• November 16th: The Boss Extends It's Lead



    TRACKER

    The Schuss Downhill To The Doldrums


    Passing 250 miles west of the Cape Verde islands during last night Alex Thomson has the accelerator down on HUGO BOSS on the fast flight south trying to extend on the Vendée Globe rivals who are chasing him. Flying downwind at average speeds of more than 20kts, HUGO BOSS is more than 75 miles ahead of Jean Le Cam and 139 miles up on third placed Thomas Ruyant (LinkedOut)




    Overnight the British skipper has largely held his margin on the hard pressing peloton although Charlie Dalin (Apivia) who has miles to catch up after a conservative option at storm Theta– joking yesterday ‘hold on lads I am coming I am putting on more coal – made the greatest overnight miles at 144nms compared to Thomson’s 141nms. True to his word Dalin is up to fifth this morning and is within seven miles of fourth placed Kevin Escoffier.

    The foilers are now on the ascendancy among the top 12. But Jean Le Cam is hanging on impressively in second but the foilers will gain at least 50 miles on him in each 24 hours. With three days to the Doldrums though it is far from over for the 61 year old. But there are now only three daggerboard boats left in the top 12.




    Life is not pleasant at more than 20kts in these trade winds conditions, even though the seas are not big, the boats slam constantly and the din inside the largely hollow carbon hulls can be insufferable.

    From seventh placed CORUM L’Épargne at 0500hrs this morning Nico Troussel reported, “It is a speed course towards the Doldrums with no manoeuvres but it is not very comfortable as it slams but it is OK. There is not really a lot of sea. We are foiling and it is fast and you have to pay attention. It is not easy to do anything really, not easy to sleep to get in the bunk. I have an energy problem I broke a hydrogenator, we don’t have a solution for the moment. I have one reef in the main and my small gennaker up .”





    Yannick Bestaven on Maître CoQ IV is in tenth and pressing hard to stay with the newer, faster boat reported to his team “Can you hear how the boat is whistling? I'm under FRO and full mainsail high! I'm heading straight south at 23 knots, towards the Doldrums. It is the full fast downhill schuss due south with this well established trade winds which will get stronger further. You don’t have any other option than pulling out all the big gear to keep up with the big foilers as much as possible. Yesterday, after my sail changes I made a full inspection of the boat. I went through everything from front to back. Everything is watertight and a watertight boat is good news. Everything is nickel.”

    And the races within the race are evolving, at more than 800 miles behind Thomson, Ari Huusela (STARK) and Miranda Merron (Campagne de France) are racing within four miles of each other on their similar Owen Clarke designs, with Alexia Barrier (TSE 4 My Planet) about 40 miles behind.
    Didac Costa (One Planet -One Ocean) and Pip Hare (Medallia) are separated by 25 miles west east but Pip leads Didac by 11 miles, two of the race’s most historic boats side by side – Bernard Stamm’s former Superbigou leading against Ellen MacArthur’s Kingfisher.

    Merron said this morning, “I am having a great race with Ari on Stark and we have a few other playmates not far behind, just because we are a little further back does not mean we are not racing hard. I’ve had a pretty good night with up to 20kts of wind but now it is dropping and it looks a little complicated and I can see there are rainclouds on the radar so I do need to concentrate on making the boat go faster. It is transition day today between the two lows. It will be slow and light. Much to my surprise and despite the technical difficulties I have had, I have been in a pretty good mood the whole time and I have never had a sense of humour failure which I can only put down to my advanced age.”




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    Maxime Sorel V and B Mayenne hits an OFNI but all OK


    “I had a sudden stop. My boat hit something while I was emptying out a ballast tank. Everything jumped. One sail which was stacked on deck jumped 3 meters. I immediately inspected everything, speaking all the time to my shore team. But it seems everything is fine even if my keel is making a little noise. The cap of my diesel tank popped off. I have spent a lot of time cleaning up and now I have a bit of a headache. The smell of diesel has been bad." He has stayed in the game remaining vigilant at 15th overall 423 miles from Alex Thomson, in pole position.



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    Nicolas Troussel, First to Abandon This Vendée Globe, Light Winds For Backmarkers


    “Before daybreak I was below when I heard a loud noise I rushed out and there was no mast left. And that is the end of the Vendée Globe 2020 adventure. We will have to come back, we will review everything " said the skipper of CORUM L’Epargne in an audio sent from the boat this afternoon.


    It is desperately disappointing for Troussel who had been in the match with his new IMOCA since the start of the race, the most recent of the 33 boat fleet was only launched in May this year. On this morning’s 0500hrs radio call he sounded upbeat, happy that he was going fast in the speed race to get to the Doldrums, making more than 20kts in gusty conditions.

