.” Le Cléac'h is expected to cross the finish line between 1300 and 1900 UTC tomorrow, barring any mishaps, with Thomson following suit around four hours later.


The race tracker will update hourly once the leader gets to within 100 miles of the finish, and live streaming will begin 30 minutes from the line. For more information on how to follow the arrivals click here http://www.vendeeglobe.org/en/village-for-the-finish/how-to-follow-the-finish.

Third-placed Jérémie Beyou said his routing software has calculated that he should arrive in Les Sables on Sunday evening, around three days behind the leaders. “Over the past few days I have been faster than expected,” said Beyou, whose podium position is secure for now with fourth-placed Jean-Pierre Dick trailing him by more than 1,000 miles. “The seas are not as cross and are more manageable. I’m trying not to think of the finish, as I still have the Bay of Biscay to deal with, and it’s not looking very cooperative, as there won’t be much wind, so I won’t be advancing very quickly.” Seventh-placed Louis Burton will be the next skipper to cross into the northern hemisphere. At the 1400 UTC position update he was just 20 miles south of the Equator.
Tune into Vendée Globe Live tomorrow at 1200 UTC at http://www.vendeeglobe.org/en/ where host Will Carson will be joined by French offshore sailing legend Loick Peyron.


Jérémie Beyou, Maître CoQ: “Things aren’t going too badly today. I’m trying to slip in between the trough and the ridge of high pressure. I’m just coming out of that corridor with 20 knots of wind. Wind charts are a great decision-making tool, but when you don’t have them, you have to observe things around you. I can see the general pattern. For the finish, I’m looking at Sunday evening, but it’s hard to predict, and will depend on the wind conditions in the Bay of Biscay.”

Eric Bellion, CommeUnSeulHomme : “Yesterday I suddenly got thirty knots of wind, which I hadn’t seen on the charts. Today I have light airs. There are times when it’s hard and I wonder what the hell I’m doing here and then times, when I enjoy it. When I see how far I have come, I can see how lucky I am. Even becalmed last night, I didn’t want to be anywhere else. Why have I moved to the west? It’s down to the weather. Because of the currents, I didn’t go through the Le Maire Strait, then climbing back up north, I found myself close to the coast trying to avoid a high.”


A sailboat cannot navigate head to wind. With the NE'ly winds which are blowing at the present in France, Banque Populaire VIII and Hugo Boss will have to tack several times to get to the finishing line. The best angle upwind for an Imoca 60 varies between 40 and 55 ° according to the wind speed. Boats thus make more or less a right angle when they tack.


The objective in these conditions is to minimize the distance they sail by exploiting as best they can the variations in wind direction. If Banque Populaire VIII tacked now, she would follow the red line. If she waits for a few hours, she will follow the black line which should allow her to arrive in Les Sables d'Olonne 4 or 5 hours earlier.

By going off to the Scilly Isles, Armel Le Cléac'h and Alex Thomson are going to benefit from a wind shift from the east to the north-east, which is going to allow them to reduce the distance they need to sail.


Alex Thomson has hardly any other choice than to follow Armel le Cléac'h's route. The British skipper knows that by tacking too early, he would lose a lot. He can try a light gap in the evening hoping that the wind direction does not completely match the forecasts, but the pink zone is forbidden to navigation which is going to limit the possibilities.

The shortest route to go from the Azores to Les Sables d'Olonne takes the boats close to the Cornish coast this year.
CD and BS / Great Circle

Born 2 Sail
01-18-2017, 04:52 PM
Alex will have to settle for 2nd, but special mention for a tough race with a compromised boat!

01-19-2017, 08:37 AM
Armel Le Cléac'h wins the Vendée Globe 2016-17 in record time

French sailor Armel Le Cléac'h has today won the Vendée Globe, setting a new record for the solo non-stop round the world race in the process.

© Jean-Marie Liot / DPPI / VENDEE GLOBE

Le Cléac'h, 39, from Brittany, crossed the finish line of the race in Les Sables d'Olonne, France, at 1537hrs UTC after 74 days, 3 hours, 35 minutes and 46 seconds at sea on his 60ft racing yacht Banque Populaire VIII.

His time sets a new record for the race, beating the previous record of 78 days 2 hours 16 minutes set by French sailor Francois Gabart in the 2012-13 edition by 3 days, 22 hours and 41 minutes.


Le Cléac'h, the runner-up in the 2008-09 and 2012-13 editions of the Vendée Globe, covered 24,499.52 nm at an average speed of 13.77 knots during the race, which began from Les Sables d'Olonne on November 6 last year.

The Vendée Globe, which was founded in 1989, follows the 'clipper route' around Africa's Cape of Good Hope, Australia's Cape Leeuwin and South America's Cape Horn.

Second-placed Alex Thomson is expected to cross the finish line on his boat Hugo Boss around 12 hours behind Le Cléac'h.

Armel Le Cléac'h's momentous victory in the Vendée Globe brings to an end an epic struggle with Alex Thomson that began the moment the 29-strong fleet left Les Sables d'Olonne on November 6.

Both sailors had built new-generation IMOCA 60 boats for the race that featured the addition of foils – L-shaped daggerboards that sit in the water providing lift and therefore extra speed in certain conditions. With two runners-up places from the past two editions of the race under his belt, Le Cléac'h began as one of the favourites to take the top spot this time round. Similarly Thomson was also tipped for the top as he began his fourth Vendée Globe looking to improve on his third-place finish of 2012-13.
Since the start on 6th November 2016 from Les Sables-d’Olonne, the Breton skipper from St. Pol de Léon in Morlaix Bay has had to use all his skill and experience as two times winner of the French summer classic, the Solitaire du Figaro, to ward off attacks from Britain’s Alex Thomson on Hugo Boss. Before the start, the skipper of Banque Populaire VIII spoke about his position as favourite in the 2016-2017 Vendée Globe. “It is the sailor, who makes all the difference. The one who comes out on top will be the one, who makes the fewest mistakes. We are setting off as pioneers, as no 60-foot monohull has ever sailed around the world with foils. I am one of the favourites, but I’m not the only one. There have been four transatlantic races since I started sailing on board Banque Populaire VIII and I won one of them.” Living up his reputation, the Jackal never gave an inch away, but the pressure was on him throughout the race from his British rival, Alex Thomson. Since 7th November, the day after the start, Le Cléac’h and Thomson have been taking it in turns as leader. “When I’m on a boat, I shift to warrior and adventurer mode,” explained the Breton skipper, who has looked solid physically and mentally during the whole race.


Since the start on 6th November 2016 from Les Sables-d’Olonne, the Breton skipper from St. Pol de Léon in Morlaix Bay has had to use all his skill and experience as two times winner of the French summer classic, the Solitaire du Figaro, to ward off attacks from Britain’s Alex Thomson on Hugo Boss. Before the start, the skipper of Banque Populaire VIII spoke about his position as favourite in the 2016-2017 Vendée Globe. “It is the sailor, who makes all the difference. The one who comes out on top will be the one, who makes the fewest mistakes. We are setting off as pioneers, as no 60-foot monohull has ever sailed around the world with foils. I am one of the favourites, but I’m not the only one. There have been four transatlantic races since I started sailing on board Banque Populaire VIII and I won one of them.” Living up his reputation, the Jackal never gave an inch away, but the pressure was on him throughout the race from his British rival, Alex Thomson. Since 7th November, the day after the start, Le Cléac’h and Thomson have been taking it in turns as leader. “When I’m on a boat, I shift to warrior and adventurer mode,” explained the Breton skipper, who has looked solid physically and mentally during the whole race.

Le Cléac'h shot out of the blocks, taking an early lead alongside fellow Frenchman Vincent Riou, but by the Equator Thomson had a three-hour jump on the fleet after taking a shortcut through the Cape Verde Islands. Thomson's reference time to the Equator of nine days, seven hours and two minutes beat the existing record set by Jean Le Cam of 10 days and 11 hours. Disaster struck for Thomson on November 19 when a collision with an object floating in the waters of the South Atlantic destroyed his starboard foil, leaving just a stump sticking out. In spite of the setback Thomson rounded the Cape of Good Hope on the southern tip of South Africa in the lead four hours and 22 minutes ahead of Le Cléac’h, his time of seventeen days, 22 hours and 58 minutes obliterating the previous race record for the passage of 22 days and 23 hours set by Le Cléac'h in 2012.

The record pace carried on through the Indian Ocean with Thomson clinging to the top spot despite much of the action taking place on port, the tack on which Hugo Boss had a slight speed deficit due to the missing foil. As they reached the remote Kerguelen Islands Le Cléac'h was within touching distance of Thomson, finally overhauling him on December 3. The occasion was marked by a visit from a French navy helicopter, which was able to film incredible images of the two boats blasting along at almost 30 knots. It was the first time racing yachts have ever been filmed so far south. Le Cléac'h started to pull away but Thomson refused to let to go his French rival, staying within 100 miles at Australia's Cape Leeuwin. Again the race records fell, Le Cléac'h shaving off five days and 14 hours from François Gabart's 2012-13 record, and Banque Populaire accelerated away.

By Cape Horn Le Cléac'h had amassed a whopping 819nm lead on Thomson, the equivalent of two days on the water. Again Thomson replied with a blazing run up the South Atlantic that reduced the gap to just 50 miles by the Equator. Thomson's passage from Cape Horn has taken 13 days, five hours and 30 minutes, smashing 2012-13 Vendée Globe winner François Gabart's existing record for the passage by 14 hours.

With Le Cléac'h snared by the Doldrums the sprint through the North Atlantic began at slow pace, tricky weather systems confusing the leaders' route back to the finish line. Both skippers admitted to being mentally and physically exhausted as they pushed man and boat to the limit in pursuit of the ultimate prize. Extra pressure was heaped on Le Cléac'h when on January 16 Thomson set a new 24-hour distance record of sailed 536.81nm averaging 22.4 knots, breaking François Gabart's existing record by two miles.

In a nail-biting finale that had race fans on the edges of their seats, Le Cléac'h entered the final 24 with the narrowest of advantages, just 33 miles splitting his boat Banque Populaire VIII from Thomson's Hugo Boss. But by the time Le Cléac'h, nicknamed 'The Jackal' for his predatory nature on the water, got to within 200nm of the finish he had pulled away to create an unassailable buffer of 100nm. Thomson's final assault compounded by autopilot problems that left him dangerously tired and with Le Cléac'h out of reach he was forced to concede. Le Cléac'h sailed Banque Populaire VIII over the finish line at 1537 UTC in a time of 74 days, three hours, 35 minutes and 46 seconds to win the Vendée Globe and set a new race record in the process.

Despite the incredible length of the Vendée Globe the race is not unfamiliar with close finishes. In the very first edition winner Titouan Lamazou beat Loick Peyron by just 17 hours after 109 days at sea. In 2005 Vincent Riou came in just seven hours of Jean Le Cam to win the race, setting a new record time of 87 days, 10 hours and 47 minutes in the process. The closest finish the race has ever seen was in the previous edition when François Gabart beat Le Cléac'h by just three hours.

El Capitan
01-19-2017, 10:40 AM
Amazing performance!
Le Foiling Le Cléac'h keeps it together and sets a new record!
Looks like the foilers are hereto stay?

01-20-2017, 08:55 AM

FRIDAY 20 JANUARY 2017, 09H34

British yachtsman Alex Thomson today took the runner-up spot in the Vendée Globe to become the solo round-the-world race's second-fastest sailor ever.

Finish arrival of Alex Thomson (GBR), skipper Hugo Boss, 2nd place of the sailing circumnavigation solo race Vendee Globe, in Les Sables d'Olonne, France, on January 20th, 2017 -
Thomson, 42, set out to become the first Brit ever to win the Vendée Globe but following an epic battle with French skipper Armel Le Cléac'h missed out on the top spot by just shy of 16 hours. The skipper of Hugo Boss crossed the finish line at 0737 UTC in a time of 74 days, 19 hours, 35 minutes and 15 seconds in one of the closest finishes ever in the race's 27-year history. Le Cléac'h, 39, took the top spot yesterday at 1537 UTC with a time of 74 days, three hours and 35 minutes, setting a new race record by three days, 22 hours and 41 minutes. Although Thomson had to settle for second place his time also supersedes the previous record of 78 days 2 hours 16 minutes set by French sailor François Gabart in the 2012-13 edition.


It is the second time in four attempts that Thomson has finished on the Vendée Globe podium - he took third place in the 2012-13 edition after being forced to retire from the 2004-05 and 2008-09 races. The result makes him the most successful non-French skipper in the history of the race. In the 2001 race British yachtswoman Dame Ellen MacArthur finished in second place taking 94 days, four hours and 25 minutes to do so. Sixteen years on Thomson was almost 20 days quicker, a feat made all the more impressive given that one of Hugo Boss' foils providing lift and therefore speed was destroyed just two weeks into the race.
Thomson arrived in the Vendée Globe's home port of Les Sables d'Olonne in France at sunrise to rapturous applause from thousands of race fans that braved the freezing temperatures to welcome him home. Among the first to congratulate Thomson on his incredible achievement was his wife Kate, their six-year-old son Oscar and two-year-old daughter Georgia who enjoyed an emotional reunion onboard Hugo Boss prior to arriving at Port Olona marina. “It's an amazing feeling to be here – you never really know for sure that it's going to happen until you cross the finish line,” Thomson said. “We've been away a long, long time and it's great to finally be here. I hoped and prayed I could catch Armel but about 24 to 36 hours from the finish I knew that was the end. I've spent the whole race wondering what could have happened if the foil hadn't broken, but it did, and now it's finished. Congratulations to Armel, what a great race he had and he thoroughly deserved to win. I'm very happy with second place. Now I'm looking forward to getting some sleep, seeing my family and having my life back.”


Thomson and Le Cléac'h were singled out as the pre-race favourites prior to the start on November 6 and they lived up to their top billing, spending much of the 25,000nm race practically neck and neck. Both sailors topped the leaderboard at various stages of the opening days but it was when Thomson rocketed from eighth to first by taking a shortcut through the Cape Verde Islands that the battle between the pair really began. Thomson led at the Equator but on November 19 he hit a submerged object and the starboard foil was ripped from the boat. Despite this he led round the Cape of Good Hope into the Southern Ocean, but was overhauled by Le Cléac'h on December 3. In a display of sheer skill and talent Thomson, with a little help from the weather gods, turned a 800nm deficit at Cape Horn into a gap of just 50nm as the pair crossed the Equator heading north.
He set a new 24-hour distance record on January 16th, sailing 536.81nm at an average speed of 22.4 knots to break Francois Gabart's existing record by two miles. Hearts were in mouths when Thomson got to within 30 miles of Le Cléac'h with just a few hundred miles to the finish line, but just as it looked like he would cause a major upset his French rival accelerated away to build up an unassailable lead. Thomson sailed 27,636nm in the race at an average speed of 15.39 knots, at times hitting more than 30 knots.

The fact that Thomson even started the race was an incredible achievement. Exactly one year before the Vendée Globe was due to begin the newly-launched Hugo Boss was dismasted 80nm off the coast of Spain after being smashed side-on by a massive Atlantic wave. Thomson, who had been competing with Spaniard Guillermo Altadill in the Transat Jacques Vabre doubled-handed race across the Atlantic, had to be airlifted off the stricken boat by coastguards. Hugo Boss was badly damaged but recovered and towed to Spain. Amazingly his shore team won the race against time to get her start of the 2016-17 Vendée Globe.

“The last three days have been very, very long, especially when I realised I was not going to beat Armel. It then felt like it took a very long time to get here. You couldn't have a better place to finish here in Les Sables d'Olonne, the weather is fantastic and the welcome is second to none. My biggest battle has been that I've been frustrated that my boat couldn't go as quick as it could've done, but I've dealt with that frustration and I don't really want to talk about it any more. I've been positive and for me finishing in second is better than finishing third like last time, and it leaves room for improvement if I'm allowed to do it again next time. For that you'll have to ask my wife.”

“Right now I don't feel tired but I've slept five hours in the last three days and in the last 24 hours I haven't slept at all. I'm running on empty and looking forward to some sleep. There was always a possibility of overtaking Armel but although sometimes he was only 40 miles away it was always very difficult to advance on Armel. It's the Vendee Globe, anything can happen, but I knew it was going to take something quite extraordinary to beat Armel.”

The starboard foil is completely gone. The race would have been very different if it hadn't have broken and I've dealt with that mentally for the last two months. The speed difference was one thing but the feel of the boat was completely different – every time I was on port I hated it, it was horrible. The pleasure of the race was breaking the 24-hour distance record. There was plenty of pain too with this race, but it's amazing how quickly you forget about it after the finish, and very quickly you're up for doing it again.”

Panama Red
01-20-2017, 02:06 PM
Well, just the fact Alex got the boat around in one piece is a victory unto itself!

Had the starboard foil been in place the whole race, Alex no doubt would have won this thing!

01-22-2017, 05:32 PM


SUNDAY 22 JANUARY 2017, 17H42
Two consecutive attempts at the Vendée Globe lasted no more than 17 days for Jérémie Beyou but the highly talented French skipper should finally complete the famous solo round the world race Monday afternoon, or evening, and secure third place.

After being forced out by rig damage to his Delta Dore on Day 17 in November 2008 and then by keel damage to his previous Maître CoQ on the ninth day of the 2012-13 race, greater and greater levels of patience are bit one more virtue that Beyou has had to add to his list of competitive attributes. He has been snared by extremely light winds over the last few days, his progress towards the finishing line in Les Sables d’Olonne has been extremely slow. At times today and last night he has been making just 1 knot. Add the fact that the contrary, E’ly wind direction means Beyou is not only glacially slow but had to route north east before making a final long tack down the Breton coast, ironically passing through the home, local waters where he has spent so many training and racing hours. The finish line can now no longer come quick enough for the soloist who started out as one of the favourites to win. During this Sunday afternoon over a four hour period Beyou made just 2.9NMs


The quiet, still weather and pleasant winter sunshine has brought out huge Sunday crowds to the race village pontoons at Port Olona, Les Sables d’Olonne to view the boats of the first two skippers. Thousands of visitors have made an odyssey to see the IMOCAs Banque Populaire VIII and Hugo Boss.


While some 200 miles from the finish Beyou is struggling to find enough breeze to complete his race , some 250 miles north east of the Azores, the three cornered battle between Jean-Pierre Dick, Yann Eliès and Jean Le Cam has seen Dick step 25 miles clear today in 20-30kts S’ly breezes. Dick has the advantage of slightly more breeze and the potential to go faster with his foil assisted St Michel-Virbac. Their race within a race which Eliès describes as their own Vendée Globe is already the first time that three skippers have been so closely matched so close to the finish. They will have to transition across a ridge of light winds before they finish on Wednesday, but the weather models suggest there might only be four hours separating fourth from sixth. Dick is looking to finish the Vendée Globe for the third time, at best equalling his fourth place in the 2012-13 edition. Le Cam finished sixth last time and his best remains second in 2004-5, while this would rank as Eliès first Vendée Globe finish. Speaking to Les Sables d’Olonne today on Vendée LIVE, Elies – who will also route through the waters where five of the six top skippers call home – said: “Things are going a bit better now. Jean has calmed down a bit to my SE. He had been worrying me over the past few hours. We’re moving along nicely now towards the finish, unlike my friend Beyou. For us it’s a pleasure and we’re all happy. Things are going to be quite rough until the Bay of Biscay. Then we’ll be upwind. The routing takes us towards Belle-Ile and Groix and then we change tack. I’ll be passing in front of my house and will say hi before heading back down to the finish line. I hope the visibility will be good and we’ll be able to remember all the marks, the buoys…”



Jean Le Cam, Finistère Mer Vent: “We have picked up some wind recently, and we’re beginning to move again. Last night was a bit tricky, but the seas are calm and the weather is fine. There are lots of boats around here. I can see boats in a radius of a hundred miles. There are three at the moment and I have seen some container vessels. They look like an island on the horizon as they are so big. The Vendée Globe for us is a story of four boats, so if I finish sixth, for me it’s like finishing 3rd in our own little Vendée Globe. We are not in the same weather system as the others, so we have nothing in common with them.”

