Vendee Globe: Leaders back in the fast lane

Conditions stabilise over the front part of the fleet

Wednesday December 19th 2012, Author: James Boyd, Location: none selected

With the depression formerly known as Cyclone Claudia now over the Australia East icegate, so the lead duo are back into strong northwesterlies ahead of it, making 20+ knot speeds. Meanwhile third placed Jean-Pierre Dick on Virbac Paprec 3 has been nailed by it, the system rolling across his path.

Image above courtesy of Expedition with GRIB files from Predictwind

Positions at 0800 UTC

Pos Skipper Boat Lat Long Spd Crs VMG Spd Dist DTF DTL
          1 hour aver     24hr aver      
 1 François Gabart MACIF 49°09.59'S 156°08.84'E 20.2 102° 20 15.4 368.4 12095.7 0
 2 Armel Le Cléac'h Banque Pop 49°25.70'S 155°46.19'E 20.4 98° 20 14.4 346.7 12104.3 8.6
 3 Jean-Pierre Dick Virbac 50°03.53'S 142°08.06'E 16.5 70° 16.5 10.9 260.6 12589.2 493.6
 4 Alex Thomson Hugo Boss 46°36.94'S 135°20.63'E 19 101° 18 15.7 376.1 12920.3 824.7
 5 Bernard Stamm Cheminees 46°13.46'S 135°21.31'E 18.6 105° 18 16.8 403.8 12931.5 835.9
 6 Jean Le Cam SynerCiel 46°41.98'S 115°40.28'E 7.6 124° 7.4 11.8 282 13636.2 1540.5
 7 Mike  Golding Gamesa 46°59.11'S 110°22.70'E 13.2 100° 13 11.1 265.5 13834 1738.4
 8 Dominique Wavre Mirabaud 45°11.30'S 108°13.37'E 16.8 96° 16 14.7 353 13957.7 1862
 9 Javier Sanso Acciona 46°36.96'S 105°37.99'E 19.5 108° 19.4 16.9 405.5 14024.6 1929
 10 Arnaud  Boissières Akena Verandas 41°40.37'S 93°30.44'E 15.9 79° 11.8 15.1 362.7 14622.9 2527.2
 11 Bertrand De Broc Votre nom 40°17.75'S 83°23.20'E 15.5 114° 15.5 14.1 337.7 15061 2965.3
 12 Tanguy  Delamotte Initiatives Coeur 40°33.77'S 76°47.20'E 10.4 103° 8.2 13.5 324.4 15353.4 3257.8
 13 Alessandro Di Benedetto Team Plastique 41°48.46'S 59°08.93'E 10 119° 8.6 8.2 195.6 16145.1 4049.5
RET Vincent  Riou PRB Damage to hull and lower shroud after collision with drifting buoy (24 Nov)  
RET Zbigniew Gutowski  Energa Autopilot failure (21 Nov)            
RET Jérémie Beyou Maitre CoQ Broken hydraulic ram (19 Nov)            
RET Sam Davies Saveol Dismasted (15 Nov)              
RET Louis Burton Bureau Vallee Rammed by a fishing boat, rigging damage (14 Nov)        
RET Kito de Pavant Groupe Bel Rammed by a fishing boat, hull damage (12 Nov)        
RET Marc Guillemot Safran Titanium keel broke (10 Nov)            

Overnight Francois Gabart on MACIF has regained the lead of the Vendee Globe after Armel le Cleac'h and Banque Populaire took it back for the day yesterday. Incredibly at pretty much the half way stage of this Vendee Globe the two sisterships are separated by jut 8 miles. 

The duo are currently mid-way across the southern part of the Tasman Sea between Australia and New Zealand. With the on-set of the NNWerly wind ahead of the depression, so both gybed on to their present course late afternoon yesterday. Having been relatively slow yesterday afternoon waiting for the new breeze to arrive, so overnight it has built to 35 knots and with it their boat speeds have soared into the 20s.

MACIF and Banque Populaire should remain in the strong breeze for the next day as they pass the Auckland Islands to the south of New Zealand but then the depression is forecast to be heading more south than east and the leaders will find the breeze still favourable but dropping as they approach the New Zealand icegate on Friday.

Meanwhile Jean-Pierre Dick on Virbac Paprec 3 has been having a miserable time for more reasons than just the weather. The depression has passed ahead of him causing the breeze to swing on to the nose overnight (UTC). With the depression moving from port to starboard across his bow, fortunately he is now west of its centre with the wind having veered into the south. He should be able to get back up to speed today having just crossed the Australia East ice gate.

Amid all of this, he revealed that the tang up the mast for the smaller downwind headsails has broken and to fix this required him to scale the mast last night (day time down there) for two hours.

"For several days I was waiting for a weather window to climb the mast," Dick reported. "This type of operation is dangerous, but I had no choice. You're all alone, it's windy there's a big sea andto top it all, it's cold and you're in the Furious 50s. I waited for a lull. I put Virbac-Paprec 3 downwind and slowed her to 12 knots. The ascent and descent were both perilous. You are being swung in all directions. But I managed to replace the broken part.

"I am very happy to have done that because there is little opportunity in this area to be an acrobat in the air. Virbac-Paprec 3 is now back up to her potential. It is a good thing for the rest of the race."

Behind, Alex Thomson on Hugo Boss and Bernard Stamm on Cheminees Poujoulat have had an all-too-brief moment riding the northwesterlies ahead of the depression now approaching the leaders. During this the powerful Cheminees Poujoulat was generally sailing several knots faster than Thomson's older generation boat and as a result has closed to within 10 miles of Hugo Boss at the latest sched. They have both regained ground on the lead duo with Hugo Boss 824 miles astern (it was 809 at the 0400 sched) compared to 863 at the same time yesterday. However they have now been overtaken by the front with the wind having backed into the southwest causing the usual post-frontal confused sea state. They look like they have three days or so of solid westerlies to get them to New Zealand.

Another 700 miles astern, the oldies are awaiting the onset of the next depression as they pass the Australia West icegate. Still ahead, Jean le Cam on SynerCiel was the last to fall off the back of Claudia and is in lighter westerlies as those behind are already into the big breeze ahead of the next depression. Getting into the big winds first and still to the south of Dominique Wavre on Mirabaud, Javier Sanso on Acciona 100% Eco Powered has done particularly well over the last day, reducing his deficit on le Cam down from 528 miles yesterday morning to 388 and he is now just 66 miles astern of Mirabaud. Generally sailing 2-3 knots faster than the Swiss boat if Acciona continues this today when she could well be moving up to eighth place imminently.

This group looks set to have more stable westerlies ahead of them for the next three or four days, some respite from the dramas of the last week.


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