Vendee Globe: MACIF horizon job

As Virbac Paprec 3 regains third place and Mirabaud has a flutter

Sunday January 13th 2013, Author: James Boyd, Location: none selected

This morning Vendee Globe race leader Francois Gabart on MACIF, currently passing the latitude of Salvador de Bahia, is 248 miles ahead of second placed Armel le Cleac'h on Banque Populaire, up from 146 48 hours ago as Alex Thomson on Hugo Boss has dropped back to fourth place, but still very much in the fight for third.

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 14°03.14'S 30°43.69'W 19.3 359° 18.3 17.1 410.9 4004.5 0
 2 Armel Le Cléac'h Banque Pop 18°22.22'S 30°48.97'W 19 18.2 14.1 337.5 4253.1 248.5
 3 Jean-Pierre Dick Virbac 24°56.23'S 29°55.94'W 14.2 347° 12.4 11.8 284.1 4616.8 612.2
 4 Alex Thomson Hugo Boss 24°04.71'S 36°35.63'W 10.1 356° 9.2 8.3 200.2 4681.9 677.3
 5 Jean Le Cam SynerCiel 40°03.62'S 43°17.06'W 10.8 34° 10.7 10.8 259.5 5697.4 1692.8
 6 Mike  Golding Gamesa 42°05.16'S 42°05.56'W 12 46° 11.1 12.9 308.7 5786.9 1782.4
 7 Dominique Wavre Mirabaud 46°53.52'S 41°40.48'W 18.7 12° 18.3 15.9 382.4 6045 2040.4
 8 Arnaud  Boissières Akena Verandas 46°31.24'S 43°47.45'W 15.4 20° 15.4 15.1 363.5 6059.7 2055.2
 9 Javier Sanso Acciona 47°05.06'S 43°18.80'W 13.1 79° 7.6 14.5 346.9 6082.4 2077.9
 10 Bertrand De Broc Votre nom 55°28.40'S 79°39.38'W 13.2 68° 11.3 12.3 295.1 7426.8 3422.2
 11 Tanguy  Delamotte Initiatives Coeur 55°43.00'S 86°27.97'W 13.6 114° 13.2 13.9 332.5 7652.4 3647.9
 12 Alessandro Di Benedetto Team Plastique 52°14.48'S 108°06.19'W 15.6 108° 15.5 13.8 331.7 8439.7 4435.1
RET Bernard Stamm Cheminees Ran out of fuel after hydrogenerator problems (9 Jan)      
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)            

What's going on between MACIF and Banque Populaire? Yes, Gabart seems to have been at an advantage since choosing a more easterly option after passing the Falkland Islands. This often saw him in better pressure closer to the centre of the St Helena high. Since tacking north, his being that bit further up the course over his rival has also paid, seeing the trade winds first building and then shifting into the northeast earlier. But we can't help feeling that there is more to it than that. Has Banque Populaire got a problem on board? Please share your thoughts below.

Yesterday Gabart commented: "I’m doing fine, I’m not complaining, I’ve been going quite fast for a few hours now. The wind is much more stable than yesterday, the temperatures are higher, I sweat whenever I try to manoeuvre. I wish I had air conditioning on board!

"The feeling I have is I haven’t changed my approach since the start of the race, I’m trying to pick the most direct and fastest route to les Sables. The big choices were made a few days ago, now it’s more about speed than anything else.

"I’m constantly checking things on board, whenever I get a chance. I write a list of spots where I noticed something had worn out so I can be careful and take care of it when the conditions are calmer. But I trust my boat, really.

"I’ve tried to sail at my own rhythm from the beginning on, and I think it’s been like that for the whole race. I’m not slowing down or accelerating on purpose, I’m just like a marathon runner, trying to keep a regular pace. When we’re at the very end of the race, it may change, though."

Armel le Cleac'h added: "The weather is nice and warm in the Brazilian trade winds. Last night wasn’t that great, there was very little wind so I hope it gets stronger in the next few hours, which is what the forecast is saying.

"François is getting the strong wind before me, that’s why he’s going faster and the gap between us is widening. Don’t worry, I’m not relaxing and fishing, I’m working hard on board! I haven’t really looked at the North Atlantic tactics yet, I still have a few days before crossing the Equator so I’ll think about that later, when the time comes.

"Lately, we’ve seen a little traffic, a few cargo ships, it’s getting livelier.

"It’s not always as agitated and tough as you can see on some of the videos we send. We send those because they’re impressive, but we also have much quieter moments. But the Southern Ocean is always tricky, you need to be very careful and to stay safe when manoeuvring on the deck in these conditions."

