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Dec 05, 2008 6 Comments by



“Into the Southern Ocean” by meteorologist Chris Tibbs
04 December 2008

Satellite picture – cold front

[Chris Tibbs is a professional meteorologist and weather router, author of many sailing and weather handbooks and has 250,000 seagoing miles under his belt, including racing around the world three times. Chris has been working closely with Jonny in the skills of weather routing in preparation for his first solo non-stop round the world Vendee Globe race.]

“Until the year 2000 there was no definition as to where the Southern Ocean is – technically it didn’t exist. Officially (defined politically so as not to pass through any land), it is the ocean south of 60S. Oceanographers will define it where there is a steep temperature gradient in the sea water temperature between the tropical and temperate waters, and for sailors it is the ocean south of the semi permanent high pressure systems and south of the three great capes. There is no line or latitude, but Jonny is there.

Meteorologically he is between the South Atlantic (St Helena High) and an aggressive cold front arriving from the west. As the cold front gets closer the isobars will tighten between the front and the high pressure and this increases the wind speed.

We can think back to the start, when an aggressive cold front swept across Biscay dismasting and damaging a number of boats. This one will be different as Jonny and the fleet are running with the front this time, not trying to force themselves against it.

So what is a cold front? It is the front edge of a wedge of cold air linked with a depression. It carries a lot of energy generated from the contrasting air masses and temperatures; this produces big cumulonimbus clouds with the possibility of thunderstorms and strong squalls.

Initially Jonny will see an increase in the wind strength and probably a veer in the wind to the NNW. He will see 25 to 30 knots with gusts to the mid to high thirties. The sky will be heavy and there is a likelihood of rain and drizzle making visibility poor (thank goodness for radar). Seas will build but this is a time when high boat speeds are possible and the faster Jonny goes to the east, the longer the ride lasts.

The wind will increase further, probably 35-40 with stronger gusts and an increase in wave height before the front hits. Squally with some very big gusts, torrential rain which, when further south, will be hailstones of painful size. Handling these cold fronts are the most difficult conditions Jonny is likely to face as the wind gusts, risking sails that are left up too long; big seas, and a shifting wind direction that will all have to be handled at once. Ironically after the front has gone through there is often a lull before the wind picks up again. Sometimes there is no lull, at others there can be a wait of a couple of hours before the wind hits again. It is often these that are the most difficult to handle with sail changes and a big sea without the stability of the boat moving fast.

The low and the front chasing Jonny, started life near Brazil and is relatively small in size compared to the full on Southern Ocean storms. It will however pack a punch and will give Jonny some hard running conditions. The low is declining so it may not follow the classic conditions as described above and one danger is getting too far south and being overrun by the centre where light conditions will be found – a racing yacht needs a constant supply of wind!

Jonny will be checking out different weather models to find the one that fits the current conditions. He has satellite pictures beamed directly to the boat to pin point where the front is, and wind measured from satellites to help determine just how strong the wind is. But there is still nature to contend with – the weather will not follow the forecast and the difference between a squall from one cloud or a different one may be 20 knots. So help he has, but no certainties – that is between him, the boat, and the weather.

Cold fronts and depressions will be his constant companion for the next month or so as he circles the Globe with the only respite when he rounds Cape Horn and comes back into the Atlantic. No two fronts or depressions are ever the same and the longer Jonny can ride the more stable NW wind ahead of each front, the better his progress. Fall off the front whilst your competitors are still on it, and the elastic stretches and its hard to catch up.

So an interesting next few days with the first of the Southern Ocean cold fronts to contend with.”

Atemis Ocean Racing II collides with a whale in Vendee Globe! Watch Jonny’s latest video from onboard his Open 60 where he explains the damage to his daggerboard. You can also watch the new video from day 24 in the Multimedia section of this websit.

02 December 2008

Damage to the leading edge

At approximately 12:30 GMT yesterday (December 1), Jonny Malbon and Artemis Ocean Racing II ploughed into a large animal under the water line, most likely a whale, whilst charging along at over 15 knots in the South Atlantic. It was a nervous time for Jonny and his team as he assessed the damage from the impact of the collision.

Jonny reported significant damage to the starboard daggerboard, which will no longer be 100% effective, particularly affecting upwind performance on a port tack. Despite the setback, Malbon, who is making his competitive solo debut in the race that is considered the Everest of the seas, has vowed to continue on around the world.

British skipper Jonny Malbon (34), participating in his first ever Vendée Globe, was awake and onboard his IMOCA 60 when the abrupt incident occurred but was unharmed. Malbon explains, “The boat immediately stopped dead in the water and remained there for about a minute until the animal released itself from the daggerboard. I was under one reef and Jibtop at the time. Once we had broken free, we sailed off very quickly, but I could clearly see the animal astern in a lot of trouble.”

Malbon continued, “I have some serious damage to my starboard daggerboard, but the boat is fine and the structure surrounding the daggerboard is intact. We have not taken on any water. I will be continuing to race, and will monitor the condition of both the board and the boat.”

He is sailing onboard the new hi-spec, hi-tech, all British designed, built and sponsored IMOCA 60, Artemis Ocean Racing II. The young Brit cut his teeth preparing Open 60 racing yachts for some of Britain’s most famous solo sailors, most notably Dame Ellen Macarthur, and now takes the stage himself.

Day 25 : onboard Roxy in the Vendée Globe – Do you know the story of the little boy trying to put an eel in a jar?
Date : 4 / 12 / 2008


Writing is becoming harder, as Roxy is moving around quite a bit on the waves now! There is around 35 knots of wind and we are reaching fast in a rough sea – quite fun.

Last night, when the wind was at my limit of 27 knots I furled the big gennaker. As you can imagine, to roll away 250 square metres of Cuben Fibre in nearly 30 knots is quite a task. The law works that the windier it is, the tighter the roll, hence, the more turns you have to do. So that makes a fair amount of winding to get the thing under control.

“Under control” is perhaps not the best word to describe what is now a very slim, but very stiff “snake” that is now dangling from the masthead. The next task (I remind you that the platform on which we are working is FAR from stable) is to get said “snake” into the forepeak. Ha!  “Easy” I hear you say. Well, sometimes. The only trouble is that the thing seems to have its own idea of where it is going and how it wants to descend. It is so tightly rolled that it will only bend at certain points, and at other areas it is more like a spring.

It reminds me of a TV out-take of a little boy with a live eel in his hand trying to put it in a jar; needless to say, the eel will not go in no matter how hard he tries! Last night I was that boy, the gennaker was the eel and the forepeak was the jar.

Well, I finally managed it and the gennaker is now confined to the forepeak. The next challenge is to get it aft a bit, as Roxy sails so nicely when we are stacked aft. But I have images of my gennaker taking up the whole cabin, pressing buttons at the chart table as I drag it past and blocking me out of my food bag. So, seeing as I may soon need it again, the gennaker has stayed forward!

Last night, as the wind built, I took a reef. The night was amazing. It was so stunning to be on deck. Roxy was surfing at 25 knots (that is my speed limit – any faster and I take a reef!) and there was spray everywhere. The night was black, but the breaking waves were glowing all around us with phosphorescence. It really was quite magical, enhanced still by my slight feeling of solitude in such a powerful environment.

Girls can do anything!

Softly, softly catchee 60’s

4 December 2008

1600hrs GMT

Maybe I am being a little too cautious. Maybe the threat of the next 48hrs weather is having a bigger effect than I realised. Maybe the sensation of surfing at 20 knots by the mercy of the waves takes some more getting used to. I know I have lost some miles today but I am struggling with the set up of Aviva and feeling happy with what she is doing.

I am sure it is a learning curve and I will get better at it, but for now you will have to bear with me as I find my feet.


Six days after he first lead this Vendée Globe race, Yann Eliès is back on top of the fleet after he took Generali past his rival Seb Josse (BT) last night.

The leading pair crossed tracks during the night with the Finot Conq design now just 22 miles to the north and slightly east of BT, computing to a lead of just two miles over the Farr designed BT.

After a challenging night of high speed sailing the winds look to have dropped, with quieter spells, particularly to the south, nearer the centre of the depression which has provided the pack with up to 40 knots of NW’ly wind.

Jean-Pierre Dick’s investment in the south sees Paprec-Virbac 2 now 225 miles under the track taken by Loïck Peyron (Gitana Eighty) who is just less than 40 miles ahead of him third place. Peyron has been quickest through the night, gaining 14.7 miles on leader Generali. Dick’s course is 155 miles south of that of leader Elies.

Mike Golding, GBR, (Ecover) also made his desire to go south known yesterday evening when he gybed just after tea-time (GMT) and his course has taken him to 78 miles north of the more extreme route of Paprec-Virbac 2. They have the Kerguelen security ice gate as their long term waypoint to pull them back north, 590 miles ahead.

And while Eliès and Josse race as a ‘duo’, so to do Jean Le Cam (VM Matériaux) and Roland Jourdain (Veolia Environnement) in the sister-ships. Jourdain spent his fourth place with his choice to move down to the south of Le Cam and now lies sixth, 12.9 miles behind Le Cam.

Chasing hard, 15.3 knots is the highest average speed among the top 20 over the last 24 hours, a ‘score’ shared by both Michel Desjoyeaux (Foncia) and Sam Davies, GBR,  (Roxy). Desjoyeaux has stuck to a more northerly course and is now 30.4 miles behind Golding.

Dominique Wavre, SUI, (Temenos II) and Brian Thompson, GBR, (Bahrain Team Pindar) are well passed the west extremity of the first gate, and seem set to pass some 60 miles to the north.

Unai Basurko, ESP, (Pakea Bizkaia), with his damaged rudder cassette, has been making slow, but steady progress NE.

As the Southern Ocean delivers the first big winds of this Vendée Globe, speeds at the front of the fleet climb proportionately. The leaders are well into 35-40 knots of wind and big rolling seas, anticipating forecast gusts of 45-50 knots tonight as the gales peak for about 10-12 hours.

The challenge as ever is not just pressing hard when you can through the worst of the storm, knowing how little distance separates the top 10 boats, setting the Open 60 up to deal with the big squalls and gusts, but anticipating when the wind is building and when it is starting away again. Most are now predicting that this system will be relatively short and sharp.

