• Starting Anew With A Clean Slate

    This evening, all the competitors in the Vendée-Arctique-Les Sables d’Olonne have rounded the virtual IOC-UNESCO mark, Clément Giraud (Vers un monde sans Sida) bringing up the rear more than a day behind the leaders.
    The instability of the breeze over the past 24 hours has favoured the bunching up of the head of the fleet and ridden roughshod over the hierarchy. En route for the ‘Gallimard’ mark, a ridge of high pressure and a low pressure system will provide the main obstacles. In the next 48 hours, no one can realistically lay claim to the top spot in the long term…

    This Friday 10th July, after a night in overdrive to get the boats making headway in a very fickle wind, there are numerous grey areas colouring the ranking. As grey as the sky and sea, which are enveloping part of the fleet of solo sailors on this sixth day of racing. The first chasing pack has managed to catch up with yesterday’s escapees Ruyant/Dalin/Beyou and a line of six boats are now leading the chase down to the next waypoint of Gallimard, located some 750 miles ahead of the front runners, offshore of the Bay of Biscay.

    Crazy times up front
    Along this new start line, which extends out from east to west for around sixty miles, everyone seems to have positioned their pawns to tackle the obstacles looming over the horizon for the end of this week, namely the negotiation of a wide ridge of high pressure and then a low pressure system.

    Between Charlie Dalin (Apivia), the furthest west, and Kevin Escoffier (PRB) in the far east, Thomas Ruyant (LinkedOut), Jérémie Beyou (Charal), Samantha Davies (Initiatives- Cœur) and Boris Herrmann (Seaexplorer - YC de Monaco), the new champion of the leader board, everyone has chosen their routes.

    There’s a bit of physical as well as nervous fatigue in the ranks as the slightest gain is constantly called into question, according to the weather phenomena lining up along the solo sailors’ route and the countless technical glitches. On this subject, Thomas Ruyant (LinkedOut) spent the whole night battling against the unknown (net? plastic?) to try to find an explanation for his sudden speed deficit. Two steps backwards and a good siesta subdued the mysterious stalling, which had been causing him some grief. Having perked up, the sailor seemed to be back on track this afternoon and ready to vie for his crown again. On a reach in a medium wind and smooth seas, his blue boat looked to be enjoying slipping along at 18 knots. It’ll be important to make the most of this fleeting yet intoxicating ride because the first wave of competitors will soon stumble into a massive ridge of high pressure, which is creating holes in the breeze across virtually the entire width of the Atlantic. As a result, the front runners will slow again this evening with some further surprises in store on the cartography.

    Valuable new data
    Beyond the racing that is delighting spectators, the protagonists in the Vendée Arctique-Les Sables d’Olonne all echo the sentiment that the event is a very useful exercise going forward. The first part of the race may not have been entirely pleasurable for the sailors, but it has provided them with an unexpected opportunity to beef up their preparations for the Vendée Globe. Every manœuvre, every tack, every adjustment, every glitch, every hour of life aboard in solo format serves as additional data, which will guide them on their voyage around the world. Whether they’re at the front of the pack or the back, the sailors are delighted about that. From Isabelle Joschke (MACSF), 7th, who admits that she’s giving her all to be in on the action, to Manu Cousin (Groupe SETIN), 15th, who celebrated his 53rdbirthday this lunchtime at 62 degrees north, the reasoning is the same: the experience gleaned from this race takes precedence.

    Isabelle Joschke (MACSF)
    “The upcoming battle and the chance to catch up with the lead boats is fabulous. To be in the match, have boats close by and be able to compare performances reminds me a bit of the Solitaire du Figaro! On top of being motivating, it’s also enabling me to discover and learn a great deal in terms of speed, trimming and handling the boat.

    I’m giving it all I’ve got but the objective is to rack up experience. The sailing conditions are great because the seas are flat, yet at the same time the wind is very shifty. There are gusts that drop in on us and as the air is very dense (due to the low temperatures), the boat immediately heels over. There are also big light patches and the boat comes to a standstill. That requires you to be on top of the trimming, up on deck, and it requires a lot of energy. Other than that, I’m doing good, better than yesterday because after the IOC-UNESCO waypoint, I noticed that I was very tired from the start of my race. I needed to sleep and recover. It’s a bit of a transition phase in the race. Generally, I need four days to really get into my stride. As such, I got a fair amount of sleep this morning and I think I’ve recovered well. I’m on form again now and that will be crucial for tackling the transition at the end of the day, which will be important. The boat’s going well. There are some small issues, but for now it’s manageable. Let’s hope it all holds out till the end!”

    Miranda Merron (Campagne de France)
    “Grey. Cold. Some really very unpleasant sailing conditions – for hours the wind has been completely fickle at between 12 and 20 knots with a 30-degree shift which wasn’t forecast. I still have some work to do on the pilots as I’m continuing to manually adjust my heading. And now the wind has completely died away, but the same cannot be said of the sea state! Conditions will improve, I hope! I haven’t lost hope that I’ll be able to sleep.”

