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Thread: 2020-2021 Vendee Globe PD Coverage Central

  1. #81
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    Happy Hare Back On Track




    British skipper Pip Hare kept her Vendée Globe on course when she replaced her damaged port rudder on Medallia yesterday evening, completing the difficult operation in the South Pacific Ocean some 1000 miles west of Cape Horn.

    Having discovered a crack in the shaft of her rudder, the 45 year old had no alternative to stop her IMOCA 60, drop out of the damaged rudder and ship the spare in 20 knots of wind and a big Pacific swell.

    Hare may have lost two places, dropping to 17th, but the English solo racer who is on her first time ever in the Southern Ocean, has kept her race alive and – if she maintains the same pace as today – she should reach Cape Horn and deliverance from the south on Monday afternoon or evening.





    “ Every part of my body aches. I have bloody knuckles on every finger, bruises all down my legs and muscles I didn't know I had that hurt but YES!!!!! The new rudder is in and Medallia is back in the game. Yesterday I was scared and apprehensive. The conditions were far from ideal, a big swell and a forecast for a light patch between gales. I talked through the procedure with Joff and with Paul, the main concern was slowing the boat down enough to get the rudder in and then the boat landing on the rudder stock and doing damage to either. Eventually with a drogue out of the back and under bare poles in 16-18 knots of breeze I went for it”

    She noted this morning, “I think the whole procedure took about an hour and a half with many hours of preparation and packing up before and after. My heart was in my mouth for the whole time. I ran around the cockpit, winding winches, pulling ropes, sliding over the to the back of the boat to grab, yank, manhandle, rudder ropes and anchor chain. Once I was committed to doing it there was nothing that was going to get in my way. There were some tough moments and I had to plead with my boat and the ocean a couple of times but when that new rudder stock finally came shooting up through the deck level bearing the out loud whooping that came from me could easily have been heard for miles around… if anyone had been there to hear it.”



    In an emotional exchange this afternoon with Swiss ace Bernard Stamm who built Medallia as Superbigou 20 years ago and won two solo round the world races on her, he told her, “You are my hero. What you did is incredible. I hope you have no more problems before you finish back in Les Sables d’Olonne.

    Hare was making 14.5 to 15 knots this Friday afternoon with some 900 miles to Cape Horn.

    And among her group the impatience to pass Cape Horn becomes more pressing for the pack which extends from Alan Roura (now 15th), to Kojiro Shiraïshi (21st). This morning, after finding a tear on his J2, Jérémie Beyou (18th) sounded utterly fed up: “Since the Tasman the wind has not dropped below 35 knots, it's just wearing. Three days ago it was just rubbish, it was super violent. It was between 6 and 7 meters troughs and it was coming from the side breaking, so the boat was going in a wave and suddenly a breaking wave was coming from the side. I got thrown to the back of the boat a few times.”

    At the back of this group, Manu Cousin today has his own share of problems. His boat made an involuntary gybe, breaking a mainsail batten car broke, tearing the mainsail just above the 3rd reef, forcing the adopted Les Sablais racer to drop the main and sail at low speed under J3 alone, knowing that this small headsail is also showing some signs of weakness.




    Even with the relatively slow race pace – compared to the 74 day record of the 2016-17 race - food supplies are not yet and issue, even still with some having their Deep South requirement of about 7,000 calories a day. "I have enough to go around the world for the second time," laughs Alexia Barrier. That is not the case for second placed Thomas Ruyant who only took 80 days of food and so says he will be missing breakfasts and a few sweet snacks by the time he reaches Les Sables d’Olonne later this month.

    Ruyant is just determined to do the best he can. He has come back nicely at second placed Charlie Dalin since Cape Horn, steadily gnawing back miles to be racing side by side some 15 miles apart in what is more and more looking set to be a race to the finish line of Figaro offshore one design level intensity. Weather files now predict the top group to become more and more compact. Ruyant needs to make another mast climb to repair an wind vane which is depriving him of wind mode (his 5th climb). But the match race with Apivia, the two Verdier designs seven miles apart still, is precluding Ruyant’s next mast ascent.



    TRACKER


    Leader Yannick Bestaven still has some 411 miles in hand over Dalin and Ruyant, Damien Seguin (Groupe APICIL) is fourth 51 miles behind.

    Some statistics at 61 days

    Leader Yannick Bestaven has completed 78% of the route compared with 48% for the last placed Sébastien Destremau.

    The Skipper the most times at the top of the official rankings, Charlie Dalin (137 times) who will be matched this evening by Yannick Bestaven.

    10 leaders have lead since the start (in order according to the time spent in the lead): Charlie Dalin, Yannick Bestaven, Alex Thomson, Thomas Ruyant, Jean Le Cam, Maxime Sorel, Jérémie Beyou, Damien Seguin, Louis Burton, Benjamin Dutreux.

    Longest distance covered in 24 hours since the start: Thomas Ruyant, on November 21, 2020 with 513.3 miles (954.3 km), at an average speed of 21.6 knots.

    Now more than 30 ascents up the mast to make repairs.

    Actual distances sailed and average race speed of the leaders :

    Apivia 22 296.81 nms 15.2kts
    LinkedOut 22 286.49nms 15.2kts
    Maître Coq IV 22 022.01nms 15.0kts








    Leaders' split times
    Equator: HUGO BOSS on 11/18/2020 at 13:19 UTC after 9d 23h 59min of race
    Cape of Good Hope: Apivia on 11/30/2020 at 11:11 UTC after 22d 09h 51min
    Cap Leeuwin: Apivia on 12/13/2020 at 11:25 UTC after 34d 22h 05min
    Cape Horn: Maître Coq IV on 01/02/2021 at 13:42 UTC after 55d 00h 22min
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    MACSF Out With Ram Failure




    The Franco-German skipper Isabelle Joschke has been forced to abandon her Vendée Globe on the 62nd day of racing after a further failure of the keel canting system on board her IMOCA MACSF.
    Joschke was lying racing in 11th place racing in difficult conditions, in 30-35 knots of wind in the South Atlantic some 1100 miles east of the Argentinian coast.

    During the late afternoon today Saturday 9th January Joschke realised that the hydraulic cylinder which was holding her keel centred had failed. After the main keel canting system failed on January 3rd she had been sailing with the keel centred, held in place by this replacement ram. But the keel is no longer held centred. She immediately lowered the mainsail and was sailing under storm jib to keep the boat as stable as possible.

    The last few days into 2021 have proven extremely tough for Isabelle Joschke. She was fifth on December 28 and in the main chasing group but she has suffered damage to her keel hydraulics since early Sunday afternoon and cannot now cant the keel of her IMOCA MACSF. With the passage of Cape Horn approaching the Franco-German skipper has a demanding period ahead of her as she tries to stay as competitive as possible in the heart of an intense battle.

    Her team report today that she has had successive problems since the turn of the year, the worst coming yesterday Sunday when her keel ram gradually let go around 1300hrs UTC.