Seb Josse and Yann Eliès remain locked together, rivals and sparring partners of the same mind set and on the same course. Incredibly after 25 days of racing,  on a clear day they would be still within in sight of each other, scything through the ocean side by side cutting virtually parallel wakes only five miles apart, Josse’s British built BT representing the Farr design office for whom the Vendée Globe represents one of the sport’s peaks they have yet to conquer, and Eliès’ Generali carrying the hopes of the French design office Finot Conq, incumbents and most regular winners of this legendary solo race.

Loïck Peyron, who had lead this race for longer than any other skipper, has climbed back in to third place on Gitana Eighty 28.5 miles behind Josse, holding a course some 80 miles to the north of the main, chasing pack.

Mike Golding, who holds the Cape to Cape speed records in the south, is pushing hard in eighth and is fastest of the top 10 on the early evening poll, less than one mile behind Vincent Riou (PRB) winner of the last race who lies seventh. This hungry pack, only 13 miles apart, are also racing virtually side by side with Golding, Riou and Jean Le Cam all closely spaced, the British skipper having gained more than 25 miles on leader Josse in the last 24 hours.

Already surfing along in more than 40 knots of wind at times, Sam Davies, GBR, (ROXY) was relishing the rock and roll ride, while Michel Desjoyeaux (Foncia) in tenth was making the most of the 30-35 knots he had during today’s radio chat session. He is now 140 miles off the lead, and reckoned today that he was about 5 hrs 45 minutes behind Golding.

Derek Hatfield, CAN, (Algimouss Spirit of Canada) may now be having a great race with Jean-Baptiste  Dejeanty (Groupe Maisonneuve), dueling with just a mile between them in 22nd and 23 rd place, but the Canadian skipper said today that he has a major clean up operation to deal with today, after sluicing through a crude oil slick, a large quantity of which washed over his decks getting trapped in his sheets, rope bags, cockpit and equipment.

Meanhile Unai Basurko, ESP, (Pakea Bizkaia), who reported damage to the cassette stock for one of his rudders, is now making 8 knots NE towards the quieter winds of the St Helena high pressure area where he plans to try and effect a repair.

Derek Hatfield, CAN, (Algimouss Spirit of Canada): “” Pollution is today’s topic, oil spills to be precise. Around 10:00 UTC this morning, white and red Algimouss Spirit of Canada sailed through a large patch of bunker oil and came out a sickly brown colour. The boat was surfing along at 15 knots or so and of course shipping a lot of water over
the decks. The boat decks are now covered with sticky greasy crude oil.
It’s everywhere, on the ropes, line bags, deck hardware and cockpit floor. It will probably take me a day or more to clean it so it doesn’t track inside the boat. A couple of days before the race start I was given a bag of Ecover cleaning solutions from Mike Golding’s team, they sure will come in handy with this mess, thanks Mike.”

Michel Desjoyeaux (Foncia) : “I’m certainly covering the miles. I have joined a loyalty scheme.  The more miles I gain, the more presents  get!  I looked at the last rankings, but I can’t really see what my friends are up to.  I’m the first to step up the speed and pick up the wind.  The wind gauge is indicating 5 knots more since you called.  Now I’ve got 39 knots. If life stops as soon as the wind reaches 35 knots,  you shouldn’t be doing the Vendée Globe or be down in the southern seas…”

Marc Guillemot (Safran): “I went through a tricky period for thirty hours or so. I’ve several pilots which have bugs.  It took me time to figure it out, but now, everything is a lot better.  The idea was to get back in the game as quickly as possible, instead of crying over spilt milk.  At the moment, conditions are quite rough, with 25-32 knot gusts.  The seas are quite heavy. The sun is just peeking through, as we speak.  The first Ice Gate is behind us. Now the goal is to pass to the north of the Kerguelen Gate.  It was a great idea of the organisers to have modified that gate; like that, we won’t have to be kamikaze pilots!  We have to be ready for the little low coming in later today. I’ve tidied up the boat. In these conditions we shift the weight as far back as possible.”

Loïck Peyron (Gitana Eighty) : “I passed the first gate, but I messed it up a bit.  I slept too long and lost some ground. Conditions are good. It’s really nice weather. There’s a 25-knot NW’ly, with waves forming and it’s still a bit stressful. The temperature is pleasant and the “cruise” is quick! Apart from that, I haven’t yet climbed the mast to change the halyard over. I’m waiting for some calm weather…. I hope to do it in a couple of days.  There’s going to be some wind tonight, but nothing nasty.  The real question is finding the right sail area.  I’ll soon be moving to some smaller sails.  That’s my strategy for the night. We need to look after the boat, as in the Vendée Globe, to win you need to finish. We need to pay attention to the boat.  I gave her  a complete check this morning. There are always some little jobs to do: wear and chafing… The problem is we can’t see it all.”


© Mark Lloyd / Lloyd Images
We all know that BBC TV Top Gear presenter, Jeremy Clarkson is a bit of speed junkie but I wonder how he would cope with rigours of the Southern Ocean aboard one of the most challenging machines in the world? That, I doubt we’d ever find out but he’s certainly doing a good job of keeping Mr Golding occupied during these tough times down South.

According to Golding, Clarkson’s book – Born To Be Riled – is a humorous account of an angry old man, and Golding can’t rate it highly enough. Commenting from the high seas today he said: “It’s an excellent read; it’s first class. Basically it’s about Clarkson ranting on about everything that’s wrong with the world, specifically about cars. I love it. It’s escapism at its best.”

Escaping from the pending 50 knot depression that’s currently rolling in from the west is not an option for Golding right now but he says he’s ‘battened down the hatches’ aboard ECOVER 3 and he’s ready and waiting. “Actually I feel a bit too prepared for this one, I’ve been a bit conservative but I don’t think that’s such a bad thing. The boats in very good order to take this weather, it’s just a question of being disciplined about how you prepare.”

Although ECOVER 3 is holding out well, Golding says he’s not sailing her at anywhere near 100 per cent. In fact, he says he’s backed off over the last few days and is just trying to find the boat’s level. He continued: “I’m still only metering myself on the boats around me and the boats ahead of me specifically. I’ve been very cautious about not trying to stray from the100-mile zone and I’m very alert to where I am in relation to the leaders. Remember I haven’t sailed this boat in these conditions before so I’m having to learn as I go, and I don’t want to make a mistake and end up with something that’s going to put me out of action.”

Interestingly Golding says he’s kept his spinnaker in the ‘bag’ for the last few days because the squalls are so unpredictable. Although he feels he may be erring on the cautious side he says he’s not alone in his thinking. “The only ones who have been spinnakering over the last few days, as far as I can work out from the polls, are Yann Elies (VM MATÉRIAUX), and Michel Desjoyeaux (FONCIA). It may be fine to hoist the spinnaker but within seconds you could find yourself going from being in control to totally out of control. Basically, in the south you tend to avoid big headsails if you can.”

As he heads further south it’s not surprising that Golding’s thoughts and concerns shift to keel issues. Although his keel is absolutely fine, his experience in the last Vendée Globe – when he lost his keel just a few hours from the finish line – must play on his mind somewhat.

Golding continued: “Any sort of breakage that puts you out the race is a nightmare but obviously the big ones are the rig and the keel. With the rig you can take precautionary measures which is why I’m being quite protective with the rig when I gybe, but with keel there’s nothing you can do about it.”

Having settled down into a routine, Golding is finding he’s coping better than he was with the freeze-dried food. During the first week of the race he reported an issue with indigestion, which was fairly debilitating but he says he’s managed to get through that and is now actually really enjoying the meals – well relatively speaking, anyway. He said: “I’m out of that now thank goodness. I don’t know what it was, maybe I was just acclimatising to the food but I’ve settled down now.”

Golding is also surprised at how well he’s taking care of himself this time but he thinks it’s all about being comfortable. “I’m generally okay, the odd twinge and signs of age but other than that I’m fine. My hands are still quite sore but Sudocrem is working wonders. I’ve learnt over the years that being comfortable is conducive.”

Although the ice gates in position keep the fleet further away from the risk of ice, it is still a big concern and probably one of the most stressful parts of the race. “The really the scary thing about ice,” continued Golding, “is not the bits you can see but the bits you can’t see. The successful Vendée Globe skipper will not only be fast but will be confident enough to keep his boat going at full speed even in zero visibility and when ice is present.”

So, as Golding starts to thread his way through the vast, iceberg-littered ocean, one wonders how one would ever feel relaxed enough to take a nap. Golding in his ever-positive way commented: “Going to sleep is wonderful and a nice escape from the ice. Think about it? You can either sit up and worry about it, or you can go to bed and dream about cute, furry cuddly animals!”

Speaking of cute, furry cuddly animals, Golding says it’s been notable to him, the lack of sea life. He’s seen dolphins a couple of times at night but not much else. “It’s quite unusual,” concluded Golding, “okay, you don’t expect to see much down here [south] because the Southern Ocean is so vast but you do expect to see more on the way down. That, to me, was really disappointing but I guess there’s still plenty of time.”

(Current ranking 1900 GMT 4th December )

1.   Sébastien Josse / BT / 0.0
2.   Yann Eliès / Generali / 2.5
3.   Loïck Peyron / Gitana Eighty / 27.5
4.   Roland Jourdain / Veolia Environnement / 46.1
5.   Jean Le Cam / VM Matériaux / 48.2
6.   Jean-Pierre Dick / Paprec-Virbac 2 / 48.8
7.   Mike Golding / ECOVER 3 / 72.9
8.   Vincent Riou / PRB / 74.9
9.   Armel Le Cléac’h / Brit Air /82.1
10. Michel Desjoyeaux / Foncia / 136.4

24 hours in the life of a solo sailor

December 05. 2008 at 09:20 PM

Of course there is the race. It is exciting stuff.  The Vendée Globe skippers are sailing their boats at an incredible pace, making tactical choices, carrying out manoeuvres at all hours. In spite of that, life goes on: eating, sleeping and washing are all vital actions ensuring the physical and mental well-being of the sailor. Here is a look here at how the competitors are spending their time, as they race around the world.