Fabrice Amedeo, Newrest-Matmut: “I’m approaching the centre of the high and going around it. In the light airs, I’ll change tack and then head north. So there are going to be a few tricky hours, but the scenario ahead looks clear. The American and European forecasts agree. I’ll be stopped tomorrow morning, but that is common in this part of the Atlantic. There is a front off Brazil which will take us to another high and I’ll get away from that on Friday to pick up the trade winds and head home.”

Sébastien Destremau (TechnoFirst-faceOcean): “It is hard. But it is not a picnic race. This is the Vendée Globe. It is Day 77 or 78. I really don’t know and I don’t care. It is daybreak on the Pacific and the boat will sail at 12kts all the way. I have very good conditions to go to Cape Horn apparently with some breeze coming in later in the week. I am approaching Cape Horn and starting to appreciate the magnitude of what this is. And then we will see from there. I am only six days away. I am behind Pieter, yes I am trying to catch him up. I am a bit behind but who cares? My plan was to finish on 14th February after 100 days. I had food for an extra week. But I saved two weekly bags on the way down the Atlantic and so now I have food to March the fifth. I plan to arrive on February 26th at 1302hrs exactly, with a week of food to spare!”


TRACKER (http://tracking2016.vendeeglobe.org/gv5ip0/)

01-23-2017, 11:56 AM


MONDAY 23 JANUARY 2017, 20H16

The emotions surfaced with an uncontrollable rush. Jéremie Beyou had finally completed his first round the world race, his third attempt at the Vendée Globe brings a hard fought, well earned third place on the podium. Both Alex Thomson and Armel Le Cléac’h, the runner up and the winner of this epic 2016-17 edition of the race have completed the Vendée Globe but the sheer relief, the elation at finally completing his first racing circumnavigation, took the hard bitten, successful Beyou some minutes to comprehend.

The 40 year old Breton skipper dropped to his knees before his shore crew came aboard. And within minutes he was joined by his family, those nearest and dearest to him who have shared his frustration, salved his pain and given their love through the brutal disappointments so early in the 2008-9 and 2012-13 race and the first Barcelona World Race. There were huge hugs for his loyal wife Anna and his youngsters Achille, 11, and Jacques 9, taking time to talk to them before his first interview on the bow of the Maitre CoQ.


"It’s a race where you have to give it your all. It took me three times. I had to fight hard and push myself and the boat. It’s a huge emotion. It started badly with the electronic problems in the second week, but everyone has their problem. I just kept at it, I never said I just want to finish. I was determined to get a good place. Once Paul wasn’t there, it was easier as I could sail my own race, but in the Indian I stuck with him as I didn’t have the weather info. It’s always better to sail your own race. I’m sorry he had to retire, but that freed me to sail my own race. I kept thinking of the finish. Until the line was crossed… I took advantage and enjoyed myself from this morning. You feel at one with your boat. The boat gave me problems, but it’s because I pushed her too hard, so she reacted, but in general, she reacted well. I didn’t have any problems with appendages or the mast. Just the communication problems. So the boat was good to me and we did this together. I can’t wait to see Armel and Alex now."


TRACKER (http://tracking2016.vendeeglobe.org/gv5ip0/)

Breton skipper Jérémie Beyou crossed the finish line of the eighth edition of the Vendée Globe solo non stop around the world race at 1940hrs UTC this Monday evening 23rd January, four days, three hours, two minutes and 54 seconds after the winner, Armel Le Cléac’h securing third place.

The 40-year old sailor who was forced out of the 2008-9 race and the 2012-13 race during the first weeks of both with different technical problems, completed the non-stop solo round the world race for the first time today after 78 days 6 hrs 38 mins and 40 seconds. Up with the leaders from the start on Sunday 6th November, Jérémie Beyou, who struggled with numerous technical difficulties this time, has shown his considerable skill, determination and stamina. Indeed British skipper Alex Thomson, who finished second, earlier today confirmed he often felt threatened by the talented French sailor who is one of the few skippers to have won La Solitaire du Figaro, the French annual summer solo offshore stage series. Beyou was always there ready to pounce behind the two frontrunners. He showed good all-round speed with his older, 2010 boat which was retro-fitted with foils. The Breton skipper achieved his goal by making it to third place and so all three top places in this race are taken by foil assisted VPLP-Verdier designs.

After winning the New York-Vendée transatlantic race last June Jérémie Beyou was tipped pre-start as a serious contender for a place on the podium in the 2016-2017 Vendée Globe. This boosted the confidence of of the skipper who won La Solitaire du Figaro in 2005, in 2011 and 2014. His resilience and tenacity, honed in Le Solitaire and hard galvanised by his two previous failures in the Vendée Globe equipped him to cope with all technical hitches he would experience in this race. Two of his autopilots failed early on and then his Fleet antenna stopped working depriving him of a means of communication and preventing him from getting regular weather updates. Jérémie Beyou had to dig deep to hang on to the frontrunners. His troubles continued periodically. “When my mainsail hook broke, I almost gave up. It was pitch black and I told myself I would never be able to repair it. Afterwards, I don’t know where I got the energy, but I managed to do it. Each decent manoeuvre is a victory and you have to be pleased about that.”


Around him in the in the group of leaders, attrition struck, several skippers were forced to retire: Vincent Riou (PRB) and Morgan Lagravière (Safran) as they reached the first cape, then Sébastien Josse (Edmond de Rothschild) and his long time rival and running mate Paul Meilhat (SMA) who he sailed alongside for hundreds of miles until he had to retire to Tahiti with keel ram problems. This meant that Maître CoQ found herself rather alone as the boat chasing Banque Populaire VIII and Hugo Boss in the Pacific, then on the way back up the Atlantic.

In spite of all the problems, Beyou has held on to the third place all the way to the finish and was never really under threat from the three skippers several hundred miles behind him (Jean-Pierre Dick, Yann Eliès and Jean le Cam). The skipper of Maître CoQ was fulsome when revealing his pleasure as he rounded Cape Horn for the first time on 27th December after 51 days of racing. Not only had Beyou started two previous Vendée Globes, but also had retired from the Barcelona World Race – the two handed round the world race, as well as an abandoned crewed attempt at the Jules Verne non stop record around the world: “I have set off in lots of round the world races with the Vendée Globe, the Jules Verne Trophy and the Barcelona World Race, but never before have I managed to get past the Horn, so it was about time.” The skipper, who like race winner Armel Le Cléac’h comes from Morlaix Bay, had to fight his way back up the Atlantic dealing with extremely variable winds and frustrating calms. “I am taking it one step at a time, one day after another, as each day spent on the water is another one gained. I am advancing like that, without thinking too far ahead,” regretted the skipper, who was treated badly by the wind gods, as he made his way through the final stretch to the finish line off Les Sables d’Olonne.


Key facts and figures

Jérémie Beyou, the third skipper to reach Les Sables d’Olonne sailed 27,101 nm at an average speed of 14.43 knots. His best average was 21 knots having sailed 504 miles in 24 hours on 21st November.

The top three finishers in this edition of the non-stop solo round the world race, have made ten attempts at the Vendée Globe. Armel Le Cléac’h has finished three from three, won one second twice, Alex Thomson started four, one second one third, abandoned twice. And Beyou has started three, one third place.
This VPLP Verdier designed boat from 2010 was previously sailed by Armel Le Cléac'h, who took her to second place in the 2012-2013 Vendée Globe. Four months of work were carried out on her in early 2016 with a New Zealand team to retrofit her with foils.

01-24-2017, 10:31 AM

TUESDAY 24 JANUARY 2017, 07H52
After taking third place yesterday evening, Jérémie Beyou will be holding his press conference this morning. Out at sea, the French trio formed by Dick-Eliès-Le Cam is expected tomorrow finishing in more or less eighty days.


The battle for fourth to sixth places in the Vendée Globe is set to go to the wire. Jean-Pierre Dick, Yann Eliès and Jean Le Cam are expected to finish within hours of each other. But, even though Dick was holding a lead of just on 50 miles over Eliès and 86 miles over popular veteran Le Cam, there is no certainty at all that he will be able to hold on to fourth and so, at best, repeat his fourth place finish of 2012-13.

The trio which are due to finish into Les Sables d’Olonne on a mythical 80 days around the world schedule are forecast to run into lighter winds for their last night at sea. Already Dick (St Michel-Virbac) had slowed to 11 kts while Eliès was still two knots quicker. Le Cam meanwhile should benefit from the improving wind angle which may allow him to cut the corner, sailing inside the curve of his rivals’ course. There is a considerable possibility of upset. Several times, JP Dick has expressed his frustrations that his race has not gone better. After building a new generation, foiling IMOCA he had been tipped as a possible winner and certainly harboured an expectation that he would better his fourth place of 2012-13. Dick looks set to finish some six days faster than in 2013 and Le Cam some eight days faster than his last Vendée Globe.


If he can gain a place in the final run in to the Nouch buoy finish line, Le Cam would also equal his fifth place from the last edition. It would seem that the skipper likely to be happiest, might be Eliès who will finish his first Vendée Globe and so lay to rest memories of his 2008-9 rescue south of Australia when he broke his femur. Speaking to Vendée Globe LIVE today Dick, feeling pressurised by two three times winners of La Solitaire du Figaro, confirmed that he cannot wait for the end of his race to come: “I really want to finish now and more particularly in fourth place. Finishing fifth or sixth would be hugely disappointing. I’m going to be the first to move into some lighter winds, so those behind will narrow the gap. It’s like that almost every time. Just as in the South Atlantic, when I had four days of light airs. Yann and Jean caught me, whereas I previously had a lead of 300 miles. I’m going to have to remain cautious until the finish, particularly as those behind me have the experience of the Solitaire du Figaro and this is the sort of situation they do well in. Between them, they have won that event six times! I am enjoying this final part of the race with good speeds and on a good boat.”


Yesterday evening, Jérémie Beyou became the fourth sailor in history to complete the Vendée Globe in less than eighty days, joining the elite group of Armel Le Cléac’h, Alex Thomson and François Gabart. Jérémie will be answering questions at a press conference in the Village at 0900hrs UTC and looking back at his race and the finish. There are now fifteen sailors left at sea, including three still fighting for fourth place -Jean-Pierre Dick, Yann Eliès and Jean Le Cam. They are all expected between 1100hrs and 1700hrs tomorrow, with the symbolic eighty day limit at 1202hrs. In a twenty knot southerly wind, they are the fastest in the fleet today with some impressive distances clocked up over the past 24 hours: 466 miles for StMichel-Virbac, 438 miles for Quéguiner-Leucémie Espoir and 428 miles for Finistère Mer Vent. Jean-Pierre Dick, the furthest north and able to use his foils, has extended his lead over the other two. 316 miles from the finish at 0400hrs he is 73 miles ahead of Yann Eliès and 118 miles ahead of Jean Le Cam. They will change direction as they approach the coast to head back down to Les Sables with one final hurdle. The wind is set to shift to the SE and then the E and ease as they get close to the coast, leaving some suspense about the final outcome.

It was a visibly tired, but elated Jérémie Beyou (Maître COQ) who described to a crowded Vendée Globe LIVE audience his feelings about his third place finish, and the huge welcome he received on Tuesday night. Beyou stated that he will be back to challenge for a fourth victory in La Solitaire du Figaro this summer wearing the colours of Maître CoQ, but he will move on to look for a new, bigger sponsor or group of sponsors to challenge for the win in 2020: “I’ve been with Maître CoQ for five years. Early on it was hard. In June I’ll be doing my final race with them – the Solitaire du Figaro. We have talked about what follows and my goal for the next Vendée Globe doesn’t correspond to what they can offer. So I’m looking for a new partner with higher ambitions. I don’t want to aim just for third place, so I want different means, a different boat, like Armel has managed to do with Banque Populaire. It’s the end of a great adventure but also new doors will be opening. All the work we have done with Maître CoQ will help. We have a great team in place that must stay together to aim for a win in the Vendée Globe.”

Of his choice to retro-fit foils to the former Banque Populaire which finished second in the 2012-13 race: “Three foilers in the first three places… We didn’t have any technical problems with the foils. I hit the port foil and the leading edge was affected, but no serious damage. So the modification was successful. If you look at Seb’s problem, it may seem that such a choice is dangerous, but we didn’t have anything like that. And the boat was faster. 17 knots of wind and the boat does 18 knots. Sometimes you have to be careful using them. Sometimes you worry, but sometimes you push hard using them. If I finished third, it is largely due to the foils. I may not have been faster than SMA, but that was down to sail choices. The figures speak for themselves and we saw that in comparison with our rivals.”

Beyou completes the Vendée Globe podium. Alex Thomson, the British skipper, finds himself between first and third placed skippers who sailed against each other at the age of nine in Optimists, who grew up as close friends on the Bay of Morlaix and whose career trajectories have scribed parallel curves since they were little: “I prefer to talk about Armel. I’m 40 and he’s 39. We started out together when we were 8 or 9 on Optimists in Morlaix Bay. He has won the Figaro twice, and now the Vendée Globe- an incredible career path. I could never have imagined thirty years ago, we would be where we are now. We have been lucky to be able to earn our living with our passion. We are both privileged. In Morlaix Bay there was perhaps a magic potion, something in the air… the weather conditions, support, teachers, trainers. Then there was Nicolas Troussel too and Yann Eliès not far away in St. Brieuc. There was the political choice to support sailing in these places.”

Of Elies he said: “I was watching Yann Eliès in the south. I got the feeling he was holding back a bit, but after his previous experience… He wanted a competitive project and it’s incredible that he even returned to this race. I’m not sure I would have had the strength to do that after going through what he went through before. I’ll be here tomorrow to hear what he has to say, because what he has done is incredible.”

And of his race Beyou concluded: “The weather determines the final outcome. It was a very fast trip down the Atlantic. 78 days represents a couple of days more than the boat’s potential. Because we encountered some horrible calms particularly on the way back between 4° S and 4°N. Alex didn’t really have the Doldrums. Jean-Pierre neither. We saw Thomas Coville and now Francis Joyon getting records, but it’s either very fast or very slow. We’re going to have to change our idea about the weather patterns because everything seems to be changing.”

Nandor Fa was crossing the equator this evening returning to the Northern Hemisphere on Spirit of Hungary lying in a solid eighth place, while Pieter Heerema is on course to become the first Dutch solo skipper to race round Cape Horn. Nandor Fa: “It is fantastic for me to be getting to the Equator. It is always a big task to be getting across the Doldrums and for me at the moment it seems like my luck is in. I have wind all over and I am doing 13kts of boat speed in not a lot of wind. I am one degree to the equator and going well in the Doldrums area. I push myself and this is a big jump, a big step for me. The heat is always hard for me. It is 32 degrees in the cabin and if I go out it is difficult because of the temperature.”

Burton rounding the high

Around 2000 miles to their south, Louis Burton (Bureau Vallée) has to sail around the Azores high and needs to put his foot down, as there is a small low-pressure system forming off America, which should reach the Eastern Atlantic coast in a week with fifty knot winds expected. Louis should be able to stay ahead of this system, but it would be an uncomfortable finish, if he slowed down. He is expected to finish on 31st January or 1st February. The Hungarian Nandor Fa, (Spirit of Hungary) in 8th place, 160 miles from the Equator will also need to keep his eye on this low, but he is likely to be behind the worst of the winds, so does not need to worry too much.

lose to the coast of Brazil, the wind has finally returned for Eric Bellion (CommeUnSeulHomme) and to a lesser extent for Conrad Colman (Foresight Natural Energy). They are now in a light trade wind allowing them to make headway towards the north. In the group of four in the middle of the South Atlantic more than 5200 milers from the finish, there has been a split. Rich Wilson (Great American IV) has taken an option closer to South America and is now 350 miles further west than his three former co-travellers - Arnaud Boissières (La Mie Câline), Fabrice Amaedeo (Newrest-Matmut) and Alan Roura (La Fabrique). They will have to deal with some big high pressure cells and are likely to find themselves sailing upwind in light conditions for many long hours. It looks like it is going to be hard for these boats to make much headway north.
Heerema at the Horn this evening

All is going well for Romain Attanasio (Famille Mary-Etamine du Lys) and Didac Costa (One Planet One Ocean). Just over 300 miles north of the Falklands, they are being pushed along by a NW’ly wind offering them steady speeds. Attanasio has regained around fifty miles from Costa, who is now just a hundred miles ahead.

Pieter Heerema, 17th, is 180 miles from the Horn that he should round this evening. No Way Back will benefit from a WNW’ly air stream blowing at a manageable 25-30 knots. Later this evening, only one boat will be left in the Pacific: Sébastien Destremau’s TechnoFirst-faceOcean, which still has 1300 miles to sail to get to Cape Horn. He will have another obstacle to overcome before returning to the the Atlantic. 45-knot gales are forecast for Thursday. This will not be the first big blow for Sébastien, but he will need to be vigilant.


TRACKER (http://tracking2016.vendeeglobe.org/gv5ip0/)

01-25-2017, 09:34 AM

French skipper Jean-Pierre Dick crossed the finish line of the eighth Vendée Globe at 1347hrs UTC on Wednesday 25th January. The skipper of StMichel Virbac completed his solo round the world voyage in 80 days 1 hour 45 minutes and 45 seconds. Jean-Pierre Dick sailed 27,857 miles at the average speed of 14.5 knots.


Dick, who also finished fourth in the last edition of the race in 2012-13, finally held on to win a tense thriller of a three cornered battle for fourth place which peaked early this morning. Pursued by two of the most accomplished French sailors in the race, Yann Eliès and Jean Le Cam, Dick saw the 60 nautical miles lead he had yesterday morning eroded to just six miles early this morning. But the ‘gentleman skipper’ who has won two round the world Barcelona World Races and now completed three Vendée Globes held his nerve.

Sixth in 2004-2005, he abandoned into New Zealand in 2008 and finished fourth in 2012-2013, Dick was aiming to win on his fourth attempt at the Vendée Globe Jean-Pierre Dick. He built a new, foil equipped VPLP-Verdier designed IMOCA but had to abandon last year’s Transat Jacques Vabre with structural issues. As for some others his boat spent much of last winter and spring in the boatyard being strengthened, losing valuable preparation and training time. A qualified veterinary surgeon who originates from Nice, Dick left the family business and moved to Brittany to become a solo and short handed racer. But a combination of an early tactical error and technical problems saw him lose touch with the early pacemakers. He dropped into different weather systems and, although he made back hundreds of miles at different stages in the race Dick has to settle for fourth place.



When Yann Eliès crossed the finish line in Les Sables d’Olonne at 1513hrs UTC on Wednesday 25th January to take fifth place, the French skipper achieved his primary goal, conquering the solo non stop round the world race which nearly cost him his life during an epic 2008-9 edition. Rescued by the Australian Navy after breaking his leg 800 miles south of Australia, Eliès said before the start that only now did he feel mentally and physically strong enough to compete in the Vendée Globe again. The race time for Eliès is 80 days 3 hours 11 minutes and 9 seconds. Eliès sailed 27,132 miles at an average speed of 14.1 knots.

Three times winner of La Solitaire du Figaro Eliès believed that if he could complete the race in good shape then he would not be far from the podium. In fifth he is the first skipper to complete this edition of the race using conventional, straight daggerboards, rather than the foils as used by the top four skippers. Winner Armel Le Cléac’h, second placed Alex Thomson, Jérémie Beyou in third and now fourth placed Jean-Pierre Dick all raced IMOCAs fitted with foils.


The skipper of Quéguiner-Leucémie Espoir has finally exorcised the ghosts of the 2008-9 race with this solid fifth place, and has already stated his desire to compete again in 2020 with a boat and programme capable of winning. He brave return to the Vendée Globe prompted his long time rival Jérémie Beyou to say yesterday how much he admired Eliès. “He wanted a competitive project and it’s incredible that he even returned to this race. I’m not sure I would have had the strength to do that after going through what he went through before. I’ll be there to hear what he has to say, because what he has done is incredible.”

