Vendee Globe: Hugo Boss recovers fourth

As the lead duo close on the New Zealand icegate

Saturday December 22nd 2012, Author: James Boyd, Location: none selected

The lead duo in the Vendee Globe are just approaching the eastern end of the New Zealand ice gate, with Francois Gabart on MACIF continuing to lead. Meanwhile Alex Thomson on Hugo Boss is currently the fastest boat in the fleet and yesterday morning recovered fourth place.

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°21.56'S 172°26.53'W 16.8 72° 16.7 15.2 365.8 10901.8 0
 2 Armel Le Cléac'h Banque Pop 52°12.96'S 172°53.29'W 16.2 140° 11.7 14.8 355.1 10914.4 12.6
 3 Jean-Pierre Dick Virbac 51°59.04'S 172°11.13'E 19.5 84° 19.2 15.8 379.3 11464 562.1
 4 Alex Thomson Hugo Boss 51°15.43'S 163°49.02'E 20.6 83° 19.6 16.1 387.2 11778.5 876.7
 5 Bernard Stamm Cheminees 51°42.45'S 162°41.91'E 19.8 65° 16.6 14.7 352.8 11815.3 913.5
 6 Jean Le Cam SynerCiel 48°19.32'S 141°20.03'E 16.3 99° 15.6 15.9 381.4 12657.6 1755.8
 7 Mike  Golding Gamesa 46°59.77'S 136°57.82'E 15.4 85° 12.9 14.7 352 12851.1 1949.2
 8 Dominique Wavre Mirabaud 47°36.15'S 134°21.19'E 18.4 92° 16.5 15.5 372.1 12927.2 2025.3
 9 Javier Sanso Acciona 45°45.18'S 133°15.30'E 17.1 77° 12.3 15.5 371 13021.4 2119.5
 10 Arnaud  Boissières Akena Verandas 46°03.99'S 112°15.08'E 15 118° 15 11.8 284.3 13781.7 2879.9
 11 Bertrand De Broc Votre nom 45°03.41'S 102°20.09'E 13.5 116° 13.5 12 287.3 14187.9 3286.1
 12 Tanguy  Delamotte Initiatives Coeur 45°50.03'S 96°42.41'E 10.5 99° 10.5 13.2 317.2 14402.5 3500.7
 13 Alessandro Di Benedetto Team Plastique 40°55.66'S 75°31.68'E 15.2 77° 14.8 13.5 324.1 15414.5 4512.7
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)              

The lead duo gybed back to the northeast yesterday at midday (UTC) and at present they are around 100 miles (92 for MACIF and 107 for Banque Populaire) from the eastern end of the New Zealand ice gate. While they were forced to make a minor detour yesterday to avoid an area of lighter winds, it is impressive how lucky the leaders have been in the weather they have encountered compared to the boats behind. Now they are into the Pacific where the weather systems tend to be larger and more regular than they are the Indian Ocean the chances are less of them hitting a meteorological brick wall and it is more likely that if any significant recovery is to come it will be when the leaders are back into the South Atlantic. But we believe the separation between the top six boats - 1755 miles - is the biggest ever seen at this stage of the race.

Yesterday Francois Gabart reported: "I can see Armel, not all the time, but because he’s 5 miles away, I can see Banque Populaire often. It’s fantastic, really. But it’s not really like a regatta either because I don’t adapt my decisions, manoeuvres and sailing to what I see him do, I have my own race."

Le Cleac'h added: "We’re at 53°S, the night fell an hour and a half ago, I’m currently sailing towards the New Zealand gate. The wind is back so we’ll soon be able to go faster. Of course the nights are short, about 5-6 hours, and the night is actually on mid-day UTC time, which is the time we try to stick to. But as we sail east, that will keep changing. Yesterday was tough, after 48 hours of shaker with 30-35 knots of wind, you just want things to get quieter so you can catch your breath. And it’s been sunnier, too, so everything has become more pleasant and the morale is up, definitely. I even had time to look around the boat and check a lot of things on my boat. I’ll be supporting Brest against PSG in tonight’s football game, I know the Brest players will be very motivated, and I think they will win 1-0. I’ve been able to recover with 40-minute naps as the pilot was on, it was calmer and you really need to take advantage of such moments. I charged the batteries, so to speak, and I’m feeling better. Sure, MACIF is very close, we can see each other, it’s been going on for 36 hours, but I’m not obsessed with that. It’s a good landmark, it helps me make sure my heading and speed are right, but I’m sailing my own race, making my own decisions. Our routes have been close so far, but maybe at one point one of use will try something different."