How do they sleep?  First of all, we need to get rid of any preconceptions: the solo sailors sleep on average between four and six hours a day.  That may not seem much, but the pace of life at sea is very different from on dry land. By dividing up their sleep, they take just what they need.  These periods of rest depend however, very much on the circumstances: it is not easy to let yourself drift off to sleep, when the boat is charging across the ocean at high speed.  You need to put everything behind you to manage to find the mental strength to put out of your mind the whistling from the keel, the sudden movements from the boat, the waves washing over the deck… Stress is certainly the biggest factor as far as tiredness is concerned. To sleep, everyone has their own recipe: some prefer to curl up in the bunk, while others have gone for more innovative solutions.  Michel Desjoyeaux, who is in favour of a minimalist approach in his boat, has chosen bucket seats, which he sinks into, while Sébastien Josse and Jean Le Cam have a sort of bean bag that they set up as they want in their corner, like a cat in a box.  What counts is feeling good and that means a sort of cocoon to protect you and insulate you from external pressures. Some have carried out scientific research on sleep patterns, while others rely on their instinct, so it is all a question of individual temperament.


Once again, to each his own way of doing things.  Of course, the “kitchen” is reduced to something minimal in order to remove any unnecessary weight, usually, we are talking about a simple burner usually fixed somewhere low down in the boat. There is no room for any galley fittings, when you are trying to make weight savings, especially if we are talking about 1m20 cabinets, as it is not only the weight that counts, but also, they try to avoid placing weights high up inside.  Of course, that means it is not easy if you want to do anything more substantial, but the race comes first.  So no time for stews, but instead food that is quick to heat. The first goal is feeding yourself. In addition to that, some sailors take cans on board to remember the little pleasures of home… Others opt for the life of a hermit eating only freeze-dried food.  The advantage is that these little packets weigh next to nothing. The drawback is that they do not really taste that good.  For some sailors, enjoying what they are eating is important, as it contributes to their general state of well-being


Good hygiene is of course vital. Living in permanently damp conditions, the sailors are exposed to the risk of little infections: Sores and itching are common, when you are wearing wet oilskins all the time.  To deal with this, there is one rule – you must wash regularly. There are no showers for you.  In the tropics, a good wash with salt water on the bow and a bucket of water over the head replace more sophisticated bathrooms.  In the South, things get a little more complicated.  They each have their own away of doing things: sprays for some, baby-wipes for others, but the main things is to find a good balance. Some of the men feel the need to shave, while others happily grow a beard for a few days. It is all a question of temperament: but in the end the sea imposes its own law.
All of these little daily activities contribute to daily life on board for the Vendée Globe competitors. Of course, a lot of this is theoretical. When everything is going well,  and the boat is sailing at fifteen knots and the sun is shining, it is easy enough to respect this routine. When the bad weather arrives daily living requires much more of an effort.  But it is these details that often make all the difference.

PF Bonneau

more here

The Northern Rock n Roll dividend

December 05. 2008 at 09:55 PM

As quickly as Loick Peyron’s dividend arrived, it is cut as Gitana Eighty is slowed, the only boat of the top 20 to be reduced to a single digit speed in an sea area renowned for its strong winds and hostile conditions.

Peyron has seen his 44.9 miles lead shrunk to less than 20 miles as he slows to all but stop – making just 4.5 knots between the two rankings. Teetering on a tight rope, a narrow band of wind at the edge of the high pressure system, conditions are deeply frustrating for the leaders.
The squeeze box compresses again. Solid Seb Josse resolutely sticking in second making 13.3 knots on BT on the 1hr speed gun, the best of the top 5 and now 90 miles SW of Peyron who gybed SE this morning.
Mike Golding’s dive south, which he expressed reservations about this morning, seems to have been a decent option as he rises again to seventh, with Jourdain and Le Cam less than seven miles behind in DTF. Bisecting their wakes, only about 40 miles behind them is now Michel Desjoyeaux. With the next system bringing the new strong 30 knot NW’lies down from the NW, then the first to feel the benefit is Brian Thompson on Bahrain Team Pindar who is making close to 16 knots diving south west, as is Wavre and of course Mich Desj will accelerate and should gain in Le Cam and Jourdain who are running the same lane as Foncia.
The pace of this race is one exciting facet and we have noted again tonight how often the lead has changed. But also, here are 2004’s regular front runners – Riou, Le Cam and Bilou – scrapping it out tonight no more than ten miles apart.

December 07. 2008 at 05:55 PM

Last Sunday, 30th November, the leaders were completing their voyage down the South Atlantic and getting ready to turn left towards the first of the series of gates spread across the southern seas.  A week later, on Sunday 7th December in the 11h rankings, we can see that these boats have been making very fast progress indeed.

Paprec-Virbac 2, leading the way in the rankings covered more than 2300 nautical miles towards the finish at an average speed of 14 knots, without any doubt the best weekly progress since the start of the race on Sunday 9th November.  Jean-Pierre Dick’s Farr-designed boat won back the lead by going for a route further south than those chosen by his rivals between the two Ice Gates marking the entry to the Indian Ocean. He was at 47°20 S and 27°20 E, or around 700 miles S/SE of the Cape of Good Hope and had not yet completed the first third of the course.

Jean-Pierre was in the lead this morning, but yesterday evening, it was one of his rivals that occupied the top spot and in the previous rankings, someone else again. This just shows how compact the leading pack is.  Hardly one hundred miles (in terms of distance to the finish) separate the first from the tenth after four weeks. The boats are so close that some have even be sailing within sight of each other, as we saw in the video clip sent back of the near miss between PRB / Paprec-Virbac 2. They are sailing broad reaching and often zig-zagging along the race course. Depending on these gybes and because of the high speeds, allowing them to maintain 20 knots over long periods and sail more than 400 miles a day, gaps widen and close, without any one really making their getaway.  Clearly the competitors are keeping an eye on each other and tempering their efforts to the conditions and their position in the fleet, while occasionally being forced to ease off because of some technical problem.

Sébastien Josse, the skipper of BT, who is regularly at the front, summed up the situation as follows, “There’s a battle.  The standard is high.  Everyone is struggling to get that little inch more. It’s a real close contact race around the world.  I’m pleased about my current position. But we’re always watching the routes being taken by the others.  JP (Dick) is right down there in the south.  I have been keeping an eye on his progress.   As for Peyron, he’s up in the north. Every twelve hours the weather charts change and the options are thrown into question.  This little game continues all the time.  As soon as a competitor changes his course by 5°, we know he has changed sails and is going for a different option.  We don’t have much time to get away from the boats, as the fleet is so tightly bunched up.»

Differences in speed
We sometimes see significant speed differences between two neighbouring boats, as if one skipper has chosen to take the high-speed train, by remaining at the helm under full sail, while another has reduced his sail to grab some rest.  In some points of sail, the autopilot can steer as well, if not better than the sailor.  In other conditions, for example broad reaching under spinnaker, it is better to remain at the helm, if you want to sail quickly.  It would appear that some of the competitors are more at ease than others with their autopilots.  Another aspect that stands out in this fourth week of the race, the first in the deep south, is the reliability of the boats, in spite of the harsh treatment they have been through. Although there has been some minor damage (sails), nothing serious has been reported. In spite of the sudden change in conditions as they went in the course of a few days from summer to winter, the sailors are also in great shape, although no one is protected from injury.  At the moment it is Vincent Riou who is such a victim, after his boat broached.  The winner of the last Vendée Globe is suffering from an inflammation around his Achilles tendon and the sole of his foot.  He has been advised not to stay standing up, which explains why this natural racer appreciates the calms.

The hunters keep hunting
For four weeks, Michel Desjoyeaux has been pushing forward on Foncia 48 hours ago, we were able to say he had made it back with the leaders as he cracked the Top 10.  He may not be at the front, but he is sailing in the same conditions as the frontrunners and that is what he has been after for the last three weeks. The question we can now ask ourselves is ‘Will the «Professor» continue at this crazy pace or will he adapt to what his neighbours are doing?’.  We shall be watching with interest… Last week, Michel was 13th, 255 miles from the leader. This morning, he was ninth, 108 miles from the leader. However the skipper of Foncia is not the only skipper who had to re-start who has been setting an electric pace. There is no stopping Bernard Stamm, SUI, (Cheminées Poujoulat), who is even more determined than usual, in spite of a broken bowsprit that he has had to work on himself. In the space of a week, he went from 19th to 15th place and the gap with the leader was cut by 130 miles.  It is true that he still has some way to go (605 miles) to be up with the frontrunners, but with his steely determination, he intends to have his say.  The same is true of Jean-Baptiste Dejeanty.  Quietly, the youngest entrant in the race, is also working miracles.  He has not only moved up four spots in the rankings on his Groupe Maisonneuve, but he has closed the gap on the leader by 140 miles.  Incredible! We should add that Norbert Sedlacek is currently in 24th place, bringing up the rear, 1845 miles from the leader. The Basque skipper, Unai Basurko has just announced he is retiring from the race because of a damaged rudder.  There are now only 24 boats left out of the 30 that set sail.

Patrice Carpentier

Sam cuddling up in her sleeping bag

“Yes, it’s getting cold down here now! So much so that I couldn’t work out if the drizzly rain last night was frozen or not! I had a slightly annoying night – just not managing to find the right sails or angle to the waves, so struggling to go fast.  The night started under gennaker, with a building breeze. I was soon past my wind limit for the big guy, and the waves were such that Roxy would take off, accelerate and risk face-planting the next wave – a risk I couldn’t take as a faceplant in 30 kt with the big gennaker up puts a lot of load on the top of my mast.  So, I went to roll. When nearly rolled, I paused to check the roll with a torch. Unlucky for me, I must have paused when the thin bit of furler line was on the drum, there was a gust, and the whole thing unfurled itself! I’m starting to wonder really if my gennaker does have a warped sense of humor! The rest of the night seems to have gone very quickly, as I took reefs, shook out reefs, changed headsails… all in search of the right sail combination. Pretty frustrating really, as I never was totally happy with my choice. At least with all those manoeuvres I wasn’t cold!  I have been adapting, and yesterday I broke out two of my secret weapons: my Roxy Moon Boots and my super thick sleeping bag. I slept so well and even managed to dream a bit! The boots are a success too – warm feet all the time – and I am almost sure that soon I will even be sleeping in them (yes, inside my sleeping bag!)”
Sam Davies (Roxy) in her daily message.

Loïck Peyron Dismasted

At around 13h00 (UTC) this afternoon, Loïck Peyron’s IMOCA Open 60 racing in the Vendée Globe dismasted while sailing 180 miles south of the Crozet Islands and 650 miles from the Kerguelen Islands.

Peyron, the only skipper in the solo round the world race to have competed in the first edition of the race in 1989 , was in third place around fifteen miles from the new leader, Sébastien Josse (BT),

Early this afternoon Loïck Peyron (Gitana Eighty) informed the Race Directors that his boat had been dismasted. He was sailing at the time under Solent with one reef in the main in thirty knot winds.  At the time of the incident he was inside his boat. The skipper was not injured and is in good health.

