Vendee Globe: Leaders duck south

As Bernard Stamm takes fourth place from Alex Thomson

Friday December 21st 2012, Author: James Boyd, Location: none selected

Once again there has been a lead change in the Vendee Globe with Francois Gabart and MACIF back in front as the two frontrunners gybe south to avoid an area of light winds to their north.

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 52°42.84'S 177°32.60'E 14.7 145° 8.3 16.3 390.3 11267.3 0
 2 Armel Le Cléac'h Banque Pop 52°38.93'S 177°25.43'E 14.7 150° 7.4 15.9 381.4 11271.7 4.3
 3 Jean-Pierre Dick Virbac 51°08.50'S 162°05.91'E 17.1 72° 15 14.8 361.5 11843.3 575.9
 4 Bernard Stamm Cheminees 51°51.13'S 153°11.35'E 14.5 107° 14.5 16.3 390.8 12156.8 889.5
 5 Alex Thomson Hugo Boss 50°56.79'S 153°32.60'E 15 131° 13.7 14.6 350.6 12159.1 891.7
 6 Jean Le Cam SynerCiel 49°06.14'S 131°45.91'E 13.8 77° 11.5 14 336.4 12978 1710.7
 7 Mike  Golding Gamesa 47°10.22'S 128°30.83'E 14.8 77° 10.7 13.9 333.8 13146.4 1879
 8 Dominique Wavre Mirabaud 47°41.77'S 125°08.52'E 16.6 89° 15.3 12.9 308.5 13254.6 1987.2
 9 Javier Sanso Acciona 46°25.93'S 124°23.27'E 17.1 84° 14 15.6 374.6 13315.1 2047.8
 10 Arnaud  Boissières Akena Verandas 42°56.30'S 107°15.55'E 11.9 113° 11.8 14 336.2 14056.3 2789
 11 Bertrand De Broc Votre nom 44°26.15'S 95°38.81'E 12.4 57° 7.5 11.3 272.3 14464.2 3196.9
 12 Tanguy  Delamotte Initiatives Coeur 44°17.75'S 89°32.60'E 15.3 107° 15.2 12.9 309.8 14717.5 3450.2
 13 Alessandro Di Benedetto Team Plastique 41°55.52'S 68°26.74'E 9 79° 8.9 6.3 150.9 15734.1 4466.8
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)            

In the early hours of this morning both MACIF and Banque Populaire gybed south. This might seem like an unusual move given that at the time they were on course for the the western end of the New Zealand icegate and just 123 miles from it. However with a lobe of the high currently over New Zealand's South Island extending southeast in their direction, the wind has been backing into the west and lightening. The high is forecast to extend its reach further towards the icegate over the next 24 hours. As a result we suspect that both boats will remain on starboard gybe in order to stay with the best pressure and probably won't gybe back until they can lay the eastern end of the icegate. Now being on the losing gybe they have taken a hit on VMG and this will benefit the boats astern.

Behind, the fleet has continued to lose ground to the lead duo over the last 24 hours, with the exception of Bernard Stamm on Cheminees Poujoulat, whose mighty Juan K design passed Alex Thomson's Hugo Boss to claim fourth place overnight. They, and ahead of them Jean-Pierre Dick on Virbac Paprec 3, are currently having to tackle two old cold fronts associated with the depression to their south that over the course of today will merge to form an occluded front. With the wind in the west, so at present Dick, who is currently making the best speed in the fleet, is heading north on port (although he too will be heading south imminently, like the leaders, to duck below the encroaching high ahead of him), while Stamm and Thomson are on starboard, although they are likely to gybe north today as a light patch encroaches from the west later today.

Meanwhile to the south of Australia 'the oldies' are still in solid northwesterlies ahead of the next depression back up the Southern Ocean conveyor. Jean le Cam on the leader of this group, SynerCiel, has managed to make further small gains on this group hanging on starboard for longer before gybing shortly after the 0400 sched this morning. He is now the furthest south of the group, 168 miles ahead of Mike Golding (compared to 132 yesterday morning), but it is Javier Sanso on Acciona 100% Eco Powered and Dominique Wavre on Mirabaud who are making the best speeds in stronger winds closer to the front that's chasing them.

This morning Mike Golding reported: "Once again the conditions are tricky and variable. In the last hour I have had as much as 28 knots of wind and as little as 12 knots and the wind is right behind me. It could go either way. I am tending to rely more on the EC model because the GFS has me in 35 knots of wind at the moment."

As to le Cam's tactics Golding added : "To be honest I can’t really see what Jean is seeing. At 150 or 160 miles ahead he might be seeing something I am not but I have run his routing now and we more or less converge under Tasmania. Yes there is still this low coming down from Tasmania but trying to go and find a low can be problematic. And this low has a trough down the side of it again.

"Meantime I am struggling a bit for the right sailplan. I have had the masthead gennaker on and so was a bit disappointed to see how we had done on the 0400hrs poll, because in these waves you feel like you want something to press against.

"The pilot let go at one point and I ended up on my side. It is not so much a problem with the pilot, I just think it gets overloaded so I have switched it on to the hydraulic ram and it should cope fine. The steering is quite heavy, I think it is just these waves, I don’t think the pilot is just being a wimp."

This group appears to have a relatively straightforward weekend ahead of them weatherwise with the exception of the development of a secondary depression forming to the south of Tasmanian on Sunday which will benefit those ahead in this group.

The backmarkers have an ugly Sunday ahead of them, with another relatively small but intense depression rolling south from the Indian Ocean and across their path (as the former Cyclone Claudia did) and bringing with it 40-50 knot winds overnight on Sunday-Monday.


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