Since the start on 6th November, Yann Eliès has shown that he was one to watch because of his competitiveness, experience and skills, having won among other races three editions of the Solitaire du Figaro. Eliès raced what was the first of the VPLP-Verdier designed boats, the former Safran previously skippered by Marc Guillemot, which came third in the 2008-2009 Vendée Globe and, ironically, the boat on which Guillemot stood by the injured Eliès for two days before rescue arrived.



Jean Le Cam added to his reputation as one of the most renowned and popular skippers in the history of the Vendée Globe when the 57 year old veteran of four consecutive editions finished in sixth place today off Les Sables d’Olonne.

After struggling to find funding, under the strapline ‘Yes We Cam’ his nationwide initiative secured a late funding package, a mix of crowd funding and sponsorships which ensured he could compete in this eighth edition of the solo non stop round the world race. ‘King Jean’ as he became known when he won La Solitaire du Figaro three times, will be remembered in this race for his incredible duel with Yann Eliès which has rumbled on since they came together early in the Pacific. His familiar unique style of video and his particular turn of phrase have long since become part of the Vendée Globe lore.

Finishing his fourth attempt at the Vendée Globe at 1643hrs UTC, Jean Le Cam just missed out on the symbolic 80 days, finishing in 80 days 4 hours 41 minutes and 54 seconds, just behind fourth placed Jean-Pierre Dick and fifth placed Yann Eliès. He sailed 27,141 miles at an average speed of 14.1 knots. It is the third time that the Breton sailor from Port-La-Forêt has crossed the finish in the Vendée Globe his best being second place in 2004-2005 and fifth in 2012-2013. In 2008-9 he capsized 200 miles west of Cape Horn and was rescued by Vincent Riou.

In spite of his amazing list of successes, Jean Le Cam was far from certain of being able to take part, as he found it hard to find sponsors. Thanks in part to a crowdfunding campaign, he was finally able to line up at the start on 6th November. With his Finistère Mer Vent, the Farr designed boat that Michel Desjoyeaux sailed to victory in the 2008-2009 race and which Le Cam won the Barcelona World Race with Bernard Stamm in 2015, he has once again proven a wily, solid competitor whose experience on the race course is second to none in the fleet. In Les Sables d’Olonne before the start he said. “On paper, I should be in the top ten or twelve. I think there will probably be five ahead of me, so I could be in the top six or seven…”

While he got off to a steady, unspectacular start, Jean Le Cam kept pushing hard. By the third day of the race, he was already engaged in a duel with Yann Eliès. If the start was difficult, Le Cam had his own solution to feel better. “I’m having a big meal today. Beef and carrots, Haribo sweets, meat paste. And I even found some butter.” Yann Eliès made his getaway, while Jean was doing battle with Jean-Pierre Dick and Thomas Ruyant. Meanwhile, his record to the Equator dating back to 2004 was smashed by Alex Thomson (Hugo Boss) after 9 days, 7 hours and 2 minutes of sailing, which meant the British skipper shaved one day and four hours off Le Cam’s record.
On the fifteenth day of racing, Le Cam started a trend he would continue throughout the race. In his videos he would move the camera around saying, “Clack, clack, clack.” On social media, the slogan became even more famous than his “Yes We Cam.”


Le Cam rounded Cape Horn after 23 days, 10 hours and 21 minutes. The Indian Ocean had its highs and low points. There was some pleasant weather, but then it turned very nasty with winds reaching sixty knots. He crossed the longitude of Cape Leeuwin after 34 days 7 hours and 28 minutes. On 12th December, off Tasmania, Jean Le Cam had to weather the storm. He slowed down to let a deep low go by with winds forecast to be around sixty knots. It was impossible to avoid it completely, so Jean stayed to the south close to the edge of the Antarctic Exclusion Zone. This proved to be a good option, as he got back up with his close rivals (Dick and Eliès). Once the storm was behind him, Finistère Mer Vent faced the mighty Pacific. “Firmin, please don’t take that wave! Firmin is good, but sometimes she does what she wants. I find it hard to get the staff at the moment,” joked Le Cam in his idiosyncratic style, talking about his autopilot which he name Firmin. He had Christmas in the Pacific and rounded the Horn a week later. “This is the only mechanical sport, where 80% of the time, the pilot looks behind him. We look at the helm and the waves. It’s quite surprising. But there are times when it’s not much fun looking ahead.”

01-30-2017, 09:52 AM
MONDAY 30 JANUARY 2017, 15H40

Conrad Colman on Foresight Natural Energy crossed the Equator back into the northern hemisphere this morning at 0845hrs UTC in tenth place in the Vendée Globe solo round the world race. This is another important milestone for the Kiwi-American skipper as he also negotiates the Doldrums. Colman looks like he is being blessed with a relatively straightforward passage of the ITCZ, the Doldrums, racing slightly east of north without too many squally clouds around. The weather models suggest he should hold on to mainly E’ly winds until he emerges into the NE’ly trade winds.


As he completes his third racing circumnavigation Colman is attuned to the need to stay extra vigilant for the climb north up the Atlantic back to Les Sables d’Olonne. “The ocean might seem empty and limitless at times but I know there will be lots of traffic as I approach Europe. I have come a long way and dealt with all kinds of drama from Mother Nature and so now I am doubly attentive to avoid any many made mischief. Radar on. Eyes outside the boat until the finish line,” Colman told his team today.

Sébastien Destremau (TechnoFirst - faceOcean), in 18th place, had a slow and erratic course after passing Cape Horn yesterday but was making 8 to 9kts northwards this afternoon looking to pass to the east of Staten Island this evening. The French skipper passed close to the hostile, lonely rock island to ensure he could get his best possible view. “When I was a little bit down a few days ago my brother Jean-Guy he said ‘look mate go there and look at it straight in the eyes and say ‘G’day Mate’. I am turning left after this and going home,” said an emotional Destremau at the Horn yesterday.


Almost exactly 1500 miles in front of Destremau, in 17th place, Pieter Heerema the Dutch soloist on No Way Back has been enjoying himself in unexpectedly beneficial conditions. After many problematic and frustrating weeks early in the race when he fought many battles with his autopilot systems, often speaking of possible points to stop his race, Heerema is on great form, enjoying good speeds and much more at one with his boat – the final foiling IMOCA in the race. “I am enjoying myself,” Heerema said. “Lady luck is grinning at me with a big smile. The weather is much more than the GRIB files. In fact I was worried that last night I would be flogging around and drifting but I had to take in two reefs and put the small jib on. I was flying. Now it is a bit up and down but it is great, the sea is almost flat. The swell is long and with me. So every few seconds I am picked up by a velvet hand and pushed forwards, accelerating big time. Last night I spent hours in the cockpit just getting the balance of the boat, really enjoying myself, completely forgetting I wanted to get some sleep.”


Six hundred miles SE of Rio the match race between Spain’s Didac Costa and French skipper Romain Attanasio is unrelenting, the competitive edge between the two is complemented by regular VHF conversations between them. Upwind in very light airs Costa is about eight miles ahead. American Rich Wilson on Great American IV nearly 350 miles north of the chasing duo is finding his way finally into a light E’ly trade wind to the NE of Rio and was making a steady eight to nine knots this afternoon. He is still losing miles to the race’s youngest skipper Alan Roura on La Fabrique, 158 miles to his north in 13th place.

Fabrice Amedeo (Newrest-Matmut) admitted today he harbours little hope of catching back up with 11th placed Arnaud Boissières (La Mie Caline). The skipper from La Chaume in Les Sables d’Olonne, who is on his third consecutive Vendée Globe, is 120 miles ahead of the journalist turned ocean racer Amedeo who said today: “We have finally picked up some wind, which is allowing us to make headway north. I could see I was a couple knots slower than I should have been. I looked around at everything thinking I had an ingress of water or some other problem. I couldn’t see anything. I tried taking the boat backwards. I used my camera. In fact, I had a net caught in the port daggerboard. It was caught up in the daggerboard housing. I had to attach myself and hang upside down under the boat to see what was going on. I had to raise and lower the daggerboard several times to free it. So I lost a lot of ground to Arnaud (Boissières). Since then I’ve been back up to speed and am feeling much better. We have a straight line course for 3000 miles to the Azores High on the starboard tack with the trade winds in the Southern Hemisphere, then the Doldrums that I hope won’t be too unkind to us and then, after that the trade winds in the Northern Hemisphere although there are still some questions about the Azores high...”

In 12th place Amedeo admits he will run low on food and is already undertaking a basic rationing system: “I am resting a lot, as I have to ration my food. The quantity is limited and so I’m not getting all the calories I need, so feel tired. I’m not feeling energetic when at the winch. So I’m trying to save up my energy and enjoy myself. It’s not going to be much fun at the end of the race. I contacted the Race Doctor, Jean-Yves Chauve, who gave me some advice. I have three meals a day, two meals using freeze-dried food and then for breakfast, what is left over. Meat paste or sardines without anything to go with them for example. After breakfast I still feel hungry. You learn from your mistakes like this.”

Nandor Fa (Spirit of Hungary) in eighth place is negotiating the Azores High pressure but should hook into the south east of an Atlantic depression which will give him a fast passage into Les Sables d’Olonne were Fa is anticipated between February sixth and seventh. Meanwhile Louis Burton has 880 miles to finish to secure seventh place on his Bureau Vallée.


TRACKER (http://tracking2016.vendeeglobe.org/gv5ip0/)

Rich Wilson (Great American IV): “We are almost up to the latitude of Rio de Janeiro, which will be a good milestone. After we get there, we’ll have to go through a series of areas where there may be quite a few oil rigs. We have them marked out in a broad region on the chart, so will have to be on high alert for about 75 miles or so, south to north. In the early evening the breeze dropped right down to zero. We had only had 5 or 7 knots of wind anyway, but it was out of the east and was supposed to be out of the northeast. Suddenly, we had southwest winds, 2 – 3 knots, very bizarre. The boat went in circles for 3 hours, and it was very frustrating. Finally, after 4 hours of circles, the breeze started to come in from proper direction, and we got 5 knots of wind. When you have zero, 5 is quite a lot. You can sail on that, going in the right direction. It was very frustrating, to have that happen, in the middle of the GRIB files that were just showing consistent winds. Getting past Rio will be a good job, a good milestone. Then, it will be on to Salvador, that will be the next milestone, then Recife will be next. Then, the Equator!”

Jordi Griso (team manager for Didac Costa): “The St. Helena high is leading to light winds at the moment. There is very little wind, but all is well on board. He’s enjoying having Romain Attanasio close by. They have more or less been within sight of each other for two or three days. They have talked to each other several times over the radio. Didac has in theory enough food for 105 days. We added in some more food in case he had problems, so he has enough for 110. So unless there is a major upset, he should be fine until the finish. His code 0 is damaged and each time he uses it, he has to carry out repairs afterwards, but apart from that he doesn’t have any major problems and he is feeling positive. The presence of a rival alongside means he is in race mode.”

Pieter Heerema (No Way Back): “There are all kinds of little highs and lows, dancing around each other. This is the birthplace of the lows which get sent off towards South Africa and into the circular movement around Antarctica. They move around a bit. What I am trying to do is stick my nose between a high and a low. It does not look too aggressive and if I can do this I can maybe be squeezed into the trade winds in three or four days. My food is getting a little bit boring. I am slowly running out of things, especially breakfast things. I am looking forwards to anything fresh on shore, nothing fancy, fresh salad, fresh fruit, anything like that I would kill for it.”

02-03-2017, 09:23 AM

The Hungarian solo skipper Nandor Fa sails into the final weekend of his Vendée Globe with his mood lifted after what he admits have been some of the darkest days of his solo race around the world.

To have got to within 2000 or so miles of the finish line but become trapped and increasingly frustrated by the light winds of the Azores high pressure system crashed the mood of the hugely experienced Fa, not simply because of the persistence of the light and variable winds but because the northern fringe of the high seemed to climb with him each day. And until last night, each forecast for the last three days promised an escape which never materialised. Factor in the tiredness and mental fatigue felt after nearly 90 days at sea and the situation was increasingly intolerable to the 62 year old who thrives on tough weather and going fast. Fa wrote today that the last few days have seen some of his darkest moods of the race so far but his spirit, the Spirit of Hungary, has risen significantly today as he has accelerated. With less than 1600 miles to go he was making 12-14kts this afternoon and should be able to achieve solid average speeds over Saturday and Sunday. The last four days of his race will be complicated and he will use all his years of experience and discipline to close the miles from the Azores carefully, knowing that shipping, fishing boats and forecast strong winds to 35-40kts at times are hazards he has to stay on top of. The finish line beckons and he is now expected Tuesday afternoon, some time after 1400hrs according to current weather models.


Meantime the French Atlantic coast is being hit by gales which today closed the race village. With storm force winds due tomorrow Saturday, Fa can take comfort he was not trying to finish this weekend. He has nearly 800 miles in hand over ninth placed Eric Bellion and more than 900 miles over Conrad Colman. Kiwi skipper Colman continues to hold on to the NE’ly trade winds while Bellion – 237 miles ahead – is slowed now by the Azores High.

In 13th place Alan Roura (La Fabrique) crossed the Equator at 1225hrs UTC after 89 days and 23 minutes of racing. That leaves only five skippers still in the South Atlantic. The duel between Didac Costa and Romain Attanasio still sees only 14 miles between the Spanish and French rivals. Attanasio told Les Sables d’Olonne Race HQ today:
“I am still going along with the wind on the beam in the trade winds. I wasn’t too happy with my position, as I had two or three hours going round in circles in the final squall. Didac was quicker than me. But a lot can happen before the finish and I’m trying not to push too hard, as upwind, we’re slamming, so it’s more a question of finding the right compromise. It would be stupid to break something now. I have two reefs in as otherwise the boat would be over on her side with the stanchions in the water. I’m pleased for Louis, who had a great race. But it was the same when the leaders finished. I was pleased for them. I’m a long way behind them. I’m taking it one step at a time. It was hard off Brazil. I’m around 900 miles from the Equator. I can see that the trade winds in the Northern Hemisphere are strong, so we should be fast, but it’s not going to be comfortable. The skies are clouding over after two fine days. That’s quite welcome as it’s quite hot. I sweat when I’m at the nav desk and it’s not easy taking a shower in these conditions. I’m watching the series Outlander.”


Pieter Heerema should get into the regular winds generated on the west side of the Saint Helena high tomorrow after a spell in Doldrums-like conditions south east of Rio. The Dutch skipper of No Way Back confirmed today: “At one moment, it’s really blowing and the boat is doing more than fifteen knots. You take away a bit of sail and three minutes later, it’s down to next to nothing. So you need to be on top of it. I try to keep the boat moving, but sometimes, she’s really overpowered. There are a lot of thunderclouds. Last night I had lightning on the horizon. Beautiful to see, but I’d rather not have it. So it’s sort of Pre-Doldrums. I’m at 26-27°S. So I have a way to go before I’m out of this patch. I’d say 250-300 miles before it gets really steady. When it was coming up, this developed right in front of me. But at least I’m not going to be unlucky, as at least I’m moving here. A few days ago, I was in the cold and now it’s 35°. With the heat from the engine, you can’t move, as you break into a sweat like Niagara Falls. But it’s certainly doable now. As long as I keep moving, it will be fine. I send an e-mail home every day, but I feel really like I have to have something to say. At the moment one day is like another. There’s a lot of the same. So then, I don’t send e-mails. I’ve caught 250 miles up from the boats in front, but now they’re extending again. I feel that when I’m in the trade winds, I may be able to do something, but it won’t be much, maybe 30 or 40 miles a day. I really need a different weather system. It’s possible as there is still a long way to go, but they are looking at the same weather information and we all have the same routing.”


Louis Burton secured seventh place in the Vendée Globe this Thursday morning when he crossed the finish line off Les Sables d’Olonne at 07hrs, 47 mins, 49 seconds UTC. For the young solo skipper who lives in Saint Malo, completing the legendary solo non stop round the world race today represents a major triumph.

‘Get Lucky’ by the Grammy Award winning French dance act Daft Punk was the booming soundtrack to his morning arrival back at the race pontoon in Port Olona. No musical backing to any of the finishes so far in this eighth edition has been more appropriate. Burton did get lucky with a succession of prolonged, beneficial weather systems during his first time in the Southern Ocean and experienced neither big storms nor prolonged calms. But his result is equally the product of steady consistency aboard a boat he knows intimately, that he has had for six years and on which he has completed all of the major French classic ocean races finally including the Vendée Globe.
At 31 years of age Burton, who was the youngest skipper to start the last Vendée Globe, sailed a mature and smart race and his team built strength and reliability into the Farr design and have been rewarded today. His elapsed time is 87 days 19 hrs, 45 mins, 49 secs. He sailed 27,477 miles at an average speed of 13.04 knots. He received an additional 2hr penalty after declaring a broken engine seal.

Seventh in this epic Vendée Globe is his swansong with a boat he loves. A clear signal of his aspirations to finish on the podium of the next edition of the Vendée Globe is that his team have already taken delivery of Armel Le Cléac’h’s foiling VPLP-Verdier Banque Populaire VIII, the outright winner of this race. Not only does Burton realise an excellent overall position in the fleet of 29 starters on an ‘older’ 2008 generation boat, but he finally lays to rest memories of his all-too-short 2012-2013 attempt when he was forced to retire after damaging his rigging in a collision with a trawler. The race of the 27 year old ended prematurely, on only the fourth day.
Burton’s seventh place comes as the hard earned result of a measured, regular high average paced race around the world by a partnership between skipper and boat that dates back to 2010. No other solo skipper among the 29 who started from Les Sables d’Olonne on November 6th has raced his boat for longer. It is the first full circumnavigation for the IMOCA which was built and launched as Jérémie Beyou’s Delta Dore but which never finished an IMOCA ocean race before being taken on by Burton and his loyal sponsors, a giant French office furniture and supplies company which has nearly 300 depots.

All of the boats which are placed above Burton have a greater performance potential. The only IMOCA of the same vintage is Jean Le Cam’s Finistère Mer Vent, which started life as Michel Desjoyeaux’s winning Foncia, a close Farr designed sister to Burton’s Bureau Vallée, which finished one place ahead this time. The skipper who grew up in Paris and has a Welsh father finishes with the third non-foiling IMOCA. According to Servane Escoffier, who co-manages her partner’s project, the only structural changes have been to remove the original moustache spray rails and build in additional strength and structure. Last winter a substantial sliding coachroof was fitted to improve protection. The keel was replaced and a full new electronics system and wiring change made for this race. Burton sailed many training miles solo prior to his Route du Rhum and before his 2012-13 Vendée Globe.
After racing the 2009 Route du Rhum in Class 40 in Bureau Vallée colours, Burton and his brother Nelson debuted in the IMOCA class in the 2011 Transat Jacques Vabre. A dream debut, staying in the top three early in the passage from Le Havre to Puerto Limon, Costa Rica, saw them finish seventh. His first solo race was the B2B return back across the Atlantic in which he finished eighth.

Louis Burton’s seventh place finish in the Vendée Globe is underpinned by durability, reliability and knowledge of his boat backed up by sailing fast but within his limits in the south. Since stepping clear of the chasing peloton just after the Cape of Good Hope, Burton has raced very much on his own. At the finish line today, Nandor Fa on Spirit of Hungary is about one week behind, while Jean La Cam finished one week ahead of him.
He was unfortunate to lose touch with the leading group on the initial descent of the Atlantic and was then slowed by with a posse of eight or ten closely matched soloists when South Atlantic high moved south and east with them. The leaders had jumped on successive low pressure train rides east while Burton was left to lead the chasing group. In the Indian Ocean especially he hooked on to the leading edge of a low pressure system which worked for more than two weeks for him. Once in the top ten he then outlasted the successive retirals in front of him of Sébastien Josse, Thomas Ruyant and Paul Meilhat.


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02-07-2017, 10:16 AM

Conrad Colman has passed the latitude of Madeira and is now around 1600 miles from the finish a long way off Gibraltar, so officially, Conrad is back in Europe. He sent us some news today from his Foresight Natural Energy, where it is hard to tell who is the most tired, the skipper or the boat...

