Vendee Globe – Bestaven looking to land a big Christmas bonus

Leader Yannick Bestaven is being forced to play chicken with the Vendée Globe’s ice zone limit in the South Pacific as he seeks to extricate his Maître CoQ IV first from a frustrating anticyclone which is offering unusually light to moderate breezes even though they are racing at 55 degrees south. Bestaven has seen his margin eroded to 84 miles by Figaro one-design ace Charlie Dalin while Thomas Ruyant is also about 80 miles behind.

The problem all three leaders face is that the centre of the system is moving east at more or less the same speed as they are. But if Bestaven can wriggle clear and his pursuers remain snared then the leader could hit the jackpot, gaining an advance of many hundreds of miles. Bestaven took himself to within 3.4 nautical of the virtual line today before he gybed back north-eastwards, all the time trying to stay as far south as he could where the winds are strongest.

Charlie Dalin, in second, admitted that the stress of the scenario was keeping him awake during a phase he really needs to be maximising his rest. Speaking on the Vendée Globe English Live show today, in the dark during the Southern Pacific Ocean night, Dalin said, “I am under a high level of pressure because my 90 miles deficit to Maitre Coq could transform into 1000 miles if I cannot manage to outrace this high pressure. I am under a lot of stress, trying to sail as hard as I can to be able to stay east of this high pressure centre, which will travel towards us in the next couple of days. It is really stressful because I know that if I don’t manage I could end up in a different system to Yannick and lose a lot of ground.”

He affirms, “The weather we have in the Pacific is weird, I feel like I am more sailing a Figaro leg than the Vendée Globe. It is full on racing at the moment. I have got as many square metres of sail up that I can have up. It is really weird. Before the start of the race I was not expecting to be sailing like this at 55 degrees south. 

“It Is always easier to sleep at night and so I should be asleep right now. But it is keeping me awake. It is hard to find the balance in the long term because when the wind starts to get light then I know I will have to be in top shape. So it is not an easy compromise to find between getting some rest and trimming the boat to be as fast as possible.”

Arriving later towards the centre of the high, the second wave is led by Boris Herrmann (SeaExplorer-Yacht Club de Monaco) and right now is watching closely to see if the three leaders can get out of the system. “We are the hunters for sure right now. Our question is whether they will escape or we all end up in the same system.”

It is the first six skippers, Bestaven, Dalin, Ruyant, Herrmann, Le Cam and rookie Benjamin Dutreux who are most affected by this area of weak and erratic wind. Behind them the systems are aligning to offer a significant catch up in a strong north westerly flow. “There will be a regrouping they will come back strong from behind, it is a little annoying but it is all part of the game,” noted Dutreux.

Groupe Apicil’s Damien Seguin is fighting hard to make the best of any possible comeback: “I have the opportunity to come back. I am ready to fight. I'm waiting for the right time.”

After his stop at Macquarie Island, Louis Burton is in fighting spirits, ready to press as hard as he can to regain lost miles. Having been up to second in the South Indian Ocean before his damage, the skipper from Saint Malo is focused on giving his all in pursuit of the top five finish which was his pre-start target.

And the best in the South Pacific had been consistently Armel Tripon on L’Occitane in Provence. He posted the best average speed of the fleet today: 446 miles 24 hours compared to just 257 for Thomas Ruyant.

“Numbers speak louder than words,” Tripon wrote this morning after entering the South Pacific. “To my right, Antarctica, an immense continent that I dream of seeing up close one day, and in front of me, far, very far, Cape Horn! Between us, a gigantic ocean and in front a whole lot of tiny boats I dream of overtaking!” 

One part of that dream seems sure to come true.

Spain’s Didac Costa: The passage of Cape Leeuwin as his 40th Birthday present. The Barcelona firefighter who is currently in 19th position celebrated his 40th birthday today and should cross Cape Leeuwin before midnight on the ex-Kingfisher of Ellen MacArthur with whom she won the Route du Rhum 2002. Didac, who raced his 2016-17 race largely on his own under Australia, fighting mainsail and technical issues, is fighting in a bunch of five IMOCAs in a match which is as exciting as at the top of the fleet. He is tussling all the time with the British skipper Pip Hare, Stéphane Le Diraison, Manu Cousin and Arnaud Boissières, who is the the leader of the small posse. 


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