28th of November 2016 DAY 23: Eliès – “I can still win the Vendée Globe”
Sixth-placed French sailor Yann Eliès today insisted he can still win the Vendée Globe despite conceding he can't keep up with the new generation of foiling boats. As the race reached its 22nd day Eliès was trailing race leader Armel Le Cléac'h by 1,200 nautical miles, crossing into the Indian Ocean more than three days behind the frontrunners.
His 60ft IMOCA raceboat is not fitted with foils, which give lift and therefore speed in certain conditions, but Eliès made an impressive passage through the South Atlantic over the past week to remain in touch with the leaders.
St.Helens Hoch teilt Flotte
The Vendée Globe is known as a 'race of attrition' - in the 2012/13 edition of the race only 11 of the 20 starters completed it – and indeed three of the 2016/17 skippers have already had to pull out. Eliès knows that, of the five in front of him, second-placed Alex Thomson is sporting a broken starboard foil. And he is banking on more of his rivals in the leading group being knocked out by damage before reaching the finish, all the while making sure his boat Quéguiner-Leucémie Espoir makes it back to Les Sables in one piece. “I'm not looking forward at the boats in front of me, and I don't look at the performances of the foiling boats because they are faster than me,” Eliès said. “I was able to cross with a small front a few days ago, and now it's important for me to find the best route for this Vendée Globe. It's very hard to find the right sails for the wind and the waves, and to not break anything. I'm just trying to sail alone and do my own thing, and if I can do that perhaps I can finish in the top five or even in first place.”
The fact that Eliès is even competing in the Vendée Globe again is a show of his incredible strength and determination. In the 2008 edition Eliès broke his leg when a monster Southern Ocean wave smashed into the side of his boat 800nm from the coast of Australia. He spent two days stricken in his bunk unable to move in agony from the injury before being rescued by an Australian navy ship and whisked to hospital. Had he not received urgent treatment he would undoubtedly have lost his life, but the harrowing episode was not enough to prevent Eliès, one of France's most successful offshore racers, coming back for another tilt at the title.
The main man to catch this afternoon was Le Cléac'h, who had extended his lead over sole British skipper Thomson to 30nm as they race towards the Kerguelens, an archipelago of 300 islands that form one the most isolated places on earth.
Some 7,000 miles away, Tanguy de Lamotte became the first skipper to make it back to Les Sables d'Olonne. Unfortunately for the 38-year-old Frenchman, his return marks his official retirement from the Vendée Globe just over two weeks since he turned back with damage to the mast of his yacht Initiatives Coeur. Although unable to complete his second Vendée Globe de Lamotte was welcomed back a hero, thanks in part for raising awareness – and funds – for children with serious heart diseases. “I am trying to be positive about the situation,” de Lamotte said. “I'm the first back to Les Sables d'Olonne but I haven't been all the way around. Since I set off again from the Cape Verde Islands a fortnight ago, I have had time to get used to the idea.” In a parting gift, De Lamotte sailed the shape of a heart just before retiring so that it showed up on the race tracker.
Tune into Vendée Globe Live on the race website or Facebook page at 1200 UTC tomorrow for all the news from the racecourse, plus we will be joined by French multihull sailor Sébastien Rogues.
THE 0300hrs UTC RANKINGS
EXTRACTS FROM TODAY'S RADIO SESSIONS
Enda O Coineen (Kilcullen Voyager Team Ireland): “Earlier on in the race I didn't do what all the conventional advice says which is to keep west, and I really fell very far behind because of that. The conventional wisdom is to dive south and get around the St Helena High, and that's what I've done. It looks like, touch wood, that I might get back in with the main bunch. The next few days are going to be quite interesting, we're in a light airs patch but we're doing 11 knots of boat speed with the blast reacher up. We're moving south quickly hoping to pick up that system coming across, and I think we've got a good chance of catching up with the bunch.”
Sir Robin Knox-Johnston: “Enda has backed himself to do the race, bought himself a good boat from Mike Golding and he's out there competing and doing well. I think it's fantastic and it just adds to the fun of the race. We've got the top pros out at the front but further back we've got some good sailors putting on a show. Enda is one of them, and it makes the race more interesting to ordinary people.”
Louis Burton (Bureau Vallée): “The South Atlantic is a really hard slog. We had the worst scenario you can imagine. I'm a bit fed up. In theory, I should get away from the edge this afternoon and pick up a WNW'ly wind. That will allow us to sail downwind towards the Cape of Good Hope. The hardest thing so far in my Vendée has been the problem with the starboard rudder which hit something. The boat was knocked down and my big spinnaker exploded. That happened early on so is a bit of a handicap and was pretty depressing. I had 8 or 9 days of sewing, as it was ripped for the whole length, so now everything is in order and it seems to be holding out, which is hugely satisfying.”
Fabrice Amedeo, Newrest Matmut: "It's not easy. I have just four knots of wind and am sailing at three knots. It's been a bit complicated since sunrise after a decent night. We have known for a few days now that this high is here and we needed to round it via the West. We're really suffering with these weather patterns. We can't get a clear strategy organised. We got trapped and had no choice. We just have to go south. Louis (Burton) is just ahead and things should get better for him this afternoon and for me this evening.”