Vendee Globe: Leaders on the ascent again

As jury is set to decide on Bernard Stamm's use of an engine to get him to his present anchorage

Monday December 24th 2012, Author: James Boyd, Location: none selected

The two race leaders, MACIF and Banque Populaire continue to be locked in contention on day 44 of the Vendee Globe as they head northeast towards the Pacific West icegate. Now into the 30+ knot westerlies Virbac Paprec 3 was enjoying yesterday, so they have once again been piling on the miles over the rest of the fleet.

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 50°32.43'S 152°31.19'W 17.4 52° 16 18.7 449.4 10149.1 0
 2 Armel Le Cléac'h Banque Pop 50°14.65'S 152°56.28'W 17.4 55° 15.8 18.5 443.4 10160.8 11.7
 3 Jean-Pierre Dick Virbac 49°07.16'S 166°05.69'W 15.9 101° 15.8 15.6 374.3 10670.2 521.2
 4 Alex Thomson Hugo Boss 53°15.90'S 178°26.57'W 12.7 70° 12.6 13.1 315.6 11125.9 976.8
 5 Bernard Stamm Cheminees 50°30.56'S 166°16.70'E 0 238° 0 0 0.5 11697.6 1548.5
 6 Jean Le Cam SynerCiel 49°38.48'S 160°27.80'E 12.5 89° 11.8 15 360.5 11926.9 1777.8
 7 Mike  Golding Gamesa 48°21.36'S 149°16.82'E 10.1 102° 10 8.6 205.9 12366.5 2217.5
 8 Dominique Wavre Mirabaud 47°14.84'S 148°21.97'E 13.1 108° 13 10.6 253.6 12426.9 2277.8
 9 Javier Sanso Acciona 48°42.68'S 141°11.75'E 11.8 136° 11.1 7.9 190.2 12652.6 2503.6
 10 Arnaud  Boissières Akena Verandas 47°31.08'S 129°38.05'E 13.9 121° 13.9 14.8 355 13096.5 2947.4
 11 Bertrand De Broc Votre nom 46°28.40'S 115°17.39'E 14.9 94° 14.1 10.6 255.6 13655.8 3506.7
 12 Tanguy  Delamotte Initiatives Coeur 47°19.51'S 107°39.39'E 12.7 120° 12.4 11.2 268.4 13932.3 3783.2
 13 Alessandro Di Benedetto Team Plastique 42°27.24'S 89°33.06'E 17.2 90° 15.6 13.9 333.5 14754.9 4605.8
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)            

The race leaders are currently hightailing it towards the western end of the Pacific West icegate, which at the latest sched is 305 miles away from Francois Gabart on MACIF and 317 for Armel le Cleac'h on Banque Populaire. Weather-wise the lead duo are 'in sync' with the depression to their south and by the time they reach the icegate the wind is forecast to back into the southwest enabling them to gybe south once again on an optimum point of sail.

Yesterday Francois Gabart reported: "It’s dark night outside. I’m in second position today. Sometimes it’s Armel, sometimes it’s me. I hope we’ll keep on fighting like that until the end. It would awesome to be very close all the way to Les Sables d’Olonne. After 40 days of race it’s incredible to be in this situation. Christmas day will just be another day on board. I don’t really care about it. I don’t know what I’ll have for Christmas. I hope there’ll be some surprises in my Christmas bag."

Meanwhile Jean-Pierre Dick on third placed Virbac Paprec 3 has lost most of the ground he made up on the leaders over the weekend. Having closed to 432 miles from the leader yesterday at 0800, 24 hours on his deficit is back up to 521 as Virbac Paprec 3 falls into lighter conditions to the south of the high. With the on-set of the southwesterlies, so Dick has gybed putting him on a course taking him south of the Pacific West ice gate. Unfortunately while the leaders are 'in sync' with the weather systems, Dick is once again 'out of sync' and this means that at some point in the next 48 hours he'll have to put in a costly losing gybe to get north of the icegate.

Behind Alex Thomson on Hugo Boss is now comfortably in fourth place with Bernard Stamm having temporarily stopped in the Auckland Islands. Hugo Boss has passed the western end of the New Zealand icegate and with the wind veering into the west so he has gybed and it attempting to get north to pass through the gate.

