Friday 29th January 2021
There has never been anything like this finish. 8 boats finishing an 80 day solo, non stop race around the world in just over 24 hours. Who of us would have put a bet on that back in November?
Just think about it. In 1992 the target was for a voyage around the world inside 80 days, and many thought that a target too far. Well Bruno Peyron just achieved it in 1993 in a large trimaran and the next year we dropped it to just under 75 days. But these were large multihulls, not monohulls. OK, this Vendee fleet did not achieve their target of 70 days, but, as ever, the weather threw in interference. The passage through the South Atlantic on the way out became a nightmare of shifting weather systems, and it did the same on the way back. This inevitably slowed everyone down and the 70 day target slipped away.
Despite his damage, once Redress was applied, Boris Herrmann moved into 5th place, (80 days, 14 hours 59 minutes and 45 seconds), just behind Jean Le Cam whose Redress propelled him into 4th place with a time of 80 days, 13 hours 44 minutes and 55 seconds. I have no doubt that Jean Le Cam’s incredible rescue of fellow sailor Kevin Escoffier will bring him further deserved recognition. Just how close this race has been can be seen in how close Thomas Ruyant’s Linkeout came, 80 days, 15 hours, 22 minutes and 01 seconds, or just 22 minutes behind Boris Herrmann. Groupe Apicil finished 7th with a time of 80 days, 21 hours, 58 minutes and 20 seconds, and Prysmian Groupe came in 8th in 80 days, 22 hours, 42 minutes and 20 seconds. Omia should finish within the next hour
I watched Boris Herrmanns video report. He obviously got badly caught by the fishing boat, ripping off his bowsprit, damaging his starboard masthead shroud, tearing his headsail which went into the water and damaging his starboard foil. He honestly stated that he was asleep, but he has a number of alarms which failed to alert him to the approach. His radar should have alerted him, and, as he rightly said, not all fishing boats have an AIS switched on and many do not keep a lookout. I was nearly run down by one, which, fortunately I saw, which sailed past me at about 3 yards distance with no one on the bridge or even on the deck. If I had not been keeping a lookout I would have been killed. So it is something we tell our watchkeepers when sailing anywhere fishing boats might be operating, which is most of our coasts, keep alert and aways use the eyeball Mark 1. The Southern Ocean maybe less dangerous than sailing into the Bay of Biscay!
After the collision Boris was OK on port tack, except for his damaged starboard foil, but he carefully nursed his boat 85 miles to the finish line, and, because of his Redress, his finish position is a very creditable 4th.
Pip Hare is across the equator and Miranda Merron is into the eastertly trades on her way there.
So what have we learned from this 9th Vendee Globe race? Obviously with 25 boats finished or still sailing having rounded Cape Horn out of the 33 starters, this is by far the best results ever. The designers, builders and sailors are getting things right. The fact that 8 boats could finish within 24 hours speaks volumes about the reliability of the boats, their rigs, sails and electronics. It also says a great deal about the very high quality and standards of the sailors who undoubtedly pressed very hard. Yes there were failures but from those failures lessons are learned which lead to improvements for all of us.
So thank you Vendee sailors and organisers, for a fantastic sporting event over the past 80 days.
This is my last Blog on the Vendee. I can’t manage being up half the night watching the America’s Cup, which is excellently covered, and try and put a coherent Blog together each morning!
Thursday 28th January 2021
I do not remember another race of this length in distance and time, that has ever provided such a close finish with 4 boats finishing within 9 hours and 3 more to finish shortly. It was as exciting and dramatic as anything I have ever seen. The sailors, tired at the end of their marathon, probably the toughest sporting event you can ever ask of anyone, fought through right to the end. Huge respect and congratulations to them all.
The finishing times are:
- Charlie Dalin, Apivia. 80 days, 06 hrs, 15 mins, 47 secs
- Louis Burton, Bureau Valle 2. 80 days, 10 hrs, 25 mins, 12 secs
- Thomas Ruyant, LinkedOut 80 days, 15 hrs, 22 mins, 01 secs
- Yannick Bestaven, Maitre Coq IV, 80 days, 13 hours, 59 mins, 46 seconds
But Charlie Dalin had the elad snatched from him. In the end it came down to the time Redress granted to boats that helped to rescue Kevin Escoffier. For those unfamiliar with the process, it is a standard means to compensate racing yachts for time lost by the need to divert to assist another seafarer in distress. It is the duty of every vessel to do this and in a race it is usual for the Race Director/Committee to select the most appropriate boats, which usually means the closest, and ask them to stop racing to assist. Race Committees through their juries, an International jury in this case, then have to decide as fairly as they can from information supplied by trackers and reports, exactly how much the rescuer was disadvantaged and calculate the compensation, called redress. Having had to calculate this on a number of occasions myself it is never easy, but the Vendee Globe Jury seemed to have got it as fair as possible.
