Vendee Globe: Hugo Boss passes Cape Horn

British skipper dices with the ice south of the Diego Ramirez islands

Friday January 4th 2013, Author: James Boyd, Location: none selected

This morning Alex Thomson and Hugo Boss were the fourth in the Vendee Globe to pass Cape Horn, but rather than hugging the Chilean coast on the approach to Cape Horn, Thomson stood off, passing south of the Diego Ramirez, dicing with the ice.

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°34.01'S 47°55.27'W 16.9 48° 15.9 15.7 376.7 6349.8 0
 2 Armel Le Cléac'h Banque Pop 50°05.22'S 50°59.06'W 17.2 25° 17.1 13.8 331 6380.6 30.8
 3 Jean-Pierre Dick Virbac 53°34.49'S 58°54.66'W 18.8 44° 18.6 12 288.7 6714.4 364.7
 4 Alex Thomson Hugo Boss 56°08.15'S 65°09.10'W 14.2 60° 13.4 16.2 388.1 6967.6 617.8
 5 Jean Le Cam SynerCiel 53°57.06'S 103°41.90'W 12.9 110° 12.9 13.2 317.1 8253.6 1903.9
 6 Mike  Golding Gamesa 53°28.17'S 113°11.02'W 11.6 82° 11.3 15 359.1 8650.3 2300.5
 7 Dominique Wavre Mirabaud 52°29.69'S 115°49.26'W 14.7 90° 14.6 16 384 8724.7 2375
 8 Javier Sanso Acciona 52°36.19'S 119°10.85'W 11.4 89° 11.4 14.8 356.1 8847.5 2497.7
 9 Bernard Stamm Cheminees 53°43.82'S 119°17.65'W 18.8 83° 18.7 18.2 436.5 8860.9 2511.1
 10 Arnaud  Boissières Akena Verandas 51°56.24'S 120°48.28'W 15.5 96° 15.5 15.4 370.6 8908 2558.2
 11 Bertrand De Broc Votre nom 51°28.64'S 150°48.88'W 6 76° 6 9.1 219.2 10098.3 3748.6
 12 Tanguy  Delamotte Initiatives Coeur 53°21.83'S 161°34.00'W 14.4 88° 14.4 13.3 320.3 10503.7 4153.9
 13 Alessandro Di Benedetto Team Plastique 53°17.23'S 173°03.01'E 13.7 85° 13.6 11.7 281.3 11429.8 5080.1
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)              

Hugo Boss passed the longitude of Cape Horn at 0238 UTC this morning, a significant moment for the British skipper for the first time completing the Southern Ocean stretch of the Vendee Globe on his third attempt at the race. Unlike the three boats ahead who erred north to avoid the ice around the Diego Ramirez Islands, Thomson took the brave strategy of staying to the south of this remote island group to the southwest of Cape Horn making the passage without incident. Since then Hugo Boss has hardened up and looks set to follow the three frontrunners around the east side of the Falkland Islands.

“It is a huge achievement for me and the team behind me,” said Thomson. “This is the third time I have rounded Cape Horn, but the first on my own. But there has been no time to relax and enjoy the moment, in fact quite the opposite. There are about 15 icebergs around this area and although I have their location from the race office as well as my radar, passing through in the dark is a daunting feeling. I passed within 0.8miles of one this morning, but saw nothing.

“I am going to be really glad to leave the Southern Ocean behind me over the next few days, but there is still a long way to go. The conditions don’t look easy ahead and the amount of strain put on the boats through the Southern Ocean could really begin to tell. But I have had one focus throughout this entire race – to finish. I will do everything I can to achieve that goal.

“My strategy over the last week has paid off performance wise as I am stretching out from those behind while catching the guys in front. 3rd place is only 20 hours ahead and the leaders a little over two days, neither in insurmountable. The leg up the Atlantic is only 7000 miles, so going fast but also remaining prudent – to ensure I finish it my New Year’s resolution!"

At the front of the fleet the leaders are making good speeds in the strong southwesterlies in the northwest quadrant of what will be their final Southern Ocean depression of this race. However significantly the lead duo have diverged, with Banque Populaire taking more of a northerly course, 'heading for the mark', while MACIF is continuing on more of a northeasterly course which should enable Francois Gabart to stay with the depression for longer at the expense of sailing more miles.  At the latest sched the two leaders, who have been shadowing each most of the way around the bottom of the world, have 120 miles of lateral separation between them.

Behind them Jean-Pierre Dick on Virbac Paprec 3 looks set to shave the eastern end of the Falkland Islands. He's currently in solid westerly breeze, but, despite this being lighter than the winds the leaders are experiencing, Virbac Paprec 3 is the fastest of the front runners.

The leaders are currently examining the best way to thread their way north and tackle the substantial zone of high pressure due east of the River Plate, separating Argentina from Uruguay. As is usual at this stage of the race the choice is typically between sailing in no wind close to the high or sailing upwind in breeze further from the west side of high. MACIF's 'getting east early' route looks set to be like that of a multihull, sailing into the west side of high in northwesterlies, tacking when the wind veers into the north and then hoping that the lift up through the northwest side of the high as the wind veers into the northeast is enough to pass east of Rio and ideally Recife.

Back in the Southern Ocean, yesterday lunchtime Jean le Cam and SynerCiel gybed southeast having passed north of the final Pacific East icegate. The French legend has since dived south in strong westerlies to the north of a depression. Meanwhile behind the race is on to pass north of the gate. The boats which gybed to the northeast early such as Mirabaud, Acciona 100% Eco Powered and Akena Verandas are aiming for the western end of the gate, while Mike Golding on Gamesa and Bernard Stamm on Cheminees Poujoulat (who yesterday afternoon finally passed Akena Verandas and this morning is the fastest boat in the fleet) are lining up to cross the gate further east.

This morning Mike Golding reported: "I just have very difficult conditions. The last hour I have seen between 15 and 40 knots and so I am on white sails. I had a 40 knot gust with 1 reef and the Solent and the boat was on its ear, so it is not easy. I am just edging my way north and it seems I will need to make a little gybe so I just have to keep the boat moving well and see how it works out. At the moment I have just 15 knots and am just floating along in quite a big sea.

"I have looked at the routing to Cape Horn in more detail and it seems like the Pacific is not going to let us loose that easily. It looks like we turn up and stop, basically. It’s okay from an ice perspective because we cut across and will have a relatively short period on high, high alert. But the conditions can change there so quickly, you can’t just tell from the GRIB files. The wind channels so much there. At least we will not be going around in a gale."

Golding complimented Alex Thomson for his Cape Horn rounding: "Alex has done a great job. He has obviously found a layer of speed with the boat that is working for him, now he just has to keep himself going to the end. He has done well."

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