The first three Vendée Globe boats are into the Pacific Ocean today and have passed the midpoint of the 24410 nautical miles race-course around the world.
Yannick Bestaven, the skipper of Maître Coq IV, who has had a very consistent race since the start, has held the lead for over 24 hours now, more than 100 miles up on Thomas Ruyant on LinkedOut who had to stop for several hours last night when his bow compartment filled up when he was asleep.
Thankfully for Ruyant this time the problem was nothing that his high powered suction pumps could not cope with. Racing at more than 25 knots the pressure of water over the deck had prised open the locking handles and water flooded the forward compartment for 30 minutes.
But the skipper from the north of France admitted he had had a few frightening moments when he thought he was in for a repeat of his 2016 race when his IMOCA nearly broke in half four years ago nearly to the day.
The three leaders have been stretching away from the second group, the peloton. Jean Le Cam narrowly out in front of this pack of five boats is now nearly 500 miles behind Bestaven. Speaking on the Vendée Globe Live show Le Cam admitted the intensity of racing boat for boat with his four rivals was wearing,
“A couple days ago, I was within sight of four other boats. But seeing everyone on the AIS like this now is tiring. I prefer there to be some distance between us. They’re a bit further south now and I’m a bit further north. I hope to stay with the front. I have to push hard to do that,” said Le Cam.
Kevin Escoffier, the skipper rescued from the South Indian Ocean by Le Cam was in Les Sables d’Olonne today to visit the Race HQ and give his thanks to Race Direction for their role in his rescue.
Speaking on the English show, Escoffier recalled how little time he had to get off PRB and how his safety grab bag was too low in the hull, already under water and sealed according to the rules, as well as tied down, making it too inaccessible to cut free. Hence he entered his liferaft with nothing but his survival suit. It was only minutes between the time he messaged his team and being washed off the broken boat.
“I know how long it takes to put on the survival suit and I know that I sent the text to my team at 1446hrs and they responded to me at 1447hrs. There was one minute, and I never saw their reply. In one minute I had the time to go inside to grab my survival suit and send the text and in that time everything inside the boat was floating.”
He added, “I inflated the liferaft but it was already under water as it was on the floor of the cockpit. I grabbed it to put it on the deck and a wave took me and the liferaft. In my case the safety equipment was lying on the bottom of the boat. It should be in the middle of the boat (ie in height off the floor). As if you lose the keel bulb as Jean did in 2008 then you may grab it, but it has to be not too low nor too high. You need to be able to grab it in a hurry. Due to the seals (the safety bag is sealed so that it cannot be moved as ‘stacked’ ballast). So what we did before was put some tape and lashings around it. But here you have to cut everything and in my case it was already under the water, I was trying to cut it free with a knife but it was taking me way too much time. And so I preferred to go and get my life raft and make sure I could do that safely.”
Asked about his future hopes and plans he smiled. “I was reading an article in the media with Jean Jacques Laurent (MD of PRB) saying I will be in the Vendée Globe in 2024 so I am looking forward to talking to him! If he is confident, I am confident as well.”
Burton to repair at Macquarie island
Louis Burton, the solo skipper of eighth placed Bureau Vallée 2, plans to stop to make repairs at the tiny, remote Macquarie Island in the Southwestern Pacific this weekend. The 15 miles long island is close to his route eastwards and a short parenthesis, he hopes, would allow him to climb his mast and make repairs to his mast track and to the other damages which are compromising his speed potential.
Burton, 35, from Saint Malo, was up in second place chasing leader Charlie Dalin just 11 days ago but problems with his autopilots caused a wipeout gybe which then caused a series of damages. His other problems besides the mainsail track which has required him to sail since then with two reefs in his main, are with his halyard hooks and his J2 is also damaged. And so, frustrated by his inability to push his boat hard to stay with the group of five boats he is racing close to, he has decided that his best option is to halt briefly. He must do so unassisted and so anchoring can be an extremely hazardous operation. If a mooring exists, he may attach himself to it but again he has to do so entirely on his own.
Burton explained this morning: “I shall be stopping off Macquarie Island, as I need to climb to the top of the mast with the mainsail down. I have tried several times, but the problem is there is always a residual swell and because I had to get the mainsail down on the deck, there was no support and I got whacked in the face each time. So, it was impossible. My idea is to go and shelter to the east of Macquarie Island, which is 300 metres high in some places, so that should protect me from the wind and swell.
“I shall be arriving from the north sailing straight along it close to the coast, just with my J3 so that I can go up the mast to cut away the mast track, which is damaged and then replace it. Then, I’ll climb to the very top, as the hooks are broken. I shall be setting up attachment points to fix a classic halyard for the mainsail, so that I will be able to use my mainsail correctly.
The island is 15 miles long, so if I take it slowly, that should give me three hours. It is a well-protected animal reserve with some very rare species. If I can avoid having to drop anchor in the bay, it would be better. I think I should be able to carry out this work between Saturday evening and Sunday morning. I can only use my mainsail with two reefs. I should be able to hoist it a bit more, but as the track has pulled away, I can’t tauten it. It’s like a sack of tatties. It’s horrible, as I can’t get my speed up. At the worse, I’ll lose 4-5 hours, but afterwards, I should get a boat that is more or less operational again.”