So the actual racing finishing positions after redress allowances are:-
- Yannick Bestaven. 80d, 03 hrs, 44 mins, 46 secs
- Charlie Dalin, Apivia. 80 days, 06 hrs, 15 mins, 47 secs
- Louis Burton, Bureau Valle 2. 80 days, 10 hrs, 25 mins, 12 secs
- Thomas Ruyant, LinkedOut 80 days, 15 hrs, 22 mins, 01 secs
Last evening we watched Charlie Dalin gybe towards the finish. He has sailed an excellent race tactically and deserved his place as the Line Honours winner. Sad that he did not win overall, but people will remember his almost clinical performance. Louis Burton too, held the lead for a time and has sailed a great race. Boris Herrmann never had the lead in this race, but had always been close to the lead, indeed looked good to win after redress until a collision with a fishing boat last night damaged his boat and his chances of being the first non Frenchman to ever win this race disappeared. Thomas Ruyant has always been amongst the leaders. Yannick Bestaven, who lead for a while almost lost the race off the Brazilian coast but pulled back to clinch a classic win in the end
Boris Herrmann is nursing his boat towards the line and should finish in about 3 hours. Rapidly approaching the finish line are Groupe Apicil 58 miles to go and Prysiam Groupe 63 miles,so these three will be close. Jean Le Cam, the hero of the Kevin Escoffier rescue who will receive a huge reception by the enthusiastic citizens of Les Sables, is 193 miles to go but his a redress allowance of 16 hours and 15 minutes to apply to his finish time which could move him up the positions but not to the Podium..
Communications have enabled us to follow these sailors around the world, and watch their final efforts. It has provided an enthralling spectacle with changes of lead, drama, and sheer gutsy sailing. Compare that with 52 years ago, when there were no satellites and we were dependant on unreliable radios to report our positions. Bernard Moitessier had retired for his own reasons, 3 weeks behind me at Cape Horn but we did not know that at the time. It was rather assumed that I had sunk as no one had heard anything of me for 4 1/2 months owing to no working radio. So for the organisers the competition was between two multihulls, one sailed by Nigel Tetley and the other by Donald Crowhurst. But Crowhurst had not sailed around the world. He hung around the South Atlantic sending false messages which came out eventually. (See the film “The Mercy”). And then I managed to get a message through to a merchant ship off the Azores by signal lamp to say I was coming and still afloat and sailing Dramatic, yes, it caused chaos to the organisers predictions, but there was no very tight close finish like we have just seen. In factit took me 17 days to cover those last 1,100 miles from the Azores to the finish!
What a race this has been. The winner is now declared but let us not forget those still out there still racing and making their way to the finish line. Some will not finish for a month and never had a chance of a podium position, but in this very tough Vendee Globe race, everyone who finishes is a winner.
Wednesday 27th January 2021
Watching Charlie Dalin gybing close to the Spanish coast would suggest his plan is to stay south until he could gybe for the finish line, but on port tack so he can use his undamaged foil for best speed. This timing was vital as the forecast shows much calmer weather further east towards Bilbao. He has made his move and is heading now for the finish line175 miles ahead, making 20 knots. He should take Line Honours this evening
But will he win? Yannick Bestaven is 246 miles from the finish in second place.
Boris Herrmann is only 257 miles from the finish line and he has 6 hours of redress. His current speed is 18 knots. Linked Out is 339 miles from the line, making nearly 19 knots, and Louis Burton in Maitre Coq is 368 miles to go making 19 knots with redress to come.
Just a reminder of the redress that will be applied for assisting with the rescue of Kevin Escoffier which will be deducted from the finishing times:-Seaexplorer, Boris Herrmann 6 hours redressMaitre Coq, Yannick Bestaven 10 hours, 15 minutes redressYes we Cam, Jean le Cam 16 hours, 15 minutes redress
So both Seaexplorer and Maitre Coq could steal the win, but it is going to be very close. As the boats get closer to the finish, the position reports are made more frequently, so if you want to watch how this finish unfolds just Google vendeeglobe.com. It’s going to be an exciting evening and amazingly tight, down to minutes, for the climax to some 27,000 miles of solo non stop sailing. We have never seen anythign this close before.