    After having cut the rigging off the boat so as not to damage the hull, the skipper from the bay of Morlaix is now heading under engine towards the port of Mindelo in the Cape Verde islands which he should reach in 4 days.




    Full gas towards the ITCZ
    500 miles in 24 hours is the distance record so far for this race and it has been set by Thomas Ruyant on LinkedOut who is charging towards the Doldrums at 117 miles behind Alex Thomson (HUGO BOSS). Ruyant has been quickest in the fleet for the last 24 hours and has averaged over 20 knots of speed. IMOCAs with foils are now averaging 3 knots faster than the daggerboard boats. It is certain that Alex Thomson’s 24 hours record of 536.81 nautical miles set on the 2017 race will fall. The question is will it tumble before the Equator?

    Between the Canaries and Madeira, 11 IMOCAs are struggling in a high pressure ridge, an area of ​​light winds. From Arnaud Boissières, 23rd, to Clément Giraud, 31st, it is slow and frustrating “I stopped looking at the rankings four days ago because it was really killing my morale. I don't want to know where I am, I'll check again later ” confided Clément Giraud late this morning.

    870 miles from leader Alex Thomson, who is flying in the trade winds, this small group is trying to find their way onto the southbound highway. Spaniard Didac Costa has only covered 108 miles in the last 24 hours.


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    Onboard messages : Miranda Merron and Pip Hare


    Feelings, rituals of life on board, postcards from the Atlantic ocean... the Vendée Globe skippers write to us from the sea. Messages received this Monday, November 16th.

    "Faster sailing yesterday and much of last night, and now as expected, the wind is dropping. Ari/ Stark and I have temporatrily parted company - I can no longer see him on the radar or on AIS.

    I'm going to have breakfast (freeze-dried scrambled egg and caramelised onion) on deck as it is warm enough and dry, and watch the sky get light over an ocean of freedom.

    Not a bad start to a Monday."

    Miranda Merron / Campagne de France









    "Tonight I have been battling with my inner voices having sailed into a big hole and spent the second half of the night just flopping around waiting for everyone to catch back up or sail away from me again. It's such a horrible thing to have to deal with and I have never been good at managing my mind when stuck in a wind hole.

    Yesterday was about getting south, trying to reach down to where the trade winds are starting to form south of the Canaries, but with the loom of a light wind hole creeping every closer. It's starting to get warm now and so sailing is in shorts and t shirt which is great, it was a dry day so I used it to do some small jobs around the boat including changing my hydrogen blades so both units are back up and running on each side of the boat. Though I had been more focussed on maintenance yesterday than squeezing every mile out of the boat it felt like I might be winning the battle, we inched across my computer screen towards where the wind arrows actually have barbs, and when night fell I thought I might have got away with it.

    but at midnight the wind shut off and for the last six hours I have been slopping around in hell. There is always a temptation to change sails, change tacks, hand steer, trim this and that,in the desperate attempt to get moving. All this might gain me a couple of miles in the general scheme of things but exhaust me at the same time so I have had to learn to think big picture in these circumstances, what is the best thing for me to do? and quite often it is to chill out, to keep the boat going on pilot in roughly the right direction, yes to move the weight around the boat to maximise any movement we have but after that to rest, wait for change and be ready to act when it happens.




    meanwhile my mind is mercilessly hounding me..... am I the only one to be in a hole, is all that work I did to break away going to down the drain, did I miss something in the navigation that put me here. If I can't sleep I listen to audio books, anything to keep my mind under wraps. This is just one moment in time on a long long race and I need to take it and move on.

    it's also been good to spend time outside, there is no moon at the moment and with the calm seas, the night is an utterly seamless 360 of black silk, punctuated only by the brightest of stars. It's incredible.

    I am suffering a little at the moment with a sore back. I pulled a muscle in it a couple of days ago and am in pain when I wake up and having to be a little bit careful moving things around the boat. Before I left my amazing chiropractors gave me a couple of massage balls to bring with me and taught me some techniques for alleviating things like this. I put the two balls in a sock, place it under my lower back and my buttocks find where it is sore, lean into it and gently roll the ball around. it's a really effective treatment. I now also need to do some conditioning exercises to try and activate the muscle that has been strained, all a lot simpler in the warm weather of the Atlantic.

    Today I am hoping the breeze will fill in properly and I might get the first wiff of the trade winds south. It's only been a week but it does seem like this has been a long journey south."

    Pip Hare / Medallia

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