    “I lost my aerial 48 hours ago. The autopilot can longer steer in wind mode. That was already an additional difficulty for me in terms of performance. Then in the night from Saturday to Sunday, I tore my gennaker. Since then I have been short of power. With all these problems, I hadn't slept enough and I was exhausted. So I went to rest and after half an hour I heard the creaking of the keel which was gradually releasing. I knew something was going wrong. I called my team to discuss solutions. We looked for hydraulic leaks, I got out the toolbox. When we wanted to do a test and when I activated the actuator motor, I heard a rather loud metallic noise. At this point I noticed that the cylinder rod had come loose from the keel head. Even so I am still OK because I have a keel locking system in the middle. Now we can say that the boat is completely out of danger,” says Isabelle Joschke.

    “We saw pictures and quickly realized that this was not fixable. It was absolutely necessary to prevent the keel from moving around. On MACSF, we have a cylinder which allows the keel to be blocked in the vertical position in the axis of the boat. This means that Isabelle will not be able to move it from here on," explains Alain Gautier, the team manager of the MACSF project.




    Isabelle JOSCHKE
    MACSF



    Alain Gautier, MACSF team manager, explained: “Isabelle is currently taking stock of the situation. She has reduced speed completely to minimise the effect of the waves and to make sure water doesn't get into the boat. The first problem is that she is sailing in the direction of the depression and conditions will deteriorate overnight. Tomorrow a shift in the wind direction should allow her to escape to the north-east to escape this low pressure, and flatter seas should make things easier. It is obvious that Isabelle can no longer continue with her Vendée Globe and will have to retire. We are in constant contact and are studying the various options with her for the next few days. "

    On Sunday January 3, the of the hydraulic keel cylinder ram became detached from the keel head so Joschke could no longer cant the keel. A false cylinder was put in place which fixed the keel in the vertical position and it was this cylinder which has now broken.

    On the 1800hrs ranking Isabelle Joschke was in In 11th position, the first woman in this Vendée Globe fleet. She was having a remarkable race, going well In the main ‘peloton’ after dealing with each and every one of several technical problems. She has shown great determination and mental strength but this evening she is devastated to have to pull out of the race when she had sailed 21224 miles of the race course and had just 5853 nautical miles to sail to the Les Sables d’Olonne finish line.

    **********************




    The Pacific is proving particularly unrelenting for the Vendée Globe racers still racing eastwards towards Cape Horn. There might be the odd pause for a few hours before the next low pressure system kicks them along the course towards deliverance, and the big left turn out of the Southern Ocean and into the more sheltered waters of the Atlantic.

    The next wagon train of IMOCA 60s presently routing their approach to the Horn is led by Alan Roura, with Arnaud Boissières and Briton Pip Hare all close behind. These three musketeers should pass between Sunday night and Monday lunchtime.




    Roura, 27 years old, heading for his second consecutive Vendée Globe Cape Horn rounding and Boissières his fourth, have gained miles against Hare today as the British skipper stays a little bit conservative after her rudder problems and conserves her energy for the final push which will be in strong winds on a big low pressure system. At the front of it today the two foilers, La Fabrique of Roura and La Mie Caline -Artisans Artipole, have been three or four knots quicker than Hare’s Medallia.

    One hundred and fifty miles further astern both Didac Costa, the Spanish skipper of One Planet-One Ocean and Stéphane Le Diraison on Time For Oceans have had their toughest time of the race so far with gusts over 50kts at times, the French skipper giving a vivid description of being knocked nearly flat in a huge squally gust.




    “I think I got the worst of it with winds reaching 60 knots and waves with troughs of six to eight metres. The memory of it will stay with me for life. I have this image of a squall in 60 knots of wind, breaking waves, no sail up, the boat on its side in a snowstorm with the wind howling in the rig with a total sense of powerlessness in the face of these crazy conditions. It is mad to watch the sea which is white, almost like frothing milk and spray coming from all angles. It is just quite incredible. I am happy to have experienced it, it is quite an experience on a human level to have come through this, particularly physically, because it is so cold, but also on a mental and stress level, it is extremely demanding.”

    He continues. “It is so cold, you just wrap up with all you have, it is just four degrees inside the cabin and then you hear the waves breaking on deck or being knocked down by a wave and you have to get dressed in the wet clothes and go out in the middle of the night. It is then that you have to just not think about it or question yourself. That is why I like that expression you just have to disconnect your brain, to concentrate on what needs to be done. Get out of the bunk, get dressed and go through the list of things that need to be done and leave the analysis of it all for later.”

    By way of sharp contrast in the South Atlantic off the coasts of Argentina, Uruguay and the south of Brazil it is hot for leader Yannick Bestaven (Maître Coq IV) in more ways than one. He has seen his lead shrink from 435 nautical miles to 263 this evening. And in second place Charlie Dalin is pushing Apivia very hard in near ideal foiling conditions, flat seas and 15-17 knots of breeze, constantly making 23-25kts averages to be 50 miles ahead of third placed Thomas Ruyant (LinkedOut)

    Dalin told Argentina’s three times Olympic medallist Santi Lange today on the Vendée Globe Live show, “I have good conditions to go fast, I currently have 22-23 knots of boatspeed for 15 knots of wind. So I am on the right foil. The sea state is getting flatter and I can feel the distance between Yannick and me shrinking so I hope that carries on for as long as possible. It is not going to be a straight line for me onwards, but there is an opportunity here and I am on it.”

    Lange, like Dalin a qualified Naval Architect, asked about the foiling ability of the new generation boats in the south and how close they have been to hopes and what they saw during training, Dalin replied:

    “It is a lot related to the wind stability. If it is a very gusty day you cannot carry as much sail as if the wind was more stable. And also the sea state, the sea state was the biggest problem in the southern ocean. In the Indian and part of the Pacific we just could not push. The sea state did not permit it. But yesterday I was still under my speed polars because I was in a 2m seaway. And when I was reaching speeds of 30kts then the slamming is too much. The sea state is such a factor. Obviously you push less hard than you do in training. You cannot be trimming, on the sheets all the time, you have to be able to leave the boat to go when you are sleeping. You run a few percent below what the boat could do. Sea state and wind stability. “




    TRACKER

    Of the wind conditions and strategy ahead Dalin concluded:
    “It is going to be a complicated days ahead, dealing with the high pressure which will pass behind Thomas and I, and there will be transitions and the trade winds and this high pressure which is really, really complicated with a big area of no wind. It is changing all the time on the GRIB files. It is going to be a tough ascent to tackle I see there is an opportunity to catch up. So hopefully it will go OK. “

    In ninth place, this evening Germany’s Boris Herrmann has ground in Italian skipper Giancarlo Pedote and the two were racing in sight of each other.

    Six hundred and sixty miles behind Bestaven and 134 miles from fifth, Herrmann said, “I am in sight of Giancarlo. We are through the strongest winds on the low, I hope, I think. It is pretty light right now. I am a little suspicious this might be just a little joke to then to knock us down in half an hour or do we set more sail. I think I might go up to the J2 from the J3 and two reefs. The sea state was better than expected. In general this who system was gentler than expected. I was not looking forwards to the system but in the end so far so good. Now we are sailing downwind with this flow for 12 hours or so, then gybing away. We have a huge lull Sunday evening before we enter the trade winds. I think I will postpone my Champagne until we are in the trade winds. There is always something to do and there is not yet a moment to appreciate Champagne properly. So far so good."
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    Dalin Slips Ahead Of Bestaven



    UDATE: Apiva New Leader!


