Vendée Globe in The BIG South

Vendée Globe in The BIG South

Not for nothing are the southern oceans called the Big South.
Pip Hare described the sheer scale of this lonely area beautifully in a video yesterday. “It is so remote. Behind me I am pointing to Antarctica. To my starboard I would end up 2,500 miles that way to Argentina, and this way, to my east the next bit of land I would hit is Australia and that, incredibly is 6,000 miles. It is beautiful, incredible. But when the cloud is over and it is windy and wet, your world shrinks in to be just the boat and you are dealing with the here and now, just dealing with the boat, a little pocket of activity trying to achieve one thing. And you lose that big perspective.’

For the leaders, the Cape of Good Hope is far behind, a distant memory. On the bow, there is nothing but desolation to the south of the islands of South New Zealand, maybe Campbell or of Auckland Islands. Close to the course there are the Kerguelen islands and further north Saint-Paul and Amsterdam, confetti dropped on the immense ocean. Somewhere near the Kerguelens will be the Nivôse, the frigate of the French National Navy which criss crosses these waters around the French Austral territories, which should hopefully take Kevin Escoffier off Yes We Cam! weather permitting.

And the Indian Ocean looks tough for the leading group as two southerly depressions merged to form a low nearly 2,000 miles in diameter, stretching from the Cape of Good Hope to ‘east of Heard Island, spanning the Roaring Forties right down to the 60s. It is a meteorological monster which will die and then reappear under the influence of a new low.

Vendée Globe. Tracking map in real time

The leaders are using this system as best they can Charlie Dalin (Apivia) working along 40 ° South in a powerful South-West sector flow on a still very rough sea, while Louis Burton (Bureau Vallée 2) has chosen a more southerly course, more “committed” having some thirty knots of breeze on six-meter waves, along 42 ° South. Their courses should converge after passing the Crozet archipelago which is inside the Antarctic Exclusion Zone (AEZ). Thereafter the tactical options open up after 51 ° East, but likely that the leading solo sailors will not dive so south towards the Kerguelen to to avoid the worst of these very potent southern ocean systems.

Meantime Sébastien Simon (ARKEA-PAPREC) who hit an unidentified floating object which damaged his starboard foil and Sam Davies (Initiatives Coeur) who damaged the framing of her keel box heading north to find calmer conditions near the South African coast. And Alex Thomson (HUGO BOSS) should reach Cape Town this Friday morning and officially announce his retirement.

And Romain Attanasio who is passing 250 miles directly south of his partner Davies course to shelter, lying in 12th place trying to get some rest reported last night “I am fully in the zone where Sam and Seb hit their OFNIs and it is exactly the same area as I did four years ago, the same spot same latitude, same longitude it is in the Agulhas current, there are all sorts of things in the water, objects, it is a zone which is a bit critical. I am reaching in quite a big sea and so I am on high alert. I have my eyes on OSCAR as much as possible, this camera system that surveys the route. You can’t see much in the water on the surface. So it is not easy all this. I don’t quite know when I will be out of this zone, tomorrow I suppose. And so Sam is heading to Cape Town, a big disappointment for her.”

Miranda Merron yesterday had to deal with a sudden loss of hydraulic oil in her keel rams as, it turns out, a tiny seal had broken. In consultation with her partner Halvard Mabire the British skipper managed to refill the oil reservoir and all is good again on board Campagne de France.
“ But I find that after electricity, hydraulics are my other achilles heel. “

And in fourth place Damien Seguin reported a rainbow that brighten up his night, “It is 4.30 am. The night has been complicated. I had to reduce sail to be able to rest and face all the variations in the wind in both strength and direction. It was still up to 40 knots with impossible waves. The boat was hurting, it was banging very hard. We had to slow down. This is how I spent at least the first part of the night and the nights are very short. It is daylight at 2:30 am. I saw something when it was dark: a rainbow at night! It’s quite weird. We had passages of squalls with rain, sometimes even hail. Suddenly, as in broad daylight, there are phenomena of rainbow, diffraction of light. There it was behind me. They were shades of green. It was not of all colors. It passed between the clouds. It really was a full arc, something extraordinary. It’s the first time I’ve seen this! “