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Vendee Globe Race 2016/17 - Teil 2

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Saturday 14th of January 2017
'Anxious' Le Cléac'h vows to focus on ultimate prize

Vendée Globe leader Armel Le Cléac'h today admitted tensions are running high as he clings to the narrowest of leads over Briton Alex Thomson just days from the finish line of the solo round the world yacht race.

As the Vendée Globe entered its 70th day, Frenchman Le Cléac'h's advantage had been whittled down to 113 nautical miles as he and Thomson raced past the Canary Islands bound for Les Sables d'Olonne in France.

Cleach im Clinch mit Thomson
Foto: Vincent Curutschet
Little over 1,600nm now lie between Le Cléac'h and Vendée Globe glory, something the 39-year-old Breton sailor has been chasing relentlessly for the past 12 years.

Le Cléac'h, the pre-race favourite having finished second in the last two editions of the Vendée Globe, has led the race continuously since December 2 but it has been anything but plain sailing.
Hell-bent on becoming the first British skipper to win the race in its 27-year history, Thomson has been a constant threat to Le Cléac'h's ascendancy.

Now, as the race enters its last five days with Thomson's Hugo Boss within touching distance of Le Cléac'h's Banque Populaire VIII, the French sailor said he was all too aware of what is at stake.
“It's been a complicated race for me and the weather has been tricky to deal with but you just have to make do with the conditions you've got,” he said. “It's going to be complicated all the way and it's not a straight line finish into Les Sables so we're going to have to cover more ground in some varied conditions. It's going to be tight between me and Alex and we have a battle on our hands so it'll be important to hang on in there, dig deep and push as hard as we can.”

After a costly crossing of the Doldrums and a slowed ascent north thanks to a depression that drowned out the north-easterly trade winds, the final hurdle for the leading pair comes in the form of an anticyclone, which they must cross in order to reach Les Sables. They will make the high pressure ridge in several days after 48 hours of especially fast sailing.
“I've just got to grit my teeth and focus on the finish,” Le Cleac'h said. “I do feel a little bit anxious about it. I have five very complicated days ahead of me and I wish it was a more relaxing scenario. I simply have to concentrate on the weather and making headway towards the objective step by step, and make sure I'm in front. I'm going to continue to mark Alex, though lately it's been tricky to do that. The wind is due to kick back in tomorrow at which point it'll be all about reading the weather and tactics right. My boat's in good shape but I've no idea whether I have an advantage over Alex in terms of my experience of close-contact racing. Time will tell.”

Le Cléac'h is not the only skipper with clear intentions for the Vendée Globe finish. St Michel-Virbac skipper Jean-Pierre Dick today said that while keen to consolidate his position in fourth he was eagerly eying up third place currently occupied by Jérémie Beyou on Maître CoQ. At the 1400 UTC position update Beyou was 500nm ahead but Frenchman Dick said he had not lost hope of usurping his fellow countryman before the finish.
“The podium is not set in stone,” said Dick, competing in his third Vendée Globe. “Anything could happen. In my mind, I'm still on the attack and keen to get my boat back safely as she isn't what she was when I set sail. I must focus on keeping hold of my fourth place, even if I'm looking ahead to Jérémie. Three hundred miles can be made up or lost in a day or two.”

Sports journalist-turned-solo sailor Fabrice Amedeo was this afternoon less than 400 miles from Cape Horn in 11th place, followed closely by Arnaud Boissières around 30 miles to the south-west. The duo, along with Alan Roura and Rich Wilson, are expected to pass the milestone on the southern tip of South America late tomorrow in strong north-westerly winds.
Tune into Vendée Live tomorrow at 1200 UTC at vendeeglobe.org when host Will Carson will be joined by record-breaking British yachtswoman Dee Caffari.

EXTRACTS OF RADIO SESSIONS
Sebastien Destremau (Techno First-face Ocean): “We had a bit of a storm yesterday and the day before with very heavy weather, very solid, big seas. It was two days of very hard sailing. The boat suffered a bit but she's fine. In fact, she's just maturing like a good wine! Now I know all's well up top I don't have to stop her in a depression and I can just let her show me what she's got. Sure we broke the hatch and little bits and pieces, but nothing major, so I'm looking forward to more heavy weather so I can push her a bit more. I was working on the deck today in a T-Shirt and the only warm clothes I've put on so far is a jumper. It's not cold. One thing that worries me about this part of the world is if you have a problem and someone needs to get to you but I'm not worried about the sea state between here and Cape Horn. I don't know what the future holds for me but so far it's manageable.”

Jean Le Cam (Finistère Mer Vent): “You've heard of the Sargasso sea…? The seaweed that lies on the water here forms a carpet around your keel. We are completely becalmed. It's really tough as there is not a puff of breeze and it's super hot. And yet you still have to be on top of your so as to get the edge over your rival. The clouds are saying that we may not sleep well.”

Nandor Fa (Spirit of Hungary): “It is a big fight aboard! I suddenly discovered that the mainsail had ballooned out and had filled with water. A spray of sea water was flying everywhere like dust in the 45 knots of wind. It was almost impossible to go outside. I had no choice, I got dressed and went out. I bore away 30°, grabbed a bucket and went to remove the water. By the time I was done with it, the wind had shifted and I couldn't go back on the same angle. Meanwhile, the waves were banging the boat apart. I was lucky. 20 minutes later the wind shifted round 20° and I could be even more close-hauled than before. During the night the wind rotated even more and will continue to do so in the coming hours till we're on a reaching angle.”

Romain Attanasio (Famille Mary-Etamine du Lys): “All's well aboard. As you can see on the speedo, we're constantly flying along at 20 to 25 knots on a reach so we're quick and it's wet up top! Fortunately, it's dry inside as the waves are washing over the boat! We're about 6 days from Cape Horn. It's pretty cool all in all and let's hope it stays that way!”

1400 UTC RANKING

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