Pip Hare is now in 19th place, continuing her passage north to the Equator and Miranda Merron, in 22nd, looks as if she is free of the High Pressure and has found the Trade winds sooner than most of the rest of the fleet.
In the AC, American Magic is back on the water and sailing. The other teams assisted to get their competitor back. The patch on the hull shows a rather nice sporting touch as they have put the new Zealand, Italian and British flags on it.
It is with great regret that I learned of the loss of Bob Fisher. Bob brought to yachting journalism not just a command of the language, but a very deep knowledge of the sport. He was a World Champion in two dinghy classes and crewed on Lady Helmsman when she won the Little Americas Cup.
He never lost his love of our sport. His knowledge of the history of the Americas Cup was a universally accepted reliable source.
From a personal perspective, when we teamed up for the two handed Round Britain Race in his 45 footer Barrcauda, not only did we beat every boat under 65 feet, we had a fantastic and enjoyable time doing it. I will always remember before we left Barra in that race, going to have breakfast before we set off around the north of Scotland, and Bob asked the waiter for a bottle of Claret to drink with our full English Breakfast. The waiter seemed somewhat taken aback by the request, to which Bob demanded, in his well known stentorian voice “Don’t you normally serve claret for breakfast here then?”
Dear Bob. A great friend, a great character, and a great loss.
Tuesday 26th January 2021
No one has rounded Cape Finisterre and entered the Bay of Biscay yet for the last sprint to the finish at Les Sables, but with less than 500 miles to go, there are still some tactics to play out. Charlie Dalin still holds the lead, 68 miles closer to the finish than Louis Burton in Bureau Vallee, who is showing only 6 miles in front of Boris Herrmann’s Seaexplorer. They have WSW winds currently 14-16 knots. Linked Out and Maitre Coq are showing 300 miles to the leader but that is misleading as they a some 200 miles further north and almost at the point they could lay their course directly to the finish line when they gybe as their wind is from the SW 16 knots. This race is going down to the wire and the good citizens of Les Sables, who always turn out to give a great welcome to the finishers, are not going to have time for more than a snack to eat between the first arrivals.
Pip Hare is averaging 12 knots up the coast of Brazil and Miranda Merron is extricating herself slowly from the South Atlantic High.
Monday 25th January 2021
The tactics of the leading group over the past 24 hours have been fascinating. By midday yesterday Bureau Vallee had taken the lead whilst Apivia continued on an easterly course, the only boat amongst the leaders to have continued its easterly course at that time, all the rest having gybed north, but last night Apivia gybed to the north as well.
Was he in time? The answer is there this morning as Charlie Dalin is back in the lead by 32 miles from Bureau Vallee and 69 from Boris Herrmann’s Seaexplorer, both of whom have since gybed back onto an easterly course. Bureau Vallee and Apivia are currently closing on each other, both experiencing SW’ly winds of 18-19 knots. I expect Boris Herrmann to gybe north again shortly.
The distances back from the leader are misleading though as its the angle and distance to Cape Finisterre that matter now and how they plan their gybes downwind. Its still very close, closer than it appears.
But this is Apivia’s favoured tack as he heads north as his starboard foil is undamaged. When he has to tack his speed will not be quite so good on account of his damaged port foil. The race really is between these three now as Linkedout in 4th place is 156 miles and Maitre Coq in 5th is 232 miles behind. Unless any of the leading boats have problems, with less than 1,000 miles to the finish those percentages of extra speed required are too large
There is currently a wind reversal off Cape Finisterre, and a calm patch between the South and West South Westerlies the whole leading fleet have now, but this will start to fade tonight. It’s still all to go for amongst these three, but Charlie Dalin is going to be on starboard tack along the Spanish coast which will disadvantage him again in the final leg.
Groupe Apicil is 297 miles, Prysmian Groupe 374 and Yes we Can 556 from the lead. Even with redress they won’t make the podium.
Pip Hare is making her way up the Brazilian coast towards the Equator and Miranda Merron has light WNW’ly winds which as slowed her on the same Latitude as Uruguay.
