Vendée Globe. The Climb

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Vendée Globe. The Climb

There are still thirteen solo skippers climbing the Atlantic towards the finish line In Les Sables d’Olonne, all of them in their own particular situation fighting their own gremlins, their own winds and, indeed many still enjoying the satisfaction of each mile gained towards the line.

Two will arrive at the weekend, likely Saturday for Jeremie Beyou and Romain Attanasio. Then there is the group of six that has to get around a big high pressure system which has elongated north south, pressed between the Atlantic lows, (Boissières, Le Diraison, Roura, Shiraishi, Costa, Hare) and then there is the trio Giroud-Cousin-Merron which is finished with the doldrums, and finally the duo Barrier-Huusela that is going steadily north off the coast of Brazil.

Today, the morning after the 12th finisher of this Vendée Globe (Clarisse Crémer), Les Sables d’Olonne is enjoying clear skies and spring weather a return to the expected seasonal norms perhaps. But there are still dark clouds piling up on the horizon with more low pressures due to roll in off the Atlantic.

But the finishes are always a high point, rich in emotional reunions, the release of stress and huge relief all round and they mark the end of the story, the end a shared regime which has least three months more or less, for the men and women on their boats actually doing the race but also for those who follow from ashore.

And it is not easy for those who are still racing, there is an almost inevitable slump, the excitement of the finishes ashore inevitably means less focus on those still racing,
“As soon as the first ones have arrived, it is always very hard psychologically for those who are still racing. It is inevitably a bit of a blow to morale”, said Armel Le Cléac’h, winner of the 2016-2017 Vendée Globe yesterday.

“We have to be patient, it’s so close and so far away at the same time,” said Manuel Cousin (Groupe SETIN) this morning. And so this is one of their real test of stamina, holding on and staying focussed. But in fact many are still engaged in a competitive race, still looking to gain places or hold on to a place until the line.

Beyou-Attanasio, expected Saturday and low speeds

Jeremie Beyou (Charal) and Romain Attanasio (PURE-Best Western Hotel & Resort), who are sailing at the latitude of Cape Finisterre, are expected on Saturday, the first at the beginning of the day whereas Attanasio could arrive at the end of the day. Charal’s speed is not very even (less than 10 knots in the morning). But Beyou explains: “I don’t have any problems on the boat but the wind is really unstable and it’s difficult to adapt the sailplan and go straight. I have to zigzag around and lift the pedal a bit.”

Attanasio correspondingly is not very fast either this early morning (6 knots average), which makes it difficult for the moment to establish very precise ETAs (arrival times).

Six skippers, a big, north south ridged high pressure system

“We are closer to the West Indies than to Les Sables d’Olonne… Given the weather in Les Sables, I hesitate…”. Arnaud Boissières (La Mie Câline-Artisans Artipôle) smiled yesterday.

And with good reason: the group of six (Boissières, Le Diraison, Roura, Shiraishi followed by Costa and Hare) has to circumnavigate the Azores High by passing 1000 miles to the West of the Portuguese isladnds And the worst thing is that it’s not over yet, according to the Vendée Globe meteorologist, Christian Dumard: “They will have to deal with a first front which will deepen before a new low, formed by strong north-westerly winds with more than 50 knots on the files. They’re not done with winter lows yet!”

“It’s going to be a great match race right up to the end,” says Alan Roura (La Fabrique), who was enthusiastic on this morning’s radio calls.

Giraud-Cousin-Merron and the north-easterly trade winds

“That’s it, I’m out of the Doldrums, it feels good! “Manuel Cousin (Groupe SETIN) chuckled this morning. “I know we still have a Transat to do but we’re going to fight.”

Miranda Merron is still struggling to get out the Doldrums. “I had a disastrous night. I have no wind at all and there is a big swell from the North-East, South-East”. The sailor from Campagne de France says of her mainsail which “slaps very violently on all sides as if it was trying to separate itself from the mast”. But she is hanging in there and hoping to get into a more solid NE’ly breeze soon.