Vendée Globe. Day 44 morning update

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Vendée Globe Day 44 morning update


Burton Back, Bestaven Lights The Way, Boris Reflects

“This is one of the hardest things I have done in my life! We have a new mainsail track, I can set the full mainsail and we will be able to go fast again back to Les Sables!” Louis Burton’s cries of delight from the top of the mast of Bureau Vallée 2 would have been heard by no-one on the lonely, mist shrouded Macquarie Island some 930 miles South East of Tasmania but his words are a welcome warning to his Vendée Globe rivals that Burton is back. After that fateful involuntary gybe on December 6th when he was second, Burton has been compromised significantly and dropped to this morning’s 11th place some 750 miles or so behind the leader Yannick Bestaven,

Burton’s position was monitored all the time, every few minutes, by Race Direction in Les Sables d’Olonne. It took him three different attempts in two different locations, initially at 1118hrs UTC yesterday, then having moved north, at 0208hrs UTC (local time there is approx. Plus 11hrs) and then at 0300hrs UTC this morning the news comes that his repairs have been successful.

The leading trio are entering a phase of complicated weather which will not be easy, especially for Yannick Bestaven on Maitre Coq IV. Routing round – or maybe through – a large anticyclone area with light winds, Bestaven opens the route and therefore might plot the lightest winds for his chasing rivals Charlie Dalin (APIVIA) and Thomas Ruyant (LinkedOut) to avoid. Bestaven is 126 miles ahead and there is only about 30 miles between the two Verdier boats, the yellow hulled APIVIA and the blue and white LInkedOut.

“I am starting to be very glad I started with 80 days worth of food on board,” Thomas Ruyant admitted this morning, having just finished a risotto and a rice pudding when he took the morning call from Race HQ in Les Sables d’Olonne . But it is not the culinary but the meteo menu which is concerning third placed Ruyant as they gybe down a tunnel of moderate 13-15kts breezes towards the high pressure which will increasingly block the leaders’ route and force them north,

“It’s the game of gybes, all about the right timing and tempo, to get through this bit each time trying to get closer to the Antarctic exclusion zone to avoid the really light stuff. We’re unlikely to have wind all the time; we ‘ll have to pass through the center of the high to get back into pressure. This high pressure will keep us busy for a little while. I hope Yannick will not slide away in front ”

Some routings suggest it should be possible for Bestaven to be first in, first out and reach the southern edge of a low descending from the north but they would then be upwind initially.

“The weather files are only seemingly reliable for two or three days with any real degree of confidence,” explains the skipper of LinkedOut. “So the forecasts are not very reliable looking forwards towards Cape Horn. We don’t know that much and so I am going to stay a bit conservative. I’m lucky to be a hunter, in this not very precise weather, not the hunted – not having to lead the way. I can benchmark myself against others, and I watch hour by hour day by day. ”

In fourth place Boris Herrmann (SeaExplorer-Yacht Club de Monaco) said this morning “I sometimes compare my race with the pattern for my wife at home with our baby, just with intermittent sleep waking every two hours during the night, she can never just sit down and have a quiet evening or night and watch the baby or does the baby wake up. It seems completely unpredictable like out here. I am running a bit out of juice with just my big gennaker of 300 sq meters as Jean Le Cam is making miles back at me and on this VMG angle his boat is maybe just a little bit less draggy, that is just a guess, and he is most certainly has a kite of 400 sq meters which will be allowing him to sail 10 degrees lower and faster and so your VMG is massively better. I read some stuff from IMOCA with Jérémie Beyou saying what a slow race this is compared to the last one, and he said it is all about just ten degrees here or there and two knots more or less that makes the difference. If I could have anything this morning it would be that, to have the wind from ten degrees more right and three knots more I would be making record speeds along the ice gate in a straight line. So instead here I am slow and gybing, feeling like sometimes I am not going anywhere. ”

Message from Boris Herrmann

Message received from Boris Herrmann (Seaexplorer – Yacht Club de Monaco) this morning.

“I sometimes compare my race with the pattern for my wife at home with our baby, just with intermittent sleep waking every two hours during the night, she can never just sit down and have a quiet evening or night and watch the baby or does the baby wake up. It seems completely unpredictable like out here. I am running a bit out of juice with just my big gennaker of 300 sq meters as Jean Le Cam is making miles back at me and on this VMG angle his boat is maybe just a little bit less draggy, that is just a guess, and he is most certainly has a kite of 400 sq meters which will be allowing him to sail 10 degrees lower and faster and so your VMG is massively better. I read some stuff from IMOCA with Jérémie Beyou saying what a slow race this is compared to the last one, and he said it is all about just ten degrees here or there and two knots more or less that makes the difference. If I could have anything this morning it would be that, to have the wind from ten degrees more right and three knots more I would be making record speeds along the ice gate in a straight line. So instead here I am slow and gybing, feeling like sometimes I am not going anywhere. ”

Pip and Aretha are in harmony on Medallia

This morning is an Aretha morning – she’s been blasting out in my cabin and on deck and I have been singing along like a strangled cat but she doesn’t seem to mind.
I’ve had an incredible couple of days run, Medallia has been on fire and has made a great job of sneaking along to the South of my competition and gaining some miles. I’ve been pushing hard, driven on my best tunes and I think it’s impossible not to put your heart and soul into your work when backed up by Aretha.

It’s been fast sailing and not without trauma. Every sail change I do seems to be either in the middle of the night or at dusk so I start without a head torch and end up fumbling round in the dark instead of just pausing and going and getting one. Last night I had to go out to the end of the bowsprit three times with various snags on the sail change. It’s a crazy sensation going out there in the pitch dark. Because my head torch is illuminating the work in front of my face the rest of the world plunges into absolute blackness. The water beneath the sprit has no definition, it’s just matt black, of course I can see the boat but looking backwards there is no definition between sea and sky it’s like I am sailing in a black hole. My balance is terrible at the best of times but when the nights are like this and I no sense of the direction the boat is traveling or the approach of any waves then I stagger around on the foredeck like a drunk, really struggling to get from one spot t
or the next. I often resort to just crawling around on my knees and have nearly worn through one set of knee pads on my foulies.

Later today I will be gybing onto Stbd for the final run along the top of the ice limit and the passing of my second Cape Leeuwin tomorrow. I’ve been looking at the sea that has built up behind me and have some concerns over those first few hours on stbd. Three days ago gybing on to stbd brought me a whole world of leaks and pain. It was a low point for me as no one wants to watch their boat filling up with water. Since then I have been working pretty hard to address all those issues, the most notable of which was the forward ballast breathers which were back filling the tanks without me realizing and causing Medallia to nose dive badly in the cross seas when on stbd, which in turn was diverting huge volumes of water into the cockpit and feeding the leaks. The breathers are now plugged and I’ve had 48 hours of wet sailing to test the fix – all seems to be good. The leaks I hope are filled and I’ve modified my conservatory slightly to try and keep the worst of the water out b
ut I am still nervous about life after my gybe. The sea state is going to be horrible and it just makes everything hard.

So maybe Respect is the right song for the morning … although chain of fools is a little way down the playlist too.

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