Conrad Colman: "The miles to go are counting down. The latitude of Madeira is behind and I'm now even with Gibraltar so I'm back in Europe everybody! Far from sitting back and watch the miles unfurl behind me I am very busy checking all the boat's systems and making little repairs so I hope I can avoid problems in the last blow. I have been repairing the covers on the reefing lines so they will run smoothly and hold fast when I reduce sail. I was surprised the other day by an intense hissing noise and was alarmed to find the cockpit filling with a mist of oil as the keel fell from its canted position. A high pressure hose in the hydraulic system had failed after the hundreds of thousands of pressure cycles as the keel pulsed on every wave encountered in the previous 25,000 miles. Fortunately I had a spare and was back in action soon afterwards but it serves to illustrate that the machine is tired."



"The man too, as I am massaging painfully sore muscles in my shoulder and neck in order to maintain the required speed on the winches for these last few days. Offshore sailing is a particularly tough sport for the body because we sleep poorly, eat camping food and our efforts are scheduled by the weather and are totally different hour to hour, day to day. I sometimes laugh at the sports products I have on board that help me recover because its rare that I can define whether I'm currently "before sport", "after sport" or "during" as its always a mix and its hard to get time to warm up or cool down. As a result the muscles suffer and I'm looking forward to a date with a massage therapist and chiropractor when I get back! The weather forecast is still changing a lot and its hard to know exactly what's waiting for me but the models overall show less ominous red that show 40- to 50 knots of wind that before so I'm happy with the trend towards more reasonable conditions for the coming days. Fingers crossed!"


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02-08-2017, 09:03 AM

Nandor Fa was expansive, warm and happy to spend time sharing the details of his race with the public and the media, French, Anglo-Saxon and Hungarian. That he will not be back to race the Vendée Globe again, that this was the final finish line for him brought a real mix of emotions for the Hungarian skipper. The last few miles before the finish line he was already in a jubilant, boisterous mood aboard the boat he designed himself. He was on the bow punching the air, he was on the stern waving to the media and to friends and family for some 15 minutes before the line.

The weather was to order, 15kts of NW’ly breeze and some nice leftover waves. And hundreds turned out on the banks of the channel, the Hungarian national flag was stretched of the port hand entrance ‘Bravo Nándi!’ Minutes after the line he said “It is over. I have done it. It was successful according to my rules, my hopes. This is such beautiful weather to finish, the gods are with me and the people, friends, family, who have come out to greet me, it is so overwhelming. I can’t find the right words. It was 92 days of fighting. Sometimes it felt endless. It was really long, really tough, all the time it was really wet.”

Questioned on the pontoon in the Port Olona marina, he smiled broadly: “You know this last moment now is the most important, to be here now. Everything that goes before is the past. It is history. It feels much, much shorter than the last time but it still feels really, really long and sometimes there were moments which seemed endless but equally there were weeks which just flew by, they were gone. All the way was cold, rainy, wet. I enjoyed some moments, especially talking to my family and friends, sending e-mails, I received a lot of messages which encouraged me and they really encouraged me. I needed them because sometimes it was really hard.”


Mental toughness was, he said, key, but there were touching human moments too: “I must not feel. I just do. If I started to live an emotional life it is endless. This is the trouble. I wanted to just finish the trip as fast as possible. I have to tell you that the second part of the race was not racing, it was just sailing a safe line. There was nobody around me. The nearest guy behind me was far away. The nearest guy in front of me was far away. I was sailing on the safe side. The race itself finished in the middle part of the Pacific. In fact after Stéphane Le Diraison lost the mast it was no longer a race for me. It was a nice, tough, trip which I loved. Now I need days, weeks, months to work out what happened. I did not want to leave this race with a feeling that there were things I would do later or another time. That was the way I went when it was cold, when it was dangerous, when I was almost flying away. When things happened and when you are really tired, mentally, physically, that was it, you have no power, mentally, physically, it is nature.”

He confirmed that last night, appropriately, he had broken his all time speed record for the boat, hours before finishing the Vendée Globe: “Since the middle of last night it has been good. Before that, the night before and the last day, I had a lot of wind and big waves. But last night I made my speed record, 28kts, I had flat water, the big sails were up and I had 26kts of wind and I had 50kts of gusts. I bore away and took off. I started to fly and I survived. Eighth place is far beyond my dreams. At the start I did not think about placings because this fleet is so strong. The boats are so prepared and good. I thought my place with my boat, my age it might have been 15th to 20th. My performance? I just wanted to be better than 100 days. That happened. Eighth is way beyond my imagination.”

But the finish line was the final full stop as far as his participation in the Vendée Globe is concerned: “I had great motivation to sail fast. Sometimes I was frustrated I am not fast enough. My new boat would be a flying machine. She is a boat, this one. The next one is a flying machine. It will never be built for me though. The time is gone. I am sorry about that. I don’t feel any energy to do it again right now. In four years time I will be 67. I am young in the way of thinking, I am fit but now I see what kind of energy, what kind of motivation second by second, day by day, that you really need and I know my time is gone. I don’t have it any more. The future is with my family. It will be difficult to forget.”

sked about the comparisons with his 1992-3 race when he finished fifth, the first international skipper to finish the Vendée Globe, Fa said: “It was so different from the first one. Last time I was fighting the boat and the techniques. This time I was sailing, I can tell you I loved this boat, I am proud about the boat, about the rig, about the rigging. I had a few problems, with the electrics on the digital side. But we could fix them. I could really concentrate on the sailing, on the meteo tactics and I was doing a good race tactically, controlled all the time. I was running four or five routings a day. And then finally made my own decisions. Because the routing does not see the clouds, the seas, it does not have a perspective. It is digital something. I saw the routings and made my own choices and I feel like a made a nice race. My original purpose was to sail within 100 days. That is done. Sailing a correct, meteorologically correct race is done. I could see sailors who were faster and better than me. But now I am better. I am pleased about my mast and my boat.”

And this one was tougher than he thought, or recalled. “It is winter conditions a lot of the time, cold and wet all the time, it is a winter race. Even at the end I had snow and hail showers these last few nights. I had 50kts of wind. It is a winter race with a lot of cold, a lot of frustration. You have to switch off as a human being and switch on as a machine. You have to leave behind a feeling race because sometimes it is so frightening and frustrating and you are tired and cold, if you let your feelings get to you, it is endless. In bad conditions, those that you cannot imagine, it feels endless. All together it is a very, very tough race. Sometimes I was thinking about the front runners making 30kts speeds and 22kts average and thought what is the difference between their boat and my boat, I made the same fight but I think my boat is slower.”

His one regret is that even though he loves his boat, he wishes he had designed it as a faster more aggressive machine: “I have to share with you that I was 62 when I designed this boat. By that I mean with all the people who helped when I say me, but I was thinking of a 62 year old man. I built a boat for that. I love my boat and she is fantastic. It is easily able to make less than 90 days. But I was sailing like I was 40 year old but I could not make the speeds. It was frustrating not to be able to do the speeds I wanted to do. In spite of that my speed record was 434 miles in a day. If I would do it again I would build a flying machine. I would like to do a faster boat. It is a race for machines with machines, it is not a human race. Sometimes you do switch the modes to human modes. I was in a good relationship with Kojiro (Shiraishi of Spirit of Yukoh) and when Koji lost his mast I told Koji I took the Spirit of Yukoh with me. Yukoh was a friend of mine. We had a similar personality. Koji was very important to me and so also with Stéphane Le Diraison. He was faster than me but sometimes I could get back at him by tactics and so when he lost the mast it was a bad moment for me.”

His darkest moment did not last long, his conclusion that in the end you must respect the sea an nature: “I always trusted my boat. Always. But once I lost control and was shouting, frustrated. I was out in the cockpit and screaming at God. I was shouting ‘Do What You Want, but I Will Go Home to my Family. Do What You Want….’ It was an interesting moment because one hour later I had cooled down and I thought ‘What a stupid guy I am. Why am I upset? This nature. This is what it is like here. In my mind I never once thought I would not come back. I always thought the finish line is there and I will get there. I am proud of my boat and my mast. I finished the race and I was able to concentrate on the race. I am proud of my race from a meteo point of view.”

And although he considers his Vendée Globe is over as a competitor he would still like to contribute his thoughts and experience in the future: “I spent so much time thinking about a new boat, drawings and points to memorise, and so I have a complete new boat in my head. I have a vision of how to do it and what to do. I would be very happy to build it for someone, but not for me. The Vendée Globe is forever a love for me. But the time is gone. I must be realistic. I must know the time is gone. In four years time it will not be me. I would love to sail one of these new machines like a machine. But it is not in my life now. It is not me anymore. My future is with my family and with my grandchildren. The Vendée Globe is a love. If anybody wants my help I am here. I don’t want a trophy for the oldest man in the Vendée Globe, that is not what it is about. In this Vendée Globe there were four skippers over 60. But I would say that if you are racing, not just travelling, doing the race, this is a professional race, I don’t have a place in this race anymore.”

Buzz Light Beer
02-09-2017, 08:51 AM
I there a cutoff date?

02-10-2017, 10:01 AM

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FRIDAY 10 FEBRUARY 2017, 17H05

Between this Sunday coming and next Sunday five of the ten skippers who are still racing in the Vendée Globe solo round the world race should finish. But the huge variations in weather conditions is not only making it difficult to predict finish dates and times, but so too the uncertain weather pictures are promoting a range of different mood swings and emotions.

Rather than dissipating with each mile sailed towards the finish, stress can increase significantly. The real danger of a significant breakdown within the last 1000 miles to the finish line is greatly increased in the malicious Atlantic storms which have swept in from the west over the last ten days. Acute weariness, the mental and physical fatigue of nearly 100 days and more than 26,000 miles of solo racing makes it harder to keep a lid on any emotional turmoil, as does the knowledge that the dream will very soon be over.

In ninth place, Eric Bellion is now expected to arrive back in Les Sables d’Olonne on Sunday or more likely Monday on CommeUnSeulHomme. He remains objective and focused as he rides out the final big storm, racing to the SW of La Coruna and the NW corner of Spain today. “Gradually it gets harder and harder to deal with. But what does a few days more matter after three months? Sometimes I get fed up with being soaked. I get fed up with the food, but on the other hand I’m enjoying what I’m going through. I tell myself how privileged I am. I should now finish my Vendée Globe and that is exceptional," Bellion reflected today. “It’s pretty rough here at the moment with 40-45 knots of wind, but it’s better than a while ago. Over the past few hours, I had up to 73 knots, so 45 knots is a real pleasure. It’s pushing me along in the right direction and I’m on the right side of the low. In the 70-knot squalls, the boat got knocked down dozens of times. The autopilot was unable to cope. I got a bit scared at times, particularly when the boat broached, including one occasion when one of the backstays got swept away I hope to finish on Monday. The climb back up the Atlantic has been hard going, but that is part of the magic of the Vendée Globe. The race has been difficult, especially the final part.”


Conrad Colman was still preparing himself for the worst of the low. When he spoke today he was predictably more stressed as he considers what he has put himself through, what he has survived so far and the size of the final hurdle that stands between him and the finish line in Les Sables d’Olonne, the final realisation of a 15 year objective. Colman expects to finish on Tuesday but admitted today that he regrets most of all the loss of his key sails. Had he been able to press harder, he contends, he might not have been facing such a potentially hazardous final few days. Colman, 174 miles behind Bellion this afternoon, had 770 miles to finish – under other circumstances a couple of good days downwind sailing – but a tough uphill battle to complete his first Vendée Globe and third round the world race. The proud Kiwi skipper who has massively raised the profile of the Vendée Globe in his native New Zealand should be the first skipper to race non stop around the world using only renewable energies generated on board his Foresight Natural Energy told Race HQ in Les Sables d’Olonne today: “Despite the fact that I’m about to be hit by the mother of depressions, things are fine. I’m not really happy frankly. It’s a big storm just before I arrive. I’ve been slow to get out of its way after all the sail damage. I’ve been sailing a little bit underpowered in comparison to what I should be, although I’m playing it safe. Potentially I should have 40-50kts probably in a few hours with waves over 8-9m, so it‘s going to be very uncomfortable. The boat is as prepared as she can be. I haven’t come all this way just to cross the Doldrums, but to get to Les Sables d’Olonne. I get in there on Monday hopefully.”

Local Hero Friday?
Perhaps the week’s biggest crowds will be for La Mie Câline and Les Sables d’Olonne skipper Arnaud Boissières who will finish his third consecutive Vendée Globe on Thursday or Friday, with journalist turned ocean racer Fabrice Amedeo on Newrest-Matmut about 24 hours or less later. Amedeo is 180 miles behind Boissières.


The harsh realities of life after the Vendée Globe and what he perceives as the need to move on to his next project, seem to be occupying the thoughts of young Swiss skipper Alan Roura who also seems to share similar regrets to Colman’s. His meteo outlook is the opposite of Colman’s – considering a high pressure, a light wind finish to his race, is stressing him: “I have my ups and downs like everyone, except that some people don’t show it. I think it’s interesting to share what is really going on in the sailor’s mind. I’m a week from the finish, but the forecasts keep changing and that is what is getting me down. I should have gone further after the Equator, but I couldn’t. Looking at this long detour, I have lost a lot of miles. There is a huge difference between the charts and reality and even between the various models. It’s hard navigating correctly when it’s like that. I don’t have the money to get all the files. It worked out fine in the south, but not up here. I’m a bit afraid after completing what has been my biggest project. It’s something I dreamt of as a child. Ashore, I won’t have my boat, or money and I’ll have to start all over again. I’m going to have to get my finger out to set up another project with a more powerful boat and then come back. After more than a hundred days out on the water, you have to prepare yourself for the finish. It all ends from one second to the next. I’ll moor up. Tell myself I have done it. But then, it’s all over. So I’m a bit frightened and feel some sadness deep down."

British skipper Alex Thomson will enjoy an official reception on Saturday at his home port of Gosport to mark his second place in the Vendee Globe. Hugo Boss will enter the harbout at 10.30 local time and moor up at 11.00 at the Gosport ferry pontoon.



Didac Costa (One Planet, One Ocean): “The Equator and the Doldrums are behind us. In spite of getting increasingly accurate weather info, this area is still not very logical. When a squall arrives, you need to take in a reef and change the headsail very quickly, but often, when the boat is finally ready, the wind vanishes. Four or five times, I was completely stopped, tossed around on the swell. Romain (Attanasio) really stressed me out getting closer until he was within sight. After that, I picked up the trade wind a little earlier and managed to extend my lead by a few miles. In a couple of days, I shall have to cross a high with light winds, then I will have to decide which side of the Azores to go. My routing finally takes me all the way to Les Sables, which is a sign that we are not far from home now.”



FRIDAY 10 FEBRUARY 2017, 13H25
Conrad Colman and Eric Bellion are sailing in winds in excess of 40 knots while the 8 other skippers are negotiating complex weather situations.

The depression which is arriving off Cape Finisterre and which is continuing on its unusual trajectory southward is stronger that expected. Eric Bellion and Conrad Colman are sailing in winds in excess of 40 knots and 6 to 8 meter high waves. The conditions should quickly improve for the former. The skipper from New Zealand has to maintain a good average speed to pass in front of the zone of very strong winds (50 to 55 knots) with 9 to 10 metre high waves. The conditions should be more comfortable tonight, when he gets closer to the Portuguese coast.
The situation is rather complex for the 6 other skippers who are in the North Atlantic. They need to spend time analysing the weather models to try to determine what the fastest route up to the finish line will be. The Doldrums are not going to be kind to Pieter Heerema. They are spreading out. For Sébastien Destremau, the trade winds are quite close. Another 24 hours upwind and conditions should

02-11-2017, 09:16 AM

After 97 days and more than 26,500 miles racing round the world and with just over 700 nautical miles to the finish line off Les Sables d’Olonne, Colman’s mast crashed down in 35-40kts of wind and big, confused seas when he was positioned 270 miles north west by west of Lisbon, Portugal. Colman was dealing with a big, active Atlantic low pressure system, his one last big hurdle before his final passage across the Bay of Biscay to Les Sables d’Olonne where he was expected to finish in tenth place on Wednesday.


This morning Colman finally had a chance to go on deck and assess his situation more fully. After last night cutting the mast, rigging and the mainsail free before they damaged the hull of his IMOCA, Colman managed to save the boom – which had suffered some damage – and his headsails. He hopes to be able to set a jury rig using the boom as a mast and some, or part, of the sails he still has. But in the first instance he must repair the boom. Colman has two days before the weather situation is forecast to change for a more favourable outlook, the potential of downwind sailing conditions on the Portuguese coast may allow him to make northwards progress. But this Saturday afternoon he was still waiting for the winds and seas to subside enough and discussing with his technical team how best to repair the boom with the materials he has. In the meantime he is also trying to minimise his electrical usage as – seeking to become the first skipper to finish the race using only renewable energies - his primary means of generation is his electric motor which requires forward motion.


Colman is reported to be extremely disappointed but very motivated to find a solution to allow him to finish his Vendée Globe. “Thanks for all the messages of support coming in from everywhere. I hope to be up to this and to be able to start towards land without assistance,” Colman messaged this morning. According to the latest weather files Colman will still have 30 to 40kts winds until Sunday afternoon and it will be late Monday or early Tuesday before the north-westerly gales back to the west and, on the Portuguese coast, rotate to a more southerly direction. “If there is anyone who you’d put your money on to do this it would be Conrad,” British ocean racer Sam Goodchild, who raced with Colman in 2011-12 on his first round the world race, said this afternoon, echoing the belief of tens of thousands of race followers who have been entranced by Colman’s drive and bravery since he left Les Sables d’Olonne on November 6th. The 35 year old Kiwi had already survived a prolonged knockdown in the middle of the Pacific in a 60-70kt storm, some 2000 miles west of Cape Horn.


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Mast Track Damage for Eric Bellion

Eric Bellion, the French skipper of CommeUnSeulHomme, has suffered damage to his mast track in the same big storm which saw him battling squalls over 70kts during Thursday night and Friday. Bellion, best placed Vendée Globe first timer lying in ninth position, had to drop his mainsail and will have to complete his final 450 miles with three reefs in his mainsail. In 35-40kts winds, 100 nautical miles north west of Cape Finistere, Bellion told his team that he was struggling to get his mainsail hoisted again and consequently was sailing upwind under headsail only this Saturday afternoon. He is not expected to finish in Les Sables d’Olonne before Tuesday night at the earliest, facing upwind conditions for the next 48 hours at least. “I heard a strange noise from the top of the mainsail. The wind was getting up again and I decided to put back in the third reef because it was gusting to 40kts. Then I realised the top of the sail was no longer attached to the mast. These last few miles are impossible. I am not going to let this beat me,” said Bellion.

Expected on Friday at the finish line 12th placed Fabrice Amedeo is 190 miles behind Les Sables d’Olonne’s Arnaud Boissières. “It will be very difficult to make miles back on Cali. There was a bit of suspense a while ago but he got a better angle than me by staying west. And so unless he has a technical problem there is no reason for me to think I can get back to him. We have had a great fight but this is his third Vendée Globe and my first. We have the same boats. I come back stronger and better and I am already very happy to be so close to him.”

In 16th place Romain Attanasio is still fighting to stay with Spanish skipper Didac Costa, despite losing a daggerboard two days ago. Attanasio told Race HQ in Les Sables d’Olonne today: “This is the third time I have hit something. The boat stopped and it was the daggerboard that took the blow. The deck and the housing are a little cracked. It is terrible to see the boat damaged like this. At this stage I am not so bothered about the loss in performance but I make a lot of leeway. The solution is to drop the keel a little more to 20 to 25 degrees. It is less powered up and we go slower. It has been a bit mad for three days with big seas but it is starting to calm down a little. As for Didac Costa, well I keep telling myself the main thing is just to finish in Les Sables d’Olonne but my instinct is to race him and to always be comparing speeds and courses. So it is frustrating right now to see him get away. I am stunned about the news of Conrad. You are always afraid something like that happens so close to the finish. I hope he can make it. My daggerboard problem pales by comparison.”