    Manu Cousin (Groupe SÉTIN)
    “I treated myself to a fine present by hunting down the IOC-UNESCO waypoint! It’s incredible to be at 62 degrees north. I’d have never believed I’d be so far north, especially on my birthday. I’m happy but a bit tired, as the conditions are very fickle. There have been lots of manoeuvres. Last night for example, I didn’t get a lot of sleep. It’s a bit like the doldrums in the cold! Everything around me is grey with some cloudy spells. I was expecting to feel colder. It’s 6/8 degrees under the cuddy but we’re actually pretty well protected in our boats, the seas aren’t bad and I’m close-hauled.
    I’m a bit disappointed with the start to my race, as I took some time to get into the swing of it. That said, there are a lot of positives too: I’ve discovered some problems around the keel ram, which means we can resolve all that this summer. As far as the rest is concerned, the boat’s going really well technically. It’s been very worthwhile doing this race. I came in search of experience and I’m having fun, even if it took me a day or two to feel good.”



    Approaching the end of the sixth day at sea in the Vendée-Arctique-Les Sables d’Olonne Race, it is all change at the top of the leaderboard with the German skipper Boris Herrmann now holding the initiative.
    The race is remarkably tight with the top-13 boats now spread over only 140 nautical miles of ocean, north-south – an unheard of state of affairs in the Vendée Globe.

    But this has been an unusual course for the IMOCA class with lots of upwind and light airs work and transition zones and right now Herrmann on Sea-Explorer-YC de Monaco has been the one to benefit.
    He was leading Jérémie Beyou in second place on Charal by just 1.7 nautical miles with Kevin Escoffier now up to third place on PRB (+3.2). Then it is Charlie Dalin in fourth place on Apivia (+7.0), just ahead of Sam Davies in fifth position on Initiatives-Coeur (+7.9). The leader at the IOC-UNESCO Waypoint, Thomas Ruyant on LinkedOut, is now in sixth place (+16.2).

    Herrmann had been in sixth place position himself at the mark, 18 miles behind the then leader Ruyant. It will be interesting to see if he can maintain his advantage because the lateral separation of the leading boats, west-east, could be more important than their north-south ranking.

    This morning there was 45 miles of ocean separating PRB, the most easterly boat of the leading bunch, from Apivia on the western edge. In the next few hours the southwest and westerly breeze is going to fall away and the leaders will be back in light airs before they start to come under the influence of the next depression which is sitting in the mid-north Atlantic to the southwest of them.

    Herrmann says he is still working out how to get the best out of Sea Explorer-YC de Monaco after her substantial upgrade during the winter season, which has included new foils and a new coachroof and electronics.
    “I still have to learn a lot about the combination of foil rake and keel cant,” he said from in board. “It’s really these two surfaces that the boat can fly on. Sometimes you need a bit more foil rake but also more keel cant which, initially, creates more drag. But then, as soon as the boat pops up a bit, then it reduces the drag dramatically from the hull and it pays off."

    The German skipper says the speed increase with the new foils can be very dramatic on certain points of sail. “I would say it is almost five knots in the most extreme case,”he explained. “It means flat water and 80 degrees to the wind and plenty of breeze – 18-20 knots. Then we are incredibly fast and much more than before.”He hasn’t had exactly those conditions since rounding the IOC-UNESCO Waypoint but the boat has certainly been flying as Herrmann has caught up his rivals in front.

    For Herrmann this has race has proved its worth as a replacement for The Transat CIC and the New York-Vendée-Les Sables transatlantic. “This has been a proper warm-up for the Vendée Globe – that is absolutely true,” he said. “We had more upwind conditions in the beginning of the race but since then we have manoeuvred a lot, we have sailed in close contact with the other boats and we have been in the cold. So there are some aspects that closely resemble the Vendée Globe.

    “I’m very glad that, as a team, were able to participate in this race,”he added. “It’s a good preparation I feel and I’m sorry for the teams that have had to abandone it.”
    In the early stages Herrmann was finding it more difficult than usual to settle in to the offshore routine, not least because his wife had just given birth to their first child, a baby daughter. He had two days at home with his family after the birth before it was time to get back to the boat and now he is looking forward to returning home again.

    “Now the race will last five more days so probably in a week I will be back home and I’m looking forward to that,” he said. In the meantime he and his wife are keeping in close touch on the satellite phone and using video conferencing too.
    Out on the race course the fleet is bunched up behind Sea-Explorer-YC de Monaco. This morning the backmarker, Clement Giraud on Vers Un Monde Sans Sida still had 80 miles to go to the IOC-UNESCO Waypoint.
    This article was originally published in forum thread: The Vendée-Arctique-Les Sables d’Olonne Is On started by Photoboy View original post