November 7th, 2016
1 Armel LE CLÉAC’H
BANQUE POPULAIRE VIII
2 Alex THOMSON
3 Jean-Pierre DICK
4 Vincent RIOU
5 Sébastien JOSSE
EDMOND DE ROTHSCHILD
A conservative opening to the Vendée Globe by Alex Thomson was the game plan agreed with his team by the British skipper. The requirement to sail fast thereafter, to try to outrun a predicted drop in wind pressure, was the second and much more crucial requirement over the first 48 hours of the 24,020 nautical miles solo race around the world.
The Hugo Boss skipper has played out the agreed strategy, unleashing some impressive speeds during the early hours of the morning to lead the fleet past Cape Finisterre on the rugged NW corner of Spain around midday today. Twenty four hours after the race started yesterday at 1202hrs in Les Sables d'Olonne, France, Hugo Boss was in close company with pre-race favourite Armel Le Cléac'h on Banque Populaire VIII. The duo were racing less than half a mile apart during the middle of this afternoon, within sight of each other as the breeze started to ease slightly.
Thomson and Le Cléac'h head a leading group of which four of the top five IMOCAs are new foil-assisted IMOCAs. Only Vincent Riou on the classically configured, but highly optimised PRB has been able to stay the pace with the leaders. But the 2004-5 Vendée Globe winner sounded tired and slightly resigned when he spoke briefly to Vendée Globe Race HQ in Paris this morning. “It's used up a lot of my energy trying to keep up with those in front,” Riou admitted as he approached Cape Finisterre. By the afternoon ranking he was 13 miles behind Hugo Boss and slightly slower, but still slightly ahead of Edmond de Rothschild's Sébastien Josse.
The fierce pace through the first night and, more especially, the gusty variable winds caused by bubbles of cold air moving south, made it tough to hold a rhythm for any length of time. Jéremie Beyou, in seventh place this afternoon on Maître CoQ suffered when his rudder kicked up, his boat luffed violently and he broke a tooth when he hit his face on a winch.
Didac Costa, the unlucky Spanish skipper who had to turn round one hour after the start because he found a ballast pipe had dumped water into his boat, damaging his electrics, was still in Les Sables d'Olonne this afternoon. Typical of the Vendée Globe spirit of solidarity, Costa has had dozens of offers of help from other bigger, better resourced teams. But the support of the local fire station – Costa is on a two year sabbatical from the Barcelona fire service – has been heart-warming. “As soon as we got back to the harbour, we got several offers of help from other teams and were helped a lot by the local fire brigade. We visited them a few weeks ago and got to know them. We got help drying everything and they gave us coffee, somewhere to stay. It's not just technical help, but they have also helped cheer us up. I'm very moved by all this,” said Costa, whose electrics on the former Kingfisher were obliterated by a lightning strike in Barcelona only a few weeks ago and had only just been replaced during the pre-start period. They were looking to fit a new alternator and fully check all of his electrics. Costa's objective is to restart late Tuesday or early Wednesday depending partially on the weather conditions ahead at Cape Finisterre.
Seasickness is an occupational hazard through the first hours of big races for the Japanese skipper Kojiro Shiraishi. He reported to his team that he was dealing this nausea and lack of energy as best he could but his mal de mer is not reflected in his performance with his Spirit of Yukoh, lying 17th. Spirit of Hungary's Nandor Fa spoke of his pleasure to be safely at sea but slightly disappointed not to have made better speeds through the first night of his third Vendée Globe. And Ireland's Enda O'Coineen highlighted the massive emotional chasm between leaving Sunday's huge crowds and Monday's sudden solitude, the first day of around three months alone. “The contrast - being alone - is extraordinary. It will take me a few days to adjust.”
The fleet leaders are expected to be slowed to around 7-9kts by the descending high pressure ridge tomorrow. But when they escape they should have fast tradewinds on the autoroute south.
Didac Costa (SPA) One Planet One Ocean:
“We've made some progress since yesterday. We have identified the problem and are drawing up plans for a different configuration. Now it's a matter of getting the work done. We'll be working day and night to get the boat ready to set off again. We're not certain exactly when we will be setting sail. In any case, in one or two days. We'll be looking at the weather, but for now, the main thing is getting the boat in shape. Tomorrow it's not looking good off Cape Finisterre, but there is an opening there on Wednesday and Thursday, so that's our goal. We want to have the boat ready tomorrow evening or Wednesday morning”
Enda O'Coineen (IRL) Kilcullen Voyager Team Ireland:
“It was a tough night. I am taking it quite easy, trying not to push it too hard and instead trying to take it slow and easy. It is bright and sunny, wind angle about 120 deg, 15kts of wind and boat speed about 9 knots. It is all good and a beautiful day as we approach Cape Finisterre. I am sailing quite conservatively with two reefs in the main and the code three jib. I am marginal about putting more sail up. One part of me says do it, the other part says take it easy. I am just really settling into the race. My start was awful. I was too enthusiastic and was over the start line and had to go back. I had to decide whether to take the five hour penalty or to go back and I think I lost about an hour. So that was all a bit anticlimactic. I felt disappointed to let my supporters down by being over, but there you have it. I lost about an hour or so. I saw No Way Back, he seems to sailing very conservatively. Other than that it is amazing how quickly the fleet disperses. The contrast - being alone - is extraordinary. And I am not in great physical shape. I did a somersault off my bike before the start and did not do my shoulder. So it will take some time to mend. And I am on the mend. I am not in great shape. I have a few little things wrong with the boat but really nothing of any consequence.”
Nandor Fa (HUN) Spirit of Hungary:
“It is OK now, there is some sunshine and I am sailing quite well in a light breeze from the north. The first night was quite terrible. The wind blew from five knots to 40 knots. The boat went every speed from five knots to 19 knots. I had a very strong hail shower. That was tough with a lot of sail changes. But on the other hand I am quite happy. Everything is good with the boat. It was a tough night. It was unbelievable at the start. If you have never seen it you cannot even imagine what it is like. It only happens in Les Sables d'Olonne. I had a good start but I am not really happy with my position in the fleet. But I had in front of me a big passenger ship which made a terrible storm on the water. I had to slow. But then I was slow and I don't know why. I could have gone faster in the night, but no, I am not really very happy with the progress. It is a long race but I was upset after the start. I was in a good place but lost a lot in the speed. I don't know why I was slow.”
Jérémie Beyou, Maître CoQ:
"It wasn't easy during the night. I got caught out by the squalls. I couldn't understand what was going on. I saw the others making their getaway overtaking me. I have two or three problems on the boat. A rudder kicked up and the boat luffed. I fell onto the winch and broke a tooth. I've called the doctor…”
Vincent Riou (PRB): “The wind is very variable. We're approaching the traffic separation scheme off Cape Finisterre, so have to deal with that. Like the leaders it will probably involve sailing inside this area. It's used up a lot of my energy trying to keep up with those in front.”