Dutch skipper Pieter Heerema crossed the Equator at 2158hrs UTC last night, back into the Northern Hemisphere, but the solo skipper of No Way Back has already had more than 24 hours of very light, drifting Doldrums conditions: “There is zero dot zero happening. There is no wind at all. There is lots of rain. There is not much to tell. I crossed the Equator at just before midnight and then just after that ran into this airbag. Everything stopped and I have hardly moved since. The whole thing about the Doldrums is the forecasting is all one big joke. As far as I can see then the Doldrums should only start about a degree from now, about another 60 miles to the north. And now, for the second day, I am in full Doldrums situation but the charts are still showing trade winds. So the forecasts are completely off. I am happy to be across the Equator. It is a step, another milestone. But I would rather be moving right now. If the end of the Doldrums is where they say it is then I will be here until Christmas.”

In Gosport, England, many boats and thousands of people turned out today to mark Alex Thomson’s second place in the Vendée Globe. On the water dozens of boats joined Thomson in a Parade of Sail this morning, commencing in the Solent and travelling through Portsmouth Harbour before berthing HUGO BOSS, at the Gosport Ferry Terminal. Thomson was welcomed ashore by the Mayor of Gosport for a civic reception, as well as answering questions from the crowd of excited fans. Alex Thomson commented, “I am always overwhelmed by the support I receive from my local community, but today has been particularly special. I’m truly honoured that these crowds came out to celebrate not only my achievement, but also the work of my team both before and during the race, today is as much a day for them as it is for me and it is something none of us will ever forget.”

02-13-2017, 10:09 AM


MONDAY 13 FEBRUARY 2017, 17H59

From one of the most prolonged and challenging storms encountered by any of the 29 skippers who left Les Sables d’Olonne on Sunday November 6th last year, French solo skipper Eric Bellion emerged triumphant, securing a remarkable ninth placed in the Vendée Globe solo round the world race when he crossed the finish line at 1658hrs UTC. Bellion took 99 days 4 hrs 56 mins for his actual 28,048 miles route, averaging 11.78 kts. He is the first ‘rookie’ solo skipper – someone who had never before started the Vendée Globe - to complete this eighth edition of the solo round the world race.

Although he is a vastly experienced sailor in his own right with a circumnavigation already to his credit, he only raced an IMOCA 60 foot race boat for the first time 15 months ago. For a skipper who set out largely to see if he could complete this race, one of the toughest challenges in global sport, his ninth place is well ahead of all his pre-start hopes and wildest dreams. Bellion’s odyssey is a classic tale, revealing a huge increase in personal confidence and solo racing ability but is a result which comes neither by luck nor by accident. An accomplished and inspirational leader who assembled an excellent support team in cooperation with double Vendée Globe winner Michel Desjoyeaux’s company Mer Agitée, Bellion’s Vendée Globe started relatively slowly but saw him faster and faster during his first time racing in the ‘big south’, dealing strategic and mental challenges of a slow, light wind South Atlantic climb, and the final big hurdle – a vicious four day North Atlantic storm which ripped a section of his mainsail mast track off and which left him racing the final miles upwind across the Bay of Biscay with just his J3 jib and no mainsail.

Bellion’s CommeUnSeulHomme (meaning Stand As One) project promotes positive roles for people of diverse abilities, encouraging companies and organisations to embrace less able workers and realise the positive contributions made. Under the banner #appelpourladifference he has mobilised hundreds of thousands of followers to realise his positive messages. Fourteen different companies with more than 80,000 workers have supported his programme.

Before the start Bellion said: “I’m approaching it with a real sense of pleasure. Sailing is my passion and I feel at home in the middle of the ocean. Sailing in solo configuration is not something I’ve ever done before so it’s a big challenge. This Vendée Globe is a gift to myself for my fortieth birthday! I position myself among the non-professional sailors and I’m here as an amateur and an adventurer. I’m not putting myself under any pressure. I’m just aiming to sail a clean race and be proud of myself at the end.” Explaining the roots of his passion for diversity and inclusion he explained: “As a child, I was taunted about my father’s stuttering and I didn’t understand. Later on, I sailed with mixed crews of able and less able-bodied sailors and there I understood that difference is a key factor in a team’s happiness and success. Being different is one of the hardest things to live with, but if we want to be happy and grow together, it is the only way forward.”

Bellion’s partnership with his boat, the Finot designed former DCNS, grow stronger with every mile. In fact his boat had never finished a major IMOCA race, indeed had never made it across the Equator until he and young British skipper Sam Goodchild raced the Transat Jacques Vabre in 2015, as Bellion’s first big race. They finished seventh and the French skipper learned a lot. Goodchild said today: “Eric was clearly a very experienced sailor with many ocean miles under his belt but he knew nothing about an IMOCA or solo racing when he started. But he always made it clear he wanted to learn. It was impressive to see how quickly he learned though. Most of all it was fascinating to work with him, he is incredibly inspirational. Three years ago he basically enough to be safe at sea in any conditions, but now here he is finishing ninth in the Vendée Globe. He had a dream and he set out to achieve it. Behind the scenes he has a very happy, hard working team who have prepared the boat so well and that is an insight as well into how he manages and inspires everyone to do their best work. At first he struggled with the whole thing, how to sleep when your boat is doing 20kts for example, that was one of his biggest hurdles for him initially. But, like he does with everything, he worked at it and found solutions.”
The race down the Atlantic.

Eric Bellion began the race with a lot of questions of himself, sailing at the rear of the fleet. CommeUnSeulHomme went a long way west to get across the Doldrums, where he met Romain Attanasio (Famille Mary-Etamine du Lys), who was to sail alongside him for a long time. They headed south together talking on the VHF. Gradually, the skipper saw that his boat could do better than finish 22nd, but he wondered about his own ability. “It doesn’t come naturally to me like it does for the experienced solo sailors. I’m trying to keep the brakes on, but the boat wants to speed up.” Bellion took his race step by step, building confidence on the way down the Atlantic. His chance came west after he and five other skippers grouped together, holding back to allow a big storm to pass in front of them. When they emerged Bellion sailed steadily in the north of the group but built in confidence in the way he could sail his boat, finally deciding to sail it how he felt he wanted to and not trying just to follow the advice he has been given by Desjoyeaux, Goodchild and others. From that point he sailed faster and faster and was one of the quickest in the fleet mid December and in the Pacific.

Discovery of the southern ocean

Bellion tested various ways of trimming and got used to his boat. He was following in the wake of Arnaud Boissières, when in a strong gust, his boat was knocked down causing his rudder stock to break. There was a repair session for twelve hours, but in the end he was able to get back in the race, feeling much more confident. At Christmas, in order to avoid a big storm, Bellion slowed and encountered Alan Roura and Enda O’Coineen. He gradually stepped up the pace in the Pacific, and overtook the group formed by Fabrice Amedeo, Arnaud Boissières, Rich Wilson and Conrad Colman. In ninth place at the Horn on 11th January – two days behind Nandor Fa and nineteen after Armel le Cléach – Bellion was enjoying himself. “I’m not the same man. There has been a radical change. The lows used to scare me, but now I love fighting them.”

Tiring climb back up the Atlantic

Bellion had to remove weed from his keel and avoid the horrible calms and deal with violent gusts, before facing the lows in the North Atlantic. “I am going through hell. This final part of the Vendée Globe is the toughest. I wasn’t expecting that.” During his final week, his engine refused to start and he had to save energy and repair his water-maker. He faced hellish conditions 48 hours from the finish with 70-knot winds. His mast track snapped off on CommeUnSeulHomme, forcing him to finish the race under reduced sail.
Key moments in Eric Bellion’s race

On the day of the start Eric Bellion declared: “One thing at a time. The exit from the harbour to start. I’m not aiming to win. We’re going to try to enjoy ourselves.”
After ten days of racing: “I’m a bit special in this race. I’m not interested in the rankings. I’m sailing my own race. I enjoy every day out on the water. I’m feeling more and more confident. I hadn’t imagined so much emotion at the start. It took me 5 or 6 days to get over that. This is my third solo race and it’s a big one. I feel alone, but not like back on dry land. We’re kept busy with our boats around the clock. This is the first time I have been alone for so long. I’m friends with Isabelle Autissier, who told me that the Vendée is one mile, then two, then three. I’m taking advantage of every day, as I know it could all end tomorrow.”

6th Dec - rudder damage: Éric Bellion informed his shore team at 1720 UTC that his starboard rudder had been seriously damaged. He had been sailing in heavy seas with winds averaging thirty knots. The boat was knocked down in a gust in excess of fifty knots. Due to the violence of the crash, the rudder stock twisted. The rudder blade is still joined to the boat, but cannot be used. He is heading for 47° (NE) under reduced sail to find calmer seas which he should reach late in the morning. That is when he intends to carry out repairs and fit his spare rudder.

13th Dec - 400 miles NW of Kerguelens, headed further NE to avoid big storm.

24th Dec - sails close to Alan Roura and duet

8th Jan alongside Conrad Colman, moves up to ninth

11th Jan – 90 miles ahead of Conrad Colman: “I rounded Cape Horn for the first time 12 years ago,” Bellion said. “I was excited like a kid at Christmas, and it’s the same again this time, but it’s not the same when you’re sailing solo. I know what Cape Horn looks like, but this time the approach to it is different. I can tell you that it’s quite tricky here. I got hit by a 45-knot squall with some hail and huge waves. If the Vendée Globe is an Everest, it is the Horn that is at the top and the road to Les Sables d'Olonne is be the descent to the base camp.”

02-15-2017, 09:58 AM


Conrad Colman has been making modest but positive progress since he managed to set sail under his jury rig very early this Wednesday morning. The Vendée Globe skipper whose Foresight Natural Energy was dismasted just around 2200hrs last Friday night reported that he had set part of his mainsail and was planning also to fashion a foresail as well. He had made around 40 miles in a north westerly direction since early this morning but his biggest problem is lack of wind.

It is believed he is heading west and north to try and hook into some stronger downwind and reaching conditions which would hopefully allow the Kiwi skipper to quicker speeds towards Les Sables d'Olonne, 725 miles to his north east. Colman now has a working computer and has been able to send some test e-mails. Sailing at angles closer than 90° to the wind is not really ideal. The sail plan is not suitable and it might put too much strain on the rig when the wind strengthens. In the lighter winds, the tacking angles would be massive. Under such a jury rig, the ideal is moderate winds at an angle of greater than 90 degrees. Colman is likely to avoid the southern part of the Bay of Biscay where the wind will be light and blowing from the East from Saturday. It looks more likely that he would sail northward to position himself north of the Azores high and the associated ridge. He could then sail in westerly winds which will strengthen over the next few days and will push him towards the finish line in Les Sables d'Olonne by the end of next week.

Arnaud Boissières had less than 190 miles to make to the finish line off his home port of Les Sables d'Olonne. While he was still making a solid eight to 10 knots late this afternoon, he looks set to endure a slow final day in a wide high pressure ridge. Ironically that system is responsible for beautiful spring like sunshine around Les Sables d'Olonne where the flags are scarcely lifting in the light breezes. Boissières will be impatiently counting down the hours until he can be re-united with his infant son, Leo, who was only one month old when the race started. Boissières on La Mie Câline is expected to finish Friday morning entering the channel around 1000hrs.


TRACKER (http://tracking2016.vendeeglobe.org/gv5ip0/)

In 11th place now Fabrice Amedeo is 300 miles behind Boissières and is due to finish Saturday evening while 12th place Alan Roura will sail a more northerly course but should have wind through the weekend which now means the race's youngest skipper can finish later on Sunday.

Increasingly then it is looking like three boats in three days. Rich Wilson, slanting NE to pass south of the Azores, is now expected Tuesday. Didac Costa has increased his distance on Romain Attanasio through the day also. The Spanish skipper is making 12-13kts downwind, easy miles, while Attanasio is unlucky to have been caught up in light airs behind.

Approaching the latitude of the Cape Verdes, Pieter Heerema (No Way Back) is in 15-20 knot NE’ly trade winds as are quite common in this zone. He has been the fastest over the past 24 hours clocking up 259 miles. Sébastien Destremau (TechnoFirst-faceOcean) is thirty or forty miles from the coast of Brazil. Still 3700 miles from Les Sables, the finish is still a long way off, particularly seeing he intends to carry out a pit stop in Fernando do Noronha tomorrow afternoon.

IOR Geezer
02-15-2017, 10:51 AM
Nice to see him get things sorted, but right now the tracker shows a negative vmg.

02-17-2017, 09:39 AM

Arnaud Boissières takes tenth place

After a slow final night at sea in very light airs, Arnaud Boissières crossed the Vendée Globe finish line at 0826hrs UTC this Friday morning to take 10th place in the non-stop solo round the world race. It is the third time in a row that the skipper, who has made his home in Vendée Globe's start and finish port of Les Sables d'Olonne, has completed the race. Boissières' elapsed time for is 102 days 20 hrs 24 minutes and 9 seconds. In reality he sailed 28,155 miles at an average speed of 11.04 knots.

The French skipper made it to tenth place in the final stages of his race when he passed the Kiwi competitor Conrad Colman whose mast collapsed last Friday. He completed the 2012-13 race in 91 days 02hrs 09mins in eighth place from 20 starters and 11 finishers and and the 2008-9 Vendée Globe in seventh place in 105 days 2h and 33m from 30 starters and 11 finishers. He joins the winner of this edition of the race Armel Le Cléac'h as the only two solo racers to have finished three successive Vendée Globe races. Le Cléac'h's record is two second places in 2008-9 and 2012-13 and victory in 2016-17.

The Les Sablais skipper enjoyed the warmest of welcomes from his appreciative home crowd who lined the legendary channel only a few hundred metres from where he lives, not long before he docked La Mie Câline in his home marina. At the finish line he was about 170 miles clear of nearest rival Fabrice Amedeo whose Newrest-Matmut is a yacht of the same age, design and speed potential. The duo enjoyed close racing in the Pacific and up the Atlantic until Boissières moved further clear in the last couple of weeks of the race.

Boissières, 44 years old, became enchanted by the Vendée Globe when his father brought him to the start of the solo round the world race when the youngster was recovering from leukaemia. The skipper whose childhood nickname 'Cali' – because of his diminutive stature and sharp sense of humour – has stuck through his ocean racing career, cut his teeth with three attempts at La Solitaire du Figaro and three Mini Transats (finishing third in 2001) before stepping into the rarefied world of IMOCA ocean racing. Before the last edition of the race he moved his home from Arcachon to Les Sables d'Olonne, where his previous sponsor is based, and has long since become the hometown hero, a regular figure around the marina and the harbour.

Before the start he spoke of the genesis of his Vendée Globe dreams: "I was 17; I was suffering from leukaemia and was in the treatment phase. At the last minute, my father secured two tickets on a passenger boat to see the start of the Vendée Globe. In 1989, the event helped me get through my illness. It gave me a way to escape and to dream." And speaking of how each race is different to the last but how accumulated experience helps he said: "Inevitably, the unknown element becomes a bit less marked but the scenarios are always different from one edition to the next. There's a very intriguing sporting challenge this year, as a number of skippers are setting off with boats from the same generation as mine. Added to that, I've just become a dad and the birth has given me additional motivation."

He was quickly reunited with his infant son Leo who at nearly four months old was only just born weeks before the start of the Vendée Globe. In fact, Boissières followed a similar pattern to his last race. He started modestly and struggled early on to match the early pace of the rivals and his meteo strategy did not really pay off. He got off to a slow start dropping back to twentieth. On the first afternoon, the ballast hatch unexpectedly opened and water poured in and filled the engine bay. There was damage to the starter, keyboard and video equipment. His initial routing was inconclusive, he sailed to the east of Madeira, but then had to head back west to get around the Canaries, trying to keep up with Kito de Pavant, while the leaders had made their getaway.

For his tenth crossing of the Doldrums the conditions were not extreme in any way but he was slowed and made it to the Equator in fifteenth place. After crossing the Equator his starter stopped working due to the ingress of water at the start of the race. After 48 hours in very light airs Boissières chooses a westerly route close to the coast of Brazil, a choice which dropped him back to nineteenth place. "Last night was Hell. Torrential rain with absolutely no wind for two hours. The boat stopped and even headed north for a while. You start to wonder what you can do... " As he finally headed eastwards at decent speed towards the Cape of Good Hope, his mainsail car came away from the track. He had to wait for quieter conditions to drop his mainsail and carry out repairs. La Mie Câline passed the longitude of the Cape of Good Hope on Sunday 4th December after 28 days 4 hrs and 19 minutes, 10 days 5 hrs and 21 minutes after Alex Thomson.

After Kito de Pavant collided with an unidentified floating object and had to be rescued from his boat, Boissières stressed that he was adopting a cautious approach. Conditions in the Indian Ocean near the Kerguelens as well as the pace set by rivals encouraged him to put his foot down. "Sometimes, I feel like trying to do like those ahead but I restrain myself from doing that, as the finish line is not at Cape Leeuwin." A few days after carrying out repairs to his mainsail cars, the system failed again. Once again, the incident happened at a moment when there were strong winds meaning Boissières had to wait to carry out more repairs.

Sailing close to the Antarctic exclusion zone Boissières experienced some very cold weather and discovered he was not far from a zone where icebergs had been spotted. He crossed the longitude of Cape Leeuwin on 18th December after 42 days, 10 hrs and 35 minutes. This was his fourth passage after two Vendée Globe races and once on the multihull, Geronimo. He said: "How fantastic to be at sea in the 2016-2017 Vendée Globe, even if it hasn't been easy." During the week before Christmas, Boissières had to carry out more repairs to his sail and battens. Although alone in his own race, he found himself in race mode with Enda O Coineen and Alan Roura. As in his previous Vendée Globe races, Boissières celebrated Christmas in his unique way. "Quiet, Father Christmas, the Vendee Globe is supposed to be a solo race! The Race Directors aren't going to be happy, if they see you..." In tenth place on Christmas Eve he crossed the halfway point in the race after fifty days of sailing. Alongside Rich Wilson, Alan Roura, Eric Bellion and Fabrice Amedeo in the Pacific, Boissières once again stressed how pleased he was to be racing. "I keep telling myself that I am experiencing something incredible every day. I am really privileged to be here."

After a first half of the Pacific with wind conditions allowing good speeds, the second half was slower with light airs at times. "It's very odd. At 54°S, I am becalmed. No wind, the sails flapping, the brain cells flashing exhausted and tons of coffee and tea. Patience really was required." His motivation was racing with Roura, Wilson and Amedeo with whom he was in visual contact on 10th January. On 16th January after 70 days of racing Boissières rounded Cape Horn for the third time. Conditions were not helpful around the Falklands with wind shifts and light conditions. "Before my first Vendée Globe, Benoît Parnaudeau warned me 'You'll see, after the Horn, it's is tough.' That is true, but in comparison to four years ago, it's all going smoothly." The battle continued with Fabrice Amedeo – the pair have Farr sisterships that were built in New Zealand built as Paprec Virbac 2 for Jean-Pierre Dick and Gitana 80 for Loïck Peyron. Sailing to the east, Boissières moved into eleventh place ahead of his close rival and would cross back into the northern hemisphere in that position. He regained 10th when he passed the dismasted Colman.

First words on the pontoon from Arnaud Boissières
"I was right to wait until this morning. It's a huge satisfaction. I haven't got to grips with it yet. Over the past couple of days, I have relived the whole project in my head. I'm pleased to have finished tenth. For me that's a huge victory. For me and all those who have supported me since the start, the partners who joined in gradually after 2013. Today is a day for sharing. There are lots of people here to welcome me. They want to shake my hand. When things weren't going well I kept thinking of these people. This was the hardest of my three Vendée Globe races. Because I hadn't sailed so much on this boat as on my previous ones. So I felt like I wasn't doing things right. The boat wanted to accelerate. I let her go and now she's like me, tired."

"I did the Route du Rhum and had to retire. I did the Jacques Vabre on this boat and had to retire. I found that hard. I told myself that if I was forced to retire from the Vendée Globe, it would be too hard. But at the same time I wanted to be competitive. There are always problems that get you down each day. Eric Bellion got ahead of me in the Southern Ocean. It was a bit like me four years ago, when I really found myself. I set off without having the confidence I needed, without some of the sails I would have liked. But I knew I must never give up and just keep hard at it. I won't forget the number of lows we were warned about. That worried me at times. Apart from Armel and Alex we all had to change course at some point to avoid the worst of the weather. In the end, this was the Vendée Globe where I had the least wind. I didn't have the 62 or 64 knots I had four years ago. Maybe I was over cautious."

