Wednesday 21th December 2016
Separation: Meilhat slowed to fix keel ram,
Beyou alone in third
The long time duel for third place on the Vendée Globe podium, between sparring partners Jérémie Beyou (Maître CoQ) and Paul Meilhat (SMA) is over for the meantime. As rookie Meilhat heads slowly north to deal with a keel ram issue, Beyou has continued east at speed.
From being only five or six miles apart and sharing VHF conversations, the two training partners from Port La Forêt's Pôle Finistère racing the Pacific solo for the first time have now separated. Beyou is alone and Meilhat must deal with his hydraulic ram issue. At 0500hrs UTC this morning Beyou is now unchallenged in third. Meilhat is 260 miles behind and making 8.5kts in a northerly direction. A disappointed Meilhat said last night: “I was reaching under J2 in twenty knots of wind, when I heard a big bang. I quickly understood that the keel had shifted to leeward. I bore away and then I saw that oil from the hydraulic circuit had been leaking under the ram. I thought it was a broken cylinder. I looked for the cause of the problem. One tube was unscrewed, but when I added oil, it poured out everywhere. This afternoon, with the wind astern, I managed to get the keel fixed in the middle using the security system. The whole of the hydraulic system is now out of use and if not fixed in position, the keel will swing from one side to the other. I'm trying to head towards the NW to get away from the strong winds. I can't get to grips with what has happened. I am keeping myself busy to avoid thinking about it. My priority is to look after my boat.”
Beyou is benefiting from favourable conditions on the back of a low-pressure system, which he should be able to stick with today. More than 400 miles further back, Jean-Pierre Dick (StMichel-Virbac) is keeping up the speed and making his comeback. He was the fastest over the past 24 hours sailing 489 miles. This morning he has slowed slightly as he approaches a ridge of high pressure. But later today he should get going again, as a low is moving in and will catch him. This is the system where the two chasing him, Yann Eliès (Quéguiner-Leucémie Espoir) and Jean Le Cam (Finistère Mer Vent) are holding on to a good SW'ly flow after gybing yesterday at around 2200 UTC.
Thomas Ruyant (Le Souffle du Nord pour le Projet Imagine) has made it to the port of Bluff in the south of New Zealand. He is safe and sound, but his boat suffered a lot of damage in the violent collision with the unidentified floating object. “One side of me is very sad and the other is relieved. I have brought home a seriously damaged boat. My Vendée Globe is over and I won't be sailing her into the harbour entrance channel in Les Sables. But until that incident I had had a good race,” declared Thomas at the finish.
In a 25 knot SW'ly wind race leader Armel Le Cléac'h (Banque Populaire VIII) is continuing his dash towards Cape Horn, maintaining his lead of over 500 miles over Alex Thomson (Hugo Boss). Le Cleac'h is expected to pass the Horn on Friday. Things are set to improve for the British sailor chasing him as the wind is forecast to shift later today allowing him to sail on the starboard tack and use the foil that is still intact on his IMOCA.
No fewer than 700 miles behind Louis Burton (8th on Bureau Vallée), the Hungarian, Nandor Fa (Spirit of Hungary) is the skipper facing the worst conditions with 45-50 knot W/SW'ly winds and 5-6m high waves. Since yesterday he has been sailing in the Pacific and has now passed the halfway mark. Stéphane Le Diraison (Compagnie du Lit-Boulogne Billancourt), who for a long time was alongside him, is remaining patient. He is still heading for Melbourne under jury rig in winds that are becoming lighter…
Conrad Colman (Foresight Natural Energy) will be the next competitor to enter the Pacific. He is dealing with a transition zone, but is expected to pick up some more wind tonight. Behind Arnaud Boissières (La Mie Câline), who is having to deal with a problem to the mainsail head board, five racers are within a hundred miles of each other. After Fabrice Amedeo (Newrest-Matmut), Alan Roura (La Fabrique) and Enda O'Coineen (Kilcullen Voyager-Team Ireland), two more passed the longitude of Cape Leeuwin: Rich Wilson (Great American IV, at 2043hrs UTC) and Eric Bellion (CommeUnSeulHomme, at 2258hrs UTC). As for those at the rear, they are continuing to head towards the north to avoid a violent low-pressure system. But like Pieter Heerema (No Way Back), Didac Costa (One Planet One Ocean), Romain Attanasio (Famille Mary-Etamine du Lys) and Sébastien Destremau (TechnoFirst-faceOcean) should soon be gybing to head east to pass the second major cape in their round the world voyage.
EXTRACTS FROM TODAY'S RADIO SESSIONS
Fabrice Amedeo (Newrest-Matmut):
“Since I tore my mainsail between second and third reef, I have not been able to be fast. There was a 1.5m rip and a gaping hole in the mainsail. I have started to repair it. I have stitched up the tear and worked on the hole. I now need to consolidate that with patches. But it's so wet here that they don't stick properly. On Friday, I should be in a transition zone and hope to repair thing then.”
Sébastien Destremau (TechnoFirst-faceOcean):
“I have been going a long way north over the past 24 hours. Romain (Attanasio) and I took the right decision to get out of there, s they are forecasting 50-60 knot winds around the Kerguelens. It's not worth taking unnecessary risks. It's quite rough here with 30-35 knots of wind. I lost a lot of time three days ago with my mast problems. Now the boat is back to 100% as far as the rig is concerned. I'll take half a day out when I find somewhere calm to go up the mast and do some little jobs I can't do at sea. I don't want to think about crossing the Pacific without checking the mast.”
THE 0400 UTC RANKINGS