    Bestaven caught to within 38 miles.....New leader tomorrow?....Hare approaching Cape Horn after Boissièrres, Roura, Beyou.......Beyou fastest in the Southern Ocean Between Good Hope and Cape Horn



    All bets are off. Normally by the 64th day of recent editions of the Vendée Globe, the solo non- stop race round the world has been distilled down to a choice of two or at the outside three potential winners.

    But as the group of six chasing solo racers are now compressed to within 300 miles of leader Yannick Bestaven, and the skipper of Maître Coq IV has seen his lead of 435 miles melt like snow in the Brazilian sun, to be just 38 miles ahead of Charlie Dalin (Apivia) this afternoon, it is clear any one of the top six or seven boats could hope to break the Les Sables d’Olonne finish line first later this month, probably around 28th or 29th. Indeed by tomorrow Tuesday there seems every chance that the leader for 17 days might have been passed.





    The semi permanent cold front which extends from the Brazilian coast, somewhere between Itajai and Rio, out to sea South east by eastwards for some 1500 miles, largely set the hierarchy on the descent of the Atlantic back in the third week of November – remember Thomas Ruyant and Charlie Dalin trading gybes downwind less than ten miles apart.

    Now on the climb back to the E’ly tradewinds the same weather feature blocks the fleet. And while Bestaven has lost most by being west, closest to land, the gain is increasingly in the east as the lead group climbs towards the tradewinds. And so not only have Dalin and Thomas Ruyant come back at Bestaven hard, but so too in the east are Damien Seguin, Louis Burton and Boris Herrmann all back in contention.





    "I think for Yannick, who sees us coming back to him when he was way ahead, it must be tough. For us it is very gratifying. I wasted a lot of time with some minor issues, but I'll be able to pick back up. The whole Vendée Globe has been like this, the race is far from over.” Contends Thomas Ruyant, the LinkedOut skipper on the morning call to Race HQ in Les Sables d’Olonne. Ruyant has just climbed his mast for the fifth time, this time to repair his wind indicator after racing three days blind with no precise wind data. And now the skipper from Dunkirk in the north of France is back on the attack.

    So too is fifth placed Louis Burton highly motivated by the competition “I look at the positions of others, to find out how to get closer to them. I have never known this excitement and pleasure racing so close. I count the miles that separate me from Thomas Ruyantand Damien Seguin and examine their courses. It's exceptional.” Says the skipper from Saint Malo from Bureau Vallée 2.

    And Boris Herrmann, in sixth remarked on the French show today, “How fantastic for the race to be this close during the climb back up the Atlantic, it really is all to play for, for all of us, even Yannick, you know he’s not miles and miles ahead as I can see from my screen, so the regatta is very much still alive, and each to our own to play the match. In the past, we’ve seen climbs up the Atlantic which have been less exciting, perhaps one or two boats clearly ahead, but here we have a real host of different boats which could make the podium places, 4, 5 or 6 boats, with no doubt surprises still to come!”

    Bestaven always has 10hrs 15minutes in his pocket – the redress granted for his role in the rescue of Kevin Escoffier and so Boris Herrmann (Seaexplorer-Yacht Club de Monaco) has six hours.




    During a routine inspection of Merci, a large crack was discovered in the bow of the IMOCA at the bowsprit. Destremau writes......

    "This morning like every morning, I go out on the deck to go for my little walk. At the bow I discovered a crack across the bow at the bowsprit from side to side. A glance under the bow and I have the impression that the bowsprit is broken and separating from the boat. My biggest fear is for the anchoring point for the forestay of the J2 which is there. "

    Taking advantage of the fact that Merci is sailing close to New Zealand, I made contact with Angelo Lavranos, the architect of the boat. After checking his files, Angelo is categorical, the bowsprit is not structural to the bow of the boat. There is therefore no risk of dismasting and Merci can navigate normally with her J2. That's a good news. The less good is that Merci will probably not be able to use any of its gennakers without a serious repair to the bowsprit. Angelo studies the photos of the problem to refine his diagnosis. We are really lucky to still be able to use our big J2. For the gennaks, it's a bit of a shame and it may slow us down quite a bit under certain conditions. I hope you are not in too much of a hurry to see us finish because this new incident may make me slightly late ... "




    And more and more as the prospect of a close, compact regrouping happening there is the issue of who has what, and what potential the skippers and their boats really have. And so the mind games start on the daily media calls. No one wants to admit to their weaknesses, except for Apivia and LinkeOut who have their problems with their port foils. But there is sail damage, hook damage, and other issues which now become even more closely guarded secrets. The stock answer? ‘I am at 100% and so is my boat!”

    Out of the grey and into the technicolour real world.
    Celebratory Arcachon brewed beer in hand Arnaud Boissières crossed his fourth consecutive Vendée Globe Cape Horn at 1135hrs UTC at the start of the French live show today. The adopted son of the town of Sables d'Olonne looked exhausted but elated after a harsh Pacific Ocean.

    Another 1hr and 30 minutes later it was the heavily bearded, exuberant Swiss skipper Alan Roura at 1301hrs UTC and then there was the release from the Pacific for Jérémie Beyou at 1534hrs UTC. The skipper of Charal has the honour of being the fastest in the fleet between Cape of Good Hope and Cape Horn, at 30 days 14hrs 27 minutes some 45 minutes quicker than Armel Tripon (L’Occitaine en Provence). Britain’s Pip Hare should bring Medallia round for her first Cape Horn tonight

    They said

    Boris Herrmann (Seaexplorer-Yacht Club de Monaco) “ I’m now in 6th place! And yes the sunshine changes everything, and life changes so quickly on board, it has just been a case of two days and I’m already back in my Tshirt and shorts. I’ve fought for this, dreamt of this, and here I am! What a fantastic transition. The sunshine is here, the sea and sky are blue, the boat is gliding beautifully, it’s a great reward.
    I’m really calm behind the camera perhaps, but inside maybe not so much! Especially at moments like around when I was passing Cape Horn, when I ripped my mainsail, and it’s not a small rip in the middle, that would be less serious, but instead it’s in the leech, where the sail structurally takes a lot of the load, so it was a really hairy moment, I was scared and stressed. And also in the last depression I encountered which was difficult, with a really choppy sea, I felt scared, and had lots of different kinds of emotions.
    I think today and tonight I’ll be able to advance quickly, with my friends around me, Jean, Giancarlo and Benjamin, and those ahead of us might well enter a soft zone, so I think the pack will become even tighter.

















    TRACKER
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    Wide Open Race For Top 10!




    Restart off Rio..... Five boats within 27 miles.....Hare at Cape Horn

    After 65 days racing and over 23,000 nautical miles sailed on the course, the Vendée Globe in effect restarted off Rio de Janeiro, Brazil today with the five top boats regrouping within 26 miles of each other in terms of the distance to the finish line in Les Sables d’Olonne.

    Charlie Dalin (Apivia) has taken the lead again from Yannick Betaven, the French skipper of Maître Coq IV who lost the biggest leading margin of the race, over 435 nautical miles. But the 48 year old skipper from La Rochelle has found breeze this afternoon, closer to the Brazilian shore, and is marginally further north than the Apivia sailor.