"I wrote to Armel when he won and he wrote back reminding me we would be the only two to complete three Vendée Globe races in a row. That really pleased me coming from Armel. Even before this Vendée Globe he was a mighty champion. Now with this win, he's a giant."

"In the Vendée Globe you get to know others. You chat to other racers. Before, I didn't really know Fabrice Amedeo. And we weren't the sorts that usually get on with each other. We chatted a lot about who was getting which boat when the race was over. He became my guardian angel, rounding the Horn just before me."

IOR Geezer
02-17-2017, 10:15 AM
Looks like Conrad is making forward progress again.

At this pace, it looks likes the rest of the fleet will pass him in the process.

02-17-2017, 02:46 PM

Conrad Colman has had, comparatively speaking, a good 24hrs making about 80 miles towards the finish line in light downwind conditions on his jury rigged Foresight Natural Energy. He will have downwind conditions until tonight when a N'ly breeze will allow him to get north, but soon he will have his biggest challenge tomorrow seeing how close he can sail to the wind.


Update, day 104: the writer is back!


This dismasting and jury rig experience has been so intensely emotional and such a challenge for my resolve I barely know where to start in telling the tale.

I guess it makes sense to go back nearly 8 years to August 2008. It was a stifling hot summer on the south coast of England where I was racing at Cowes week, the biggest regatta of the season with nearly 1000 boats on the water at a time. I was racing as jib trimmer on a matched set of 52 foot yachts as part of the GBR yacht racing academy but instead of going to bar with my crew after sailing I went to the sail loft to work the late shift.

At the time, Medina Sail Care was precariously perched on the edge of the water and on the second floor over an outboard mechanic's workshop. It was, and still is, run by Gerry, a warm natured South African who's everybody's friend in the small community of Cowes and who regularly takes young guys under his wing if they're ready to work until 3am to learn the trade.

Sunburned customers would arrive after a day's sailing, their celebratory beers on their breath and a wet spinnaker under their arm. Plooof. The sodden mass fell to the floor sending a tidal wave of salty water across the floor. "Can you fix that for tomorrow morning?". We eyed the dripping tatters that once had been a proud sail. We always could but first had to wash it with fresh water, hang it up to dry, clean it with acetone, stick down new cloth with double-sided tape before sewing it all down. Nothing sticks to wet, salty sail cloth.

All of this to say that when I had to make a new mainsail for my jury rig, I was in for quite a challenge. I didn't have acres of floor space, fresh water, sewing machines or a second pair of hands! Because there was no way to build up the reinforced corners of the sail that would take the sailing loads I had to "find" a ready made sail within the scraps of my old main. Turning the sail 90 degrees I could use the reinforcements for reef 2 for the head and the tack (top and bottom corners at the front of the sail) and another existing reinforcement became the new clew (back corner). The bottom of my new sail was thus the back edge of the old mainsail.

I spread out the new edges as best I could, rubbed the salt off with my clothes, laid down long rows of double-sided tape and then taped over the seam again for security. Reinforcements went on for where it would be tied onto the boom (mast), I cut out a batten pocket from another piece of the sail and glued it down with flexible epoxy (Thanks Dr Sails!). It sounds simple but it took me a whole day. As the forecast is thankfully for mainly running and reaching until Les Sables I spent a little extra time to make a square head for the main that gives me a little extra surface area. I think it's the only square headed main in the history of jury rigs!

I was working in such a cramped space that I never saw the whole sail at once until the mast was up! That's also because I tied the main to the mast instead of making a halyard to hoist it after the new mast was in place. That added a lot of weight when I had to put the whole lot on my shoulder to help hoist it vertically but with such a small sail I don't think I'll need to take a reef in the coming days!

In comparison, the storm jib was easy. Simply unfurl, change the luff cable and hoist. So nice that the IMOCA rule requires us to have a such a tiny sail (19.5 square meters). It's almost as if they had this use in mind because I have only ever seen the storm jib in use on these boats when the mast has come down!

Now all I need to do is make it to Les Sables before I turn into a skeleton! I'm already down to powdered soup and life raft biscuits but that's a topic for another day.


TRACKER (http://tracking2016.vendeeglobe.org/gv5ip0/)

02-20-2017, 09:19 AM

Send sunshine - Conrad Colman speaks about his dismasting and battle to finish the Vendée Globe

Tenacious New Zealand skipper Conrad Colman is fighting an incredible battle to finish the Vendée Globe after the mast of his Foresight Natural Energy crashed down on the night of Friday 10th February. Since he managed to set a jury rig four days later, he has sailed half of the 730 miles he had still to make to the finish line to Les Sables d'Olonne. But every mile has been a battle. He has only emergency food rations left and only enough power for four more days if uses the absolute minimum of power. But the tough Kiwi battler is committed to finishing he race with no emissions, using only renewable energies generated on board.

He spoke to Vendée Globe HQ today for the first time since he lost the mast while racing in 30-35kts, conditions which were manageable compared with the biggest of the storms Colman came through in the Pacific. He has dropped from tenth to fourteenth but speaks today of hoping to finish in five more days of sailing. He will have to endure a couple of days of light winds midweek but is then hopeful that a new depression later in the week will give him some faster downwind and reaching conditions to get to the finish line. Meantime he is low on energy and needs sunshine for his solar panels to work better. "I am almost clear of the TSS and so I am almost clear of the cargo ships. It feels a bit like I am crawling across a highway. Other than that it is going OK right now." Of his feelings after the accident he said: "It was unbelievable when it happened. I felt like I had been through so much at that point. It has not been an easy Vendée Globe at all. I don't think such a thing exists but my one seems to have been particularly difficult. I felt I was in the clear. I was in a crazy depression but I had been through the eye of the storm, the wind was as forecast. I was reaching in 30kts which, after everything I have been through, felt pretty negligible. I had the J3 small jib and two reefs in the main which was the right kind of sail plan for the conditions. Then when it all fell down about my head I could not believe it. I felt like I had failed, the stewardship of my boat, and the stewardship of my race. It was heartbreaking. There are the emotions of 'my race is over'. There is the stress of the mast and sails that have just gone over the side cost more than my house, and I have already got a mortgage on my house and so it is pretty terrifying. Emotionally, financially, in every scenario it felt like the pits."

But he immediately knew he wanted to fight on, he had come too far and gotten too close to home, and committed too much of his life: "It is all about finishing. I called my wife, I called Race Direction and said I did not require assistance. I was not going out. I was going to wait and see what happened. I curled up in a ball and went to sleep. I was numb to what had happened. That was, of course, after cutting everything away. Then metaphorically and literally a new day dawned. I felt like I have come all of this way and I was driven by anger and bloody mindedness, stubbornness, to not be beaten on the doorstop of the race. I launched into the repairs. That was a big job. The boom is attached to the deck rather than the mast, specifically for the reason that it can be used as a jury rig, had snapped. And so I had a nine metres long pole which weighs between 80 and 100 kilos fractured on the deck. So I had to build a pile of sails to align it and then glue it back together. The conditions were still horrendous with a four or five metres swell breaking over the boat. But I was into a productive mindset. I was doing something about my scenario. And the fact that the conditions on deck were dangerous just ignited another level of energy and passion in me, to make feel like I could fight through this problem. People have been very supportive in their messages and e-mails to me. They are astonished by the energy that I can bring to bear, and the innovative solutions I can come up with. The jury rig is just a very visible manifestation of how I have been behaving since the start of the race. I had the keel ram come unscrewed when I came down through the Doldrums and that could have stopped my race right there. I found a solution with the tools I had to do something you can normally only do in a big workshop."

He has next to no food left: "I started out with 100 days of food and now I am at 105 and it took a lot of energy to prepare the jury rig and now I am down to a couple of packets of powdered soups and am eating from the liferaft spares. That means less than 700 calories a day...In the European winter out here that is very little, especially when I am working on deck so much trimming the sails." He has four days of stored power if he uses an absolute minimum. "I have 350 watts of solar panels on the cabin top which we installed just a few days before the start of the race. My preparateur Cyril looked at me aghast when I added another item to the job list just a few days before the end. But that is what is keeping my race alive at the moment. At 3.5kts I cannot use my electric motor as a hydrogenerator, that is the only thing that is keeping me going at the moment. To be making electricity from the engine I need to be doing seven knots which is of course double what I am doing now. At the moment I am estimating I have five days of sailing left and in that I will have a couple of really light days in the middle of Biscay and then there a depression coming and I am hoping to make good time towards the end of the week towards Les Sables d'Olonne and hopefully I might then reach the threshold of boat speed when I can actually charge with the hydrogenerator. At the moment I am nervously watching the energy tick down and at the moment things don't really add up, I have – I think – five days of sailing through the water and four days electricity left and so I am really hoping that I can find a solution. Or, that the skies clear because it is grey."

Rich Wilson, the Great American IV skipper is due in first thing on Wednesday morning in 13th place and had 217 miles left to sail this afternoon. Didac Costa, One Planet One Ocean has 595 miles to the finish and is in 15th place, due to finish Thursday.


Alan Roura takes twelfth place

The 23 year old Swiss sailor who is the youngest of the 29 solo skippers who left Les Sables d'Olonne on November 6th, Alan Roura, crossed the finish line of the Vendée Globe this Monday morning at 0812hrs UTC to take 12th place. Sailing one of the oldest boats in fleet for this eighth edition of the non-stop solo round the world race, Roura's finish reflects his exceptional drive and tenacity and belies the very tight budget which the young sailor ran his programme on. The sailor who turns 24 on 26th February is the youngest skipper to finish the race since it was first contested in 1989. Race rookie Roura's elapsed time for the 27,700 mile course is 105 days, 20 hours 10 mins and 32 seconds.

He may have finished 31 days after race winner Armel Le Cléac'h, but sailing the renowned Superbigou which was built in a garden by compatriot Bernard Stamm– renamed Le Fabrique for the race - he was just under 2 days behind 11th placed Fabrice Amedeo on a faster, newer generation boat. Just before finishing he said: "Twelfth. It's funny because basically I found a racer inside of me. I am more than proud of this position. With this boat which is now 17 years old I don't think we could realistically have expected to do much better. To finish as first of the 'older generation' boats that just seems a bit nuts to me, a bit unreal. But really it feels like a great victory." Roura's IMOCA boat is just six years younger than the skipper who brought the Pierre Rolland design non stop around the world for the first time, completing the race that Stamm built the boat for between 1997 and 2000.

The young skipper who stopped his formal schooling at the age of 13 to pursue an ocean sailing career has sailed a very impressive first Vendée Globe conquering successive technical problems, making smart, mature routing decisions and constantly improving his performance, from a conservative, safe Indian Ocean to pressing hard and delivering good daily averages in the Pacific, Roura climbed back up the Atlantic well, only struggling in the latter stages with light winds in the final days before finishing. In terms of ocean miles Roura, a native of Geneva, already had the equivalent of a round the world race under his belt before he started the Vendée Globe. He has spent most of his life on boats. As a youngster he lived on a boat on Lake Geneva. He stopped school to work with his father. He sailed tens of thousands of miles on his family's boat. On the day of his 18th birthday he got his Yachtmaster certificate, the youngest age possible. From 2012 he started out in solo ocean racing, competing in the Mini Transat at 19, in a 1994 boat built of wood and epoxy. The following year, 2014, he took on the Route du Rhum in Class 40 but had to abandon.

Roura is the only Swiss skipper in this Vendée Globe and follows in the wake of Dominique Wavre who has finished the race three times, completing his Vendée Globe in fifth place in 2001 in 105 days. He extends the remarkable history of the incredible Superbigou which Stamm sailed to win the solo, with-stops Around Alone and Velux 5 Oceans round the world races. The boat which he built in a garden in Brittany also finished the 2011 Barcelona World Race, a third racing circumnavigation although stopping in Wellington. The non-stop solo round the world race was something that was always in the back of his mind as the ultimate goal, but after his Mini Transat, Roura asked himself "why wait?" He saw himself as a young adventurer rather than a racer, and so did not want to take the usual career path of competing in the Figaro circuit. "People just look at my age, which is not the way to go about it. You can be 40 and have never sailed or 23 and have spent your life sailing. Now, my age is a tool in communicating, but initially, it was a hindrance."

Rudder problem
On 4th December, Roura informed his team that there was a problem with his starboard rudder attachment, but once this was resolved, he accelerated gaining ground on the pack ahead of him. Roura rounded the first of the three capes at 1043hrs UTC on 6th December. On the same day he learnt that Kito de Pavant had been forced out. "Touch wood. Luck is being kind to me. I'm now aiming for Cape Leeuwin. The Indian isn't reassuring, but I'm going to give it my all." After 44 days and 9 minutes on 20th December Roura crossed the longitude of the Australian cape. "I can't believe it. I've sailed almost halfway around the world!"

La Fabrique entered the Pacific on Christmas Day in twelfth place. After his first Christmas alone at sea, he would declare, "We're on our way home now. I don't have any choice but to keep going. I'm on the right track." The New Year's Eve celebrations were kept to a minimum, because by now Roura was in race mode with several other boats close by and conditions were particularly rough after the passage ahead of them of a deep low-pressure system. On the evening of 2nd January, Roura contacted his shore team to tell them his starboard rudder had broken in a collision with an unidentified floating object and this had led to an ingress of water at the stern of the boat. The rudder was changed the following morning and the flow of water stopped. In light airs, the Swiss skipper carried out a thorough check and was reassured that there was no serious damage. His goal had been to get ahead of Arnaud Boissières, but because of this incident, he found himself 150 miles behind Fabrice Amedeo.

Roura rounded the Horn on 16th January after 71 days 4 hours and 37 minutes. "It was magnificent exactly how I imagined. I'm at the end of the planet, the most southerly point. It's absolutely incredible. I don't know what to say." Due to the ingress of water, Roura lost a lot of his sweets and snacks and was forced to ration himself. He also lost his razor, which led to him growing a bushy beard on the way back up the Atlantic. "I think I have found absolutely everything I was looking for in terms of experience in this adventure. The joy, tears, despair, tiredness, the sheer enjoyment.
Everything you can experience in a lifetime condensed into100 days."

While tightening a halyard on 29th January, his winch came away from its base, which required some more ingenuous repair work from the solo sailor. Roura returned to the northern hemisphere on 3rd February after 89 days and 23 minutes. After hearing of Conrad Colman's dismasting, the young Swiss skipper was made aware that even if he was now close to home, the final stretch could still be tense. The weather was not very helpful either, as the usual series of low-pressure systems in the North Atlantic were not in their usual location and the forecasts were far from clear for the final week. "My mood swings with the weather changes. Someone is playing a joke on me maybe? I think I have reached my limits. I'm disgusted to see the final miles are going to be the hardest. I can't stand this torture I have been experiencing since Cape Horn. I want to cry or scream. Getting hit so hard so close to the finish, not knowing where to go and when I'm going to finish. I have my ups and downs like everyone, except that some people don't show it. I'm a bit afraid after completing what has been my biggest project. It's something I dreamt of as a child. Ashore, I won't have my boat, or money and I'll have to start all over again. I'm going to have to get my finger out to set up another project with a more powerful boat and then come back."


Amedeo Writes His Own Vendée Globe Story. 11th Place

Parisian political journalist turned solo ocean race Fabrice Amedeo secured 11th place in the Vendée Globe when he crossed the finish line off Les Sables d'Olonne at 09 hrs 03 m UTC this morning Saturday 18th February. His excellent finish represents the culmination of a dream to take part in the famous solo ocean race around the world. Sailing Newrest-Matmut, Amedeo's elapsed time for the course is 103 d 21h 1 m. He finishes 29 d 17 h 25 m after winner Armel Le Cléac'h and 01d 00hrs 36m after thenth placed Arnaud Boissières. His average speed for the theoretical course is 9,8 kts. In reality Amedeo sailed 27700 miles at an average of 11,1 kts.

On the dock in the pleasant sunshine he said:
" It is a great story. I made a good Vendée Globe in 104 days, it is long but to finish in a good place and to have had an incredible adventure. I learned a lot every day. Maybe not so much going down the Atlantic as I knew I bit, but from the Saint Helena high after three weeks I have had things to learn and do. It is incredible. I had to fix the mainsail, I had to climb the mast, it is a hard rhythm. In the south I was more and more into adventure mode. And what a feeling to pass Cape Horn, the modd to have got out of the southern oceans. To climb back up the Atlantic with the light winds areas to negotiate, to have such a close race with Arnaud Boissières, it is amazing. And to be running out of food for the last 15 days has been hard. I was tired and had no energy but the spirit was there. That is the magic of the Vendée Globe."

" To finish on a beautiful Saturday morning, to come back in to this welcome in to the channel, it is amazing. What a reward."
Although an accomplished racer in other classes with several Transatlantics under his belt, two years ago, Amedeo had barely set foot on an IMOCA 60 but in 2014 he had set his sights on doing this pinnacle event of solo ocean racing.

He found himself a good boat, set in place a comprehensive well funded programme which meant he has had the tools to do a good job.
An experienced sailor whose solo career started nearly ten years ago in the Figaro class, graduating through Class 40 to the IMOCA class of the Vendée Globe, race first timer Fabrice Amedeo, 38 years old, has sailed an accomplished measured race, finishing as second rookie some 24 hours after Arnaud Boissières who he raced closely with during the second half of the course and who was completing his third successive Vendée Globe.
Amedeo achieved backing from Newrest – an industrial catering giant and French insurance group Matmut – and took two years leave of absence from his job as a writer for Le Figaro national newspaper to train and complete in the Vendée Globe. After completing the solo Transatlantic race the Route du Rhum in Class 40 in at the finish in 2014 Amedeo announced he wanted to do the Vendée Globe. Four years later the sailor whose other passions are politics and political commentary has completed that ambition above and beyond his expectations.

A graduate of philosophy and political science, Amedeo started out sailing on his family's 22 foot Beneteau cruiser and moved through crewed racing at France's Spi Ouest Regatta and the Tour du France a la Voile into solo and short handed racing, notably in the proving ground of the Figaro class and then Class 40. He has written extensively on the big races, on sailors such profiling Sébastien Josse during the Volvo Ocean Race, as well as political history book. During the three years before he started the Vendée Globe he had sailed more than 20,000 miles including a good ninth place in that 2014 Route du Rhum from 43 starters. He has chronicled his race with great detail, colour and enthusiasm, diligently reporting almost every day with some of the most viewed reportage videos of the race.

The Farr designed Newrest-Matmut was originally launched in 2007 for Loick Peyron as Gitana 80. This is the fourth successful racing circumnavigation for the boat which went round the world in the second Barcelona World Race as Renault Captur with Pachi Rivero and Antonio Pires, finished the last Vendée Globe in fifth place as Jean Le Cam's Synerciel and most recently completed the third Barcelona World Race as GAES Centros Auditivos in the hands of Anna Corbella and Gerard Marin.

Before the race started Amedeo said:
" I really wanted this Vendée Globe. I started out from scratch to set up this project. This is the start of an adventure, but also the conclusion of two years of hard work. Just 18 months ago, I was taking the metro to get to work and between two stops dreamt of the Vendee Globe."

After the start Amedeo enjoyed lively conditions for the first night at sea, but nothing too tough, so a pleasant way for the Vendée Globe rookie to find his feet in the middle of the fleet, at the head of second pack. When he heard of the damage suffered by Tanguy de Lamotte, he decided to ease off.
"What happened to Tanguy shows us that there is a long way to go. This brings us back down to Earth. My aim is to get into the Southern Ocean without breaking anything."
"I'm happy about the start of my race I'm getting used to my boat. The leaders have made their getaway. But strangely enough that doesn't worry me. They are not in the same race."

Fabrice Amedeo entered the Southern hemisphere in seventeenth place after 12 days 4hrs and 40 mins, 2 days and 21 hrs after the leader.
Stepping up the pace initially in the southern hemisphere the skipper of Newrest-Matmut would then have to deal with an area of high pressure with light airs. During one night he only managed to sail ten miles. He was the first of this pack to be held up and was then overtaken by Louis Burton, while the others narrowed the gap.
As he escaped out of this light zone he would find himself in close contact racing with Conrad Colman and Kojiro Shiraishi.