Great comment from Ben Ainslie last evening after I congratulated him on his 5th win out of 5 and into the semi finals, in what was the most exciting America’s Cup race for a long time. “Great race for the sport that one”, he said. With the lead changing 9 times in six legs – And How!
Sunday 24th January 2021
The battle at the front of the Vendee fleet gets more and more interesting. Louis Burton in Bureau Vallee, who had closed to within 4 miles of Charlie Darlin’s Apivia, took the choice on Friday to gybe and head north for a while. That appears to have paid off as he is steadily closing back in on the lead, just 15 miles separating their distances from the next Waypoint. Closing up too is Boris Herrmann now only 48 miles behind, and he has 6 hours of redress to apply to his finishing time. Charlie Dalin’s Apivia is making 2 knots less speed than the other two at the moment. We all just wish that Alex Thomson’s Hugo Boss had been amongst this group.
So it is not just the excitement of a very close and still unpredictable finish over the next 2-3 days, for me is the fact that in the Clipper Office sweepstake, (Proceeds to UNICEF) I was given, by a very dodgy selection system I thought at the time, Boris Herrmann!
Thomas Ruyant’s LinkedOut is just 89 miles from the leader, Yannick Bestaven in Maitre Coq 218 miles, Giancario Pedote in Prysmian Group 265, Damien Seguin in Group Apicil, 278, back to Jean Le Cam at 592.
The three leading boats are on a course for Northern Spain, but the next 5 boats have gybed north. The weather has not finished playing with these sailors, who must be very tired now, not just from sailing these 60 footers at speeds up to 20 knots, but the intensity of the competition. This finish is going to be a classic.
A High Pressure ridge is forecast to develop to their NE and then move into the Bay of Biscay on Monday brining Easterly winds along the North Spanish coast before turning southerly on Tuesday so it is still very tactical.
Pip Hare continues her progress north with easterly winds. 1,000 miles astern Miranda Merron is heading north, but into calmer conditions in Westerly winds, the South Atlantic High system between them. The two tail enders will round Cape Horn to-day, a great relief to the Race Organisers. Sam Davis is back into the Atlantic.
Saturday 23rd January 2021
If anyone thought the racing between these foiling monohulls in the Americas Cup would be boring, to-day showed how wrong they were. It was the most exciting race we have seen yet. There were 9 lead changes between Luna Rossa and Ineos which kept everyone on the edge of their seats. It was an epic race. In the end Ineos won by 33 seconds, but most of that lead came in the last few metres of the race. So team Ineos go through to the semifinals with a record of 5 wins from 5 races. Its been a brilliant showing by the British team and a complete reversal of their performance before Christmas.
With between 4 and 5 days to the finish of the Vendee in les Sables, as so often it is the movement of the Azores High Pressure system, currently centred over Madeira, which will have the final say in this incredibly close Vendee Race. Apivia and Bureau Vallee were neck and neck out in front last night, but Bureau Vallee has now headed more north and slowed at the moment although she has stronger SW’ly winds whereas the others still have southerlies. He has obviously decided that the winds will be stronger further north, unless he has developed a problem There are 5 boats close behind, within 230 miles of the lead which have also to get north out of the southerly winds. There won’t be much sleep amongst that leading group.
With boats finishing so close to each other the redress granted by the International Jury for time lost by competitors who assisted with the rescue of Kevin Escoffier takes on huge importance. In fact it could be decisive. It is a straight blast for the finish line for the two leaders who were not involved in that rescue so did not receive redress. But three of the leading group do have redress. This is time that will be deducted from their finishing times, and, with the boats so close, could change final positions.
Seaexplorer, Boris Herrmann 6 hours redressMaitre Coq, Yannick Bestaven 10 hours, 15 minutes redressYes we Cam, Jean le Cam 16 hours, 15 minutes redress
Boris Herrmann is only 88 miles behind the lead and has covered 72 miles in the last 4 hours. If he can maintain the same speed as the two leading boats he will win but it is incredibly close. The gap for Yannick Bestaven is 167 miles and Jean Le Cam is 402 miles back in 8th place. In theory, once redress is applied any of these three could still win.
Pip Hare has found the Easterlies at last whilst Miranda were getting a pummelling but the wind has now eased as they approach Cape Horn
The Maxi Trimaran Edmond de Rothschild, which was a holding a lead of 860 miles on the target for the Jules Verne trophy has sustained irreparable damage to her starboard float rudder stock and has had to retire. A bitter disappointment to the crew.
