Ghosting Into Christmas Present, Memories of Christmas Past in the Pacific
Compared with the last two editions of the Vendée Globe which, by Day 45, had both been distilled down to high octane drag race sprints across the Pacific to Cape Horn, at the front this ninth edition is increasingly becoming an exacting game of strategy and patience.
For the top ten right now rather than spearing eastwards to Point Nemo, the most remote spot on the course which right now is still over 1000 miles to the east, the sport is more reminiscent of an inshore race in the Mediterranean in benign, fickle breezes, fighting with the track of a voracious zone of light winds,
Not only is this edition not going to break any speed records, so slow was second placed Charlie Dalin moving at one point in the last 24 hours that he noted that he joked he would back in Les Sables d’Olonne in July or August.
Leader Yannick Bestaven is threatening to escape from the dominant high pressure and second placed Charlie Dalin and third placed Thomas Ruyant, close to the centre of the high pressure are powerless to stop him.
Weather strategy expert, two times winner of La Solitaire du Figaro Yoann Richomme explained:
“ There is going to a be a break. Yannick is in front of the system and the others are behind. It is a like a wall which is slowly moving so that entire group for me from V and B La Mayenne to Charlie Dalin is gonna be pretty closed up with eight or nine boats within a hundred miles or so of each other by this weekend. Yannick has another low pressure coming down this Saturday and it depends how strong and how it is positioned but right now I see him getting a nice 200 or 300 miles lead.”
And the second group is compressing too, running into the buffer zone of light winds on the west of the high. Boris Herrmann in fourth is under threat from boats on both sides of him.
Benjamin Dutreux is up to fifth place albeit only seven miles ahead of Jean Le Cam on the water. But he is on the hunt for fourth placed Herrmann, the two on a converging course this evening in light winds, making five to seven knots only.
Le Cam and Dutreux are both sailing very similar Farr designed 2007-8 generation boats.
The 30 year old Vendée sailor Dutreux is sailing an incredibly accomplished race. He was born in the north of France – the French sailors’ strict demarcation making him a ‘Chti’ like second placed Dalin from Le Havre and third placed Ruyant from Dunkirk. But his grandmother had a house on the Ile de Yeu where he spent all his time each summer sailing. He joined the Ile de Yeu club at eight before graduating to the local mainland club.
He was on the French youth team at 16 and won national, European and world titles before he was 18. After college he became a sailmaker for three years and in his 20s joined the Vendée Formation Figaro training group going on to finish fifth overall in 2018.
Dutreux’s boat was previously Kojiro Shiraishi’s Spirit of Yukoh which Dutreux brought from Japan. While Le Cam’s Yes We Cam has already won as Michel Desjoyeaux’s Foncia in 2008, Dutreux’s was on the podium on the 2012 race as Alex Thomson’s Hugo Boss.
He and his brother have a boat renovation and repair yard in Les Sables d’Olonne where he is very popular for his very down to earth, friendly demeanour. His best IMOCA result to date was 19th in the Transat Jacques Vabre.
Damien Seguin (Groupe Apicil) and Isabelle Joschke (MACSF) are racing almost in sight of each other – four miles apart – in seventh and eighth.
“I have Damien not far away but can’t see him or pick him up on the AIS. There are conditions that are more favourable at times for my boat and at others for his. Now it is great to have caught up with him when he was quite long way ahead, but he has also had a few issues to deal with, either way it is nice to have caught up. I have felt a lot better in the Pacific, better than in the Indian and I am more confident and less scared. There are things that you are naturally scared of, but which you overcome, and it is wonderful to have the chance to make the most of it and enjoy it now. I am loving the Pacific; it is just the opposite of the Indian. We will have to see what conditions are like at Cape Horn.”
She adds, “I am enjoying eating well and doing a bit of cooking, when the conditions are good of course. We have light conditions, and we are sailing with stunning conditions, under the moon and with very short nights. I am sailing to the South West of an anticyclone and will be into it and so it should get a lot lighter which means that those ahead will slow down and those behind will continue to catch up until they too get the lighter airs. I will have to see how I negotiate it and it is not going to be too easy because it will be very light.”
Ruyant: “The big question is: “is the high pressure going to be fast enough to catch Yannick?”.
The skipper who comes originally from Dunkirk, positioned further North than Charlie Dalin and Yannick Bestaven, is watching the complex weather situation closely and crosses his fingers that Bestaven’s lead will not extend further. The skipper of LinkedOut remains on the lookout and ready to pounce if there is the slightest opportunity
“We are going a bit faster than I had expected, so it’s pretty good. Now the situation is pretty much undecided as far as the routing for the hours and days to come. I am closely monitoring the complexity of the weather and I hope that there won’t be any bungee jump effect from the front. I keep my fingers crossed. I’m in a good phase where I still have a little bit of wind and making good progress along the course. I went to look for the shift near the centre of the high, but it is moving quicker or slower depending on the models and each time we get a new weather forecast, it’s different. I am trying to deal with what I have and it’s not very easy, you don’t know what to expect and when. There are small areas you can make progress through and then some lighter patches around them; it is not a perfectly formed bubble or high. I have a little more wind than forecast and I am happy. But the big question is: “is the high pressure going to be fast enough to catch Yannick?”. (laughs).
I chose to stop heading towards the South, I think that Charlie (Dalin) and Yannick stay to the South but I am looking to get to the right corner of the centre of the anticyclone. I chose the shift rather than the pressure, it’s not so bad. We’ll see, it’s difficult, I’m looking forward to the forecasts coming out in two hours to adjust my course.”
“The sky is a little grey, the sea is smooth, I’ve put all the sails up and try to keep fast so as not to slow down, and make progress towards the East. It is less cold. These are light conditions, we’ll have this for several days, which are not necessarily the best conditions for our boats. We have hulls pushing wate and our foils. It’s a slow Vendée Globe in spite of our fast boats which we know how to go fast with. Since the end of the Atlantic, we’ve had weather conditions that have not allowed us to go fast, but this is a race, it’s not a record attempt, that’s the difference. The game is how best we position ourselves, to finish before the others. It’s always better when there are fast finishes and record times at the finish, but this won’t be the case. I’m not in a hurry to get back as long as there’s confinement and the bars are closed!”
‘Yannick manages his routing perfectly’
“This could be a time we see a barrier drop down in front of us and he gets away or we could all regroup. What I hope is that Yannick doesn’t get away too far ahead. He is sailing very, very well and he makes few mistakes, he knows how to go fast with his boat, and you can feel that he is at ease. He has confidence in himself, I wish for him, but I don’t want him to get away ahead, despite him deserving it. He is in his place and was able to seize the opportunity when Charlie had to slow down. He knew how to come back; he knew how to take advantage of our small problems and is managing his course and the lead really well. For the time being, he is doing a perfect course. I’m trying to hang on, I’m not going to let go, I’m ready to pounce and hope to keep close.”