A christmas lead for Dalin?
Strategies are now diverging significantly between the leading two skippers Thomas Ruyant and Charlie Dalin at the front of the Vendée Globe fleet. Ruyant has split north to seek a low pressure system first, looking to reap the rewards of a fast downwind ride after the weekend but he must sail many more miles – some of them at an oblique angle to the best course east – and some of them potentially upwind into 25-30 knots of wind.
While third placed Thomas Ruyant has now dropped to be over 300 miles behind leader Bestaven, as the distance to the finish line dropped today to be less than 10,000 nautical miles, so it seems that Dalin might be rewarded by returning to the race lead on Christmas Day, by virtue of his more direct course.
Dalin said today, “The situation is tense, we’re trying to escape from the high-pressure bubble and trying not to get swallowed up, but depending on the weather models, we could get through or we might not. It’s not easy on the nerves to deal with.”
“What is certain is that my decision was taken based and supported by my initial position to the south. Going north meant drawing a “huge circumflex accent” (an upturned V) in the Pacific and my southern route I think means a better chance of finding a favourable outcome. But I decided to dare, to try and to believe. Every mile gained towards the East is a victory but it is still too early to draw conclusions.
Asked about the sub 10,000 miles marker he said, “I’ve been looking at this number for quite some time like many others and it’s true that it’s symbolic to pass this milestone. It’s a good thing, like a milestone; I like these markers that make the race more enjoyable!”
In 17th Pip Hare is relishing the tough going on her first time in the big south. The English skipper continues to impress the French cognoscenti and long time race fans with her ability to attack on her evergreen 20 year old IMOCA. Today she is threatening to pass French skipper Arnaud ‘Cali’ Boissières who is on his fourth consecutive Vendée Globe on a 2007-8 design which has been retrofitted with foils and has been posting consistently fast speeds and high 24 hour runs.
“I want to salute the very good race of Pip Hare who, with a 1999 boat (Superbigou, built by Bernard Stamm), a late and modest budget, stands up to skippers benefiting from newer and updated boats with foils. Her routes are beautiful and smooth, we can see that she knows how to use the weather and navigate, I find what she is doing is quite fantastic on a high level.” Wrote Yoann Richomme today in the French e-newsletter Tip & Shaft.
Laying to rest the ghosts of Christmas past
For Stéphane Le Diraison on Time for Oceans, this Christmas period is a long awaited contrast to four years ago. At this time in 2016 after breaking the mast of the same IMOCA that he is racing this time he was crawling at five or six knots towards Melbourne, Australia.
After passing Cape Leeuwin two days ago, Le Diraison has also crossed the point where he lost his mast on the 42nd day of racing last time.
“It was a long, long, long time to get to Melbourne and so in fact Christmas was a welcome diversion to open presents and to open presents and to be alone on the boat. But to be honest I prefer this time with a mast. I am looking forwards to learning the Pacific now, here I am living my dream.”
Paul was in third place at the time and was going really well before he broke his hydraulic keel ram and he had to lash it in the middle. He was further across the Pacific and so the safest thing was for him to go to Tahiti. It was stressful for him as it took him ten days and it was a stressful time for us. He could not go to New Zealand as it was upwind. We did want him to go all the way to Chile as it was a lee-shore. I had to head out with the team on Boxing Day.
At the same time Hutchinson had to juggle with the logistics and management of a difficult situation with Enda O’Coineen the Irish skipper who was dangerously fatigued due to computer and other issues and had to stop into Stewart Island. He dismasted not long after leaving.
This year Hutchinson’s skipper Thomas Ruyant is in third place, again, but in much more placid sailing conditions, dealing this time with too little wind rather than too much.
“In fact it was a great experience in Tahiti but it was a Christmas with the family ruined. And it was very, very disappointing for Paul as he was in third place at the time.”