Vendee Globe Day 4: Where's the best place to be today?

Perhaps it will be a question asked for years to come. ‘Where were you when you heard the 2016 US Election result?' Twenty eight solo ocean racers might reply with their specific memories of being all at sea, between the Portuguese coast and Madeira, competing in the early stages of the Vendée Globe solo ocean race around the world. But only one, Armel Le Cléac'h will be able to say he was leading.

Approaching Madeira, which the leaders should pass in the small hours of Thursday, the middle ground, direct course continued to work for the pacemaker. But the Banque Populaire solo skipper has seen his lead shrink slightly as he tries to hold his distance ahead of a chasing pack which are pushing each other hard in the light to moderate breezes.

For Le Cléac'h it is key to get south of Madeira with a margin intact, knowing that first into the NE Trade winds will accelerate away. The Azores high pressure, and the fickle, unsettled winds it produces has proven hard to escape.

The leading group of eight are within 30 miles of each other, the lateral spread at 120 miles between Le Cléac'h and British skipper Alex Thomson (Hugo Boss) in eighth. The pace to Madeira remains slightly quicker than that of the 2012-13 race when François Gabart was at approximately the same point in some four days, compared to the three days of Le Cléac'h who was Gabart's principal rival all the way round the globe in that race. Once into the trade winds the average speeds should be higher – 450 mile days commonplace for the foilers – and so the Equator should certainly take less than ten days. If the weather models prove true that should mean one new record on this race from the outset.

Placings behind Banque Populaire VIII have changed through this historic Wednesday. In the lighter airs – 8-12kts – it seems local choices, finding lanes of extra breeze has been more important than boat speed. Gains and losses have been irrespective of whether the IMOCA has hydrofoil daggerboards or not.

Sébastien Josse's investment to the west has paid slightly and his Edmond de Rothschild was up to second place. Paul Meilhat on SMA improved overnight from seventh to second, then third. A gybe to the east dropped Jean-Pierre Dick to fourth. Thomson has held eighth through the day but has been as quick as the leaders, gained a little westing back and with it six miles on Le Cléac'h.  

Conrad Colman, 17th, conceded a place to his nearest rival Louis Burton, as the solo skipper of Foresight Natural Energy, sought to make more south, a more direct route out of the high. “I am loving it out here. I really am. It is great being at sea, getting to know the boat after three weeks not sailing together. It took a little while to get into the groove. But I think it is going really well. I am happy. All of the top teams have spent time testing against each other. They know how fast they go. They all know each other and are playing chess with each other. The smaller teams have not really faced off against each other. So it's good to be able to learn against Louis who has a slightly newer boat, a little bit faster, and so to be able to hang on to him is great. The boat is going well. At the moment we have 14kts of wind, sailing with the J1 which is not a typical J1. It is a more rounded, reaching sail. So as you will see on the tracker I have split from Louis and am heading more to the south to get a better passage through the ridge. I am hoping that will work out for me.

A new bigger alternator for Didac Costa

The One Planet One Ocean team have fitted a new, bigger alternator to the engine. The engine itself has been stripped and rebuilt by the engineer recommended by the Les Sables d'Olonne fire service personnel, who have shown huge solidarity with their Catalan counterpart. Costa is expected to leave Thursday or Friday morning. He said, “It would have been impossible to achieve this without the help and solidarity of other teams and especially without the help of the fire department of Les Sables d'Olonne that has turned to help us.


1.5 million visitors: the Vendée Globe Village has smashed all the records for visitor numbers   1.5 million visitors in the Vendée Globe Village, or more than 300,000 visitors in the first week, 380,000 in the second week and 450,000 in week three, with 350,000 on the day of the start. The official Vendée Globe Village in Port-Olona has smashed all previous records. Yves Auvinet, President of the Vendée Globe and the Vendée Council announced these figures today illustrating once again the huge success of this eighth edition in terms of media and visitor numbers for the start (almost 1500 journalists were present).

Yves Auvinet declared, “Almost 1.5 million visitors came to the Village in Les Sables d'Olonne during the three weeks before the big day and the day itself. That is a new record for visitor numbers, confirming the position of the Vendée Globe as a leading popular event for visitors and the media. These excellent figures are of course linked to the presence of the 29 magnificent monohulls and the fact that their skippers made themselves available, but it is also because of the many events and exhibitions on show in the Village. The summer weather which prevailed in Vendée during these three weeks also played its part. These numbers are a good omen for the future of the event and we can look forward to a huge welcome when the sailors finish.


Quotes   Yann Eliès (Quéginer Leucémie Espoir) – “If we look at the tracker we can see we're fairly close to each other. We're more or less all lined up from East to West. Whoever gets across the ridge of high pressure will be the first to pick up the trade winds and extend their lead. But for the moment there are about ten boats all together here. The problem with the routing I have is that we go straight across Madeira. In other words once out of the ridge, we will the have to deal with how to get around the islands.” “We've still got some stuff from dry land. I have some fruit, bread and some fresh produce, but it's getting to be a rarity, so I opened my first bag of food. It's a bit of a mix at the moment between life ashore and life at sea. So we're easing into that, but in terms of the conditions, the first night that was difficult, but it's nice weather here and we didn't suffer from the cold. I think I have finished with the boots for now and have taken off a few layers, even if I'm not yet in my t-shirt.

Sébastien Destremau (TechnoFirst – faceOcean):A lot of DIY to do this morning (hydro-generator and mast heel) before shaking out the two reefs, stowing the J3 and unfurling the A7 (the furler is just not working, so will require attention). During the night we had thirty knot headwinds, which shook us up a bit. We couldn't get away from the coast of Portugal, as we were upwind, so we had to watch out for all the shipping. But now it's fine with ten knots of wind, allowing us to sail on a bearing of 225°. We're not going very fast, but we don't care about that. I have to get the repair jobs done. The sea is still bumpy, but should calm down. As for my finger, it's gradually getting better. But we need to use both hands on these boats, so I get the impression that the cut opens up all the time, but the strip seems to be doing its job and it's not bleeding.

1 – BANQUE POPULAIRE VIII (ARMEL LE CLEAC'H) – 23497 nm distance to finish 2 – EDMOND DE ROTHSCHILD (SEBASTIEN JOSSE) – 16,51 nm distance to leader
3 -SMA (PAUL MEILHAT) – 17,99 nm distance to leader
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