VENDEE GLOBE UPDATE – After being forced to virtually stop off the island of Tenerife to repair the top of his damaged mainsail track just one week into his Vendée Globe, Spain’s Javier Sanso spent most of the following four weeks at sea trying to catch up.
Left behind in successive waves of high pressure and light winds, the skipper of Acciona 100% Eco Powered was more than 600 miles behind Dominique Wavre and Mike Golding when he passed the Cape of Good Hope but bowed to his task in the Indian Ocean. By the time his Swiss counterpart was passing Cape Leeuwin, West Australia, Sanso was snapping at the heels of the middle pack, 100 miles behind.
…..we have a problem, V2.0
Now Sanso faces another mast climb after discovering this morning that his mainsail track is, he believes, damaged again. He reported to Vendée Globe LIVE today that he can move the mainsail headboard car but it will not go up to full hoist. So he must sail temporarily with one reef and will wait for first light Wednesday morning (local) to make the climb and try to make a repair.
“It is stuck at the first reef and so I have to go up the mast again.” Sanso explained, “ I can lower the sail if I need to, but I cannot hoist it to full main. Something is stuck up there. Hopefully it is not the track again, so I don’t know. I will have to go up tomorrow and check. It was starting to get dark last night when I realised there was a problem, and then this morning when I was going to go for full main with the wind down to 20-21kts I could not get it up to full main. It would go up but it would slide. There is a problem up there.”
The problems facing Bernard Stamm continue. The Swiss skipper’s arrival at Kaikai Beach by Dunedin, NZ quickly became a local talking point for Boxing Day visitors to the local beauty spot and surfing location and the beleaguered Vendée Globe soloist’s anchorage was covered on television by TVNZ, but as yet there is no clear news about how Stamm is faring with his attempts to restore his two hydrogenerators to working order.
Great minds think alike?
There is no change in the strategic thinking which is clearly shared between the two leaders. Armel Le Cléac’h and François Gabart as they start to deal with a developing trough of confused light winds. The leading pair have two alternative routes, north or south, to avoid the worst of the sticky situation but so far both remain locked side by side following the same course. The northern route offers a more surefire guarantee of wind but means more miles sailed, whilst the south is more direct but with a greater risk. The overall difference, according to the routing software, is a matter of hours at Cape Horn where they are expected to reach some time on January 1st.
There are not likely to do anything different to one another at the moment. Not only do they have the same boat, the same set ups and train together at Port La Fôret but they will have almost the same weather information run through identical or near identical routing software and so, not only is it not a surprise they stay so close together, but I dont see them doing anything very different right now. » observed Alain Gautier, the Vendée Globe’s safety adviser who finished second in the second edition of the race.
Le Cléac’h has held on to his slender lead over Gabart– around 10 miles this afternoon – as they make a robust 18-19kts.
But the worst of the light winds seem set to affect them as they deal with final gate of the course, Pacific East, which is 750 miles in front of them. The patience of Jean-Pierre Dick has been sorely tested over the last 24 hours as he struggles with a ridge of high pressure that has snared him in lighter winds since Christmas Day. Virbac-Paprec 3 has made 200 miles less than Banque Populaire and has rarely crept into double figures but the medium to long term outlook is still favourable for a catch up for Dick who remains very positive.
Profiting from adversity
At 45 days into the Vendée Globe the skippers are very well aware of what represents their comfort zone, and where the limits are. Mike Golding is one skipper who was prepared to push his boundaries last night in very gusty, squally conditions to try and pull back some lost miles of Jean Le Cam.
“The squalls were up to 40kts at times but were relatively short lived and so you just had to hang on. It was a bit fruity at times, but in the end you cannot set the sails only for what you get in the big squalls otherwise you are just underpowered the rest of the time.” Recalled Golding.
The British skipper and counterpart Dominique Wavre have now profited from Stamm’s Dunedin halt, rising to sixth and seventh today.
When solo means solo
But many of the skippers must look at the two leaders with envy, not just for the sizeable lead they have built but seeing what having a boat nearby to pace yourself against represents as a real advantage in terms of measuring and modulating performance.
There are now many who really are racing solo, without any means of judging how they are doing. Jean-Pierre Dick (Virbac-Paprec 3) is some 650 miles back from the two frontrunners with Alex Thomson (Hugo Boss) 300 miles behind him. The British sailor on Hugo Boss has a lead of almost 900 miles over Jean Le Cam (SynerCiel), who is continuing on his way 400 miles ahead of the only trio remaining close together comprising Mike Golding (Gamesa), Dominique Wavre (Mirabaud) and Javier Sanso (Acciona 100% EcoPowered).
Further back, Arnaud Boissières (Akena Vérandas) is still 400 miles from Bubi Sanso, which is around the same distance that separates Bertrand de Broc (Votre Nom autour du Monde avec EDM Projets) from Tanguy de Lamotte (Initiatives-cœur).
Alessandro Di Benedetto (Team Plastique) is not worried about that sort of problem. Sailing 4800 miles from the leaders is not that big a deal for someone, who has already sailed non-stop solo around the world on a 6.50m Mini taking 268 days.
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