Vendée Globe, The Cape of Sorrows
Each edition of the Vendée Globe, Cape Town, South Africa provides final safe haven for stricken solo racers to retire to, restore their mental equilibrium, to reflect on what should have been and to enjoy the safety and security of terra firma after nursing an injured IMOCA to port.
After nearly seven days and 1800 miles since he announced his hopes of winning the 2020 Vendée Globe had been terminated by a broken starboard rudder, Alex Thomson arrived in Cape Town this morning. He will be joined over the weekend by young Vendéen skipper Sébastien Simon who also announced he has had to give up the race because of damage to his starboard foil casing and his foil on the Juan K designed ARKEA PAPREC.
Of the 33 IMOCAs which started the race, four have now officially abandoned, CORUM L’Épargne, PRB, HUGO BOSS and ARKEA PAPREC.
Thomson said, “I’m still coming to terms with what’s happened, and I’m obviously utterly devastated that this is how the race has ended for us.”
“But, as I’ve said before, it’s in our toughest moments that we find our greatest strength. Now we have to pick ourselves up and move forwards, and I’ve no doubt that we can do that together as a team. Over the past week or so we’ve been reminded of just how difficult this race is. I’ve said it time and time again but there really is no sporting challenge in the world as tough as the Vendée Globe. I have such admiration for any skipper who takes on this race. My thoughts go out to those who, like us, have had their races cut short. And I wish the remaining skippers a safe passage and a good race. I’ll be watching closely.”
The British skipper has been forced into Cape Town in early December before. His first Vendée Globe ended with his retiral on 7th December 2004 after an area of his coachroof around the mast gave way due to a structural problem. And in 2006 he and Mike Golding arrived in Cape Town on December 3rd 2006 after Golding had dramatically rescued Thomson from his IMOCA in the Southern Ocean after he had to abandon it because his keel had failed. Golding’s mast broke not long after the rescue and the pair had to sail 1000 miles north under jury rig.
Britain’s Sam Davies is making steady progress north under reduced sail nursing her damaged Initiatives Coeur back to sheltered waters and this afternoon was about 80 miles south of Cape Town. After the best sleep since she hit a floating object which has damaged the structure round her keel, Davies admitted that the emotions were suddenly released as she was accompanied on her route by an albatross, “The sun came out too which helps to ease the aches and pains – I went and sat outside in the warm sun. And then suddenly found myself in floods of tears – and this is a bit weird for me who never cries to deal with all these emotions. I wasn’t even sure why I was crying – whether it was sadness for my boat and for my place in this race, or relief that my boat and I are safe? Or a mix of all these emotions? I’ve always felt that it’s stupid to cry when you are alone on your boat – nobody’s going to help you or hug you or reassure you so it’s pretty much a waste of time and energy. But at that particular moment I had no control over these emotions. I leant on the coach roof and looked out and there, right there, really close, unusually close, was the most beautiful albatross I have seen, gliding past silently and slowly. He was so close. Normally the albatrosses keep their distance but this was different, as if he could feel my emotion and wanted to help. He stayed close and gave me a wonderful display of effortless flight that was a welcome distraction. They say that albatrosses have the souls of sailors of the past and I can well believe that. I feel like I am being escorted to safety by these amazing creatures and I am grateful for their concern!”
Meanwhile, last night, Romain Attanasio (Pure-Best Western), Davies’ partner was nervously crossing the exact same area where he had his collision two days ago and where four years ago he collided with something that damaged his rudder, which it forced him to notice the anchor. Port Elizabeth.
“I am completely in the area where Sam and Seb hit their OFNI and it is exactly the same area as me four years ago, the same place, the same latitude, the same longitude as the Agulhas stream, there are all kinds of things in the water, objects, is a somewhat critical area. I am reaching a fairly large sea, so I am on high alert. I have my eyes on OSCAR as much as possible, this camera system surveying the route. You can’t see much in the water at the surface. So all this is not easy ”. Attanasio said
Conditions remain demanding for the fleet leaders, who will soon be able to lean more to the southeast after passing the corner of the Antarctic Exclusion Zone. Led by Charlie Dalin (Apivia) with Louis Burton now just 140 miles behind at Bureau Vallée, they are still struggling to establish a good average speed in the typically big seas and gusty winds. A second, deeper low pressure will combine next week to provide testing conditions that leaders are very likely to change their route to avoid.
The top ten now contain a fascinating mix of solo riders, six of them competing in the “great south” for the first time, Charlie Dalin, Yannick Bestaven, Damien Seguin, Benjamin Dutreux. Isabelle Joschke and Giancarlo Pedote and still three boats without foil, those of Seguin, Dutreux and Jean Le Cam.
Louis Burton’s striking force seems relentless, his wife Servane noted today on the Vendée Live English program, “Louis never ceases to amaze me, but he has a mind of steel. When he went south he asked me, will you still love me if the shit? “