    Dalin, Bestaven, double Parlympic gold medallist Damien Seguin (Groupe APICIL), Thomas Ruyant (LinkedOut) and Louis Burton (Bureau Vallée) are compacted tightly off the Brasilian coast, trying to climb into the Easterly tradewinds which are not at all well established at least until the NE’ly corner at Recife.

    “The rout to the north is anything but clear. Until Recife, the northeast trade winds are unstable, there are bubbles with less wind, and variations in strength and direction. On the water, there must be pressure differences and therefore speed differences between the boats. It is not at all easy.” Sébastien Josse, the weather consultant for the Vendée Globe explained this morning.





    TRACKER






    And from now to the finish in Les Sables d’Olonne it seems certain the final 4600 miles will be contested with the intensity of an inshore coastal race where every mile counts. And the tiny gaps – there are just 127 nautical miles back to ninth placed Jean Le Cam (Yes We Cam!) – suggest this epic ninth edition of the Vendée Globe may see places decided on a photo finish.

    Dalin warned this morning, “Nothing is settled yet, the wind is not at all established in this area where I am sailing. I still see 24 hours of winds which remain unstable in terms of strength and direction. As we are not yet into the more constant wind there are still lots of things going on. I don’t think it will be until Wednesday morning on the early rankings that we will really see things settle a bit.”

    He added, “ I'm glad I got back into this. Four days ago, I was 450 miles behind. If I had been told then that I would take the lead four days hence I would not have believed it. It is great to have had this opportunity.”







    Dalin casts his eye over his title rivals and remarks, “ The condition of the boats will matter. I suspect that not everyone is at 100%, no one reallyis, but who has what? I know what I have: I am handicapped by my port foil. We'll really see what that means when the wind sets in, so don't lets jump to any conclusions right now. We will see if the real performance against these guys is affected. I touch wood, I have no sails problems. I hope it lasts ! "

    Bestaven, in second this afternoon, said. “It is a complicated day both in the East and in the West. I thought at the beginning that by being more West, I might be the first one to get out, but I can't say, from one weather file to the other, because it changes in all directions. I'm here because it’s where I could go with the wind there was in the soft zone. I'm making "small gains" trying to get closer to the direct route. I’ll get back in the race when I have more established winds. The sea is fairly crossed, which shakes up the whole boat and reduces the speed a lot as soon as you fly forwards. Even if I launch off at 5.7 knots, the speed is reduced to 4.3 knots. It's very hot, already 35 degrees this morning, yesterday I had up to 38°C.




    Hare at Cape Horn
    At 0156hrs UTC this morning British skipper Pip Hare passed Cape Horn for the first time. In moderate breezes and relatively flat seas she crossed close to the rock and was able to enjoy the best perspective, speaking to the lighthouse keeper and his wife. The release thereafter for Hare was palpable. She admitted that the 24 hours before Cape were some of the worst of the race, always fighting with an inconsistent strong wind, changing in strength and direction. She had been kept on her toes by an ingress of water by the bearing seals of the port rudder she replaced and a big broach. But her reward, in the Atlantic today, was a wonderful sail up the east coast of Staten Island, giving chase and actually making miles back on 16th placed Jérémie Beyou who is 88 miles ahead. Her elapsed time to the Horn of 64 days 12hrs and 36 mins gives her less than 30 days to get to the finish line if she is to break one of her personal targets – the 94 days 04 hrs time of Ellen MacArthur when she was second on the 2000-2001 race.
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    The Ever Evolving Pecking Order Continues

    Dalin Leads Speed Test Up Brazilian Coast.....Six boats in 88 miles..Costa, Le Diraison At Cape Horn, Shiraishi this evening


    TRACKER


    With nothing more than a handful of small miles separating them, the leaders of the Vendée Globe are engaged on a straight head-to-head speed test which may yet prove decisive, and which may finally show the ultimate value of a fully functioning latest generation foil package.

    In what is likely to be a close reaching then reaching drag race up the Brazilian coast past Recife, 600 miles to the north of leader Charlie Dalin (Apivia), the actual speed potential – the combination of a working foil and J2 headsail – could deliver the key advantage which might then be carried into a North Atlantic sprint finish that presently looks relatively fast and straightforward.

    Dalin, from his position about 60 miles to the East of Yannick Bestaven, has managed to eke out a gain to be 10 miles ahead Maître Coq, sailing a faster angle with slightly more wind pressure. Louis Burton is holding steady in third at 23 miles behind.









    In terms of the various packages Maître Coq has smaller less powerful foils as does Burton on Bureau Vallée 2. It is not completely clear if Dalin’s port side foil is compromised because of his repair to the box bearing. In fourth Thomas Ruyant has a truncated foil and lacks power. And already sixth place Boris Herrmann with big, new generation foils fitted to his 2016-17 boat is pulling back miles on Damien Seguin’s Groupe APICIL, first daggerboard boat which is tracking furthest to the East.

    Speaking of what he considers to be his potential Boris Herrmann said early this afternoon, “ I am normally a humble person but here I would say in theory our boat should have the best potential for the next eight days on starboard tack where I have a proper full port side foil, which should be better and more efficient than Louis Burton and Maître Coq. I suppose, I don’t know how Apivia will go, it may be the fastest but we have really good potential in this boat, but it is now really in the hands of the weather scenario as well, how much the bungee stretches out and in what sequence and if we find the wind to use the foil and when. If it is 11-12kts and 13-14kts then we are onto the foil and can zoom up to the others.”






    IMOCA Class president Antoine Mermod gave his own evaluation on the English Live show today, declaring the game wide open,

    “ It is hard to know what the real state of each boat is. It is sure you need to have the best package for the next eight days on starboard tack, that means a good foil working well and a J2 (main genoa headsail) working well. I think for Thomas Ruyant we know he can’t use it and then I think it will be painful for him. And for Maître Coq close to the lead he is ready to do well but with a small foil but with a good overall package. And from that point of view Boris with big foils and a J2 is in a good position. Remember that a one or two knot speed differential over 24 hours represents a big gain in this context.”

    And while it is mostly going to be a speed race in the trade winds to the Doldrums at least, closer to the Brazilian coast there is more potential for disruptive rain squalls and also lighter spells of wind especially at night and in the early morning. This may especially be the case close in to Recife. But in the North Atlantic there seems to be the potential reward of a low pressure system for the leaders to hook into fast SW’ly winds which might offer a record paced passage from the equator to Les Sables d’Olonne.

    Surveying the sunshine, the light trade winds the closeness of the fleet and the intensity of the race to the finish, Herrman smiled.
    "It's kind of the same sailing conditions as when we train in Port-La-Forêt. The sea is flat, the wind is light, I have the impression of being in Brittany.”
    He added, “Yesterday evening my routing with the GFS (American weather model) shows us getting to Les Sables d'Olonne in 13 days. Whatever it is, that is good for morale.”






    According to Vendée Globe weather consultant Christian Dumard although there have been long sections of what would be considered atypical weather on this race – not least a complicated descent into the Roaring 40s and a long spell of light weather in the Pacific – it appears the North Atlantic might finally deliver a climb back to France direct from the roadbooks, the NE’ly trades transitioning straight to a low pressure system.