Friday 22nd January 2021
We may be looking at one of the great classic yacht race finishes as the Vendee competitors pass 26,000 miles of hard racing with just 2,000 miles to the finish mark. Louis Burton’s Bureau Vallee is now shown 29 miles further from the next waypoint than Charlie Dalin’s Alivia. The gap between them has closed, but she is north of Apivia, getting stronger winds and sailing 3-4 knots faster at the moment. Both report Southerly winds as they work around the western side of the High Pressure system, but Bureau Vallee has 4 knots more wind. They are both aiming for a narrow corridor of SW winds between two high pressure systems. If they can squeeze through that it will be down to boat speed to the finish.
They cannot afford to make an error though as the 6th boat in the fleet, Maitre Coq, which lead for so long, is only 120 miles away although the weather ahead of this group is not looking so helpful as for the two front boats.
Pip Hare is struggling in light headwinds, but getting closer to a more favourable slant and Miranda Merron has head winds further south. Charal, 500 miles ahead of Pip is in the easterlies now and showing 16 knots of boat speed. Just two boats remain to round Cape Horn, experiencing some strong winds at the moment which will ease later to-day. Sam Davis is just ahead of them although out of the race.
Edmond de Rothschild had a days run of 738 miles, which puts her nearly 900 miles ahead of target. She has dropped back from the depression she was riding yesterday which gives a good indication of just how fast these depressions roll eastwards.
Early tomorrow morning UK time will see another interruption to my normal sleep pattern as the next in the America’s Cup Round Robin series take place in Auckland between Lunar Rosa and Ineos.
Thursday 21st January 2021
The positions of the boats relative to the next waypoint can give a very misleading impression as to which boat has the advantage in an ocean race and this Vendee is no different. Bureau Vallee is shown in 6th place but it is north and west of the rest of the leading group as they negotiate a high pressure system and will be hoping to pick up the south westerly winds first. Apivia is still nearest the Waypoint and is not yet as affected by the lighter winds as Bureau Vallee so is currently moving faster. In theory, as the high pressure eases eastwards Bureau Vallee should get the benefit of better winds first but these high pressure systems are unpredictable. This Vendee is keeping the excitement going right to the finish.
Looking at the leading 9 boats, separated by only 377 miles, the tail enders have ENE winds whereas Apivia now has ESE and easing. One would expect this gap between them to close a bit in the next day.
Pip Hare is suffering at the western edge of a ridge of high pressure which will move east later to-day, giving her wind, but from ahead. It looks as if she will suffer these conditions for at least the next two days making it a battle to get north to where the system will slowly bring the winds round from the east and she will be able to put on some speed towards the equator. But better to have headwinds than no wind. Miranda Merron, 1,200 miles behind Pip, is also having to work her way north. Its frustrating for both of them.
Edmond de Rothschild will enter the Indian Ocean to-day. She has lost a bit against her target, now 821 miles ahead of it. It is still riding above a depression which is bringing them strong winds and the crew are saying that they are trying to ease off the accelerator for the moment, although still showing 35 knots of boat speed and 725 miles in the last 24 hours.
Wednesday 20th January 2021
The tactical battle between Charlie Dalin’s Apivia and Louis Burton’s Bureau Vallee 2 will play out in the next day or so as they approach the east/west ridge of high pressure. The pressure is better to the west which is where Burton has gone, 200 miles further west in fact, which puts him at a greater distance from the next Waypoint. This shows him more than 100 miles behind but this is misleading as he is further north and sailing faster. His Day’s Run is some 70 miles greater than Apivia. That high pressure could decide the race as it will move slightly east and then another system will appear around the Azores on Saturday before slipping NE towards Ireland.
The next 9 boats, spread over 352 miles are tending to follow Apivia. 7 miles separate LinkedOut and Seaexplorer, but Seaexplorer is slightly further west and north. Pip Hare and Miranda Merron have not changed their race positions since yesterday , but are showing respectable speed northwards.
With the loss of American Magic, the next Americas CupRound Robin has been reduced to two races, one on the 23rd and another the enxt day between Luna Rossa and Ineos.
Edmond de Rothschild continues her dash eastward with a Day’s Run of 819 miles. It is sitting on top of a depression and is 951 miles ahead of where Francis Joyon’s crew were 3 years ago.