This morning Thomson reported: "I crossed the international date line about 0600 this morning so I am now sailing behind GMT. However, I am still working on GMT in everything I do on the boat, and as I don’t sleep normal nights, it doesn’t make that much difference to me. I was pretty close to crossing the date line on Christmas which would have meant two Christmas days! But I am happy to be ahead and also it doesn’t feel much like Christmas out here. I looked out for a Christmas tree, but there isn’t a lot to find down here in the Southern Ocean.

"The team have told me they have hidden some Christmas surprises on board, including something from my wife Kate, and son Oscar, which I will try to wait until tomorrow to open. Today is another day of DIY. Hydrogenerator problems still plague me, but I think we are getting closer and closer to getting to the root of it and hopefully finally fixing it with each hour I spend immersed in hydros.

"The next few days look like good Southern Ocean conditions and it would have me arriving at Cape Horn about the second week of January, which would be great speed.

"I also want to thank everyone for all the Christmas messages I have been getting through on Facebook and Twitter when I turn on my computer twice a day. Although it doesn’t feel like Christmas around me, it is great to get all that support especially at this time of year."

Still in Auckland Island, Bernard Stamm, it has been revealed, had to use Cheminees Poujoulat's engine to moor her in Sandy Bay to the south of Enderby Island (see here) when he arrived there in winds gusting up to 40 knots yesterday morning. The Vendée Globe Race Committee has indicated that he is allowed to do this under the race rules due to the exceptional circumstances.

In the last Vendee Globe Safran skipper Marc Guillemot was permitted by the jury to do the same by coincidence in this exact same spot, when he had to put in to repair his broken mast track. Prior to Cheminees Poujoulat's approach, Guillemot had briefed Stamm’s shore crew on the difficulties they might face mooring in these remote islands.

Denis Horeau, Race Director of the Vendée Globe, explained Stamm’s circumstances: “He had to turn on the engine because approaching this place was impossible under sail alone. So, under race rules what he will do is file a report to the jury stating the precise times he had to motor. The jury will make a decision regarding this special situation once we have all the informatino from Bernard.

“The approach was really tricky. He had to tack and gybe with only a small jib. But he fortunately had the help of his friend Marc Guillemot. Marc had to stop in exactly the same spot four years ago and Marc remembers exactly the situation ashore. He made something like a small roadbook for Bernard saying: ‘When you see this place please take a left, when you see this rock please take care etc.’ It’s a very tricky spot with seaweed, so the anchor has to be really set well in order to prevent the boat from drifting. Thanks to his experience he was able to do this.”

Since then Stamm's team has reported: “Bernard has begun the repair work on his hydrogenerators. He has cut off all comms equipment to save energy so he can get back to sea when the repairs are completed. The repairwork should last 24-48 hours. Looking at the weather forecast, he should ideally leave before 25 December to escape some powerful northerlies. On land, seals, killer whales and sea lions are watching.”

If Stamm isn't leaving for another 24 hours then it is very likely that he will lose fifth place to leader of 'the oldies', Jean le Cam on SynerCiel.  The French shorthanded offshore racing legend, a three time winner of the Solitaire du Figaro, at the latest sched is just 229 miles behind Stamm riding the strong NNWerly winds ahead of a front, on a course set to take him north of the Auckland Islands. With depression driving the front east stalling, so le Cam looks set to ride this 'wave' all the way to the New Zealand ice gate.

Already SynerCiel has been piling on the miles over the rest of 'the oldies' who have fallen off the back of the front. Worse, Mike Golding on Gamesa and Dominique Wavre on Mirabaud now find themselves south of a secondary depression that has formed on the front (the second time this has happened to the British skipper) and currently find themselves on the wind in light conditions. Fortunately this situation isn't going to last long as the depression to their north is forecast to move southeast at speed over the course of today with southwesterlies filling in behind it. However with le Cam having extended his lead over Golding from 296 to 439 miles over the last 24 hours (and with more to come today), so the Frenchman has done a horizon job. This reshuffle will leave Stamm and le Cam racing for fifth place as they take on the Pacific.



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