• Sunset aboard Seaexplorer - YC de Monaco - © Boris Herrmann / Seaexplorer - YC de Monaco
    Sunset aboard Seaexplorer - YC de Monaco - © Boris Herrmann / Seaexplorer - YC de Monaco
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As he leads onto the trade winds motorway down the Atlantic,  between the Canary Islands and the Cape Verdes, British skipper Alex Thomson is expected to increase his lead at the head of the fleet as his foiling Hugo Boss hits its stride.

Accelerating through the day, Thomson has shaken off veteran Jean Le Cam, averaging two knots faster, and is the only skipper in the race to have sailed more than 380 nautical miles in the last 24 hours.

North-easterly trade winds of 20-22kts are expected to blow for Thomson and the leading peloton over the coming days. Sunday, one week into the race, has offered many skippers in the top group the chance to take essential time to look after themselves, to wash, to make a ‘treat’ meal or drinks, to change into fresh clothes, as they prepare for what will still be a demanding, active period, even if it is a boatspeed drag race on port gybe for several days.

“You can’t forget the trade winds are not as stable as you maybe think, the direction still changes ten to fifteen degrees and the wind will go up and down, there are still gusts and so you have to be attentive and there will be a lot of trimming to do,” cautioned Seb Josse, who is serving as one of the Vendée Globe’s meteo advisers.

Skippers today expressed their admiration for Thomson’s race so far. 

“He has mastered the start of this race perfectly with his ingenious, efficient and well-prepared boat,” commented guest of the Vendée LIVE French show this afternoon. “Alex is going to take the fast train south and that can quickly turn into a big lead,” notes Thomas Ruyant from fourth placed LinkedOut at over 120 miles behind Thomson.  “And Alex is hungry for it, but so am I.”

One of the pre-race favourites Charlie Dalin, in sixth at 168 miles adrift of HUGO BOSS, wants to stay in the match but acknowledged: "My decision to move out west was because the storm was too early on into the race to take any risks and I did the calculation of what I could afford to lose and try and make up, Alex went full on in the Theta depression and that can give him to make a big margin," Dalin, the Apivia skipper chuckled on the live show "Wait for me guys, I am stoking up the coal, I'm coming! "

HUGO BOSS is due at the latitude of the Cape Verde islands tomorrow and is expected to pass the doldrums on Tuesday. According to Vendée Globe weather specialist Christian Dumard the leaders may be treated to a relatively straightforward crossing into the Southern Hemisphere.

At the Port Olona pontoon in Les Sables d’Olonne, the technical team of experts have been working round the clock onboard Charal, the damaged IMOCA of Jérémie Beyou, aiming to have it ready for Beyou to return to the course. A press conference is planned for 1700hrs CET Monday to announce the decision.

Japanese skipper Koji Shiraishi has managed to lower his damaged mainsail on his DMG MORI and is evaluating the options to repair the tear.

TREATS ALL ROUND

Skippers have been rewarding themselves as they break into warmer climes. "It has been the first day with some time for me, it feels good," admitted third placed Benjamin Dutreux (OMIA - Water Family). “I have been on the terrace (cockpit) having a good coffee.”  Each has enjoyed their own way of  treating themselves, Alan Roura (La Fabrique) had his first shower, 1 litre of salt water then 1 litre of fresh water. Yannick Bestaven (Maître CoQ IV) took the time to listen to a "rock" playlist, Boris Herrmann "had a little aperitif and called up his friends".

Damien Seguin, slept seven hours last night, treated himself to a small feast with Parmentier hash and Beaufort cheese. Sunday morning, Manuel Cousin (SÉTIN Group) started the day with a good roasted coffee - “just like at home” - and a piece of chocolate from a chocolate maker sponsor. Clarisse Crémer (Banque Populaire X), too, looked more relaxed. On the deck of her IMOCA she was appreciating the beautiful seascape, "This is the picture postcard image that you have in your mind of ocean racing,” said the skipper who admitted to being ‘a bit freaked out’ by the prospect of dicing with the storm Theta, “It feels good to have a lighter heart!"