The cause of the damage is not yet known, but the French skipper confirmed he still has his boom and was thinking about where to sail under jury rig.  Loïck Peyron had proven to be one of the leading contenders during the first third of the 24,275 mile solo ocean race. For sixteen days Peyron had been in the lead (in the 11h rankings), at the top of the 26 boat fleet on the way down the Atlantic before Sébastien Josse and then Jean-Pierre Dick (Paprec-Virbac 2) took over this role.

It goes without saying that this dismasting is a salutary reminder of what can happen in the Southern Ocean in this grueling solo ocean race and perhaps will influence some of the other competitors, who have been pushing hard over the past few days. Peyron had experienced halyard problems on his gennaker before entering the Indian Ocean and climbed the mast yesterday to deal with this.

At 49°36 south and 52°47 east this afternoon at 15h UTC, the monohull belonging to Baron Benjamin de Rothschild is making slow headway.

In a short report, Loïck Peyron spoke about the circumstances of his dismasting: “There were thirty knots of wind and Gitana Eighty had one reef in the main and was under Solent. There were no particular reasons for the damage and everything was fine on board, when the mast suddenly came down without fwarning. I was inside when I heard a loud noise. When I went outside on the deck, I could see the mast had gone.  I still have the boom and we’re currently considering our plans.”

so far

With the dismasting of Loïck Peyron’s Gitana Eighty on their minds, there is no sign of any obvious let up in the intensity of the battle among the leaders of the Vendée Globe this morning. Some 430 miles west of the Kerguelen Islands, deep in the south Indian Ocean, there is now less than 40 miles between the leading five boats as Jean-Pierre Dick makes a small gain to lead by 30.4 miles from Roland Jourdain who is up to second place again. But there is now just nine miles between second and fifth place Michel Desjoyeaux (Foncia).

Foncia remains consistently quick sailing a course which is not extreme. Desjoyeaux chose to go north sharply late on Tuesday after the evening poll, joining Seb Josse in the north and has moved forward progressively. He is second fastest to Dick this morning and has been waging a speed battle with Mike Golding, GBR, (Ecover 3) for fourth position, one and a half miles behind the British skipper.

With his route in the south, Bernard Stamm, SUI,(Cheminées Poujoulat)  is chasing down Brian Thompson, GBR, (Bahrain Team Pindar) just 14.2 miles behind and gaining close to five miles overnight, challenging for Thompson’s 13th place. The Bahrain Team Pindar skipper reported 25 knots of breeze last night.

In 18th place Steve White, GBR, (Toe in the Water) appears to be heading north east again on a course that will pass more towards easterly end of the second Ice Gate and seems to be losing miles on the pack he is chasing at the moment.

The next low pressure system is presently over the Prince Edward islands, or the equivalent of where Dee Caffari, GBR (Aviva) and Arnaud Boissières (Akena Verandas)  are, and will move over the fleet to reach the Kerguelens early morning tomorrow, while a bigger low is due to reach the Kerguelens Sunday yielding 40+ plus knots of wind.

Stamm runs aground in the Kerguelen Islands

Cheminées Poujoulat entered Morbihan Bay in 40-45 knot winds on Sunday evening. In spite of the help that was given to him, Bernard Stamm was unable to moor up where a buoy had been set up for him while using his engine, the assistance of a RIB and the help of Dominique Wavre on board. Very quickly a series of events led to the 60-foot Imoca boat being driven ashore. The skipper was taken off safe and sound.

The bad weather during the night meant operations had to cease and the teams retired for the night to shelter in some nearby buildings.  It is reported they would wait until it is light to decide on the best course of action.

Any kind of good fortune in the Vendée Globe seems to have always eluded Stamm. In 2000, he retired after a week of racing because of  pilot failure. In 2004, he lost his keel in the Transat race five months before the start of the Vendée Globe and so could not take part. This year after two back to back wins in the round the world race with stopovers, Bernard Stamm was one of the favourites. But on the first night of the race, he collided with a cargo vessel and had to return to Les Sables to repair his bowsprit and mast, which also suffered damage in the incident.  Setting out again three and a half days after his rivals, he had made a magnificent return to the race, before discovering a problem with his rudder bearings on Saturday.  On Sunday evening the pit stop in the Kerguelens turned to a nightmare.

Differences between the top boats at the head of the fleet remains relatively stable overnight, although speeds are back in the order 17 and 18 knots for the top three boats this morning, signifying the return of stronger winds. Mike Golding, GBR, (Ecover 3) has gained about five miles, cutting the lead of Jean-Pierre Dick to 73.1 miles as they approach the ice gate which they should reach this afternoon.

The latest big low pressure system has given very rough conditions especially for the group including Jonny Malbon, GBR, (Artemis II), Rich Wilson, USA, (Great American III), Jean Baptiste Dejeanty (Groupe Maisnonneuve). Dejeanty has had a series of problems and slowed down.

Dee Caffari, GBR, (Aviva) and Arnaud Bosssières (Akenas Verandas) are passing to the north of the Kerguelen Islands engaged in a remarkable match race with just 32 miles between them.

News Flash:

Vendee Globe leader Jean-Pierre Dick (Paprec-Virbac) is sailing at reduced speeds after a violent collision with an unidentified object in the water.

The impact of the collision caused the starboard rudder to kick up. As he tried to get it back in place Dick realised that the connecting arm which joins the two rudders is broken and that the rudder stock is also damaged.

Dick, who has lead the solo round the world race since last Wednesday Paprec-Virbac 2 has slowed and is sailing with just the port rudder down and will need to ride out the storm which had already brought the leaders 35- 40 knot winds  this afternoon.

Dick is evaluating his options as to how he might effect a repair.

On the 1500GMT position report Paprec-Virbac 2 was making 11.8 knots.


ECOVER 3, skippered by Briton Mike Golding, dismasted at 0647hGMT this morning 830 miles south of Cape Leeuwin, Australia, while leading the Vendée Globe.

“I was below deck when a squall came through with winds of 55knots.  I had the main with two reefs and a reacher and had been like that for two hours.  Overnight we had winds of up to 45k so I had two reefs and a staysail and then changed to the new configuration in the early morning,” commented a very calm Golding, this morning.

“It basically went from being a near gale to a hurricane, and the mast didn’t like it.”

Overnight Golding had managed to secure a 30-mile lead over second-placed Paprec Virbac 2 after 36 days of racing.

“I was just getting into my jacket and going out on deck when the boat rounded up and then heeled right over.  I heard a bang and immediately went back below and waited until the noise had stopped.”

“The whole rig is down, there is not even a stump left.”

“Once everything had settled down a bit I went back out and the mast was lying across the deck and was acting as an anchor.  When things stopped moving about dramatically I set about cutting off the rig. There is some superficial damage to the boat, but nothing major.”

“My options now are controlled by what I can set up as a jury and unfortunately I don’t have much left.  I am about 970nm from Perth and Fremantle, so whatever the deal is I will have to cover some 1000-odd miles, somehow.”

“I managed to save the boom but have lost all my sails, other than storm staysail, but this will probably fit and then I will how to work out how to fly something off the back of that.”

“But whatever I do, I will only be able to reach and will not be able to go up or downwind.”

“I am gutted. But there is not much I can do about it.”

Sam takes a tumble

“I hurt myself last night, during the manoeuvres through the front. Am rather sore today, as a result. I was stacking everything, ready for my gybe, and at the time I was stacking a spinnaker in the aft section, under the cockpit. Unfortunately, as I was pulling on it, a sail-tie broke, and I went flying backwards, landing my elbow into a winch transmission box – a nice solid corner. It hurt SO much that everything went black, and I passed out! I woke up lying on my back, under the cockpit. The elbow was throbbing, from my fingertips to my shoulder. I could move it thankfully, but the pain made me sick. Because of these reactions, I called Jean-Yves Chauve, the race doctor, and he told me which (nice strong) painkiller to take.  The problem was – I had to gybe! I lay down for as long as possible (for the painkiller to work), and summoned my strength. I managed the gybe! Luckily the wind had dropped in the cold front but I had kept small sails, so the manoeuvre was easy.  Since then, Jean-Yves has helped me check the elbow by telephone to confirm that it is just a nasty big bruise, nothing more serious. My elbow is so SORE, but I know it will get better, so there is no worry. He said that the reason for my rather severe reaction to the shock is probably because I’m not eating enough – and I must try harder to balance the energy I use each day with enough nutrition. I need 6000 calories per day out here in the cold south. The annoying thing now is that eating is a movement that really hurts my arm – ironically! So, I will maybe try eating left-handed, although that is a sure way to ensure that I will be mostly “wearing” my dinner rather than  consuming it – especially in this sea-state! I can already hear you asking – YES – the winch transmission box is fine I didn’t do it any damage!”
Sam Davies (Roxy) in her daily message

News Update: Yann Eliès rescue procedure under way

As Yann Eliès has to be evacuated the rescue process is under way, in close cooperation with the Vendee Globe race safety adviser based in Australia David Adams.Contact was made immediately with the MRCC, the Marine Rescue Coordination Centre, in Canberra who are responsible for Australian waters. hey have detailed an ANZAC class Frigate which will leave Perth at 1950hrs GMT. It is anticipated that it will take around 48 hours to reach Generali.

As requested by the Vendée Globe race directors Marc Guillemot, French skipper of Safran, and British skipper Sam Davies have been asked to change their courses and head to the location of Yann Eliès.

At the time of the incident, 0900hrs GMT, Guillemot was less than 100 miles to the south of Eliès while Davies was approximately 525 miles to the east.

Vincent Riou and Armel Le Cléac’h also volunteered to try to help, but because of the imminent weather forecast it was decided it is better they continue their course.

Vendée Globe Race Doctor Dr Jean Yves Chauve has confirmed he believes that the solo skipper is suffering from a fractured femur. He has advised him to try to immobilise the injured leg as much as possible, to remain as warm as possible, to eat and drink as normally as he can, and to take morphine painkillers.

Philippe de Villiers, President of the SEM Vendée, organisers of the Vendée Globe, is being kept informed of the situation as it develops.


This morning at close to 0900hrs GMT, Vendée Globe solo skipper Yann Eliés sustained a broken femur when he was knocked over on the foredeck of Generali. He is 800 miles south of the south coast of Australia, about 1100 miles SW of Adelaide.