    Dumard concludes
    “We could be looking at long starboard tack in the NE’ly trade winds up to the Canaries, a depression to hang on and a good SW’ly flow to reach Les Sables d'Olonne. It could be quick… ”



    Stéphane Le Diraison, Didac Costa at Cape Horn
    At 1303hrs this afternoon the skipper of Time for Oceans passed Cape Horn, a blessed release for a skipper who had to retire from the last race with a broken mast and who had four days of very stormy conditions this past week. So too for Didac Costa, the Catalan fire fighter who passed at 1602hrs UTC this afternoon in 19th place, his third time racing. And Japanese racer Kojiro Shiraishi should pass this evening for his fourth rounding.
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    Things Tighten At The Top

    Leaders 20 miles apart, Herrmann in fifth, Merron At Cape Horn at Weekend

    Today passing Salvador de Bahia, Brazil, there are no options In terms of strategy and choices on the northwards climb up the Atlantic for the tightly matched Vendée Globe leaders. But the conditions are difficult and tiring. The E’ly tradewinds shift in direction and more particularly in strength and that is proving especially wearing, with squalls and gusts which make setting the optimum sail are difficult on the close reach.








    Apivia skipper Charlie Dalin who has led now for two days is now 20 miles ahead of second placed Louis Burton on Bureau Vallée 2. The pair have been consistently quicker than the four other key rivals round about them.

    One month ago when he was SW of Tasmania Dalin had to repair the bearing which secures the foil as it enters the hull aperture on his port side. He is paying a price for not having full use of the large hydrofoil as he tries to get away from Burton who is racing a 2016 generation boat, but the leading skipper remains objective,

    “I have to fight with the weapons I have.” He told the Vendée Globe Live show today, “One month ago I came close to abandoning so I am just glad to be here, but we will be on starboard for a long time for sure and it has already started. I'm not sure we don't have to tack in the Doldrums because it looks rather interesting and challenging right now. There will be a lot of sail changes to be made, reefing, reefing so that will inevitably play out. But overall there is a lot of starboard tack in the trade winds of the northern hemisphere. The routing of the Doldrums appears to be quicker and easier in theory than in reality so we have to be wary of any timings, ”warned the French skipper who grew up in Le Havre and was French Offshore Champion in 2014 and 2016.

    “I cannot fully deploy my foil but I can press on it at a certain heeling angle and more so I have a little bit of downforce but nothing like I would normally have had if it were fully deployed. The speeds that I could be at without this compromise are nothing like those I am sailing at now, but, hey let us keep it in perspective because my Vendée Globe could have stopped in Australia or new Zealand but here I am one month on, leading the race. This is just a bonus! It is great ! I am very happy and I will do everything to keep the lead and get to the end ”.





    TRACKER






    For all that, Dalin has been quicker during today making 16kts, only outpaced by Germany’s Boris Herrmann who is steadily coming into his own now as the winds build to more consistent foiling conditions. The sailor from Hamburg is up to fifth place and was making 17kts this afternoon, but at the same northing, the same latitude, as former leader Yannick Bestaven who lost 435 miles to the chasing pack in the transition through the Cabo Frio cold front, and is sixth this afternoon.

    “Being fifth is a bit nominal, north-south Yannick and I are in the same position. It must be tough for Yannick I feel a bit sorry for him, but I hope he catches up and we all make it a good race together, exciting. Thomas Ruyant said he can see us all finishing on the same day, that would be really cool!” explained Herrmann this afternoon,

    “ Last night was really bad. I had a 26 knot gust and was afraid of breaking stuff and so I feel a bit knackered, tired. It is not as warm as two days ago when it was super warm, unbearable. During the daytime in the bunk I don’t sleep, I just get a headache. There are little things to complain about, but the race is absolutely amazing, fantastic. You almost wish to accelerate this game, like a time-lapse to see what happens. I am hoping to keep making miles but that is not so, so much in my hands. Some good wind tomorrow should allow me to foil towards the front.”

    Weather routings have the leaders crossing the Equator Saturday before breaking into the NE’ly trades. A transition zone around the south of the Azores high pressure could be the only minor pothole on what looks to be a quick passage to Les Sables d’Olonne.

    After making her repair to the boot seal around the lower bearing of her port rudder, and taking a 150 minute penalty (visible to those tracker addicts) as he lost her liferaft and additional penalty for a broken seal Britain’s Pip Hare is back on track on 18th placed Medallia, chasing 17th placed Stéphane Le Diraison, 140 miles in front of her. Miranda Merron is just under 900 miles to Cape Horn on Campagne de France and should make her first solo passage of the rock at the weekend.












    Although she still has some brisk winds Isabelle Joschke is out of danger and making about 8 to 9 knots under reduced sail taking care of MACSF since she retired from the Vendée Globe with damage to her keel canting system such that the keel is not secured and pivoting free.
    Her team and Race Direction are in regular contact with the Franco-German skipper as they evaluate where the best port will be for her to head to, almost certainly on the Brasilian coast.

    “The port could be Itajai, Rio de Janeiro or Salvador de Bahia. The goal is for her to move north as quickly as possible to find a flow of easterly trade winds in latitude 25-26 south. We are in the process of setting up arrival solutions to have a team ready to welcome Isa. Beyond that the repair of the boat in situ so that it returns to France by sea or whether we load the IMOCA MACSF on to a cargo ship has not yet been decided.” a recent team update stated.



    Speaking on the French Vendée Live show yesterday Joschke said

    “It’s going a lot better now, it’s calmer, it was really tense for 2 days, but now there’s sunshine, there’s some respite. But there’s still some water getting in. Until I touch land, I won’t be 100% out of danger. I’m still figuring out where I’m going to head to. For the moment it will be either Rio de Janeiro or Salvador in Bahia, depending on what will be the easiest route. I’ve received lots of messages of support, not only since my retirement from the race, but also during my race itself, loads of messages of encouragement.”






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    Herrmann Slides Into 3rd!




    Racing some 35 miles off the NE corner of Brasil, at Recife this afternoon, speeds remain very even between the top trio of Vendée Globe boats, German skipper Boris Herrmann having moved into third place overnight.

    The skipper of Seaexplorer-Yacht Club de Monaco has modulated his attack with the same patience and diligence that has ensured that he is playing with a full deck of cards, racing an uncompromised IMOCA 60 at very close to 100 per cent of its potential after he carefully protected it during a very tough month in the Southern Oceans. The German ocean racer rounded Cape Horn in tenth with a deficit of 805 nautical miles on the leader Yannick Bestaven.










    Herrmann, the 37 year old skipper from Hamburg, has become a household name in Germany, his race being featured on main national news channels each evening in his home country that has no history at all of solo ocean racing. He has made steady inroads into the margins which French duo Louis Burton in second and Charlie Dalin, the leader have built in recent days. Herrmann has been slightly quicker thanks in no small part to the power of his big, 2020 generation foil set which he fitted to the Seaexplorer Yacht Clu de Monaco in March last year, and his choice to stay slightly east – offshore – where the moderate E’ly trade wind has been more even and consistent.

    British Figaro solo racer Will Harris, Herrmann’s co-skipper on the Transat Jacques Vabre 2019 and a member of his race team, believes he can keep making small gains,

    “I think he is going well, mostly as fast as Charlie at least and Louis. I think Thomas Ruyant (in fourth) is struggling a bit more now for pace and Boris is well positioned.” Harris observed this Friday afternoon.