BEYOU'S RETURN

On a chill, grey November afternoon a drawn and disappointed Jérémie Beyou was touched by the size and warmth of the welcome afforded to the French skipper on his premature return to Les Sables d’Olonne with his damaged Chara.

Forced to return 600 miles back to the start port after his IMOCA was damaged on the third day of racing, hundreds of local fans turned out to see the 44 year old return down the famous channel. At a brief, carefully choregraphed, distanced reunion with selected media, Beyou made it clear he wanta to return to the race course if the damage to his boat can be 100% repaired.

“If technically it can be done, the plan is to go. That is the objective,” stated an emotional Beyou beside his black and silver hulled Charal. “I really want to go, that is not the issue, I want to maintain this frame of mind. I will be 3,000 miles behind so it is no longer a race, but we will see.”

Underlining the urgency to have the boat ready as quickly as possible there was a diver in the water as the IMOCA docked to evaluate the underwater surfaces following the strike by a floating object, the cockpit was quickly covered to facilitate the composite repairs required and the damaged rudder was quickly removed.

“I am convinced that we will try and fix it, but the devil is in the detail. I see that everyone is here. The designers, the builders, all the experts and shore team will collaborate and so we will know within 24 hours. Then we will take a decision.”

The start line closes on Wednesday 18th at 1420hrs, ten days after last Sunday’s start.

“Stopping was brutal for me.” He recalled, his voice shaking at the memory.
See here for the full text

“I hope Jeremy re-starts and I hope it is good for him. You just never know on this race,” commented Mike Golding on the Vendée Globe LIVE show today. Golding was dismasted hours into the 2000-2001 race and restarted a week behind the fleet going on to finish seventh, setting several records in the Southern Ocean, some of which still stand today.

TRIPON'S MAST CLIMB

Armel Tripon climbed the fifteen metres up the mast on board L’Occitane en Provence on Friday to re fix his J3 sail and secure the rig. The dangerous operation is now carried out and he is able to use his mainsail and set the headsails fitted to the top of the mast.

"I just went up the mast and now the monkey descend! I was knocked around a bit on the rolling sea for about an hour and found myself hanging on like a chimpanzee around a tree. Once down I felt numb with my muscles completely strung out. I am not too battered as I used knee pads and protective gear. The good thing is that I have succeeded and can now use my mainsail and set the spinnaker. There is still some work on the repair to be done but I am able to sail and must savour that so am very happy!”

"The race goes on!”

Armel Tripon has never lost morale despite the damage that has meant he is not fighting it out with the leaders of the race, feels very pumped up following this successful repair. He has fallen behind the leaders who are one weather system ahead. "I'm expecting to be possibly 1,000 miles behind in the Doldrums, because the boats ahead have had Theta and it will take 24 hours to get out of the area of light winds. But I knew it, it's the hard law of sport and when I think of Jérémie (Beyou, who has turned back towards Les Sables-d'Olonne) I can't complain. The road is very long, there will be opportunities... and the race goes on, that's the main thing!”

Understanding the damage and the key repair

In order to fully understand the operation, what has been done and why - as well as what ideally remains to be done - here is a summary of the successive stages:

  1. The damage: the Hook of J3 gave way as the boats were heading towards the front off Portugal. This sail, whose forestay plays a structural role in the rigging, fell to deck. L'Occitane en Provence could therefore no longer use any of the foresails in order to not risk dismasting. Armel turned back to preserve the boat and then considered finding an anchorage in Spain to attempt repairs.
  2. On the same day following and following careful a solution to repair at sea was taken. Armel resumed the Vendée Globe race-course and as a precaution reduced sail and continued at relatively low speed so as not to risk dismasting. The constant worry of dismasting would keep him on the tip of his toes at all times.
  3. A successful first ascent up the mast was completed on Friday. Armel has managed to re-set a sail which now holds the boat's mast in place and prevents it from going aft (which is a major function of the broken J3). Armel is now able to sail normally once again and raise a sail to the top of the mast. The main and full spinnaker can now be used to extricate himself from the area of light winds (8 knots of wind in the area at the time of the repair on Friday).

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