Generali is understood to have been stopped suddenly by a big wave. The skipper had to then crawl back along the deck, into his cockpit and make his way below decks to raise the alarm.

December 17. 2008 at 13:40

A cursory glance at your course. The wind has shifted and strengthened.  The boat is suffering. She accelerates and digs into the waves at the end of each surf. The braking is violent.  This is where the danger lies. In this slowing down, the pressure of the wind on the sails, the mast and shrouds is dramatically increased.
Europ Assistance

Worrying thoughts pass through your mind as you think about this structure built around a huge number of parts, as one weak link can cause the whole thing to collapse.  Seeing what has happened to Mike and Loïc is unsettling. You need to do as much as you can to reduce the pressure and the solution is simple: accelerate.  By accelerating, you increase the lift on the hull and skip over the waves, while easing the thrust on the sails. The technique may seem paradoxical, but speed is your friend. You look like Yves Montand in the famous film, “The Wages of Fear” (or Roy Scheider in Sorceror, if you prefer).  Here, waves replace the dirt track and the nitroglycerine is replaced by the rigging. The worry is the same.  Avoid slowing down to avoid an explosion.  As for fear and wages, we can talk about that after Cape Horn, but the bill looks like it’s going to be expensive.

By working on your course and the angle to the waves, the boat should be bale to glide along more smoothly. You have no other choice, but to go outside to trim the sails and in so doing you will face the icy wind. First, take your time to dress up properly. The goal is to add layers, as in this monk’s cabin, with its shiny, smooth walls, which remind you of an operating theatre, it is as cold and wet as outside, except you are sheltered from the draught and wind. So you sleep and live in underclothes, fleeces, hats and bonnets.  To warm you, you have two family photos taken on a beach under the palm trees.  Occasionally, the hot plate and the engine offer a semblance of warmth, but this soon vanishes again.

An additional fleece,  a balaclava, gloves and oilskins. Make sure everything is watertight around the cuffs and collar. There’s nothing worse than icy water seeping in around your wrists and neck.  Right. Off we go.  Outside it truly feels like winter. But this is summer with the sun high in the sky and short nights. The gusts of wind are coming directly from the Antarctic freezer, the door of which appears to have been left open. With a temperature of 4°C and a wind in excess of thirty knots, it feels like a temperature of around -12°C.  So you work quickly, keeping an eye out to watch the waves coming.  Look out! There’s one just now breaking over the coach roof.  If you hadn’t seen it coming, you would have been soaked and wet clothes are impossible to dry down here.
The gloves slip on the soaked sheets. You’ve no other choice but to take them off.  When they come into contact with the wind and water, your hands feel the cold and immediately go numb.  It hurts.  A tingling sensation with cramps paralysing the fingers. Not surprising really. In water, heat is thirty times more quickly than in the air.
In order to ensure that the body does not lose all its heat, it has its own way of dealing with this.  It hides inside itself to get way from the outside world.  The small blood vessels under the skin fulfil this role.  They contract, so that a minimum of blood is in contact with the outside. The human being is a warm-blooded creature, which works at around 37°C and cannot stand to be much colder or warmer. This chilled blood could cause the body not to work properly. The heart, for example.

That’s it for the manoeuvres. Time for a quick tidy up.  The body has resisted the cold.  Your fingers no longer have any blood, and look white, stiff and weak, as if anaesthetised.  You need to watch out for injuries and chapped hands. The hands themselves are swollen. The watertight cuff was probably too tight, acting as a tourniquet stopping the blood from flowing back.  loosen it slightly, please. On the deck, you work on some final adjustments watching how the boat reacts.  As you are not moving, the cold appears to take over your body.  When you working hard, you coped with it. The muscles are excellent heaters, which produce four times as much heat as strength. Now that you are no longer moving, you start to shiver. These shivers are the first symptoms of the  body suffering from the cold.  by provoking uncontrollable muscular spasms, the body steps up its heat production to ward off the cold and keep you at the right temperature.

Finally, the boat is on the right course and the autopilot is set. You hurry back down below to get out of the wind. A few movements of the arms and legs to get the circulation going again.  Your feet feel like blocks of ice. The blood slowly returns to the hands. The skin is red and burning, as if the blood was finding it difficult to find its way through this epidermis turned rigid by the cold.

A nice, warm bowl of soup. The fingers are still clumsy, as you turn on the hot plate. But now it’s over. The gentle heat of the flames radiates on your face and hands. It certainly feels good.  After the soup, time for a bowl of dried noodles. It’s very quick and rich. Here your daily calorie intake is around 6000 calories. If the temperature falls by ten percent, you require five percent more calories.  So, if you are still hungry or haven’t eaten enough, don’t worry.  You are a store cupboard with all the fat that you have added so easily to your body’s reserves and which people are so keen to get rid of. Yet, in fact, this age-old reflex to store fat, which has been passed down in your genes, would have saved your life in times of famine. But in modern times, where we have plenty to eat, excess is considered normal. Our genes haven’t yet learnt to adapt to that.  So the 100,000 calories in our body, which represents 20% of our bodies should be sufficient to deal with that perfectly well.
Dr Jean-Yves Chauve

Elies rescue successful
December 20. 2008 at 12:34
Elies rescue successful

Yann Elies, the skipper of Generali who broke his left femur on December 18, has been successfully transferred to the Australian Navy’s HMAS Arunta, an Anzac Class Frigate.
Eléments associés

The Arunta reached Generali, around 850 miles south-south-east of Perth this morning, and at around 0940h (GMT) a RIB came alongside Generali. Two personnel were immediately dispatched on board the yacht to assess Yann Elies’ condition, while the Arunta remained around 200 metres upwind of Generali, holding station to provide a lee shelter.

At 1040hrs GMT an emotional Marc Guillemot, skipper of Safran who had been standing by alongside Generali, confirmed on this morning’s live radio broadcast that the transfer of Yann Elies from Generali onto HMAS Arunta has been completed.

Speaking from the scene he said: “Some highly professional work. They prepared Yann for the transfer. Still heavy swell but they carried out manoeuvre perfectly. Yann is now aboard the frigate and has a doctor taking care of him.”
“It was like a dream. It didn’t seem real. They took care of that magnificently.”
On board the Frigate Elies will be assessed by the civilian doctor on board and is expected to be taken to Perth military hospital.

The Australian frigate’s RIB then returned to Generali to pick up two crewmembers who were left to secure the boat. The Open 60 was left sailing slowly northwards under a very minimal sail plan, away from the track of the worst of the low pressure systems. The Vendée Globe race directors will continue to monitor her position.

A crew from Team Generali, have left for Australia to go aboard a motor launch which will take them out to the area, and they will sail her back to Southern Australia.

Guillemot, who suffered two broken legs at sea in 1985 when the catamaran Jet Services capsized, said: “The only advice I gave Yann was to remain patient and not behave like I did.  In the future he will be back again.”
Guillemot and fellow skipper Sam Davies on Roxy, who had also left the race to head towards Generali and was around 70 miles away at the time of the rescue, will now continue with their race.

Marc Guillemot added: “I said before that when Yann was in safe hands, I would set sail again. The conditions will me allow me to rest.  I am tired after all this stress.”

A doctor from the Royal Flying Doctor Service, embarked in the Anzac-Class frigate, has begun administering emergency medical treatment.

The ship’s Commanding Officer, Commander Stephen Bowater said his crew has displayed exceptional professionalism during the two days to reach the French sailor.

“From receiving the order to deploy late on Thursday evening to sailing out of HMAS Stirling in the very early hours of Friday morning, we only had a precious few hours to get the ship operational,” Commander Bowater said.

“This was achieved without compromise to the safety of the crew or the operation of the ship.

“We have proven again that the Navy constantly maintains the ability to respond at short notice to emergency situations.”

CMDR Bowater said Yann Elies is receiving excellent medical care from the RFDS doctor and is resting comfortably.

HMAS Arunta is now returning to port, where the solo Vendee Globe skipper will be transferred to a civilian hospital.

Hugo Boss Repairs Under Way
Since HUGO BOSS arrived back in Gosport on the 29th November she has been in the shed at Endeavour Quay, and has had a team busily surveying and working on her repairs.

“The first thing to do was to check the structure of the hull. after 2 fairly major impacts we were really unsure what we would find” said Boat Captain Ross Daniel, “for 5 days we undertook a process called laser chorography – which works by attaching giant suckers to the side of the hull, and pulling the carbon layers apart to see if there is any movement. This lengthy process determines if there is any damage to the structure of the hull, and we are pleased to report that the only damage that has been detected is localised – around the area of the crack.”

So now the next step in her repair is to patch the damaged area. A large hole has now been cut away around the crack, extending over 5 metres, and a mould prepared to make a new panel which will then be fitted and re-sprayed in the new year – a very similar process to the one that was carried out in Les Sables d’Olonne following the accident with the fishing vessel. The work is fairly straightforward, we have a team of 5 working on her in January, including our boat captain Ross Daniel and boatbuilder Clifford Nicholson, and we hope very much that she will be back in the water sailing by mid February

In the meantime the team are all taking a well earned break over Christmas and we will be back in the office on the 5th January for a fresh start! And if you happen to be planning a visit to the boatshow in January have a look out for Alex – on Saturday 10th he has the honour of presenting the Raymarine Young Sailor of the year award, and will also be attending on Sunday 18th as a ‘Boating Heroes’ guest speaker on the mainstage.

IMOCA: The Vendee Globe – A Designer’s Perspective
Whilst the main protagonists are still at sea, we’ve talked to a group of people that have played a crucial role in getting the sailors to where they are today. We have asked the boat designers if recent events in the race have surprised them and if the skippers are pushing their boats too hard.

Merf Owen, Owen Clarke Design Group (Designer of Algimouss Spirit of Canada; Aviva; Ecover 3; Temenos II) : “Breakages are rarely linked they all have their own causes. If a mast breaks it could be rigging, a tube or a fitting. If a keel is reported as breaking it can also be a generalisation – in Dominique Wavre’s case a fitting on the top of the keel, in other cases in the past a whole keel, or a failure of the hydraulic rams.”

Pascal Conq, Finot-Conq (Designer of Brit Air; DCNS; Genenerali; Hugo Boss; Akena Veranda; Roxy; Spirit of Weymouth; : “In these sorts of conditions, it really is down to where each of the skipper puts himself that makes all the difference and that depends on his state of mind and how he/she wants to control their race. It is not about pushing the boats 100% to their potential. I’m not surprised or worried about the events that have taken place as we all expected lots of retirements. The fact that they are being caused by masts, keels or rudders, is nothing unusual.”

