British hopes rise as leaders slow in New York Vendee

Alex Thomson

Alex Thomson on Hugo Boss was playing down his hopes yesterday at the same time as he was roaring back into the race. With less than 600 miles to go to the finish of the New York – Vendée (Les Sables d’Olonne) Race presented by Currency House and SpaceCode, Hugo Boss was already edging back on the two French boats ahead of him, but the latest routing from the weather files suggests even more. One model suggests he could arrive as the winner on Wednesday, June 8. The margins are so tight and wind in the Bay of Biscay so light in the coming days that nothing is certain, except that this has not become a race between two French horses.

“I don’t know whether I’m in the hunt anymore or not,” Thomson told New York – Vendée race radio yesterday at 0800 UTC. “There’s going to be a [drop in wind] Before Les Sables d’Olonne so that certainly creates opportunity. I haven’t got too many problems on board, so, I’m pretty much operating at full speed and the conditions are going to moderate from here; currently I’ve got 20-25 knots of wind and I won’t see more than this on the rest of the trip, so I guess I’m in the hunt, but I think there would have to be some luck involved. [Something would have to happen to the others] to have a chance of winning and I wouldn’t wish that on anyone.”

Overnight Jérémie Beyou (Maître CoQ) had extended his slender 5-mile lead over Sébastien Josse (Edmond de Rothschild) to almost 18 miles and over Thomson by 20 to 65.5. But by Josse had cut that to 12.1 miles and Thomson had taken 11.5 miles back by 1530 UTC and in still solid southwesterlies all three were averaging around 18-19 knots.

In reaction to Beyou saying Thomson “perhaps went a little too far north”, Thomson said: “My positioning is where I ended after my autopilot problem (that caused him to crash tack overnight from Thursday to Friday), I haven’t really had much a choice. [There was] a slowdown the night before last just before the low pressure formed, so, yeah, I didn’t have too much of a choice. Would I rather be where he (Beyou) is? Yes I would.”

But now it is possible being north will help him. The routing suggests Thomson has to climb north-east almost to the latitude of Brest before coming down to Les Sables d’Olonne. On Saturday the forecast suggested that being more southerly and closer to the coast of Spain would favour Beyou and Josse, but they will now have to weave their way through the Bay of Biscay. Conditions there from Tuesday will be exceedingly tricky for all three boats with under 5 knots of wind.

As he explained the cause and effects of his crash tack in 40 knots from Thursday to Friday, that cost him the lead of the race he had held for four days, Thomson said that although it was stressful he had just suffered more g-force whilst he was live on air. “It’s funny you mention that, because I just went down a wave at 28 knots and I’m sat in the doorway and at the bottom of the wave we stopped and I was nearly hurled forwards; the g-force is ridiculous when you go down a wave and the bow ploughs in front,” he said. “During the crash tack it wasn’t so bad. [but] yes, it’s stressful, I’m very aware that without the autopilot I can’t go anywhere. Although I lost 80 miles during that night and it hurt me yesterday, at least I got through it.”

At the other end of the fleet the Dutchman, Pieter Heerema (No Way Back), in last place explained his notable slowdown as he lost ground to the New Zealander, Conrad Colman (100% Natural Energy). Heerema wrote in an email: “Boat is ok, I did not feel well last night, so took it easy and slow, slept a lot. Still a big headache.” And over 2,200 miles to go.

In the middle of the fleet, Vincent Riou on PRB has re-started in seventh place after a pit-stop in the shelter of the port of Horta on Faial in the Azores. Riou had to repair a leak and had some power issues and was slightly longer than the eight hours he had hoped for, stopping for just over 12 hours from 2000 UTC on Saturday to 0815 UTC on Sunday.

Update on ETAs

– Night of Tuesday 7th to Wednesday 8th June (or 8th in the morning) : Maître CoQ, Edmond de Rothschild, Hugo Boss
– Thursday 9th June in the afternoon : SMA and Spirit of Yukoh
– Night of Thursday 9th to Friday 10th June : Initiatives Cœur
– 10th June : PRB, Newrest Matmut
– 11th June : StMichel – Virbac, Quéguiner – Leucémie Espoir, Safran
– 12th June : 100% Natural Energy, No Way Back

Race Yachts