    Herrman has made 60 miles back on leader Dalin since yesterday (Thursday) morning and while the gains have stabilised meantime, Harris believes these small incremental gains should continue.

    But Harris, who was a meteo expert on the last Ocean Race, agrees that the race will not be decided in the coming days, agreeing with Herrmann’s belief expressed on the Vendée Globe Live show today.









    “ I think the race will be decided in the North Atlantic weather systems and especially whoever gets to a cold front we are seeing at The Azores around the 23rd January. “ Harris notes, “They will probably see a fair bit of wind there and so it will be quite fast to the finish but it will be mostly downwind and so quite exciting. But until then it is very much a speed race after The Doldrums in the NE’ly trade winds, a week in the trade winds it will be small gains and losses in terms of boat speed.”

    He adds,

    “Boris does look to be in quite good shape, he has been consistently gaining miles and we do see him pushing harder now, he is in a good place. If he can keep gaining the same amount of miles then over a few days that can mount up nicely.”

    “ Boris definitely handled the South well.” Harris says, “ He always had a bit less sail area than the others and there were plenty of us saying ‘come on Boris, push it harder’ but the benefit is now, he sailed smart and safely and is in good shape. It is not so much a Figaro race now in the sense that the Figaro really is about all or nothing for relatively short periods of time. The Vendée Globe is very much about planning and knowing how you want to be at 40 days at 60 days and then being able to step the game up and that has been Boris strategy all along. And so I think he is in good shape and when we watch on the dashboard (https://tinyurl.com/y5ujy4lk) we can see he is pressing harder progressively.”







    TRACKER


    Previous leader Yannick Bestaven (Maître Coq IV) is now sixth at 105 miles behind leader Dalin. In fifth Damien Seguin (Groupe Apicil) is very much in the match at 60 miles from Dalin and just behind Herrmann’s windward hip, but with his older – daggerboard design – is not able to match the foilers’ speeds, making around 1.5 to 2 knots slower.

    Isabelle Joschke who was forced out of the race on the 10th January when her canting keel retaining system failed on MACSF is in moderate wind conditions, sailing in safe mode at 1000 miles from Salvador de Bahia, Brasil.
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    Duelin Dalin Extends Lead



    With less than two weeks - perhaps even just ten days – until the finish of what is set to be the closest ever edition of the Vendée Globe it is still impossible to predict which three skippers will finish on the podium.

    “To be honest we wont really have a decent idea until the first ones get to the entrance to the Bay of Biscay at La Coruña," warned Jacques Caraës, race director this morning.

    Race veteran Jean Le Cam (Yes We Cam!), 61, in ninth place on his fifth Vendée Globe observed sagely, “I don’t make forecasts. We are always being asked to predict what we can’t predict. This story does not end until the finish line.”

    Emerging from the Doldrums first Charlie Dalin (Apivia) and Louis Burton (Bureau Vallée 2) are taking slightly different options. Dalin may be computed to be 48 nautical miles closer to the finish than rival Burton but the skipper from Saint Malo is sailing over three knots faster, is actually more north than Dalin but is making a lower, faster angle and so diverging to the west. Their lateral west east separation is already 110 miles.

    The speed race 800 miles northwestwards is towards the point where they each think it fastest and easiest to cross a high pressure ridge of light winds to connect with a North Atlantic’s winter low pressure arriving from Newfoundland.

    The leading two contenders have entirely different programmes. Dalin is backed by insurance brand Apivia, part of the MACIF group which already won the Vendée Globe in their own colours with François Gabart in 2012-13. Gabart’s MerConcept company manages the project and as well as Gabart in his corner, Dalin has the counsel of Volvo Ocean Race winning navigator Pascal Bidégorry and a pool of top engineers and designers. He was hand picked as a Vendée Globe successor to Gabart for his record as two times French offshore champion with four consecutive podiums on the Figaro circuit to his credit.


    TRACKER





    But for all that the meticulous, super consistent Dalin has been feted in one of France’s best funded, top ocean racing stables, he has sailed more than his share hard miles and as young naval architecture student in England raced in the IRC fleet with the Bear of Britain training group. He became close friends with English ex Mini Class Racer and adventurer Nick Bubb who connected with race leader Dalin on today’s Vendée Globe Live show,

    Bubb noted, “Back in 2002 Charlie was one of the youngsters who helped out anyone he could in the Mini fleet just to get a bit more experience. The first time we sailed together he was still super young and it was a four day delivery back from La Rochelle to the UK and the deal was he could skipper the trip, as long as he’d only speak French to me. Then he helped work with me on the build of the Class 40 I sailed the Route du Rhum on then and we sailed her back from the Azores together in what turned out to be a pretty heinous trip. It was late December on a fast moving low pressure sweeping across the Atlantic and Charlie was absolutely rock solid. I knew then he had it. His threshold for not only surviving big conditions but revelling in them was super high. A few years later he asked me to race the Mini Fastnet with him. I’d done about six or seven of them by then. We finished fourth. He had a pretty old boat, I thought we’d done well he just always wanted more. Later that year he won the 2nd leg of the Mini Transat and he never looked back after that.”










    Louis and Goliath
    Burton, two years younger at 35, sails smart and makes smart choices but he has not risen through the same ranks – Mini, Figaro IMOCA – as Dalin did. After starting with a Class 40 he and his brother Nelson made a big impression early in the 2011 Transat Jacques Vabre in a new Farr IMOCA fading with technical problems they went on to finish 11th. Louis finished seventh on a brutally windy B to B race back from Saint Barths, his first big solo IMOCA race. Theirs is a small team based out of Saint Malo from where Burton has mostly trained alone, selecting only key IMOCA races because of their relatively modest budget.

    And while Mer Concept, and Dalin have developed, refined and optimised their latest generation Verdier design, the smartest decision of Burton and Bruno Peyroles – president and founder of French office supplies giant Bureau Vallée – was buying the perfectly proven, battle hardened winner of the last race Banque Populaire X before it has crossed the finish line four years ago tomorrow.

    Behind them the chasing pack is regrouping and far from out of the battle, " The first are on a more westerly curve but their pursuers will have a more direct route which should benefit them," explains Jacques Caraës. Some compression by the chasing groups is expected.

    Germany’s Boris Hermann (SeaExplorer - Yacht Club de Monaco) dropped some valuable miles, snared in the Doldrums for hours last night. He retains a good position further north than his rivals and should now be able to outgun the other boats around him if indeed is playing with a boat at 100% as he contends.

    “I had 24 very challenging hours, very challenging psychologically, no wind at all yesterday and through the night, sometimes the boat spinning in circles, the pilot beeping like a mad thing, the sails flapping, still with huge sea state, a trough coming from somewhere. But I have have some wind now, it is super grey with rain, I am not out of the ITCZ but the wind is in the right direction, bit left maybe. But in these squalls you go in and sail in 27 knots of wind with upwind gear which was made for 11kts, lots of work and I am quite tense.” Reported Herrmann early this morning.