Patrick Shaughnessy, President of Farr Yacht Design (Designers of BT; Delta Dore; Foncia; Gitana Eighty; Paprec-Virbac 2; PRB; Cheminees Poujoulat) : “We been very proud to see a good number of our teams in the top 5 or top 10 boats and at the same time we’ve been devastated by the retirements our teams have experienced.” “Of course in the end we at Farr Yacht Design hope that one of our teams will ultimately win the Vendee Globe race. That said, it feels way too early to be talking about those expectations when the sailors have so much hard work in front of them.” “The second generation of boats benefited from a better understanding of how the boats are sailed and generally explored more powerful solutions but also with a strong focus on balance and the skippers ability to use as much of the boat as possible.”

Simon Rogers, Rogers Yacht Design Ltd (Designer of Artemis) : “The new generation 60 have proved that they need considerably more time to set up and find their speed potential over previous generations. Miles on the water with their skippers are proving critical along with striking a balance between reliability and weight saving. With over a third of the Vendee fleet abandoned with the leaders only half way round the world, reliability is playing its hand and proving that the Vendee is largely still about the sailor.”

Marc Lombard (Designer of Veolia Environnement; VM Materiaux) : “The retirements are not surprising at all. Masts always come down as they are such a crucial part of the overall performance. A mast that’s too heavy kills a boat’s performance, a mast that’s too light can break. Its durability also depends on how it is treated all the varying conditions and varying wind strengths. There’s no 1 reason for a mast breaking, sometimes it’s the mechanics, and other times the original calculations or overworking the rigging. The only common theme is that it is a sensitive part of a boat!”

For the designers’ fuller accounts and an in-depth interview with the president of Farr Yacht Design, please log on to IMOCA news at

A roller-coaster ride

“We are reaching with 25knots of wind and a bumpy sea! That makes doing anything pretty much impossible, as if you were living on a roller-coaster! Changing or trimming a sail requires me to be in full drysuit, which is easier said than done – try putting a dry suit on on dry land? Then tilt the land to 30 degrees, make the floor wet (so if you put that foot down before it is in the drysuit your sock gets wet). Put a blindfold on. Then start the roller-coaster!”

“Just earlier, I noticed a big bulge in the reef of my mainsail. There was a fold of sail that had been collecting water and it was fully loaded up, which is not at all good for the sail. I tried everything, luffing up, bearing away, its too windy to shake the reef…. nothing would get rid of the bulge. I then bore away, got a bucket, and got in there and bailed it out! 10 buckets – so at least 100kg of water in my sail! I re-adjusted the lazyjacks and got going again….. only to see that the bulge is back! So in the end I got a knife and pierced some holes in it so it would drain. I’m hoping my drain-holes will keep it at bay….”

“I opened my Christmas dinner package today! Romain has prepared a super meal for me – a delicious fish soup, with rouille and croutons! I can’t wait! The only thing is that I think it is almost impossible to eat soup in these conditions!! I might have to postpone my Christmas dinner to when its calmed down a bit, otherwise I will be wearing more of it than eating it!”
Sam Davies (Roxy) in her daily message

Jean Le Cam (VM Matériaux): He was on the phone to Vincent and felt a shock, something unusual. The boat went over, but not very violently. Thinks it may have been a container floating just under the surface. There are a lot of boats in the area. Jumped to get his clothes and survival gear. Made a little nest in the bow section. Upside down it is normal that stern is lower in the water.
Feels like someone who has just woken from a long sleep. Difficult to explain what it was like during the incident. Always had in mind that he would have to leave the boat. Didn’t know how long he could stay in 10 cubic metre space.
He heard Vincent clearly once and thought he heard him again later, so thought it was time to get out. The stern section had flooded so he returned to bow, but then told himself he needed to get out. Had capsized before with Tabarly so knew that he would need to attach himself to rudder, so he took a rope with him. Thankfully Vincent saw something coming out. Once outside he told himself to grab the wind generator and immediately saw Vincent. Caught Vincent’s rope after a few attempts and set about consolidating the mast and gybing straight away.

Vincent Riou (PRB): Heard shouts and guessed Le Cam’s distress. Saw that the boat was sinking into water and it would be cold and wet inside. Didn’t know if he was injured or whether he would try to come out, so set up surveillance with Armel. Jean managed to hang on to boat and cling onto rudder, but Vincent wasn’t sure he’d manage that if he came out. Fourth attempt was a desperate one because he was beginning to wonder whether he’d manage. Only the outrigger touched VM Matériaux. Now they are heading to the Horn and hoping to anchor this evening somewhere in the entrance to Beagle Channel. What’s next is the question he is asking, and wondering what jury will allow. Riou is hoping to drop off Jean at Ushuaia with the collaboration of Isabelle Autissier who’s in the area.

and then…

At 1920 GMT, only a matter of an hour and 20 minutes since passing Cape Horn, Vincent Riou called his team to report that PRB has been dismasted.

Riou called his team and said bluntly: “We have been dismasted. We are in the islands.”

When the call was made PRB was in a position approximately 55 deg S and 65 deg 59 W, about 7.8 miles to the North West of the Cape Horn light. Both skippers Riou and Le Cam are safe and well.

He called back to his team about an hour later, saying that he did not want to issue a Mayday signal, but was trying to locate a suitable vessel to tow them, perhaps through the contacts of Isabelle Autissier. He had been on the phone to Isabelle discussing their planned rendezvous tomorrow not long before the mast collapsed.

They believe that the temporary lashing which they had made to the chainplate gave way.

They had around 25 knots of NW’ly wind when the rig came down but have a limited chance of setting a jury rig while they are in the islands. Riou and Le Cam acted quickly to cut away the rigging and free the broken mast. Since they cut the mast free PRB is reported to be drifting at 1.5 knots to a course of about 25 degrees, effectively away from the islands.

A PAN PAN call was made, a simple request to any available assistance, as opposed to the obligations of a Mayday. Vendée Globe Race Direction have been in contact with the Chilean authorities. The  32.7 m  general purpose  vessel  Alacalufe  of the Chilean  Navy  has been dispatched  from Port  Williams , 55  miles away.  Making  around  20 knots it is due to reach PRB around  0200hrs GMT

The Professor profits and a sting for the Trio

Michel Desjoyeaux passed Cape Horn a week ago with a lead of 112 miles. In seven days he has increased his lead to the best part of 340 miles this afternoon, and as the wind veers more NE, with his nearest opponent Roland Jourdain now tucked in his pocket 275 miles away inshore, toward the Brasilian coast, the prospects for The Professor look increasingly favourable.

Jourdain said today that he has yet to press the accelerator hard since making his repairs after hitting a sea mammal Thursday, and has been sailing especially carefully – trying to reduce the slamming on Veolia Environnment – a task which is not proving easy in more than 40 knots when the optimum course is upwind.

Relief was perhaps the most evident emotion when Marc Guillemot called in to the radio vacations this morning, with Cape Horn two hours in his wake. The Safran skipper’s rounding was brisk and businesslike, arriving at the rock at 0730 as the fastest of the fleet overnight, before starting the long climb up the Atlantic. But it was a release for the skipper from La Trinité as he made his third trip round the Horn, his first solo, after such a dramatic set of experiences in the Big South. He is still planning to repair his mainsail mast track in the Falklands late Tuesday or early Wednesday, an operation which should take beween three and five hours. He anticipates mooring to a buoy but may drift if there is sea room, the shelter is sufficient and the weather is amenable.

Jonny Malbon confirmed today that the Vendée Globe is definitely unfinished business, a race he wants to come back to in time, after he arrived in Auckland, New Zealand, passing the Cormonandel  Peninsula as the sun was rising early morning local time (late last night (GMT). A matter of hours later he was joined today by Jean-Pierre Dick and met up with Sebastien Josse (BT) to discuss future plans for repairs and repatriation.

The Pacific is not giving up the trio Bahrain Team Pindar, Akena Verandas and Aviva lightly to the Pacific. All three skippers, Brian Thompson, Arnaud Boissières and Dee Caffari will have to contend with forecasted winds strafing them at up to 70 knots, with a mountainous sea up to 12m high, as they fight to make Cape Horn. All three were well battened down, according to all their recent reports, anticipating this one final battering before they can breach the Atlantic.

Roland Jourdain, (Veolia Environnement): “I’m sailing in conditions that aren’t easy for a boat, where the resin is not fry.  The wind really got up during the night, so I headed towards the west. Yesterday on the starboard tack, I was able to check that the reapirs were OK. The bulkhead seems solid enough and there are no more noises coming from it. When I was facing 45 knots of wind and rough seas, I was cautious.  I took in three reefs with no headsails.  In spite of that, she kept slamming a lot. As before, were  sailing downwind, the strains aren’t the same. I’m trying to see what happens upwind. If I hoist some more sail, she will only slam more. There are fewer squalls now, but the wind is still up to thirty knots.  Yesterday I was the perfect house-keepeer. Seeing I couldn’t sleep, I cleaned up with a lot of water to get rid of most of the bits of carbon, even if occasionally, I still itch.  It’s getting better.

“I think I’m going to have to build up the speed gradually. As for Michel Desjoyeaux, when I feel a bit down, I imagine all sorts of things in my head. There’s still a long way to go and I need to look after my boat more than ever. Seeing what has happened so far in this race, we’re likely to see some more incidents yet.”

Jonny Malbon, Artemis: “I have been pretty stressed out about the whole thing, but last night kind of justified my whole decision. I had a big rip in the main and then the headboard car actually came off in a gybe last night, so I limped in today under headsails only with quite serious charging problems. All of the issues we had were compounded by the mainsail issue, but it is not good to have all of these problems, but it does justify my decision in my own head.”

“ I have an overriding sense of unfinished business for sure. Maybe, rightly or wrongly, I was written off before the start in many ways. And so I feel really, really devastated that I did not finish the race because of problems outside of my control. I guess that if things would have been different then I would still have been racing and that is my ultimate goal. With proper preparation for next time, hopefully we can be a lot more competitive.

On his mainsail delamination: “I have never seen anything like it. I have been questioning my decision based on the mainsail, to the point that half way through last week I almost turned to go back on to the course, because I thought I was over-estimating the damage to the mainsail but that is part because I have been looking at it for so long.”