Amedeo crossed the longitude of the Cape of Good Hope on the evening of 4th December "I'm really pleased to have rounded this first cape. I can see how far I have come on my IMOCA. I saw my first albatross... I'm down where no man goes." Amedeo was soon to experience his first southern storm. "It was a wild night, so I decided to be prudent. I got caught by the front and for half an hour had forty knot winds and gusts of 44 knots."
After one month in the heart of the pack in 16th place not far from Arnaud Boissières, the skipper of Newrest-Matmut was forced to climb his mast, after his halyards got entangled around the forestay.

In the Indian Ocean to avoid the worst of a big blow, Amedeo decided to head north. But with 45-50 knot winds his mainsail split open with a 3m long tear. Between low-pressure systems, he spent a lot of time repairing his sail. However, because everything was so damp, it was difficult to apply patches. This slow period allowed his rivals to gain an advantage. On 21st December, Alan Roura and Enda O'Coineen got ahead of him. His Christmas present was that he finally managed to repair and re-hoist his mainsail.

The Christmas celebrations would not last long. A few days later, he was once again forced to climb his mast, when his gennaker hook looked like breaking and was no longer working properly. The strong winds off New Zealand allowed him to accelerate again and catch the pack. But after the low, he was once again caught in light airs. "For two days now I have been five knots slower than Arnaud Boissières!"

2017 began with a problem with his fleet communication system, meaning he was unable to download the latest weather info. Fortunately as the team had decided to adopt a belt and braces approach in preparing the boat, he was able to reconnect to a second antenna.

By 3rd January, he had once again overtaken Alan Roura, but was facing the toughest conditions of his Vendée Globe. After the storm, he found himself practically becalmed at Point Nemo in the middle of the Pacific.

On 10th january, he found himself alongside Arnaud Boissières. Approaching the Horn, he was back in gale force winds with 50-knot gusts in spite of heading south after a warning from the Race Directors about the deep low-pressure system.

Amedeo rounded Cape Horn for the first time on 16th January. "I just experienced one of the highlights of my life. There was a violet light over the mountains of Patagonia, as the sun went downI was twenty miles from the rock and whaen I suddenly saw the mountains I was stunned. This was my first sight of land since 7th November when I passed Cape Finisterre. I have never been so moved seeing land. It was an incredible moment. Rounding the Horn was a moment of fulfilment. I was at one with my boat."
After the very strong winds as he approached the Horn, Fabrice Amedeo had to deal with calms on the other side as he passed the Falklands. The transition from the southern ocean to milder climes was very sudden. For Amedeo, this was synonymous with "getting back to the civilised world."

The climb back up the South Atlantic was far from simple. "I came to a standstill in the high.It was long and harsh. The biggest hold-up I have had since the start of the Vendée Globe. Zero knots of wind for hours. I'm pleased now to leave St. Helena behind me. I was warned that getting around Cape Frio would be hard. And it definitely was. It was torture."
Fabrice Amedeo entered the northern hemisphere after 87 days 20 hours and 20 minutes. The duel he had been in with Arnaud Boissières changed at this point. The latter made his getaway, while Amedeo remained in light trade winds. Even if the Doldrums were not that active, they did slow him down considerably and allowed Boissières to build the margin which he increased to the finish line.


TRACKER (http://tracking2016.vendeeglobe.org/gv5ip0/)

02-21-2017, 08:44 AM
Rich Wilson takes thirteenth place


American skipper Rich Wilson crossed the finish line of the Vendée Globe solo round the world race off Les Sables d'Olonne on the west coast of France this afternoon (Tuesday 21/02) at 1250hrs UTC. From the fleet of 29 boats which started the 27,440 miles singlehanded race from Les Sables d'Olonne on Sunday November 6th, Wilson and Great American IV secure 13th place in an elapsed time of 107 days 48 mins 18 secs.

Wilson, at 66 years old the oldest skipper in the race, successfully completes the pinnacle solo ocean racing event for the second time. He improves his time for the 2008-9 edition of the race, 121 days and 41 minutes by a fortnight, thereby achieving one of the key goals which drew him back to take on the race for a second time. Whilst racing he also delivered a daily, multi faceted educational programme to over 750,000 young people in more than 55 different countries around the world, another of the fundamental reasons Wilson returned to the Vendée Globe. He becomes the fastest American to race solo non stop around the world, beating the 2004-5 record of Bruce Schwab of 109 days 19 hours.


The hugely experienced American skipper who is a lifelong mariner and a native of Boston,Massachusetts, adds to a remarkable catalogue of achievements under sail over an extraordinary career spanning nearly 40 years, including three record passages including San Francisco to Boston in 1993, New York to Melbourne in 2001, and in 2003 Hong Kong to New York.

Wilson crossed the finish line on a cool February afternoon, emerging from the grey skies of the Bay of Biscay, with scarcely a rope out of place. His Great American IV returned to Les Sables d'Olonne in almost exactly the same, near perfect condition as they left in early November. Wilson has dealt competently with a range of small technical problems, notably gripes with his autopilot system, his hydrogenerator system and some modest sail repairs. To finish two Vendée Globe races with both of his boats in great condition is testament to his impeccable seamanship, his ongoing focus and discipline to stay within the prudent protocols he sets himself, looking to achieve high average speeds and sail very efficiently while keeping the skipper and his boat safe. The efficiency of his actual course, that is how direct a route he sailed, is almost exactly the same as that of race winner Armel Le Cléac'h – sailing around 27,450 miles and is only bettered by the fourth to sixth placed skippers Jéremie Beyou, Yann Eliès and Jean Le Cam who sailed around 300 miles less.

Wilson is in no way a crusader looking to prove a point about the capabilities or achievements of older solo racers or athletes. Suffering from asthma since he was an infant, he has also considered age a mere number but strove to be as fit and strong as he could be prior to both races. 'I am not ready for the pipe and slippers. Age is just a number.' Wilson said many times before the start. That said his success today will be a huge inspiration to older people around the world to pursue their dreams and follow their passions. His boat for this edition of the race, an Owen-Clarke design which raced to seventh with Dominique Wavre in 2012-13, is faster but more physical than Great American III.

Along the route Wilson has told the story of his race with clarity and passion, his educated and inquisitive mind ensuring topics have remained interesting and informative with a broad appeal to all ages. A former maths teacher he has graduate degrees from Harvard Business School and MIT and a college degree from Harvard. He enjoyed regular communication with many of the other skippers in the race, most of all Alan Roura, the Swiss 23 year old youngest racer who finished yesterday.

Rich Wilson's Race
7th Nov: Replacement of a batten car on the main mast track, sailed with conservative sail selection not wanting to make a mistake while tired. Hydrogenerator propeller pitch control pump leaked all of its hydraulic oil into the box.
12th Nov: In a squall the boat took off, and then the autopilot decided to stop. So the boat turned up toward the wind, and lay over at about 45 degrees, with both sails flapping. I rushed into the cockpit and grabbed the tiller. Unidentified autopilot problem fixed.
17th Nov: First part of the Doldrums further north than was predicted. Sudden squalls.
19th Nov: At 0450, Great American IV crossed the Equator. 12th crossing under sail for Rich.
24th Nov: Getting to know the boat well. Gained miles on those ahead. Nice chat with Tanguy de Lamotte.
1st Dec: Peak speed of 24.7 knots. "I don't understand how the leaders can deal with the speeds, and the stress that comes with them"
6th Dec: Entered the Indian Ocean. More Work on the Hydrogenerator
9th Dec: Chats with Alan Roura, and with Eric Bellion. 'The three multi-generational amigos, me at 66, Eric at 40, and Alan at 23'

13th Dec: "Pushing very hard to get east across the top of the Kerguelen Shelf before the big depression gets here in 36 hours. Our plan is to then head southeast to get to where the strong winds will be. Eric has chosen a north route, Alan and Enda look as though they are working on a similar plan to mine."
15th Dec: Average of 45 knots wind for a 16 hour period, and our thundering sprints of boat speed from 10-12 knots into the mid-20s, ricocheting off waves
20th Dec: "Interesting encounter last night with Enda O'Coineen"
21st Dec: "Fantastic encounter today when my friend Eric Bellion came roaring up from behind us and passed us close aboard"
25th Dec: "We are a long way from home, and have a long way to go. Usually in my voyages, I haven't gotten too lonely. But today I did. I'm sure it was exacerbated by the big depression that is forecast to develop ahead of us."
31st Dec: Crossing the International Date Line
1st Jan: "We are in the gale. We have 35-40 knots of wind now and it looks as though this will last for another 18 hours. The violence that the sea can heap on a boat is not describable."
5th Jan: "the nicest day of sailing that we've had in one might say months"
7th Jan: Exactly halfway
13th Jan: "We were in the bulls-eye of the strong winds for the depression. Solent to staysail to storm jib, and 1 reef to 2 reefs to 3 reefs in the mainsail." Autopilot malfunction.
17th Jan: Cape Horn
18th Jan: "We went west of the Falkland Islands, behind Alan Roura, who followed through the Lemaire Strait"
22nd Jan: "A very bad night last night. We had 35 knots of north, steady, up to 38, which created a big wave situation, with cresting seas 12-15′ high. This went on most of the afternoon. And then suddenly, nothing. The physicality of this boat is beyond description, and I am exhausted and, frankly, demoralized."
25th Jan: "We just got clobbered through the night, with 30 knots of wind, upwind, into the big building seas, and crashing and crashing and crashing. The conditions are just chaotic. There is really nothing you can do on the boat, because you just have to be holding on at all times."
29th Jan: "Latitude of Rio de Janeiro. Southwest winds, 2 – 3 knots, very bizarre. The boat went in circles for 3 hours, and it was very frustrating."
5th Feb: back into the Northern Hemisphere
7th Feb: finally into the NE'ly trade winds
16th Feb: sailed close to Faial in the Azores.
21st Feb: finished


First words
"It's great to be back. To see France and all the French people here. It was great to see Eric (Bellion) and Alan (Roura) here. They were my brothers in the south. We talked almost every day by e-mail. In this race I think there was a lot more communication between the skippers than in 2008-2009 – Koji, Fabrice, Nandor, Stéphane and Didac who was chasing me. We talked about everything in the world. It was a little bit harder, because I'm older. The boat was easier because of the ballast tanks. You can use the ballast rather than put in a reef all the time, which is what I had to do on the other boat. What distinguished the race for me was that it was grey all the way. Across the south and then all the way up the Atlantic. Grey. Grey. It was so depressing. Four or five days ago, the sun came out for twenty minutes and I leapt out and stuck my face and hands under the sun. It was grey and just for so long. That was hard."

"I found all the calms that exist in the Atlantic. It was never-ending in the Atlantic. Eight years ago, I said never again. But now it's too difficult. This is the perfect race course. The most stimulating event that exists. My goal was to finish this race and to work for SitesAlive, which has 700,000 young people following. What is fantastic about this race is the support of the public with all the people here. I remember the first time, someone said, if you finish the race, you're a winner. I think that is correct. I could give you a quotation from Thomas Jefferson. When he was ambassador to France, he said everyone has two countries, their own and France and I think that is true."

"The Vendée Globe is two Vendée Globes. It is very long. The oceans, the capes. It's all very hard. But the other Vendée Globe is the one ashore. The welcome that our team and I have had here. It's incredible. I felt older. I am 66! My thoughts go out to Nandor who finished two weeks ago at the age of 65. We sent back data each day concerning me and the boat. Each day, I did an average of 12,000 turns on the winch. But it was hard."

"The worst thing was it was so grey. I had a map of the stars with me but I couldn't use it. The best thing was communicating with the others. We're a real community."

02-22-2017, 09:29 AM
Conrad Colman continues to march to the finish, hoping to arrive bay Friday.
His latest posts:


Update, day 108: dodging ships!

You would think that with the boom repaired, sails sorted, and food rationed out I could just kick back and relax on Foresight Natural Energy to watch the miles (slowly) count down. Sadly no! I am back in busy European coastal waters and there are few spare moments as I am constantly on watch to avoid being run down by cargo ships or fishing boats that don't look where they are going. To make matters worse I lost my electronic aids like radar and AIS when the mast went down so I am back to kicking it old school with a pair of binoculars and a hand held compass to calculate collision vectors.

Low cloud and swirling mist complicate the job because swirls in the clouds sometimes turn into speeding ships but more often than not hide nothing but my over active imagination. Fishing boats, while slower, complicate things further with their intensely bright work lights that drown out their navigation lights so it's hard to know which way their going at night. Seeing a bright blob in between the crests but not knowing how to avoid it is like knowing your sick but not how to treat yourself!

A big thank you to all who have written in with encouragements and suggestions. My wife Clara forwards them on and they help to pass the long days at sea when I had long since planned on being home and dry (and fed!). One great idea a received from a Foresight employee was to use an emergency foil blanket as a reflector to boost solar performance. Nice idea and I would certainly try it had I not ruined the ones on board when I cooked the composite repair on the boom. Others have suggested that I eat seaweed. Sadly with my return to coastal waters there are more plastic bottles than seaweed and the excellent Nautix racing antifouling on the boat has stopped all growth below the waterline, even at such slow speeds!

While I am constantly hungry I am surprised by my capacity to manage it as in normal life I have a fast metabolism and am never far from a healthy snack to keep the fires burning. As I was very severe in my rationing initially I should now have nearly 800 calories per day if I am able to make it to port by Friday night.


Update, day 107: survival food!

As I said in a previous post, I am down to eating some "cup of soup" instant soup packets that I had left over from the southern legs and life raft biscuits. Like the hard tack ships biscuits that powered merchant seamen in the days of sail, these are concentrated biscuits that have had all moisture driven out of them and then vacuum packed so they'll last forever. Unlike their ancient cousins, my life raft biscuits are 400 calories each and are fortified with all sorts of vitamins and minerals so I won't lose my teeth to scurvy while crossing Biscay but I might lose some while crunching the biscuits!

Since the I finished the jury rig I have been eating an estimated 700 calories per day which amounts to a third of government agencies suggest we eat, or a quarter of your average Chipotle burrito! Hmmm... Chipotle! This daily ration is made up of one biscuit and a couple of soups per day with the extra special treat of some alfalfa sprouts a couple of days ago as you'll see in the photo below.

To put this all into perspective I have re-read an excellent account of the sinking of the whaleship Essex in the Pacific. The Nantucket whaler was sent to the bottom after being rammed twice by an enraged sperm whale, launching the crew on a perilous journey across the Pacific in open boats and inspiring Herman Melville's Moby Dick. The crew of the Essex were starved and dehydrated on a diet of a cup of water and 3 oz of hard tack per day. Between the trying conditions and survival cannibalism only 8 of the 21 crew survived.

The story of the Essex certainly puts my hunger pangs in perspective but it also highlights the challenges of solo sailing. Not only can I not count on a helping hand in times of trouble or share a laugh in lighter moments but when things really get tough there's no one to have for dinner!

TRACKER (http://tracking2016.vendeeglobe.org/gv5ip0/)

Bitchin Bow Dude
02-22-2017, 09:12 PM
If only he had the freeze dried cheese burger pouches!

02-24-2017, 08:33 AM

New Zealand's Conrad Colman finishes Vendée Globe under jury rig for 16th

New Zealander Conrad Colman wrote a new chapter in the storied history of the Vendée Globe when he crossed the finish line of the eighth edition of the non stop solo round the world race under a makeshift jury rig. He took 16th place when he crossed the finish line at 1400hrs UTC. The elapsed time is 110 days 1 hour 58 minutes and 41 seconds. He sailed 27,929 miles averaging 10.57 knots.

After being dismasted late on the evening of Friday 10th February, when he was in tenth place and some 250 miles west of Lisbon, Portugal, Colman constructed and stepped a remarkable jury rig which has allowed him to sail the final 740 miles of the 27,440 nautical miles race which started from Les Sables d'Olonne on November 6th 2016. Since he was dismasted in what should have been his last big storm of his race, only three and half days from the finish line where he seemed assured of an impressive 10th place, Colman has run out of food and lasted out his final days on the survival rations from inside his life raft. On Wednesday he confirmed by radio that he had only two biscuits left.

Colman, a trained sailmaker and rigger, set one of the most efficient jury rigs seen in the history of ocean racing, working diligently and smartly to the end to improve the sheeting angles and hence efficiency of the rig which is constructed from his boom, part of his mainsail and his storm jib. Two other skippers have finished their Vendee Globes under jury rigs. Philippe Poupon in the 1992-1993 race was close to the finish when he dismasted and Yves Parlier famously repaired his rig, but he finished with a mast which was effectively half its original height, while others, like Stéphane Le Diraison and Loïck Peyron had to set up jury rigs to bring their boats back to shore. He achieves his goal of becoming the first ever skipper to race solo non stop around the world completing the Vendée Globe using no fossil fuels, only renewable energies, his electrical power generated by an innovative electric motor, solar and hydro generated electricity and stored in a bank of high tech batteries. Before leaving Les Sables d'Olonne he explained: "The objective is to have it as a reflection of my philosophies. Growing up in New Zealand I was aware of the hole in the Ozone layer there. I converted to become a vegetarian not especially because I care about cute lambs but because I was more concerned about the global impact of the chain, of food production and consumption. And so the project is a reflection of my ideals."

He also is first New Zealand born skipper to finish the epic solo round the world race, concluding a remarkable storybook adventure which has captivated race watchers from all around the world since long before the start. His finish reflects his incredible tenacity, drive and talent, the culmination of a dream which saw him move from the USA to France over 10 years ago to pursue his goal of competing in the legendary solo round the world race. From pursuing an academic and business career in the USA, where his late father was from, Colman worked different marine related jobs to expand his skillset to a level where he could achieve a competitive finish in the Vendée Globe. Before the start he spoke of how he had staked his financial future in taking part in the race. He found an unloved IMOCA 60 designed by South African Angelo Lavranos which to date had a chequered, limited racing history where he lived in Lorient, where it was being used for day charter hires, and set about refitting and re-optimising the boat in order that he could realise the boat's true, untapped potential. Even a matter of ten days before the race start Colman did not have the funds to compete at what he considered to be the very minimum level of participation. But he was determined to go anyway. An absolute last minute call found support from the London based Foresight Group. His boat was only branded two days before the Sunday 6th November start.


On start day he said: "I feel great. How could I not. It is the start of the Vendée Globe and it is a sunny day. It is a dream I have been chasing for years and years and I have it here in my grasp. It was hard to say goodbye to my wife. I hang my wedding ring in the cockpit so she is always with me." His spirit and skills have been tested in equal measure and on many occasions he has overturned situations which would have ended the Vendée Globe of lesser sailors. Even just days into his race he found an innovative way to repair a keel ram problem which jeopardised his race. An electrical fire damaged the wiring on his Foresight Natural Energy which sent his autopilots haywire. In one incredible 12 hour period he climbed his mast three times, spending hours aloft to repair sails. The 33 year old has made mast climbing an almost commonplace skill among his extensive personal armoury of abilities required to compete in the Vendée Globe, despite the fact it was a fall from the top of a mast which took the life of his father whose legacy Colman holds dear.

In the middle of the Pacific Ocean, near to the most remote point on the race course, Colman was caught in the path of one of the biggest storms of this race. His forestay, which holds up the mast, became detached when a pin failed. His IMOCA was knocked flat and stayed over for some hours in huge seas and winds gusting to 40-45kts. He took four days to recover, replacing the forestay, finally losing touch with Nandor Fa, the Hungarian skipper with whom he raced the 2014-2015 on Fa's Spirit of Hungary who went on to take eighth place.

Conrad Colman's remarkable Vendée Globe
9th November Conrad Colman is a Political Sciences graduate of the University of Colorado. He reacted to the news of the election of Donald Trump. "It is a bit of a shocker. I thought my uncle was playing a joke on me when the news came through. It makes me happy to be out here." Colman, 17th, conceded a place to Louis Burton after sailing close to him approaching Madeira. "It is great being at sea, getting to know the boat after three weeks not sailing together. It took a little while to get into the groove. It's good to be able to learn against Louis who has a slightly newer boat."