Behind, in the battle for third place, Jean-Pierre Dick on Virbac Paprec 3 tacked north early on Friday afternoon and back on course and into building, freeing breeze has been picking up speed and by the time of the 1100 sched yesterday morning had regained third place from Alex Thomson and Hugo Boss who have been on the wind attempting to get past Rio. Hugo Boss has been heading north since the 0400 sched this morning. In theory this course could allow her to get past Recife but she will be more headed and therefore not as fast as Virbac Paprec, which is steaming in from the east. For example over the last four hours Hugo Boss has been five knots slower and one wonders if Thomson won't feel the need to put in another costly hitch out to the east, to get back into contention.

Yesterday Dick reported: "I’m doing fine, there are no problems on board. The trade winds are quite strong, more than 20 knots, so I'm going fast. The sky is a very nice and clear shade of blue, the water is not as cold as it used to be and we’ve started to get rid of the fleece jackets. I’m so happy to be done with the Southern Ocean, now we’ll get to truly enjoy sailing.

"I need to get out my toolbox, keep an eye on everything on board and be ready for anything that could happen.

"I still have my sights set on the two leaders. Alex Thomson has slowed down a little bit but he’s back at a faster speed now. I should be ahead of him when we cross the Equator. I think once we have, I’ll need to make a huge effort to catch up on Armel and still keep an eye behind because Alex will be coming back too. I’ll have to find the right compromise between attacking and being more conservative."

Also worth noting over the last 48 hours is that the deficit between second placed Banque Populaire and the boat in third place has more than doubled - up from 147 to 363 miles at the latest sched.

Behind the fight is hotting up for firth place with Mike Golding on Gamesa having closed in on Jean le Cam on SynerCiel from 141 miles behind to 89 at the latest sched. They are currently in moderate following winds between a trough to their east and an area of high pressure just exiting Argentina to their west. While it looks like these two boats might follow Alex Thomson on the most 'coastal' course up the South Atlantic, it now looks like both SynerCiel and Gamesa are prefering the easterly option, in theory sailing into the east side of the St Helena high. However this is going to be a case of 'easier said that done' as the high to their west is set to slowly merge with the main area of high pressure in the central South Atlantic, but won't properly do so until Wednesday. The GRIB files indicate that there is no way out of this and both boats are going to get nailed in no man's land zone of no wind between the two highs. Even then circulation around the high, that the lead three boats have used to their advantage over the course of the last week, doesn't look set to re-establish itself for around a week...

This morning Golding reported: "Things are okay this morning. It was a pretty busy night but I feel like I have done okay. I was under genoa for a while but now it is kite, I have between 14 and 20 knots, the breeze is a bit unstable.Yesterday was spent doing good things, so getting sleep and I had a good meal, but to be honest that is undone a bit now again. It’s been hard work and I’ve burned all that up.

"I am still making good progress and have carried on making miles on Jean. He has slammed into the light stuff a bit. I have pushed to the right and found a corridor of breeze, but to be honest he is not going that badly now either. It is gentle downwind sailing, on starboard for the next couple of days, then reaching. That is, of course, if the routing is right. I ran it three times yesterday and got three different results. So really I am just looking at keeping it very simple. I prefer not to be in at the coast. I am sailing my own race. If I follow Jean I just end up with what he’s got. I am looking for my own path and doing my own thing."

Behind them Dominique Wavre on Mirabaud had a tricky moment yesterday. As Wavre explained: "There was a 40-knot wind and suddenly, the autopilot alarm went off! It was brutal, the yacht tacked suddenly and heeled to 90°. It was chaos, my biggest since the beginning of the race. It was really scary, then the yacht went backwards, and the sea was rough. It wasn't far from where Michèle and I dismasted two years ago. The good news is, the situation is now under control. I turned the faulty autopilot off and turned the other on. I'm now sailing at a normal speed again. Even better; I'm now going to manoeuvre and I think I'll sail even faster!

"My tactical choice is a long-term investment so, hopefully, I can sail with a better angle when the wind switches east. But we'll have to wait for two days to find out if it was a good move or not. It looks like the boats ahead of me will slow down a bit so we may regroup eventually.”

The autopilot issue over the course of yesterday morning allowed first Javier Sanso on Acciona 100% Ecopowered and then Arnaud Boissieries on Akena Verandas to overhaul the Swiss boat, dropping him seventh to ninth in a few hours. However at the latest sched Wavre has managed to claw back both these places, despite taking more of a 'buffalo girls' route out to the east. At present Wavre is making considerably better speed than Gamesa or SynerCiel further north and he's clawing back miles on Gamesa, which now stands at 258 having been 326 24 hours ago.




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