Vendee Globe: Virbac Paprec 3 continues to close

As ice is reported 50 miles south of Cape Horn

Sunday December 30th 2012, Author: James Boyd, Location: none selected

To avoid the area of high pressure to their east, MACIF and Banque Populaire have dived south on their way to Cape Horn, but sailing a more direct route in stronger winds, Jean-Pierre Dick on Virbac Paprec 3 has been able to close on the Vendee Globe leaders.

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 Armel Le Cléac'h Banque Pop 55°51.56'S 97°39.68'W 15.4 89° 14.9 16.2 389.9 8021.2 0
 2 François Gabart MACIF 55°59.10'S 97°46.87'W 13.7 99° 13.7 16.2 388 8023.5 2.2
 3 Jean-Pierre Dick Virbac 51°33.59'S 104°23.05'W 18.9 101° 18.3 18.2 437.1 8333.4 312.1
 4 Alex Thomson Hugo Boss 53°05.32'S 121°21.80'W 17.2 77° 17 14.1 338.7 8928.2 907
 5 Jean Le Cam SynerCiel 48°57.82'S 147°33.40'W 15.4 111° 14.5 12 287.2 9944.2 1923
 6 Mike  Golding Gamesa 50°42.13'S 158°16.88'W 13.9 78° 13.8 14.6 350.7 10366.6 2345.4
 7 Dominique Wavre Mirabaud 50°12.70'S 159°25.45'W 12.9 99° 12.6 12.8 308.4 10408.2 2386.9
 8 Javier Sanso Acciona 52°23.66'S 163°28.43'W 18.5 98° 18.3 16.8 403.5 10569.2 2547.9
 9 Arnaud  Boissières Akena Verandas 52°47.80'S 169°40.33'W 15.9 78° 15.4 16 383.6 10794.6 2773.4
 10 Bernard Stamm Cheminees 51°15.95'S 171°07.75'W 18 97° 18 17.3 414.3 10852.2 2830.9
 11 Bertrand De Broc Votre nom 49°43.53'S 165°24.36'E 16.3 110° 16.3 13.9 332.4 11743.6 3722.4
 12 Tanguy  Delamotte Initiatives Coeur 51°56.57'S 158°42.74'E 16.6 125° 15.4 13.7 329.4 11956.9 3935.7
 13 Alessandro Di Benedetto Team Plastique 48°28.79'S 133°45.27'E 9.9 80° 7.8 13.1 314.4 12923.7 4902.5
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)            

The race leaders in the Vendee Globe continue to be locked together with Francois Gabart on MACIF ahead at the 0400 sched and Armel le Cleac'h and Banque Populaire back in front by just 2 miles at the latest update having just gybed and crossing astern of his rival. MACIF is certain to gybe soon. At the latest sched the duo have just over 1000 miles to go to Cape Horn.

An exchange over VHF last night between Gabart and Le Cléac’h provides small insight into the enduring relationship they have. They may have been virtually side-by-side for 20 days now, fighting tooth and nail for every small metre gain, constantly monitoring each other’s progress, but the brothers-in-arms also have huge respect for each other. There was a humorous warning yesterday evening when he was behind from Gabart to his rival in front to make sure one did not run into the other. But so too there will be a very definite sense of solidarity and shared safety as they approach Cape Horn together where ice has been reported as being within 50 miles of the cape.

Race Director Denis Horeau explained the ice situation off Cape Horn: "CLS our partner have seen by satellite that there is ice drifting in the south and east of Cape Horn, but of course the problem is that the satellites can only see some of the ice and not all of it. So far we can only see by satellite ice which is at least 100m long. And so long as we know that there is ice of 100 metres long approximately then you can be sure that there will be some smaller bergs around. So that is our problem.

"The choice is now with the skippers. We will inform them every day of the situation, what we can see with the satellites and what the drift is expected to be. So we will provide them with a report every day in order that they can understand the situation as well as we can see it. The problem is that we cant know the situation exactly.

"Putting an ice gate closer to the Cape could only be to the south if it but the ice is drifting to the east at a rate of something like 20 miles per day. So we think most will have passed to the East by the time the majority of skipper are arriving. We hope this problem will only be for the first boats. Putting a gate positioned for the first boats would be unfair for the others. So that is not the way to do it. We make the rules on the Vendée Globe for all the boats.

"We had ice in past editions. We have not had this amount of ice at Cape Horn before, we had ice in 2008, but it was to the west of Cape Horn and so we lifted the Pacific East gate north by 400 miles to the north. We had a lot of ice in the east of the Pacific this time. It is difficult to say if it is related to the warming of the planet, but what we do know is that we can see more than before."

Over the course of today the high to the east of the leaders is forecast to recede to the north and this will open up a runway of northwesterlies which the leaders will be able to ride all the way to the Horn, where at present speeds they should be passing late on Tuesday evening. There seems to be no reason why they shouldn't be able to shave the Horn.

Once again, over the last 24 hours Jean-Pierre Dick on Virbac Paprec 3 has been the winner taking another 42 miles out of the leaders, closing to 312 miles. To the north of the Pacific East icegate, Virbac is still the fastest boat in the fleet. As conditions even up across the race track over the next 24 hours Virbac should still do well against the front runners sailing a more direct course to the Horn, Dick hoping that the wind will veer towards the north enabling him to get south without having to gybe.

Continuously dropping further back from the leaders, Alex Thomson on Hugo Boss has just gybed on to port to get north to round the Pacific East icegate. The western end of this is currently 419 miles ahead at the latest sched. Yesterday Thomson reported conditions to be extremely tough. He also has another big blow in store for him early next week. “Conditions continue to be incredibly tough on this Pacific crossing. The wind has been consistently strong, with regular gusts up to 40 knots in the last 12 hours. I am very tired, with very little opportunity to get any sleep when the conditions are so gusty as I need be able to ease and trim the sails quickly in reaction to the wind. The weather is due to stay like this all the way to the Pacific East gate.”

More than 1000 miles astern of Hugo Boss, Jean le Cam on SynerCiel is closing on the Pacific West icegate, the western end 100 miles away at the latest sched. With the wind now into the WSW, le Cam has gybed southeast overnight and he will have to put in another gybe if SynerCiel is to cross the Pacific West icegate.

Over the last 24 hours, Mike Golding on Gamesa and Dominique Wavre on Mirabaud have both made inroads into SynerCiel's advantage, Golding in particular closing by 55 miles, his deficit  now down to 422 miles. Both Gamesa and Mirabaud are on the opposite gybes to SynerCiel in 20 knot northwesterly breeze. They should be able to remain on starboard all the way to the next icegate. 

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