“The scrim on one side, apparently I think  North Sails have said, had some waxy substance attached to it and I think there is a one in ten chance that a sail will be  affected by it, mine has as have some of Puma as have some of the other Volvo 70’s and has Dee.”

Another Auckland visitor

Day 64

Cup of Tea Time

January 14. 2009 at 15:20

The sun is coming up. Lying in your bunk, with your head buried in the pillow, keeping your feet warm under the duvet, you awake after twenty or thirty minutes of sleep and you start thinking back to the difficulties of the night. There are nights like that, when nothing goes right, when the alarm continually rings because of the strong winds pushing the boat off course or because the sails need to be trimmed. Understandable really, why you don’t feel like leaping out of bed.

Europ Assistance

No smells of coffee and toast here. In the Big South Hotel, there is no room service. You have to do everything for yourself, so you finally accept the inevitable and crawl out of your duvet. Oh my God! She’s really moving around It’s freezing! You think of the frontrunners, who are already back in warm weather. Quickly, fill up the hot water bottle. Turn on the gas and slide back into the sleeping bag that is still warm from your body heat.
In a half awake state, you imagine what it is like sitting down in the kitchen having breakfast with the family with toast, butter and home-made strawberry jam. You can smell the slightly burnt toast, the rich aroma of the coffee with the mild milky flavour. You even think of what it is like to grab your satchel and head off for school. You are missing the fresh baguette and salty butter that would really take you there. Last time you enjoyed those pleasures was back in the Bay of Biscay more than two months ago.
This morning you’re going to have to make do with cereals to get your carbohydrate levels up. Gradually assimilated by the body, they provide regular fuel and power for the muscles to face the cold and heavy work ahead. At around lunchtime looking at what is left in the week’s food bag, you plump for a large portion of pasta with cheese and tomato sauce. The meal, prepared ashore was freeze-dried. The recipe is simple: Add boiling water until you reach the line, wait a few minutes or a bit longer and it is done! Eat up while it’s hot, directly from the bag. No plates, no washing up. All so easy and practical! Of course, after two months, it gets a bit boring and it’s rather constipating for the digestive system. But you don’t have the choice. You put up with it, because it’s easy and saves weight. The bag will end up back in the rubbish bin in Les Sables d’Olonne. Nothing is thrown into the sea.
Now it’s time to dress up to go outside. If dress up is the right word. We’re not talking about a suit or cocktail dress, or the latest fashion, here what you need is the gear for the Forties with a tight-fitting fleece and oilskins.  One more important detail: Don’t forget to keep some sweets in your pocket, just in case. Eaten just before a manoeuvre, these sugars, which are absorbed quickly by the body offer a quick burst of energy, a boost for the muscles. This booster also calms you by stimulating the secretion of serotonin, a calming, anti-stress sedative. This will allow you to manoeuvre safely. However, this molecule does not only have advantages. It also intervenes directly on your desire to sleep. The advertisement announcing « a burst of energy and you’re off again!» should be replaced by « a burst of energy and back to sleep!» You need to know that when you are tired, you need to ensure you stay awake in order to be alert. This is a major worry in the final days of the race. You’re going to be running out of sweets and chocolate. Rationing becomes necessary. A tragedy!
You may be surprised to be consuming so much sugar without putting on any weight. Those large meals are just compensating for the use of energy, which you tend to under-estimate. Just standing up in this universe in perpetual motion requires almost 1000 calories. Add to that the lack of sleep, a lot of physical activity, losses due to the cold, the wind and damp and a huge amount of mental work and you become a big consumer of sugars and you will end up with a diet for the Southern Ocean of around 6000 calories a day.
This is nothing like a race such as the Figaro. During that race, you hardly eat at all. A lack of time. No appetite, too much stress. There just remains the feeling of hunger, which for some helps resist the temptation to fall asleep. This behaviour, contrary to the rules of a good sportsman’s diet, was proved scientifically a short while ago. Neurones in the region of the hypothalamus, which is sensitive to the lack of sugar excite other neurones, which keep you awake, making use of the body’s energy reserves, and increase your aggressiveness. This behaviour dates back to the first human beings, who absolutely had to get food to survive. Feeling acute hunger, they simply could not fall asleep, but instead needed to use all their energy to run as fast as possible and strike as hard as they could. The aggression that can be felt, when you are hungry is a survival instinct linked to our origins, like many others. But in the Vendée Globe, this process can only last for a few days and beyond that, it is necessary to recharge the batteries with rich and heavy meals.
And drink. Here, the source will not dry up, as it is the ocean itself. With the desalination unit, you obtain fresh water as you need it each day. It’s water that doesn’t have a lot of taste, and is low in mineral salts. Food or tablets will easily compensate for this lack. There is one major drawback however. In the south, water in a bottle is simply too cold. You don’t feel like drinking it. With each mouthful, the mouth is numbed, and the throat blocked by the feeling of icy water slipping down to the stomach. It makes you shiver. So if you want to drink, there is nothing better than a tea or hot chocolate. Maybe a little coffee, but not too much. Water is in fact necessary for the transformation of food into energy. Even if most food contains a certain amount of water, usually around two-thirds, that is not enough. You must drink. Here you require 3 to 4 litres a day without counting the water required to rehydrate your freeze-dried food.
Try to eat at regular times, without eating between meals. As is the case for sleep, there are periods when the body is ready for meals. In general in the morning, at lunchtime and in the evening. So stick to that. If you are really hungry have a snack in the afternoon and something to eat in the night, if possible before going to sleep. In this way, the calories used for digesting are not taken away from the work energy and the sugars help you sleep. And spoil yourself. Today, the food was good and you worked hard. There is still something missing. Maybe next time you should bring a table cloth and a wine glass.
Jean-Yves Chauv

Evaluating the damage after the storm

14 January 2009

As Dee reported yesterday she has been in some pretty extreme conditions for the last 48 hrs and although the breeze has now dropped to 35knts it is still no picnic. High on Dee’s list of priorities is getting around Cape Horn before a second depression and it’s 70knts of wind catch up with her. Even the greatest landlubber will appreciate that Cape Horn in 70knts is not the place to be. If they can get round before this storm, they will still have considerable breeze but will be protected from the huge seas that are generated at the Horn and just to the West.

During the latest blow, the damage to the main continued to increase as the sail was battered by high winds and water. Dee ended up with the 4 reefs in, the smallest the sail can be made,  but this still leaves the bags of unset sail exposed to the conditions and so even the bits of the main Dee wasn’t using continue to degrade. Fortunately this morning when the breeze had dropped off a little, Dee managed to hoist the sail to 3 reefs which was more suitable for the conditions and has allowed her to keep pace with Akena and Pindar.

You can see in the picture above the latest damage just below the 4th reef that occurred in the storm and led to Dee feeling fairly low. In the picture below you can see how to some extent as the exposed yellow Kevlar fibres take tension with the sail at 3 reefs, the damage appears to be a lot less dramatic.

Having said this I just spoke to her on the phone and more of the taffeta has peeled away. Unfortunately this story isn’t going to go away and now Dee has a race on to finish before the main destroys itself as well as the race to beat Akena and Pindar.


“I’m writing this as Roxy slips along under a magnificent starry sky… It makes a nice change to the clouds and rain pelting down on the deck! I have been catching up on lost sleep today, having had virtually none in the last 48 hours! It has been bliss, and much needed. I was definitely on the verge of being tired, emotional, and irrational yesterday morning, which for me is very unusual and a warning sign that sleep is necessary! Luckily the conditions allowed me several hours of great sleep! During the middle of last night, I had unenviable job of stacking all my gear from leeward to windward (low side to high side), as the wind built a little and Roxy needed the weight in the right place. Normally stacking is always done before the tack or gybe so I can use gravity to help, but in this situation there is no escaping a tough session of weight training! The positive side is that after the stacking, I get to go on deck to cool down. Admittedly, I would love that the decks were awash with spray, as that would mean we were going fast, but as that is not the case I can make the most of a bit of peaceful star-gazing. I am starting to realise that there are less and less days left in this race and I want to make the most of every minute and every view that I have left. I can’t get enough of it! In the early part of the evening the moon wasn’t out, and as there were no lights, the view was magnificent! There is something quite magical about being alone under such a sky.”
Sam Davies (Roxy) in her daily message

On fire, and warming up for the party

January 28. 2009 at 21:28
On fire, and warming up for the party

Michel Desjoyeaux is on fire this evening, 17.5 knots is the quickest we have seen from him for a long time and he is set to keep up that pace in the building breeze.

He is at 769 miles ahead of Roland Jourdain and, although Veolia Environnement has picked up speed again, he is still losing miles. It could be 800 by tomorrow.

Brian Thompson, who since weeks pre-start, always said he relished the miles up the Atlantic, is doing a great job, making 14.3 knots average between the rankings – four hours to 1830GMT – and 14.5 in the 1h speed gun. He is now 214 miles ahead of Dee and 260 miles behind Sam Davies who has slowed in the Doldrums to just over 6 knots.

Meanwhile in a chilly Vendée there is an air of anticipation, even if it is difficult to believe that in just a few days from now the harbour in Les Sables d’Olonne will be thronged with visitors, and that the whole town will be coming alive as the winner of the Vendée Globe crosses the finishing line.

For the moment, an air of calm reigns in Port Olona, but behind the scenes, the preparations are in full swing.  The most visible sign is the presence of delivery trucks around the tents in the village, as the exhibitors prepare their stands.

Outside broadcast vans have already appeared and in the nerve centre that is Race HQ, the organisers are hard at work.

With less than four days to go before the celebrations begin, it is the calm before the storm in Les Sables.

A sharp contrast to what can be expected to happen this weekend with the inauguration of the Village, and the arrival of crowds of journalists, shore teams and visitors in the port. Over the course of a few hours, with the atmosphere building, the town will once again bathe in the unique party atmosphere that we saw before the start.

Sam takes a long shower

“I had a perfect day of R&R, whilst Roxy has been crashing along in the trade winds! No sail changes, just the odd check of trim from time to time, so I have managed a fair amount of sleep. Even the crashing off waves didn’t seem to disrupt my sleep. I wonder if I am going to have trouble sleeping in a still bed once I am back on land? The doldrums was hard work yesterday as we passed under a big squall line. Unfortunately the first set of squalls were the very very WET rainy, but windless ones! So, whilst tacking and gybing and trying to keep Roxy going forward I managed to get out the shampoo and had the best shower yet in the torrential rain. Whats more, the rain gods left the water running until all was rinsed off this time!”

