Back to the future, Bestaven first across the Antimeridian

Yannick Bestaven, who has been at the front of the fleet for four days, passed the Antimeridian at 1337hrs UTC this Sunday afternoon with his lead now extended to 120 nautical miles over second placed Charlie Dalin.

Of the mental milestones that the Vendée Globe skippers tick off along the 24,410 nautical miles solo race round the world, the Antimeridian – or 180th Meridian – is a significant boost to morale. It is there that they see their longitude start to drop from 180 and emotionally each degree feels closer to home and to the Les Sables d’Olonne finish line at 1.799 W. 

Bestaven has had the advantage of staying in the better breeze than Dalin and third placed Thomas Ruyant but this looks set to be a complicated week ahead for the leaders as a high pressure will block their path midweek which could require something of a detour north to find better wind and in fact they might find themselves sailing upwind for a period just before Christmas.

The second part of this ninth edition of the Vendée Globe looks set to offer even more tension and excitement with the prospect of the top 11 skippers being within 800 nautical miles of each other at Cape Horn around the 31st December or the first day of 2021.

Consider that the last two editions have seen either the leader or pair of leaders more than that distance ahead of the third placed boat and the climb up the Atlantic in January promises to be a sporting spectacular.

And on his new scow-bowed Manuard design, Armel Tripon, presently 14th on the standings. is on the hunt, seemingly always in a beneficial wind regime which is allowing him to consistently pull back miles on those immediately in front of him, “It's a different phase (for the leaders) now until Cape Horn, the cards can still be redistributed but of course there will be opportunities until the end.”

Burton At Macquarie

After arriving in the lee of the remote mist-shrouded Macquarie Island, 840 miles south east of Tasmania, this morning (European time) Louis Burton climbed the 28 metre mast of Bureau Vallée 2 as it drifted gently offshore. He went up at 11.18hrs UTC and returned to the deck after two very hard, chilly hours during which he accomplished a partial repair to the mast track damage which had been preventing him from using his mainsail to its full hoist since early in the Indian Ocean. He reported to his team that as he drifted offshore the seas had become too rough to continue his work to finish the repair and deal with the electronics problem he had there too. And so the skipper from Saint Malo was considering anchoring in Lusitania Bay, which is much more protected but always involves more risk, anchoring and retrieving an anchor unassisted.

With less than 100 miles to go the young Swiss skipper Alan Roura will be the next to pass Cape Leeuwin in 15th place. Britain’s Pip Hare is having a fantastic race right now, profiting in the stronger winds on her first time ever in the Southern Ocean. She has closed miles on Les Sables d’Olonne’s Arnaud Boissières who is on a newer boat and is on his fourth consecutive Vendée Globe and she has also moved more than 60 miles clear of Didac Costa who is on his second consecutive Vendée Globe and third round the world race in five years – as is Jean Le Cam who has been a mentor to the Catalan skipper as he has also to Damien Seguin and Benjamin Dutreux. While Hare may be a newcomer to the south, her Medallia, a 20-year-old Pierre Rolland design, knows its own way as this is its fifth racing circumnavigation, the last time in the hands of Roura who is only 453 nautical miles ahead.

Isabelle Autissier, the first woman to complete a solo round the world race, was the guest on the French Live show today, Isabelle Autissier, on the French LIVE.

The legendary pioneer has sailed around the world four times, including once in the Vendée Globe, in the terrifying 1996-1997 race, when out of the fifteen boats that set off, only six finished the race. That was the race which saw Gerry Roufs lost at sea. Autissier spent a long time looking for him in hellish seas in the Pacific. Out of the official race after a pit stop in Cape Town to repair a damaged rudder, she went back to complete the course – as Sam Davies is inspired to do now – arriving ‘hors course’ back in Les Sables d’Olonne after 105 days with a lot of memories. “I knew I would only do that race once. The Vendée Globe is something that has to be earned.”

Today Autissier remarked, “This is a pretty incredible race. I do not recall having ever seen one likes this, and I have followed them all, with so many different battles going on and such a big bunch together in the lead. The speeds are just amazing. I did the Vendée Globe a long time ago now and then I thought we were going fast, but today it is just incredible, there is no comparison. I am happy to see that there have not been too many breakages, some of course, but I see that the sailors are all very capable and able to fix things, which is pretty impressive because it shows the boats are strong and safe.”

A staunch advocate for ocean health, she commented, “In my role as president of WWF France, we work hard to protect the remote areas the fleet goes through like the Kergeulen Islands. Earth is the only planet with an ocean, and it is the ocean that gives life to Earth. We depend on the ocean for the health of our planet and we must protect her. It is of the utmost importance to us; it provides 50% our oxygen through the plankton and it regulates the temperature of our planet. If ultimately, we do not respect it, it will be us who suffer in the long term. We need to look at it from the climate change perspective, the fishing, plastic pollution and there is just a lot to do.”

Talking of Davies she said, “I did send a message to Sam when she was in Cape Town saying that it was a real opportunity to complete her journey and that she would enjoy doing the full trip, like I did when it happened to me.  For me it was a real pleasure to be able to finish it, and I did not have the pressure to race, which at the time was quite tough as I was among the favourites in third place when it happened, but after I set off again full pelt and complete at one with the boat and the sea. I got the welcome in the Sables d’Olonne, when I finished 24 hours after the first, as if I were second overall. I am watching Sam and she will finish her race around the world.”

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