Tuesday 19th January 2021
Terry Hutchinson, the CEO of the American Magic syndicate has announced that they will not be participating in the next Round Robin series for the Americas Cup as they cannot make their boat ready in time. But plan to be back in action before the semi finals on the 29th January.
Charlie Dalin’s Apivia has extended its lead to 96 miles over second placed Louis Burton with Bureau Vallee but this is largely down to slightly different tactics. Bureau Vallee has chosen a course further westward so this is taking him slightly more away from the finish line, but that difference of 10 degrees in the courses they are making is currently giving him 3 knots more boat speed. The distance to the finish line is less significant than how these boats handle the weather over the next few days.
Looking ahead of the fleet there is a ridge of high pressure stretching east-west across the Atlantic which is developing into a more traditional Azores High which the fleet will have to negotiate., and how the boats handle that will probably decide this very tight race.
Groupe Apicil is 8 miles back from Bureau Vallee and Linked Out a further 5 miles astern and Maitre Coq another 30 miles back. Then one cable divides Seaexplorer and Prysmian Group 157 miles behind the leader in 6th and 7th places.
Two boats are left in the South Pacific so 23 have now rounded the Horn which must be a great relief to the race organisers. Pip Hare has slowed, but is still lying 17th and Miranda Merron holds 22 place.
Edmond de Rothschild has turned almost east, south of the latitude of Capetown has had a Day’s Run of 820 miles and currently showing nearly 36 knots. She is 740 miles ahead of the record and it seems incredible to appreciate that that is less than a days sailing for this machine.
Monday 18th January 2021
In the AC the damage to the America Magic boat dominates the news and no doubt we will find out more in the next few days. There is large hole in the hull just forward of the port foil which was allowing water to enter the boat. That it sank to the point of being waterlogged is a worry as what is inside the boat are all the technical bits that make the boat fly on its foils.
They have 4 days to fix the problem or skip the next Round Robin.
We will learn more in due course. I have sailed with Dean Barker once, and he is a pretty steady bloke, but you can hear Paul Goodison, the tactician, challenging the plan to tack and then bear away. But where Dean Barker was in the boat at the moment of decision may mean he could not see what Goodison was worrying about.
Last nightfall in the Vendee all the leading boats were suffering from light winds in the Doldrums. Bureau Vallee was the first to cross the Equator, but this morning Apivia is in the lead by 41 miles. Those two have stretched out a bit from the rest as they found the NE Trade winds first, but there are still only 225 miles separating No 1 from No 9. They were so close to each other that even a short puff of wind can make the difference. In the1978 Whitbread there were three of us Maxis in sight of each other, myself on Condor, Eric Tabarly on Pen Duik 6 and Great Britain 2. You could see the other boats get a small puff and pull ahead, and then we would get a puff and catch up. When we got into the NE trades and Tabarly went ahead as his boat was better to windward. Studying the weather, I turned NW, 120 degrees from the Rhumb line for the finish, but so I could pick up the next Atlantic Depression. I had to wait two days before that wind arrived but in the meantime Tabarly was stuck in the Azores High pressure calms. We beat Tabarly to the finish line by just 4 hours, but we were the first to finish that final leg of that Whitbread Race. That was all that mattered.
The same matters to these guys. They are so close that it is not safe to predict the final finishing positions. Ahead of them is a ridge of High Pressure, level with the Canary Islands which will extend to the Azores by Friday. They need to get north of that.
Pip Hare is making better progress this morning almost level with the River Plate and Miranda Merron has rounded Cape Horn, but is currently almost stopped. The final two boats in the fleet have some 1,700 miles to go to the Horn.
Edmond de Rothschild continues to make very good progress, now almost at the Latitude of Capetown, and more than 400 miles ahead of the target. It is showing 37 knots of boat speed so all the fast boats are not confined to Auckland Harbour.
Sunday 17th January 2021
The first AC race had to be re-started due to a massive change in the wind direction and Luna Rossa held the lead until halfway but then Ineos took over and finished 18 seconds ahead. An interesting factor is that Ineos have 6 grinders, to keep up the oil pressure to operate foils and sheets, where as Luna Rossa have 8. This means that Ineos can have more people operating systems. Giles Scott called the tactics brilliantly, and Ineos had better boat speed as well. So Ineos has 4 wins from 4 races.In the second race American Magic was building a good lead and looking good against Luna Rossa, but was hit by a squall as she started to bear away after tacking around the final mark. Her leeward runner prevented the release of the main sheet leading to a spectacular capsize. All the crew were fine but the boat was leaking and looks badly damaged. Still the capsize did get the event onto the BBC News and they added that Britain’s Sir Ben Ainslie team was aparently doing well! Don’t they have a telephone?
