Two days before the passage of Cape Horn a particular weariness is evident among the chasing pack in particular. The final days in the Pacific are filled with thoughts of the gale force winds at the Horn, the pervasive damp and cold and just the accumulated fatigue 53 days at sea. It all makes the final miles in the Southern Ocean very difficult. If anything it is better for the leaders who have a chance of increasing their break, extending their margin before the climb up the Atlantic.
A break has already happened for those of the chasing pack who are in the south, now the leaders are still in front of the depression and are having to push hard to stay ahead of it in the NW’ly wind. Those who are now behind in the unstable SW’ly find it much colder, the wind being sucked north into the depression from the Antarctic wastes.
Leader Yannick Bestaven (Maître CoQ IV) is still ripping along the Antarctic Exclusion Zone (AEZ) at an average of nearly twenty knots: his aim seems to be to slip under, south of, the strongest area of the depression which will reach the Chilean coast this weekend. But he will still get a major blast from the North and upwards of 35 knots from the Northwest in The Drake Passage
This is also the option being chased by Charlie Dalin (Apivia) who knows that this phase looks like a turning point in this ninth edition of the non-stop solo round-the-world race. Dalin is pushing hard to stay ahead of the low in an increasingly powerful North to North-West flow which should take him to Cape Horn. His attack is, by necessity, more aggressive because he absolutely must stay ahead of the depression before entering The Drake Passage where he should be during Sunday night in Bestaven’s wake of the leader only a few tens of miles behind, a few hours apart.
For third placed Thomas Ruyant (LinkedOut) it is a different situation. He is attempting a northern route to avoid the calm that is prevailing under the centre of the low. But will he continue to hold on to these fast reaching conditions? If not he will have to readjust further south to control the pack led by Damien Seguin (Groupe APICIL) coming from behind. Increasingly it looks like there will be two breakaway leaders, with a margin oscillating between 300 and 400 miles, still only a short day at sea, the fastest this morning covering nearly 500 nautical miles
The peloton is breaking up slightly because the breeze is not the same for everyone between 54 ° South and 56 ° South. All the boats don’t have the same potential and there is some fatigue accumulated, being sluiced on deck by 6 ° C water and air temperature is 3 °
The main objective is to be best positioned for when the SW’ly breeze returns Friday. The leaders of the group will stay with the AEZ before moving north while Giancarlo Pedote (Prysmian Group) and Louis Burton (Bureau Vallée 2) further back can keep catching miles, offered a more direct route to the Drake Passage.
Yannick Bestaven (Maître Coq) “The wind is a quite unstable I am just trying to make a good course towards Cape Horn. At the moment with the N’ly wind it is not too bad (racing along the AEZ) but behind the front the wind shifts to the west and I will climb north to keep the angle.
I will likely stay to the south and make a good timing I will just try to be careful because there will be a lot of wind and big seas, big gusts.”
Boris Herrmann (Seaexplorer-Yacht Club de Monaco): “ I can see Jean downwind of me he has small sails up – a reefed main and small gennaker – I am not sure why, maybe he has a problem. I have a full main and big gennaker. I am passing Jean and Benjamin is not far away. The low has left us a bit, we are in a little high pressure cell, we don’t have much wind – 11 knots – the boats behind have more wind and the boats in front -Damien has more wind – and is gaining. Tomorrow morning (local) we will have complete calm before we get going with wind from the south, in a few hours the wind will drop before a new wind from the south.
I will have a little drink and a little dinner. But it has been a hard day I changed the motor on my keel system which was some long hours of work and not easy to do. And there were some manoeuvres, gybing and changing sails, changing from the small gennaker to the big one, tidying the boat, stacking. The day was busy and so the reward will be a nice dinner and have the heating on a bit. New Year I will pass with my European friends.
My strategy has always been to look after the boat and to attack after the Horn, that is my idea. We have a storm in two days and it my plan to stay south and preserve the boat. The boat is at 100 per cent and me, I am a bit tired, I aim to be able to attack a bit after the Horn.”