Vendée Globe. Flying South
As he leads onto the trade winds motorway down the Atlantic, between the Canary Islands and the Cape Verdes, British skipper Alex Thomson is expected to increase his lead at the head of the fleet as his foiling Hugo Boss hits its stride.
Accelerating through the day he has shaken off veteran Jean Le Cam, averaging two knots faster, and is the only skipper in the race to have sailed more than 380 nautical miles in the last 24 hours.
NEE’ly Trade winds of 20-22kts are expected to blow for Thomson and the leading peloton over the coming days. Sunday, one week into the race, has offered many skippers in the top group to take essential time to look after themselves, to wash, to make a ‘treat’ meal or drinks, to change to fresh clothes as they prepare for what will still be a demanding, active period, even if it is a boatspeed drag race on port gybe for several days.
“You can’t forget the trade winds are not as stable as you maybe think, the direction still changes ten to fifteen degrees and the wind will go up and down, there are still gusts and so you have to be attentive and there will be a lot of trimming to do.” cautioned Seb Josse, who is serving as one of the Vendée Globe’s meteo advisers.
Skippers today expressed their admiration for Thomson’s race so far.
“He has mastered the start of this race perfectly with his ingenious, efficient and well-prepared boat,” commented guest of the Vendée LIVE French show this afternoon. “Alex is going to take the fast train south and that can quickly turn into a big lead,” notes Thomas Ruyant from fourth placed LinkedOut at over 120 miles behind Thomson. “And Alex is hungry for it, but so am I.”
One of the pre-race favourites Charlie Dalin, in sixth at 168 miles adrift of HUGO BOSS, wants to stay in the match but acknowledged: “My decision to move out west was because the storm was too early on into the race to take any risks and I did the calculation of what I could afford to lose and try and make up, Alex went full on in the Theta depression and that can give him to make a big margin”. Dalin, the Apivia skipper chuckled on the live show “Wait for me guys, I am stoking up the coal, I’m coming! ”
HUGO BOSS is due at the latitude of the Cape Verde islands tomorrow and is expected to pass the doldrums on Tuesday. According to Vendée Globe weather specialist Christian Dumard the leaders may be treated to a relatively straightforward crossing into the Southern Hemisphere.
At the Port Olona pontoon in Les Sables d’Olonne, the technical team of experts have been working round the clock onboard Charal, the damaged IMOCA of Jérémie Beyou, aiming to have it ready for Beyou to return to the course. A press conference is planned for 1700hrs CET Monday to announce the decision.
Japanese skipper Koji Shiraishi has managed to lower his damaged mainsail on his DMG MORI and is evaluating the options to repair the tear.
Treats All Round
Skippers have been rewarding themselves as they break into warmer climes. “It has been the first day with some time for me, it feels good,” admitted third placed Benjamin Dutreux (OMIA – Water Family). “I have been on the terrace (cockpit) having a good coffee”. Each has enjoyed their own way of treating themselves, Alan Roura (La Fabrique) had his first shower, 1 litre of salt water then 1 litre of fresh water. Yannick Bestaven (Maître CoQ IV) took the time to listen to a “rock” playlist, Boris Herrmann “had a little aperitif and called up his friends”.
Damien Seguin, slept seven hours last night, treated himself to a small feast with Parmentier hash and Beaufort cheese. Sunday morning, Manuel Cousin (SÉTIN Group) started the day with a good roasted coffee – “just like at home” – and a piece of chocolate from a chocolate maker sponsor. Clarisse Crémer (Banque Populaire X), too, looked more relaxed. On the deck of her IMOCA she was appreciating the beautiful seascape, “This is the picture postcard image that you have in your minde of ocean racing.” Said the skipper who admitted to being ‘a bit freaked out’ by the prospect of dicing with the storm Theta, “It feels good to have a lighter heart! ”
They said: Benjamin Dutreux / OMIA- Water Family: “I don’t ask myself too many questions. I just try to be gentle with my boat and do it by feeling. It got knocked around so badly in the depression that I’ve got some little things to tinker with but nothing serious, I don’t have too much to do. I’ve got a little job list for tomorrow, but nothing to worry about. I’m also going to do a good check of the boat. Today was my first day with some time to myself, it felt good. The start of the race was so intense that I feel like I never had the time, I was always full on and a bit overwhelmed by the events. Now, coming out of the depression, being able to go downwind, to be able to settle down, eat well, rest well, it feels good.
You can be outside in a T-shirt, you can have a coffee, the boat is surfing well. Since the start of last, the wind is super unstable, it’s a bit complicated to sail under spinnaker. You end up with strange angles and not great averages speeds… you just have to really be on it.
Going forward between now and the next night we should get more established trade wind conditions which should be more stable. I’ve prepared the boat for this long port tack, and the stacking to trim ballast is really hell. You have to be careful not to hurt your back… it’s a bit of a punishment.”
Thomas Ruyant (LinkedOut): “We sailed fast last night! There was a little more wind than I had forecast but Id managed to get a good average speed, I think. I was expecting there to be an area of calm and that’s why I shifted a little to the west, but in the end got through really well. I’ve just changed sails because the wind has backed a bit. We’re in foiling conditions and I’m very happy because flying! Now I’m doing 20/24 knots.
What’s good is that we’re on a direct course towards the doldrums, there won’t be a lot of manoeuvres to do. The sequence of systems at the start of the race has worn me out but despite everything, I did sleep well last night.
Temperatures are starting to warm up and it’s perfect. These are real moments of pure surfing are here and it much more pleasant than what we’ve had so far.
I’ve had a few things to sort out, but then I imagine that we all have with the conditions we encountered. I’ve got a little bit of tinkering to do, I have to find the right conditions to get up the mast because I had a little problem with the windvane. Now I’m on my second windvane. I’d like to have the boat in good shape before getting into the south. I also had a problem with the hook, but it is not stopping me from being able to use my full set of sails.
I’m glad I didn’t take too many risks and am happy that I managed the boat as I did despite the small problems I had, particularly having dropped the sail in the water twice because of my hook problem. I had some minor collateral damage, which I have repaired. It is good to be at this point with the boat in the state it now is. I am happy with my position and the start of the race. Now I need to find some rest time get my energy levels back. The conditions that are coming are going to be favourable for that, so it’s perfect.
Alex (Thomson) and Jean (Le Cam) have put on a good show, they went into the storm, but I didn’t take that choice. We knew that they would come out with a good lead. If there were two sailors to do that, it was them! Alex is on his 5th Vendée, he has a great boat, he’s ready and then he is hungry, but so did I! I want to stay focused on my boat, my trajectory and try to go fast.
Alex must be 110 or 120 miles away, it’s a good lead at this stage of the race. I’m going to work hard to get back on track. I have between 16 and 19 knots of north-easterly wind. It’s the trade winds, the weather is nice, there are a few clouds, and temperatures are warming up. These are the conditions we and the boats like-