Friday, December 16, 2016


These are the conditions that many sailors, in several different groups, have been experiencing. It has been a hard Vendee Globe, as if this race was not already hard enough!!! Maybe the one that expressed it better was Alan Roura, one of the sailors on a group faraway from the leaders:

"We started the survival mode. There is lots of wind, lots of sea and the boat pounds a lot. I have to keep the speed or everything will be blow apart. The Indian Ocean is the devil of the seas. You have to fight every day. It's winter. For three days I have very difficult conditions. It's mentally challenging. we have all disconnected our brains. We are trying to keep everything in one piece and salvage our boats. It is very hard. 

We were prepared for this race but you never know what will happen next. It is impossible to have a minimum of comfort. Eating is impossible, we sleep wet. Even to open the door of the boat it's complicated because we go a lot under water. I hope to be soon out of this. I will drink a drop of rum to celebrate when the weather improves. 

We work a lot between gybes and strategies to avoid losing too much, face to others. Soon we will have 50 knots. I'm pretty happy to be with Enda and Rich. It helps to know that we are not alone. Right now, I have 38 knots of wind. The wind is quite variable, it can go to 43 knots and it is at almost at 90 ° angle. The sea is very nasty and short. I will go North to have the wind downwind. The file shows 40 knots, so we will have close to 50 knots. It will be very difficult.

We must anticipate. I hope to eat something and rest because I didn't sleep on the last ten hours. To make things harder the autopilot malfunctions, from time to time and I have to go outside with a mask and a hood to reset it. It's freezing cold. We are here for the job but if we had not to go outside, it would be a lot better. 

I have three reefs and a J3. If this continues I'll have to put the storm jib. Normally, this is something you do not want to do when you're in survival mode. This is the last resort to keep the boat speed. For the moment the boat manages well the wind, I am quite fast in the fleet. " 

Even very experienced, top solo skippers seem frightened, look at the expression of Jean le Cam, on first movie, when he stand up to show us how it is outside.

Storms apart, back on the race, we can see that Armel, the leader, on non foiling conditions, with variable weather systems and lighter winds (involving a lot of changes in course and routing decisions) wins every day some miles over Alex.

He has now a 385nm advantage. A lot of routing work, for the ones on the lead of the race and routing has a fundamental importance regarding speed on these conditions, that will continue like this till near the horn.

Regarding the 3rd place, finally Beyou overtook Meilhat. Meilhat's boat is the last year winner of the Vendee and the fastest boat of the last generation. Meilhat and his team decided not to modify it with foils, estimating, like Riou, that on a design that was not designed as a foil boat, the adding of the new foils would not bring an overall significant advantage.

Curiously on Beyou's boat his team followed the opposite direction and added new foils to their boat. Beyou's boat was the one that finished second last year (then Armel's boat), just a slightly older design from the same NA. Last year was almost as fast (or as fast) as the one from Meilhat. 

It is very interesting to compare the overall performance of both boats. The strong points and weak points are different and I would not be surprised to see Meilhat going faster than Beyou on the lighter winds they will experience ahead. But then on those conditions routing is fundamental for boat speed and in what regards that, even if Melhiat has an excellent record as an offshore solo racer, that record cannot be compared with the one from Beyou, the 3 times winner of "La Solitaire du Figaro", two times French solo offshore champion, that curiously was also a multihull 60ft champion, back in 2005.

He is very motivated to make a good result on this race because even if he has won the last IMOCA transat, just before this race, he never finished the Vendee and he is already on his third one. He had to abandon on the two previous editions, one with keel problems, other with rig problems. 

A word for Ruyant, that continues to win over everybody, including the first. His confidence has been growing and even if he sails a boat from a previous generation, an older boat if compared with the ones ahead, he manages to sail at the same pace or faster. A pity that confidence not to be there since the beginning of the race. That and the problems he experienced on the boat puts him at a long distance from the first. He seems to be in a great mood however, Reggae and all 😉

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