Vendee Globe – Charlie can surf

As if to prove to that his slow speeds were indeed down to a prolonged dose of light winds and not any technical problems, Vendée Globe race leader Charlie Dalin lit the afterburners on APIVIA this afternoon and enjoyed his fastest spell of his time in the last 1000 miles of the Indian Ocean, making sustained averages of more than 24 knots.

Dalin crossed the longitude of Cape Leeuwin at 1125hrs UTC this morning, leading at the second of the solo round the world race’s three great capes as he also did at the Cape of Good Hope 12 days and 7 hours previously. Thomas Ruyant (LinkedOut) crossed Leeuwin some 3 hours and 9 minutes later with Yannick Bestaven (Maître CoQ) only nine minutes after second placed Ruyant.

The top ten solo racers may be closer than in any previous Vendée Globe but this ninth edition is substantially slower than the 2016-17 edition. Dalin’s elapsed time from Les Sables d’Olonne is 34 days and 20hrs which is 6 days 1 hour and 53 minutes slower than Armel Le Cléac’h;s race record pace set en-route to winning the last Vendée Globe four years ago.

In fact, even with the leap in foiling technology, Dalin’s time to Cape Leeuwin today is the same elapsed time as Alex Thomson made in 2012 when he was in third position on his Farr-designed former HUGO BOSS, then chasing Le Cléac’h and François Gabart.

Racing on the back of a depression under Australia, Dalin, Ruyant and Bestaven all had a spell of high speed sailing this afternoon as they try to win back miles.

Bestaven has been outstanding in the Indian Ocean, making up more than 300 miles to be virtually alongside Ruyant this afternoon.

After his first attempt ended after just over 24 hours into the Bay of Biscay in the 2008 race when his mast snapped, Bestaven 47 from La Rochelle has waited 12 years to come back to the Vendée Globe. He and Kito de Pavant – who also dismasted within the same hour – can now just about smile about theirs being the shortest Vendée Globe races in history. In their misery back in Les Sables d’Olonne they bonded and have since enjoyed a history together including racing in the colours of Bastide Otivio (formerly Initiatives Coeur and originally PRB) to fifth in the 2017 Transat Jacques Vabre. Bestaven has two Class40 victories to his name on that transatlantic race.

Almost as impressive in the Indian Ocean so far has been Isabelle Joschke lying ninth on MACSF. Her course was highlighted on today’s LIVE programme by Loick Peyron as being one making consistently high average speeds and smooth trajectories.

“It is interesting to analyse the track the boats leave and they are not all the same. The foilers tend to accelerate quite suddenly and this then imposes quite sudden radical changes in the course to try and slow them. It is easier to change and modify slightly the course than it is to change the sails. So, you do see very rough tracks, Isabelle does very smooth and beautiful lines as does Jean Le Cam. It is interesting that those with the most experience of ocean racing tend to have more smooth trajectories. You do not show your talent purely by the trace you leave from your trajectory, but it is a sign. It is not the skipper who goes the fastest, that wins, it is the one who maintains the best average and consistency. It is true to win a race you have to finish it.”

Joschke responded, “Sometimes it goes fast and then it stops for a bit because you have to repair something or because the sea state is really hard to sail in and then it takes off all over again. It has been like that for a week. Quite frankly I do not know what is going to happen tomorrow and just try to manage things on a day-to-day basis. If it possible to go fast I do, but I also know that it is very wearing on myself and on my boat. I need to preserve my boat. I would say that preservation is the one word to keep in mind on this round the world race.

“Initially I was scared, really scared of the cold, of having problems in the cold and not having the resources to fix them. I have also found a sea that is much more uncomfortable than I had expected. I thought I would have more moments of enjoyment.  I have had moments, but it has been very difficult and challenging, particularly mentally. The seas have been truly chaotic and irregular. It is quite incredible. But I have discovered some stunning landscapes and a real sense of solitude. The fact that it is hard, it makes the solitude even more pronounced and the feeling of being all alone at the end of the earth. That is something that is not easy to live with but at the same time it is just so beautiful.”

Peyron was quizzed about life in the first edition of the race on which he finished second: “Are we scared of what we do not know or are we more scared of what we know? That is the question, and I was truly scared when I was sailing right up against the icebergs. I would count them, and it was a bit mad that we raced so far down, in the 60s, particularly Jean Van de Heede who faced a wall of white and had to head north for 24 hours to get out of it. We did sail slower. But I mean if you sailed into an iceberg at 10 / 12 knots it would still be like crashing into a cliff. It was truly scary but also one of the most incredible things ever, to have seen so many icebergs. Thankfully there are limitations now and they get changed and everything has moved continuously.”

Peyron spoke warmly of Le Cam and Seguin, racing side by side in fourth and fifth places. “Damien Seguin and Jean Le Cam know how to perfectly compensate for any deficits they might have in terms of physically or of age. They exploit, not by going fast all the time, but by using an economy of approach and looking after their material. That’s was is so beautiful about this Vendée Globe is that there are so many different ways of expressing themselves so differently, with different boats and different sailing styles.”

The decisions of the five strong International Jury regarding time compensations for Jean Le Cam, Yannick Bestaven and Boris Herrmann who were all involved in the rescue mission for Kevin Escoffier will be published on Wednesday. 

Suffering from a breakdown of his backup computer – his first, main computer failed off Cape Finisterre – Fabrice Amedeo confirmed he will abandon his Vendée Globe in Cape Town. On Saturday afternoon he had just over 130 miles to sail to the South African haven. Journalist turned round-the-world racer Amedeo finished 11th on the 2016-17 race but had to restart two days after the start due to a hairline crack at the top of his mast.

Over the past 24 hours, Boris Herrmann sailing on board Seaexplorer – Yacht Club de Monaco has fixed two issues regarding his sails. Firstly, he has replaced the broken batten on his mainsail and has repaired a small rip by gluing new patches on the damaged area. It was a fairly complex and time-consuming operation, which involves taking down the mainsail completely, carrying out the repair, allowing the glue to dry and finally re-hoisting the sail. Inevitably, Boris lost a few miles in this process, but his mainsail is now stable and back to its original condition.

Secondly, Boris was finally able to fix the J2 headsail. The zipper, which usually holds the front section of the sail in position, had come undone already at the entrance to the Indian Ocean. Strong winds throughout the past two weeks made this repair impossible, but a few hours ago Boris profited from lighter winds to climb up the forestay, repair the zipper and secure it with stitches. 

All his sails on board are now fully operational! Boris is tired, but extremely happy to have successfully completed all sail repairs. “It is a huge relief that all sails are now in great shape. It was mentally and physically demanding. Especially the problem with the J2 was very stressing for me over the past days, as it is an important sail here for the South and I didn’t have an opportunity to get it repaired. Now, I can finally pick up the pace again!” 

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