11th November He ended up closer to Madeira than he had hoped. "The local effects of the island really slowed me down. I had been trying to pass over the top of Madeira and really got stuck there. I got sucked in by the shifting winds."

12th November I hoisted my heavy weather furling spinnaker (which means it's rolled up around a flexible cable). Just before I finished hoisting, the sail started to unfurl. I had to continue hoisting quickly otherwise I risked breaking the rope and losing the sail into the water.
The time that it took to top of the sail however, all hell had broken lose at the bottom. Because the sail had unrolled prematurely, the furling unit blocked and wrapped itself up in a collection of tack line, furling lines and sheets to create a thick bar tight multistrand cable with an angry sail on the end of it. It took me over four hours of non-stop work to rig another line to secure the sail.

15th November It is very much a course of learning by doing. That is one of the advantages of ocean racing is that you have plenty of time to sort things out, to learn and try different scenarios. So I have been trying different sail set ups, different ways of trimming. The boat is good upwind and downwind, reaching is not so good.

16th November Leak in the hydraulic system

18th November Out of the Doldrums. "It was easy in the Doldrums - I never stopped, my strongest squall was about 30kts."

22nd November Four rookies in this part of the fleet put the pressure on the more experienced rivals around them – Frenchmen, Fabrice Amedeo and Stéphane Le Diraison, the Japanese sailor, Kojiro Shiraishi and the New Zealander, Conrad Colman are only a few miles apart.

25th November Climbs the mast to replace some lashing. "Going up the mast is the worst job to do onboard the mast. It's really scary, it's really dangerous. You're 100ft or 30 metres up in the air, so the slightest movement of the boat or the smallest wave sends the tip of the mast swinging through an enormous arc and the thing that's really tricky is there's no-one here to help us climb to the top. Every time I come down I'm heavily bruised because of the violent movement at the top."
Duel with Nandor Fa.

28th November At the latitude of Porto Alegre, struggling in light winds sometimes down to below six knots. "I'm fed up with the highs."

2nd December Conrad celebrates his 33rd birthday. "I'm celebrating my birthday by doing the Vendée Globe. I'm also celebrating by eating salad. It's made up of beansprouts, and I'm really excited to have fresh salad onboard. My wife also made me a special birthday food box containing some crusty dehydrated astronaut ice cream, which actually tasted terrible.

4th December Knocked flat. "An electric bypass destroyed one of the solar charge controllers and it damaged the electric cables next to it. It stopped the electronics and thus the pilot, and I lost control of the boat as I wasn't at the helm. By the time I got there the boat was on its side and the gennaker in the water."
"I saw black smoke and yellow flames leaping from behind the chart table. One of the solar charge controllers was burning and was in the process of taking down the entire electrical system. When the flames were gone I heard one beep from the autopilot and my world turned upside down. the boat bore away from the wind and did a crash gybe with me still inside, hands full of molten plastic."
8th December "I feel a little like I'm sitting on death row and my fellow competitors have already been taken to have their last meal. It's emotional and shocking to hear about Kito's rescue and to think that for the third time in a row he won't make it back to Les Sables under his own steam."
Losing oil from hydraulic ram. Electronics problems. Had to climb the mast again to repair damaged solent.

16th December Pacific storm. Two reefs and small jib and still reaching peak speed of 27 knots.

18th December Crosses the longitude of Cape Leeuwin. "As a Kiwi I cannot going celebrate going past Australia too much. I always think Cape Leeuwin is the runt of the litter when it comes to the three Capes. It does not belong in the same company as the Cape of Good Hope and Cape Horn."

27th December After working on his autopilot problems, Conrad had to prepare to face a storm. 36 hours of violent winds and the need to be quick to remain ahead of the worst conditions. His boat was knocked down and he ripped his J2.

2nd January 60 knot gusts. Damage to standing rigging. (forestay pin) Had to wait for quieter weather to carry out repairs. 3 days of work. Exhausted after doing that in 40 knot gusts and then continued towards the Horn. Boat knocked down during the storm and another sail shredded. "Physically I am shattered. Emotionally I am very disappointed I felt like I was doing everything right, I was sailing very conservatively at the time, I was let down by a technical failure."

12th January Colman rounded Cape Horn in 10th place at 0416 UTC after 66 days, 16 hours and 14 minutes

21st January Slow climb back up the coast of South America due to weather conditions and lack of sails.

30th January At 0845UTC Colman returns to the northern hemisphere

31st January Happy to be out of the Doldrums

5th February Looking forward to the final straight. Hard to find the route back across the North Atlantic. "My route to the finish in Les Sables d'Olonne looks like a dog's breakfast, a smorgasbord of options. I can either get hit on the head really hard, or get hit on the head really, really hard. I can go upwind in 40kts or downwind in 50kts. It is not an easy choice."

7th February After passing Madeira, back in European waters.

10th February 2200UTC dismasts 300 miles off the coast of Portugal. Waited for calmer conditions before inspecting the damage. Had to repair his boom to use it as a jury rig.

24th February Takes sixteenth place

The VG is more than ever I could have imagined. The conclusion of a voyage that has lasted ten years. So much harder than I had imagined. An incredible opportunity to find the energy within to fight. To face all these challenges that were thrown my way. It's a solo race, but this is a team effort. I relied upon all the people here who supported me. That enabled me to cross the finish. This moment is indescribable. If I tried to put it into words, I would burst into tears. I can't believe all these people were here for me. Over the past ten years, I have lost sleep. I didn't think I would ever make it to the start line. But through hard work and good luck this journey became a reality for me. I'm so eager to share it with everybody that came here today and all those who face a challenge in their own lives. Anything is possible, but you need a team around you. Every single day I had to fight. The jury rig is just a manifestation of what I had to do every day.

After so many problems, this is great! We have to open the champagne!
I think I have finally arrived here. It was amazing in the channel. A huge present. When the mast came down, I didn't dare give up. I felt so much energy from all those supporting me. Together we did it. It's supposed to be a solo race, but it is done by a team and we all do it together. I found what I was looking for. Lots of challenges. I found the strength to take up these challenges. I'm pleased to have taken part.
For a moment, I didn't think it as going to be possible, when the mast came down. I called the Race Directors, but I didn't want to ask for assistance. I managed top put one foot in front of another, as I did throughout this race. The person who set out at the start would not have been able to do that. I had to find the strength within myself each time. I have changed. That is the case for everyone. I feel nothing can beat me. We'll be back in four years with my own boat. I'm proud of everything. I'm not ashamed of the dismasting.

Bitchin Bow Dude
02-25-2017, 08:44 AM
True Grit

03-02-2017, 03:21 PM

Dutch sailor Pieter Heerema takes seventeenth place

Dutch skipper Pieter Heerema brought his No Way Back across the finish line of the Vendée Globe at 2126hrs UTC this evening (Thursday 2nd March) to finish in seventeenth place. Heerema, at 65, completes this epic eighth edition becoming the first skipper from the Netherlands to complete the Vendée Globe. His elapsed time is 116 days 9 hrs, 24 mins and 12 secs. He sailed 29,747 miles at an average speed of 10.65 knots.

During his crossing of the Bay of Biscay aboard his brand new foiler, a boat built in Italy for Andrea Mura, based on designs from VPLP-Verdier and launched in the spring of 2015, Heerema faced a few minor technical problems, in particular with his mainsail hook and a rudder that kicked up several times. The Dutch sailor also suffered from back pains for several days at the start of the race. These problems were resolved but he lost miles to most of the fleet and was in 25th place off the coast of Portugal. The list of repair jobs and technical problems continued to grow. Heerema soon vented his frustration openly criticising equipment manufacturers and the way his boat was fitted out. He also realised his sail choices were not suited to the conditions he was facing. By the time he got to the Doldrums he was in a different weather pattern from what those ahead had experienced and the small losses gradually grew in importance. No Way Back crossed the equator at 2000hrs UTC on 19th November after 13 days and 7 hours.

Conditions were much more pleasant as he went down the coast of Brazil, but he knew he needed to prepare his boat fully for the Southern Ocean. However, Heerema soon got used to the big southern swell and higher speeds. In mid-December in the Indian Ocean, Heerema encountered a lot of problems with his autopilot with the instruments malfunctioning, which meant he experienced some very stressful moments. Once again, this led to a lot of frustration for the Dutch skipper, who was unable to get the advice he was looking for about how to set up his autopilot system.

As Christmas approached, the weather worsened and Heerema admitted he was no longer in race mode preferring to stay inside his boat. He would spend Christmas and Boxing Day working on his autopilot system trying to find the right set-up mode. Before entering the Pacific, his list of repair jobs continued to grow with a lot of wear to deal with on his mainsail. After 60 days at sea, Pieter Heerema passed the halfway mark of the Vendée Globe. « From a competition point of view, during the 60 days of racing, I have rarely been in contact with my competitors and my various technical concerns have forced me to make major detours and slowdowns. Today I am sailing at 60% of No Way Back's potential. » After 79 days on 24th January, Heerema rounded Cape Horn, a highly emotional moment for the skipper.
The start of the climb back up the Atlantic was far from comfortable. "The banging and smashing worries me. Not for the fillings that may fall out of my teeth. No,no. Not for the teeth that might fall out of my jaws. No, no. Not for the jawbones that may fall out of my head. No, no. I am worried that my head will fall off my torso." A few days later in warm sunshine in the Forties, his mood lifted and he was able to enjoy some good sailing conditions. But his wind instruments and the data fed to his autopilot still continued to pose problems. He was unable to sleep for long periods as he could not rely on his autopilot and consequently was close to exhaustion at times. Heerema crossed the Equator at 2258hrs UTC on 10th February after 96 days of racing.

In the Doldrums, conditions were very wet and he suffered from a lack of wind. He compared the conditions to being in a tropical rainforest. For his penultimate week conditions were fine, offering good sailing, but Heerema continued to suffer from his electronic and instrument problems. During his final week at sea, the Dutch skipper was forced to slow down to let a nasty storm go by in the Bay of Biscay where 9m high waves were forecast.

03-07-2017, 12:35 PM

Less than600 miles from the finish (in the 0800hrs UTC rankings), Sébastien Destremau is heading straight towards Les Sables d’Olonne in a strong SW’ly flow. His ETA is for Friday afternoon, but the precise time will depend on the wind strength in the final 24/36 hours. For the moment, he is dealing with energy problems and the lack of food.


This morning, Sébastien Destremau (TechnoFirst-faceOcean) is to the NW of the centre of a high-pressure system. He is taking advantage of a 20-25 knot SW’ly air stream to make decent headway towards les Sables d’Olonne. Over the past 24 hours, he sailed almost 300 miles (average speed: 12 knots). Sébastien is having to deal with heavy seas with a 3-4m high swell. He should continue to stay in this strong SW’ly air stream for 40 hours more until Wednesday evening.
From Thursday morning, the wind will drop to 10 knots and back to the SE. This should allow him to continue to progress towards Vendée and he is currently expected to finish on Friday afternoon, although there is some uncertainty about the wind strength at the end.

Energy problems and a lack of food
Yesterday evening on his facebook page, Destremau spoke of his energy problems on faceOcean. “Final alternator belt broken. Oh dear! If I can’t find a solution, there won’t be any power aboard in 12-18 hours from now. Trying to make a belt.” The other problem for the final competitor in the eighth Vendée Globe is the lack of food after more than 120 days of sailing and Sébastien is having to take drastic measures. His hunger is in fact causing him to have some wild thoughts about pulling into a drive-in.

Angry Dolphin
03-07-2017, 02:23 PM
Seabass needs to wrap this puppy up!

03-10-2017, 09:18 AM

Sébastien Destremau to cross the line this evening and to enter the harbour tomorrow afternoon

Sébastien Destremau is less than fifty miles from the finish in Les Sables d'Olonne. But he is not expected to finish before 1800hrs UTC, as the wind is set to drop away forcing the skipper of TechnoFirst-faceOcean to tack in light airs. He will therefore not be able to enter the harbour today because of the tide and now intends to make his entrance tomorrow from 1200hrs UTC. The final competitor in 8th Vendée Globe can look forward to huge crowds welcoming him.

Sébastien Destremau's progress can now be monitored every six minutes on the TRACKER (http://tracking2016.vendeeglobe.org/gv5ip0/) as he is within the sixty-mile zone. Destremau is currently sailing in a ten knot SE'ly wind. But this breeze is forecast to ease during the day until there is hardly any wind as he approaches Les Sables d'Olonne. He is now expected to cross the finish this evening and due to the tide will be unable to enter the harbour after 1715hrs UTC. He will therefore spend the night on board and make his entrance into the harbour early tomorrow afternoon.

Single Hander
03-10-2017, 11:17 AM
Seabass must be very happy to see the finish line within striking distance.

Hope they left a light on for him.

03-10-2017, 08:57 PM
Sébastien Destremau takes 18th place to bring the Vendée Globe to a close

Sébastien Destremau (TechnoFirst–faceOcean) crossed the Vendée Globe finish line off Les Sables d'Olonne in eighteenth place at 00hrs 40min et 18 sec UTC on saturday 11th March 2017 after 124 days, 12 hours, 38 minutes and 18 seconds of racing since the start on 6th November. The skipper from Toulon is the final competitor to complete this eighth edition of the non-stop solo round the world race. The curtain falls on the 2016-2017 Vendée Globe fifty days after the winner, Armel Le Cléac'h (Banque Populaire VIII), who finished on 19th January.


Although born in Brittany 52 years ago, Sébastien Destremau is now based in Toulon. After an Olympic preparation in the Flying Dutchman class, he took part in several major crewed races, such as the Volvo Ocean Race and the Sydney–Hobart. He later became a consultant, setting up a video magazine covering race news. It was in 2015 that the skipper acquired the Imoca 60 TechnoFirst-faceOcean built in 1998, which had already clocked up two Vendée Globe races – firstly with Josh Hall (9th in 2000-2001) and then with Steve White (8th in 2008-2009). After a delivery trip from Cape Town to Toulon, Sébastien Destremau qualified for the round the world race by competing in the Calero Solo Transat, between Lanzarote and Newport, Rhode Island. Before the start, the French skipper described his boat as being "ultra simple, like a bicycle without gears".

This inability to step up the speed was confirmed very early on in the race, when the skipper, whose only goal was to complete the round the world voyage, found himself at the rear of the fleet. He would attempt to take a short cut close to the coast of Africa, but to no avail. In the third week of racing, his starter motor failed and following in the footsteps of Michel Desjoyeaux, he was forced to come up with an alternative method to start his engine to fill his ballast tanks, using a rope and sail power. Destremau was successful in his makeshift technique, but the method was time consuming.

As he approached the first of the three major capes, Good Hope, the French skipper was joined by Catalan skipper, Didac Costa (OnePlanet- OneOcean). The Spaniard, who had set sail four days after returning to the port of Les Sables d'Olonne after problems with his electronics, soon made his getaway ahead of TechnoFirst-faceOcean, which passed the longitude of the Cape of Good Hope on 11th December. Destremau would set off across the Indian Ocean close to Romain Attanasio, who had been forced to sail to South Africa to carry out repairs. By Cape Leeuwin they were joined by Dutch skipper Pieter Heerema bringing up the rear of the eighth Vendée Globe to the south of Australia. In strong winds, Destremau, who felt no real pressure on him, was quite happy to reduce the sail. "Of course, we're not as quick, but we may go much further than some." It was in the Southern Ocean that Destremau fully understood what he was accomplishing. "I can hardly believe it. We are just normal guys, but we're doing something superhuman." He was also well aware of the dangers of finding himself alone in the middle of the Pacific and so decided to carry out a thorough check with a pit stop off Tasmania from 3rd to 6th January. When he set sail again, he was almost a thousand miles behind Pieter Heerema.

When Sébastien Destremau finally left the Southern Ocean, rounding Cape Horn on 29th January, the first six boats had already finished the round the world voyage. As he sailed up the coast of Argentina, 17th placed Pieter Heerema was some 1200 miles ahead. The climb back up the South Atlantic would take three weeks with Destremau finally returning to the Northern Hemisphere on 19th February, but the voyage was far from over, as it would take just under three weeks more to sail from the Equator to the finish line off Les Sables d'Olonne.

During the final fortnight of racing, it was the lack of food that become a worry for the skipper of TechnoFirst-faceOcean. He had to ration himself to one meal a day and his attempts at fishing off the Azores were not enough to provide him with enough food.


Sébastien Destremau takes 18th place to bring the Vendée Globe to a close

Sébastien Destremau (TechnoFirst–faceOcean) crossed the Vendée Globe finish line off Les Sables d'Olonne in eighteenth place at 00hrs 40min et 18 sec UTC on saturday 11th March 2017 after 124 days, 12 hours, 38 minutes and 18 seconds of racing since the start on 6th November. The skipper from Toulon is the final competitor to complete this eighth edition of the non-stop solo round the world race. The curtain falls on the 2016-2017 Vendée Globe fifty days after the winner, Armel Le Cléac'h (Banque Populaire VIII), who finished on 19th January.

Although born in Brittany 52 years ago, Sébastien Destremau is now based in Toulon. After an Olympic preparation in the Flying Dutchman class, he took part in several major crewed races, such as the Volvo Ocean Race and the Sydney–Hobart. He later became a consultant, setting up a video magazine covering race news. It was in 2015 that the skipper acquired the Imoca 60 TechnoFirst-faceOcean built in 1998, which had already clocked up two Vendée Globe races – firstly with Josh Hall (9th in 2000-2001) and then with Steve White (8th in 2008-2009). After a delivery trip from Cape Town to Toulon, Sébastien Destremau qualified for the round the world race by competing in the Calero Solo Transat, between Lanzarote and Newport, Rhode Island. Before the start, the French skipper described his boat as being "ultra simple, like a bicycle without gears".

This inability to step up the speed was confirmed very early on in the race, when the skipper, whose only goal was to complete the round the world voyage, found himself at the rear of the fleet. He would attempt to take a short cut close to the coast of Africa, but to no avail. In the third week of racing, his starter motor failed and following in the footsteps of Michel Desjoyeaux, he was forced to come up with an alternative method to start his engine to fill his ballast tanks, using a rope and sail power. Destremau was successful in his makeshift technique, but the method was time consuming.

As he approached the first of the three major capes, Good Hope, the French skipper was joined by Catalan skipper, Didac Costa (OnePlanet- OneOcean). The Spaniard, who had set sail four days after returning to the port of Les Sables d'Olonne after problems with his electronics, soon made his getaway ahead of TechnoFirst-faceOcean, which passed the longitude of the Cape of Good Hope on 11th December. Destremau would set off across the Indian Ocean close to Romain Attanasio, who had been forced to sail to South Africa to carry out repairs. By Cape Leeuwin they were joined by Dutch skipper Pieter Heerema bringing up the rear of the eighth Vendée Globe to the south of Australia. In strong winds, Destremau, who felt no real pressure on him, was quite happy to reduce the sail. "Of course, we're not as quick, but we may go much further than some." It was in the Southern Ocean that Destremau fully understood what he was accomplishing. "I can hardly believe it. We are just normal guys, but we're doing something superhuman." He was also well aware of the dangers of finding himself alone in the middle of the Pacific and so decided to carry out a thorough check with a pit stop off Tasmania from 3rd to 6th January. When he set sail again, he was almost a thousand miles behind Pieter Heerema.

When Sébastien Destremau finally left the Southern Ocean, rounding Cape Horn on 29th January, the first six boats had already finished the round the world voyage. As he sailed up the coast of Argentina, 17th placed Pieter Heerema was some 1200 miles ahead. The climb back up the South Atlantic would take three weeks with Destremau finally returning to the Northern Hemisphere on 19th February, but the voyage was far from over, as it would take just under three weeks more to sail from the Equator to the finish line off Les Sables d'Olonne.

During the final fortnight of racing, it was the lack of food that become a worry for the skipper of TechnoFirst-faceOcean. He had to ration himself to one meal a day and his attempts at fishing off the Azores were not enough to provide him with enough food.