    Bestaven and Le Cam have or have had mechanical problems

    For the nine leaders managing the final charge will be particularly tricky. "They will have to take care of their boats, the boats are tired and they are tired," points out Christian Dumard, the Vendée Globe meteorologist.“ Normally at this stage it is usually enough to be in a kind of safe, conservative mode to bring the boat home. But this time they are going to have to push and push hard in sometimes strong winds. At midday on the Vendée Globe Live show, erstwhile leader Yannick Bestaven (Maître CoQ IV) revealed that he had has had technical problems since the depression coming into Cape Horn. "I don't have a pulpit anymore, no furlers and there are some sails that I can't use anymore. These added to the difficulty of getting through the Doldrums but I feel like I'm coming out of it.”
    (Recall that Bestaven sailed low and SE after Cape Horn while Dalin cut the corner?)
    Jean Le Cam had also admitted having had recent problems with his engine mount.







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    7 Days To Destiny


    The race at the front of the Vendée Globe is electrifying. None of the eight previous editions has ever witnessed a race finish as open and intense. Right now the leading skippers are trying to get their heads around a do-or-die sprint to the finish line in Les Sables d’Olonne which has now less than one week to run.




    Even the most informed of France’s pre-race race prognosticators did not project a podium finish for the maverick 35 year old from Saint Malo Louis Burton, but most avid race watchers now see the skipper of Bureau Vallée as having a small lead as he is furthest north and faster than his nearest rivals.

    Even if the rankings have him fourth this evening – as he is to the west of his rivals - it looks like he may be first to round the Azores high pressure and connect with the low pressure express train to the finish line.

    “He can be into the southwesterly winds first and benefit from a lane through the high pressure corridor with a more constant wind flow and then with a more sustained better angle than his pursuers.” Suggested Sébastien Josse the weather consultant for the Vendée Globe. “The others will be more downwind, forcing them to manoeuvre more. Louis could stay in the same flow as far as Les Sables d'Olonne and be in several hours ahead at the finish."

    But the leader on the rankings Charlie Dalin says the two will re-connect, “We will meet again under the Azores and we will have to do a series of gybes and sail changes, there is still a lot of work to do before the finish!"

    As the tension builds and time counts down to the finish, the skippers are feeling the pressure like never before. Thomas Ruyant continues to be quick but the skipper who originates from Dunkirk, Normandy was clearly frustrated that with no port foil he will be compromised during the final sprint and may lose out.







    “I knew the Atlantic climb was going to be complicated with a lot of starboard tack,” he told the radio session this morning. "With a compromised boat it is difficult and frustrating not to compete with those around me on equal terms. But here I am I take my troubles patiently and hold on to a competitive spirit. In a few days, the downwind conditions will allow me to stabilize things a bit. There might be less of a performance gap so I'll do everything to keep in touch. "

    Germany’s Boris Herrmann (Seaexplorer-Yacht Club de Monaco) has progressively recovered miles since his passage across the Doldrums and is back pacing the leaders mile for mile, quickest on all of today’s measures and looking like he has the potential to finish across the line in a podium position.




    © Boris Herrmann / Imoca
    “It is pretty bouncy in the trade winds. Boris is looking forwards to getting into the high pressure system and getting into the lighter regime to really make sure he in the best shape for the finish sprint. He is intent in really looking after himself these next couple of days. He is very even headed and in a good place in his head. The breeze is dropping sooner than expected and you can see Louis is into light winds already.” Commented Herrmann’s usual co-skipper Will Harris.

    Predictions have the leaders arriving into Les Sables on the 27th January with as many as six boats arriving on the same day










    Pip Hare writes this morning, "After the events of yesterday I know I am special. I have had what I believe to be a unique Vendee Globe experience. I have been stung on the back by a Portuguese Man O War Jelly Fish. And yes, I know strictly they are not jelly fish but what ever they are, the little blighters are evil.

    I have always embraced that 'next level' concept of a challenge but I am not sure this is the direction I had in mind.

    It was as I sailed out from the last big depression that all these jellies got washed on board. There was a huge volume of water coming over the boat as I slammed off waves and although I didnt' see them at the time I noticed a whole heap of the bright blue blobs on the deck in the days afterwards. At the same time I ended up with a burn on the back of my neck. I thought it was strange as it came up suddenly and my dry top had not been irritating me but I assumed it was a reaction to the rubber neck seal and the fact I had not washed my hair for weeks so I put some cream on it, washed my hair and thought nothing more.



    Yesterday after a wonderfully productive day of onboard DIY in the sun. I lay down on my stack of sails for a quick moment to take in the evening and when I got up I noticed my back was hurting. Assuming this to be sunburn I reached around my back to feel how hot it was and was met with a big bulging blister.

    I am have a very small shore team supporting me in this race but boy, are they amazing. It just so happens that Lou, who is manages the campaign shore side while I am galivanting on the oceans, is also a medic and has practiced in Australia where these sorts of things are common. I took a photo of the blister with some difficulty it being on my back, and sent it to her. We then exchanged messages for a while wondering what the hell could have caused the burn. All the while my back got redder and the blister grew. I, linking it to the blister on my neck was busy wondering what vitamin deficiency was bringing me out in skin lesions and she was rather randomly asking me if I had been stung by anything. To which I replied, 'What? there is nothing out here.'

    Slowly the penny dropped and there must have been a Portugese man o war on the sail back I had lain on. There are several of them all over the boat, in rope bags and tucked into corners that don't drain the water in my cockpit. Little did I know they were still venomous when they are dead. I took a selfie with one the other day! I now know that I must have had a wave with one of these in it wash over my head and that is how I got the burn on the back of the neck. This is some unique sort of luck.

    So now I have what is effectively a chemical burn which I am trying to treat with my hands behind my back and I need to keep reasonably dry and clean to avoid it getting infected. Just to add a little bit of extra complication to the rest of my race. I am laughing about it, despite the pain, as I think only I could have managed to come up with such a problem on top of sailing solo around the world. This was not one of the problems that I contingency planned for. Laughing is the right response, the only other option would be to curl up in a fetal position and hoping the wind eventually blows me back to LSD.







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    The Fearsome Threesome Blaze The Path Forward





    TRACKER


    With just five days or under 2000 miles to go until the first skippers finish the ninth edition of the Vendée Globe the outcome still hangs in the balance. Today and tonight Charlie Dalin and Louis Burton of France and Germany’s Boris Herrmann have the chance of making a small but potentially decisive breakaway from the hard chasing group of six solo skippers, their small advantage could grow over the weekend. Meantime at the back of the fleet France’s Alexia Barrier and Finland’s Ari Huusela face the toughest moments of their race yet as they are set to round Cape Horn over the weekend in 40-45kt winds and big seas.







    Dalin-Burton-Herrmann are the standout trio going into the last weekend.
    If they are able to sail clear first from a high pressure ridge and connect with a small secondary low pressure system leader Charlie Dalin (Apivia), Louis Burton (Bureau Vallée 2) and Germany’s Boris Herrmann (Seaexplorer-Yacht Club de Monaco) will be rewarded by the chance to jump ahead of their rivals and perhaps establish enough of a gap to ensure they finish on the podium. But the timing to catch this little weather system is critical. Miss it and they will be left behind.




    There is still every chance that Herrmann can become the first ever non French winner of the Vendée Globe, or indeed to match the results of his close friend Briton Alex Thomson who finished second in 2016-17 and third in 2012-13, Mike Golding who was third in 2004-5 or Ellen MacArthur, runner up to Michel Desjoyeaux in 2000-2001.

