Vendée Arctique – Insomnia
The leaders of the Vendée Arctique Les Sables d’Olonne IMOCA, the race round Iceland and back to Les Sables d’Olonne, are only just north of Ireland – far less at Iceland – but for the solo skippers who have been struggling to make their desired progress northwards in very light winds, the accumulation of fatigue, stress and lack of sleep is starting to take an early toll on just the third day of racing.
Louis Burton, who set off into the first windy night at warp factor 4 on his highly fancied, black hulled Bureau Vallée, has found the going slow and very frustrating in the successive bands of light airs. His choice to go west which along with a small initial delay behind Charlie Dalin now sees him 100 nautical miles behind second Dalin’s placed APIVIA.
Charlie Dalin – who now might have a dream downwind routing virtually to the finish line – was making 14kts directly up the chart towards the Arctic while Burton was pointing at America doing four knots, his powerful black Manuard scow hobbled in the second lights airs zone since the start.
“I must have had only four hours of sleep since the start.” Reflected Louis Burton the solo skipper from Saint Malo who took third in the last Vendée Globe, “This has not been easy. The objective is to catch the southerly wind behind the front to go downwind to Iceland. But It’s not easy to manage these passages, you have to take what there is to take and cross your fingers: the situation is different if you are 20 miles further north than south. Now I am going to have to really push to hang on to the guys in front of me as Charlie is really going very fast. But I have confidence in this boat, even if I feel stressed in 30 knots of wind. But between the high speeds of the start, then the calm, the fact of setting off again downwind at 30 knots and now a new calm… It is a yo-yo, ups and downs that psychologically are difficult. And now the lack of sleep really begins to be felt.”
New Zealander Conrad Colman is also close to the edge, a little bit frazzled and lacking in sleep too, “The wind has just turned through 90 degrees which is indicative of the way it has been since the start, extremely changeable and with very little association from one day to the next, from one weather model to the next. So it constantly feels like we are picking our way through a minefield and are constantly re-inventing the game every day. I am feeling pretty wrecked. I have had a lot of sail changes in the last day. Sadly my spinnaker blew up. I don’t have that any more. And another sail fell in the water after a problem with the halyards. And so I have had to recover two very big sails from the water while the boat was still moving which are big, big efforts. Just trying to keep the boat in synch with the weather is requiring a huge effort. I am a little bit tired and frustrated and so I need to re-set, get some rest and get back in synch with my boat.”
Benjamin Ferré (Monnoyeur-Duo For A Job) still had the lead this afternoon, the third day of racing since leaving Les Sables d’Olonne on Sunday evening, but he seems to be under increasing threat from Charlie Dalin in the west. Dalin in turn is more than 60 miles ahead of Jérémie Beyou (Charal) who has 15 miles on Thomas Ruyant (LinkedOut).
Conrad Colman, who left Sunday with high hopes of matching his tenth overall in last month’s Guyader Bermudes 1000 race, is in 11th in good company, sandwiched between Sebastien Marsset (Cap Agir Ensemble-sponsorswelcome) and Nicolas Lunven (Banque Populaire) but this trio are more than 100 miles behind breakaway Ferrée.
With 529 miles to the Iceland waypoint this afternoon latest routings have Dalin reaching there there Friday. With a low pressure moving east across his path he might well end up racing downwind down the north side of Iceland.