“It was a close call, because I was quite near the equator at the time and I’m not sure what Neptune would have thought if he had received my toast of shampoo! Luckily, as we crossed the equator, the wind had returned and I managed to give Neptune a good ceremony with Champagne followed by a bar of chocolate! Now, as I write, it is dark, but I am honoured with a fantastic view out of my port porthole – our faithful star Venus has now been joined by the slither of a new moon and the two of them are shining in at me! Roxy is still crashing through the waves and the normal boat noises have been joined by the occasional “THWACK” of a suicidal flying fish making impact. Unfortunately I will not be making any flying fish rescues tonight because it is too wet to go on deck for anything other than boat performance!”

Time is simply dragging for some, for others the spur is simply getting closer to the finish, but many of the remaining Vendée Globe skippers have their primary goal now getting home as quickly and safely as possible, such is the spread of the fleet now, and the distance between the remaining boats. The exceptions are probably Sam Davies, GBR, (Roxy) and Marc Guillemot (Safran) who have a fight on their hands, but even Davies admitted last night that she is looking forward to getting back to a long shower and home comforts.

Armel Le Cléac’h had a rough night as he bent to the task of making the final 1000 miles to Les Sables d’Olonne on Brit Air to secure second place, working through the spicy Atlantic low pressure systems. In big seas and winds over 40 knots Le Cléac’h has eased back early this morning to around 12 knots but was making 16-17 knots through yesterday evening and the first part of the night. He was 460 miles to the SW of Cape Finisterre this morning and had 840 miles of his Vendée Globe course to sail. At current averages that leaves him 60 hours sailing time, and appears set to have good breeze to the finish, so might be expected Friday afternoon/evening.

Sam Davies is now 178 miles ahead of Marc Guillemot and has continued to gain the same profit on each ranking. Guillemot is now towards the SW corner of the high pressure system and has remained with some 340 miles of lateral W-E separation between Safran and Roxy, while Davies noted last night that she is preparing to take on the difficult section of her course, dealing with the lighter winds as she seeks to sail the shorter distance through gentler and more capricious breezes.

While Davies noted that the comforts of home are starting to appeal more, so Brian Thompson, some 430 miles behind Roxy, is most focused on maximum speed from Bahrain Team Pindar without exacerbating any of his existing problems with the boat. The upwind trade winds conditions are bone-shaking, jarring, uncomfortable and monotonous for the skipper but are likely to further expose any weaknesses in the boat which Thompson has done a great job keeping in the race and which was never designed with the Vendée Globe as its primary target.

Dee Caffari, too, on Aviva has a big gap in front and behind. 420 miles to Brian Thompson and 560 miles to Arnaud Boissières on Akena Verandas and she is just modulating the stress on her boat as best she can, preserving her mainsail wherever she can.

Steve White may be in some of the most pleasant sailing conditions of the race, a complete counterpoint to the weather at his home in England, but he is certainly feeling that underlying frustration, the inevitable let down after a first venture into the Big South, when 11-12 knots in baking sunshine on Toe in the Water, feels not only pedestrian but – without the challenge of a rival within 500 miles – positively monotonous.

Rich Wilson (USA) dealt yesterday with a ‘potential game-ender’ – when his self steering failed – but is back dealing with his next low pressure and will be relieved to reach the lighter trade winds in a couple of days time, a break from the South Atlantic conditions which has been intense and frustrating for him.

While Raphael Dinelli (Fondation Océan Vital) should stop in the next hours just north of Port Stanley in the East Falkland island to make his repairs – re-reeving a mainsail halyard and attending to other niggling issues including his battery system, so Norbert Sedlacek (Nauticsport Kapsch) is due at Cape Horn in the early afternoon, the final Vendée Globe racer to exit the Pacific Ocean.

Safran carries on with no keel

February 09. 2009 at 18:52
Safran carries on with no keel

Marc Guillemot’s Vendée Globe has been the most laden with very unexpected challenges and widest spectrum of emotions of any skipper left in the race. Now the skipper from La Trinité has a massive final test, completing the final 976 miles of his race on Safran without a keel.

Guillemot’s team reported early this morning that trouble with his keel which had been bothering him since the Azores had got worse. Since yesterday the keel had been moving in the fore and aft plane and giving the skipper cause for concern. Early this morning it had slipped several centimeters down into the keel box and he was forced to try to make a fix by securing it with ropes to the mast and a winch, but early this afternoon he realized suddenly that the ropes were slack. He no longer had a keel.

In fact, Guillemot, reported on a call late this afternoon, he was prepared for this eventuality and was almost relieved that the keel had gone since it was no longer threatening to damage his hull, and he at least now knows the magnitude of his problem. Guillemot suffered keel ram trouble in the 2007 Transat B to B race and had to block his keel in place to stop it moving.

Discussions have been ongoing with with Guillaume Verdier, one of Safran’s designers, and Guillemot this afternoon reported that he is making 9-11 knots with a triple reefed main and staysail and is determined to end his incredible race. In fact he lead this Vendée Globe early on the first evening of the race but went on to slide badly into the pack when he got stuck in the wind shadow of the Canaries.

Similar to the situation with Roland Jourdain, who had to halt his race for the same reason in the Azores, which are 300 miles or so to the SW of Safran, Guillemot now believes that his keel loss is a delayed consequence of a collision he had with a sea mammal on the evening of December 17th near the Kerguelen Islands.

At the time his rudder became detached from the boat and Safran broached violently, and he reported damage to his daggerboard which he changed two days later.

Then on 16th December he sustained damage to his mast track which has forced him to sail under reduced mainsail area since then, and which required him to make stops first at Auckland Island on 27th December to try and affect a repair to the track, and then again in the Falklands after further damage sustained on the 29th December.

Prior to his Falklands pitstop he climbed the mast on 6th January, in calmer weather to try and improve the fix and then after Cape Horn, on the 14th January he stopped for five and a half hours in the bay at Port Stanley. Since then he has only been able to sail with two reefs.

But the most stressful period for Guillemot was when he was diverted to help the injured Yann Eliès on 18th December, standing by him until the Generali skipper was evacuated on 20th December.

Guillemot, sounding tired and stressed this evening, says he is determined to complete this race whatever place he ends up in. He now has full windward ballast tanks and says he is taking it as easily as possible. Conditions are choppy but he has around 12-13 knots of wind. He has less than 980 miles to sail.

His nearest rival for third place Sam Davies has been making good speed in brisk conditions and had caught to within seven miles of the compromised Safran. Guillemot’s primary desire is simply to finish, but he still has over two days worth of redress to his credit.

The duel between Brian Thompson, GBR (Bahrain Team Pindar) and Dee Caffari, GBR, (Bahrain Team Pindar) looks like it may go the wire, or at least be settled in light winds in the Bay of Biscay as they approach the finish. She has closed to within 47 miles now although neither are moving at pace this afternoon. Caffari, at 7.8 knots, is still closing down her compatriot who should emerge first from the new high pressure system, but is making 4.1 knots this afternoon and averaged less than three knots between 0930hrs and 1430hrs.

Mark Guillemot, (Safran): “  It’s an old story.  You may remember near the Kerguelens I collided with a large sea mammal and went from 20-22 knots to zero.  I talked to the designers a few hours later as I thought it was strange that it was a bit loose.  As I passed the Azores it must have moved to the next stage.  After that it was much looser and yesterday it was much worse. Based on the advice I got from Guillaume Verdier I secured it in place during the night.  I managed to raise it up. It was exposed to some huge forces with 40-50 knots of wind and high seas.  I could hear the keel moving from one side to the other.  At 2 or 3 in the morning I was fairly pleased with the job.  I had it rigged up to the winch and the keel was practically blocked from moving forwards and backwards.  I wanted to give it one more turn to raise it that bit further and it was odd…  I looked in the keel box and could see it had gone down as I could see the sea.  Strange as it may seem, I breathed a sigh of relief!  Having that weight swinging around under the hull, you feel powerless to do anything.  There is the risk of the boat being damaged.  I prepared the ballast tanks and I’m back in control.  I hope we don’t get any strong gales like last night.”

“ It was extremely stressful. The noise and creaking were just horrendous.  This is the first time I’ve ever experienced this and it was dreadful.  I have the ballast full in the bow and am under small jib with three reefs in the mainsail.   So I’m sailing 10-11 knots. The sea is still quite rough, but it has eased off and I can deal with the conditions.  I don’t mean to say I could cross the Atlantic like that, but I haven’t any choice there.  If it gets worse I could head for Spain. I really want to finish in Les Sables d’Olonne.  I’m more determined than ever.  Samantha is quickly going to get ahead, but I just want to finish the race. I’m feeling exhausted as I worked all night and then again this morning.  I’ve got another hour of work ahead of me tidying up the boat.

A few Images of the race

When slow is good

After losing his keel yesterday Marc Guillemot will be satisfied to settle for a slow finish in lighter winds which will be kinder to his predicament on Safran.

The skipper from La Trinité has, as he predicted yesterday, given up third place on the water to Sam Davies on Roxy, but has still been moving well, averaging 9.2 knots overnight, and slowed this morning by the lighter winds to 7.5 knots as the new Azores high pressure system just catches up with Safran. Guillemot had 520 miles to sail to Cape Finisterre this morning.

Now lying third on the water Sam Davies noted last night:

“ I am, however incredibly glad of the forecast for Marco’s sake, as the light winds will hopefully enable Safran to get to the finish safely. After all Marco has done, he deserves to get there and I am keeping everything crossed for a safe passage for him and Safran.”

She has had a good night, managing to stave off the effects of the high for slightly longer, making 12-12.5 knots for much of the night, with bursts to 14 and 15 knots at times. Even in such brisk conditions Davies will not be pushing too hard. She has 460 miles to sail to pass Cape Finisterre and admits that, due to the prominent high pressure which will settle over the Bay of Biscay, her hopes of being back in Les Sables d’Olonne for Valentine’s Day are not looking so hot.

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6 Responses to “Vendeeglobe”

  1. Transat AG2R says:

    Transat AG2R…

    Transat AG2R 2010 La Mondiale : le site d\’Henri-Paul Schipman et Pierre Canevet est en ligne. Suivez chaque jour leurs billets transmis depuis leur bateau par satellite….

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