    Speaking on the English Live show to Italian ocean record holder Giovanni Soldini who he has sailed more than 30,000 miles with – the equivalent of more than one lap of the planet with Herrmann warned.

    “The next hours are very critical. It could be in the next six to 12 hours the race could be pre-decided. If I can keep a good breeze and speed, I am right now doing 16-17kts, if I can keep this with a good course to the NNE and can soak into the stronger breeze to the north of this high pressure if I can line up in that breeze and keep the same distance to Charlie then that would be a big relief. The opposite here is if the wind eases off and I get stuck 70 miles behind Charlie and they get away then things would work out very differently. Thomas Ruyant, Damien Seguin and Yannick Bestaven are all on a very nice line and if I suddenly see them going 16 knots that can very quickly change the place between third and sixth place. Nothing is decided today. It is incredible to have a kind of restart five days before the finish. It is incredible. I am looking forwards to gybing north and then getting into the bigger seas 4-5 metre waves like back to sailing in the Southern Ocean a bit.”

    Race leader Charlie Dalin, just 65 miles ahead of Louis Burton this afternoon, also coolly highlighted the likelihood of "a close finish".

    "The outcome of the match is not at all clear but I will just continue to sail as well as possible". Remarked metronomically regular Dalin who has been the most consistent leader throughout the race, topping the standings on 199 rankings including today, the 75th day of racing.

    And while the next five days of racing will be the most exciting and closest watched of any edition of the Vendée Globe yet, the first boats to finish could be in the early hours of the 27th , some positions on the final podium may yet be decided by the subtraction of the time allowances allocated by the International Jury to sailors who helped in the search and rescue of Kevin Escoffier between November 30th and December 1st after Escoffier’s boat broke in two. Herrmann carries six hours to be subtracted from his race time, Yannick Bestaven 10 hours and 15 minutes and Jean Le Cam 16 hours and 15 minutes.

    Therefore the podium and other places may be decided by the subtraction of these redress times after the finish line.

    Behind the current three leaders, the pursuers are unlikely to benefit as much from the low pressure systems. “They will continue to sail to the North,” says Christian Dumard, the Vendée Globe meteorologist. “And if they can't get to the first system, they should benefit from the second system which is much larger."

    Italy’s Giancarlo Pedote (Prysmian Group), in seventh is part of this group, confirms: “We are going to continue heading north to follow the rotation of the wind. And as soon as we get out of this high pressure area, we will hook into the winds from the low to race downwind and reach to Sables-d'Olonne. Nothing is ever decided until the finish line.”

    Giovanni Soldini said :
    "Boris is a great sailor, he is maybe a little bit German but he has a nice spirit, he is a great guy and we have had a lot of experience together. I am so happy to see him going so well in the Vendée Globe. I think Boris is perfectly in the race I know he has studied very well the situation with the meteo. He has sailed a great race especially good in the Southern Ocean to come out with the perfect boat with no damage and that is the key. He works well with the boat and tries not to break anything. It is a great success to have the boat."



    Alexia Barrier and Ari Huusela, a Cape Horn worthy of their Vendée Globe
    At almost 6000 miles behind the leaders approaching Cape Horn Alexia Barrier (TSE - 4myplanet) and Ari Huusela (STARK) are facing particularly tough conditions as they prepare for a challenging exit from the Pacific Ocean after eight days of hard sailing in squalls, rain and even hail. They can expect 40-45kts of wind and five metre seas.

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    The relative silence from among the Vendée Globe leaders speaks volumes. Increasingly background activities are pared back to only what is necessary as the solo skippers devote all their energies to weather strategy, keeping fast and managing their energy reserves for what promises to be a final push, pressing tired bodies minds and boats to their limit in the pursuit of Vendée Globe victory.

    Some skippers have made it be known, after 74 days, they want a few days respite from telling their stories to focus entirely on racing, to remain in the zone. Others like third placed Thomas Ruyant yesterday showed the stress and frustration of not being able to race the last 2200 miles sprint at full competitive capacity due his missing port foil, while fifth placed Yannick Bestaven – long time leader in the south – is happy to assert that -after repairs to his furlers and other damage - he will be back at close to 100% for the final sprint.

    “Thomas is first and foremost a competitive animal who wants to be able to be giving it everything in these final days so it is frustrating to be compromised like this when you are in the heart of the battle. And knowing that the podium positions might be decided on compensated time weighs heavily in his mind. It is not at all easy for him.” Marcus Hutchinson, Ruyant’s team manager observed today.




    Bestaven told his team today, “I want to finish in the top five beyond that I know that the podium will be difficult, but it is still possible. They are not very far in front of me Thomas (Ruyant, LinkedOut) is in fourth place, not far in front of me, he is handicapped with his foil and I am faster than him; Boris (Herrmann, Seaexplorer - Yacht Club de Monaco) is going fast, he is coming back at Charlie Dalin (Apivia), and there is Louis (Burton, Bureau Vallée) who is fast out to the left, that can be interesting for him if he catches the SW’ly wind first. Everything is open and possible between us, it will be super interesting.”

    Bestaven concludes “The result will also depend on the capacity of the boats downwind, I don't know if everyone will be 100% in these conditions”

    The Maître Coq IV skipper confirmed he is missing his J2 and FRO but still has his spinnaker, a big and a small gennaker and a J3 so he will be much less handicapped downwind. As the same time he issued a reminder how important it will be to stay in the ‘normal’ rhythm as long as possible to avoid burning out before the finish. Considering that the decisive miles across the Bay of Biscay can be downwind in more than 30 knots, a wipe out due to a momentary lapse of concentration could be fatal.







    Charlie Dalin (Apivia) has seen his lead shrink to 77 miles ahead of the fast moving second placed German skipper Boris Herrmann (Seaexplorer-Yacht Club de Monaco). But meteo expert Sébastien Josse still sees a small advantage falling to Louis Burton (Bureau Vallée) who is furthest west and north. Three times Vendée Globe racer Josse, who sailed the last Vendée Globe on the IMOCA Herrmann is racing, said this morning

    “Louis can sneak around the edge and hook into a very localized corridor of southerly wind, it is quite narrow and local, but the slower Louis is the narrower the channel of wind is and the faster he is then the wider it is.“ Josse is convinced though that the skipper of Bureau Vallée 2 is the only one in the leading group to be able to benefit from this.

    But Josse adds, “It is important to correlate what is forecast on the weather files and what is happening on the water. There are still clouds, squalls, fronts and rain. You have to be eyes out of the boat, watching what is happening and sailing by feeling. It's on the deck you really see these things evolve.”

    Kojiro, the words of a totally fulfilled skipper

    “Every day at sea, I am the happiest man in the world”. Talking with Kojiro Shiraishi is guaranteed to be inspirational. The skipper is currently at the farthest point on the globe from his native Japan. And he receives dozens of messages from fans, admirers and those getting to know the Vendée Globe for the firs time
    “They all tell me that the name Vendée Globe is now known to everyone in Japan”. Says Shiraishi who had to retire into Cape Town in 2016 with a broken mast.

    “That I am still racing is a miracle as my mainsail tore. I have always been positive but I never thought it would hold out for so long so I hope now it gets to the finish. There is still a lot to do.” Shiraishi’s DMG MORI Global One is currently in 19th place in the race.
    " I just found out my nest egg has salmonella"



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