Over the last 24 hours the only boats to recover miles on the lead duo have been Alex Thomson on Hugo Boss and Jean-Pierre Dick on Virbac Paprec 3, Hugo Boss currently 85 miles from the Auckland Islands to the south of New Zealand. They and Bernard Stamm on Cheminees Poujoulat are into big northwesterlies ahead of a strange double cold front associated with the depression to their south. The fronts are forecast to pass Hugo Boss and Cheminees Poujoulat tonight with the winds backing into the WSW with Virbac seeing the change later by virtue of her being further east. At present it looks like Virbac will be able to make the New Zealand icegate without gybing while Thomson and Stamm will be trying to get north today so that they can make the icegate when they are forced to gybe as the wind backs into the WSW tonight.

Yesterday Stamm revealed one of the reasons why he has been dropping back - he has a broken winch column. However this is not all: "The wind and the sea are both calmer now, it’s a transition before the westerly wind is back stronger. I’m a little out of breath because I’ve just added a reef and since my winch column is broken, it’s exhausting. As far as repairs are concerned, I’m focused on the hydrogenerator, it’s definitely my priority. Right now, the situation is 90% pleasant and 10% frustrating. But it depends on what has just happened. I repaired my hydrogenerator and it broke again 10 minutes later, and believe me, then it was 100% frustrating. Being ahead of the Englishman feels great, though! I can tell we’re basically halfway through because everything becomes more complicated. Recovering is more difficult, too…The weather will determine who widens the gap with the skippers behind and who catches up with the guys ahead. We can do the best we can but we can’t really have objectives because in the end, the weather will decide. I’m trying to sail as well as possible and do my best, that’s all."

Behind them, the oldies are making good progress in a band of 15-20 knot pre-frontal northwesterlies. They are currently to the north of the Australia East icegate, with leader of this race within a race, Jean le Cam on SynerCiel, about 200 miles short of the longitude of Tasmania. The most southerly boats, SynerCiel and Dominique Wavre on Mirabaud are currently making the best progress. The forecast over the next 24 hours benefits those furthest northeast as an area of high pressure and light winds encroaches south from the Great Australian Bight.

This morning Mike Golding reported: "I am struggling to find speed at the moment on the boats ahead. Right now the angles are a bit difficult and I only have about 15 knots of breeze and I should probably be on the Code Zero right now but I also think I am in the vicious circle of losing by making too many sail changes and I have just done a full round of changes so I don’t feel I should keep going with that for the sake of it.

"In terms of where we are going then I should hook into stronger winds later today, probably 25 knots when we will be going downwind on the fractional kite.

"But in general I feel I should be going quick so it has been disappointing. The stronger stuff is about 100 miles away and I should get a good push from that for a while and so the only determination just now is to get to that wind and not lose sight of that just now. Jean Le Cam will get there before me but in turn I don’t think the guys behind are going to get it and we should just get away a bit from them.

"And then there is this little low after that. It is pretty loose and it will probably favour being in the north a bit but it does move away and we won't be with it for very long. It is not looking very promising and the pattern just seems to stay the same. Long term there is nothing really bearing down on us to give us a real shove. But, equally, if you look to the south neither has there been anything going past that you think ‘well if we were south we might have had something’ so it is all a bit frustrating to be where we are, hoping for something along the way to make some miles back, to find a niche for a while and really get going and get some miles back. But then I am not sailing the boat badly and you can spend time beating yourself up about it."



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