Slalom East Under New Zealand
Racing at 56 degrees south under New Zealand Yannick Bestaven, Vendée Globe leader, is adjusting his body clock as best he can as he races east – for him and the top half of the fleet their day is now exactly opposite to the European night and vice versa. But rather than conditions close to the Ice Exclusion zone being akin to European winter, Bestaven again has blue skies and sunshine racing downwind with his big gennaker up on Maître Coq IV, while all the time trying to reduce the advance of second placed Charlie Dalin, now just 38 miles behind on APIVIA.
Dalin has been at 18.5kts through over the European night, his day, mostly around 1.5 to 2kts faster than Bestaven, seemingly able to steadily nibble into the Maître Coq lead. With the high pressure to their north meaning the further north they venture the less wind pressure there, the game is increasingly about performing a slalom of gybes down the narrow piste of decent wind pressure – literally dictated by pressure warnings in the north when the breeze gets too light and warning alarms to the south when the safety margin to the ice barrier is reached. Boatspeeds may be modest but it is intense work
“I’m trying to stay in the wind zone I’m going down now,” Bestaven said. “Gybing seems to be advantageous. But between the alarms that go off as soon as I get closer to the ZEA and the areas without too much wind above, it’s not that easy to sleep, we are going to get into the soft breeze again and it’s not easy, because I don’t know which way the elastic will go. I do not know if I will be caught up or if I will get away again. What I know is that I’m going to have a lot of maneuvering in this wind which oscillates from 100 ° to 300 ° All that requires a lot of strategy ”
Just over 200 miles back Jean Le Cam leads the peloton, always in his more northerly position, keeping Yes We Cam trundling east. To the south and gybing at the ice wall are Boris Herrmann (SeaExplorer-Yacht Club de Monaco) and behind him Ben Dutreux (OMIA Water Family). From his position in the south with more breeze the German skipper might expect to be fourth at some point on the day..
Herrmann reported “Having a good day out here so far other than I had a couple of strange broaches due to a strange swell from leeward. I have pushed to the ice barrier with 28-30kts breeze and finding the small gennaker is a good sail, one that I have not used much up until now. I have it on a rallonge on the hook for the code0 that allows me to peel any time back and forth between gennak and jib top (furl – unfurl). I have found that a deeper slower sail and lower angle works better in this bad sea state rather than accelerating with the jib top and nose diving. Thirty knots was not on the forecast. Also I found that I gain 5 degrees in temperature by making my cockpit a green house by having the curtain all the time shut. Now it’s much dryer and more livable inside the boat and in the cockpit. The mornings when Europe sleeps have now become entire days. Here now it’s my evening and Europe is just about to wake up. In the meantime my friends from New Zealand Sharon and Stuart keep me a bit entertained. Sharon reporting to me the America’s Cup live via text like a star sports commentator. Super cool ! Otherwise I have a feeling I find my place out here is a bit more. Just a bit more focused on my own and letting go the thoughts about land and people. Arriving in an erimitage. I suppose I am accepting to be alone slowly … haha it took me long enough!”
Louis Burton, the skipper of Bureau Vallée 2 has been struggling with his autopilot for more than 20 hours and so remains at the helm all the time. The start of the French day should allow his team to get in touch with the engineers of the electronics supplier find solutions. “ I still have a heading, a speed can steer but I’m not going to be able to last long without a pilot, but it’s magical to be able to steer at 20 knots in these seas”
Louis Burton intends to go and repair in the lee of Macquarie Island where he should arrive this afternoon or evening to repair his rigging.
Yannick Bestaven ‘I think there is an advantage to be in the south’
Joined this Saturday morning, Yannick Bestaven (Master CoQ IV) is still recovering from the aftermath of the Indian whilst negotiating the complexities of the Pacific.
“It’s alright! The weather is beautiful, sunny, the sky is azure blue. Temperatures have risen, it’s quite strange and we have 15 degrees. I have lunch in the cockpit, under a big gennaker, and it’s great! I was able to clean the boat and, as for sleeping, it’s wonderful: we sleep much better in these conditions. It’s important to recover after the Indian Ocean which was tough.
Our boats are violent, ultra-violent, even so for those with daggerboards. You’re always tense, and it feels good to relax a bit. I had a lot of back pain because I really got a plateful daily in the Indian. It was very hard on my vertebrae and I got sciatica for a while. It’s getting better, I’ve recovered since we can sleep more relaxed.
I also take the opportunity to feed the chickens (he laughs – the boat and sponsor name translates to Master Chicken) and to do some DIY. There is nothing serious: the most urgent thing was a carbon tube from a bunk, which was broken, which was stopping me from sleeping upwind.
I’m in the doldrums, Charlie (Dalin) is back, but it doesn’t stress me out any more than that. We’re going into the light patch and it’s not easy to know what to do. It’s going to be an elastic cord, but in which direction? I don’t know if I’m going to be caught out of the front or if I’m going to be able to get away. But there are going to be a lot of manoeuvres, gybes in these winds that vary between 100° and 300°, with the right amount weight re-stacking. We’ll have to do a little bit of strategy…
I’m in a wind corridor and I’m trying to stay there. But I have to be careful, between the Ice Exclusion Zone and the area of light wind. As soon as I get closer to the AEZ, the alarms go off and it’s not easy to sleep. And as there is no wind up there, I can’t sleep too much when I’m close to that area. I think it’s an advantage to be in the South”