The leading boats in the Vendee are back in the Northern Hemisphere and coming up to the Doldrums, usually lying between 1 and 8 degrees on north latitude and which extend in a narrowing cone from the African coast. So the rule is that the further west you go the narrower this patch of squalls and humid calms should be, but it moves around a lot. But the further west you go the further you sail from the shortest distance to the finish line in France. It’s a calculation every sailor has to make.
Bureau Vallee briefly took the lead during the night, but by this morning Apivia was back ahead by 6 miles. The top six boats are within an 100 miles bracket but already experiencing different winds. Bureau Vallee, the westernmost by a few miles, already has ENE winds whilst the others still have a lighter wind from ESE so the lead could change again shortly.
Pip Hare has yet to find the favourable winds in her 17th place and Miranda Merron is still in 23rd. Sebastien Destremau in Merci has retired at the back so the fleet is down to 25 boats.
Edmond de Rothschild has slowed to about 20 knots as she approached the Latitude of Cape Frio. During the past 24 hours she has covered 680 miles.
Saturday 16th January 2021
Light winds for the first America’s Cup Round Robin Race this morning. Prada proved more slippery than American Magic which did not finish the race in the 45 minute time limit. So one point to Prada. The second race was going to be the test for the new Ineos against American Magic. The winds were still fluky. The Americans mucked up their start but began to catch up at the top of the first leg when Ineos came off her foils. These boats seem to be able to foil from when the boats speed is around 18 knots in 7 knots of wind, but the smallest puff sets them off. It is all about staying on the foils. We have seen speed differences of more than 20 or more knots when one boat is in displacement mode and the other foiling. But Ineos proved far better now at getting unstuck than it was before Christmas and held on to take her third win. The strong relationship between Ben and Giles Scott (Olympic Gold medal winner in the Finn Class 2016 Olympics) acting as tactician cannot be underestimated. You only have to listen to their conversations when racing to appreciate how valuable that partnership is to the British team. So the scores now are Inios 3 wins out of 3 races, Prada one win out of two, and American Magic zero out of three.
Charlie Dalin continues to hold the lead in the Vendee but only by 16 miles from Louis Burton’s Bureau Vallee, with Boris Herrmann just 32 miles further back. Maitre Coq is in 6th place 135 miles off the lead and this leading group have now found the south of east winds and have speeded up as a result. Only 60 miles separate 7th, 8th and 9th placed Jean le Camm, 266 miles back from Apivia. The weather will become calmer and more fluky as the boats get up to the Equator, providing yet another opportunity for a change in positions at the top.
Pip Hare has got a bit stuck and has only averaged 5 knots over the past 4 hours. The wind looks as if it will turn more favourable for her within the next 24 hours as a depression develops SE of the River Plate and she appears to be trying to get west of that. The rest of her group are further east and likely to get strong headwinds for a while.
Edmond de Rothschild has crossed the equator and is making 29 knots southwards in its efforts to gain the Jules Verne Trophy. She is back ahead of the record time and will be passing the Vendee leaders very shortly with a closing speed of 40+ knots.
Friday 15th January 2021
There has been what might be described as a revolution in the America’s Cup trials. Ben and his team have waved a magic wand over their boat during the Christmas break. It is a totally a different machine.
Ben reported yesterday that they had modified their foils, the aero package of the hull, stepped a new mast, new rudder, new rudder elevator, new mainsail, new headsails, and made changes to some of their systems.
Did those changes work? The answer was quickly obvious on the race track. Ineos came out fast and fired up. They won both starts and then they used all their considerable skills to win their first race against American Magic by 1 minute and 20 seconds. A stunning performance and one that was not expected by most of the pundits. It brought grins of delight to all we Brits who got up to watch. But it got better when they beat Luna Rossa, thought, up to now, to be the fastest of the challengers, in their second race to-day by 28 seconds. Huge smiles in this part of the world!
These eliminations races have suddenly come to life and full marks to the commentators, including Shirley Robertson out on the water, who give us such knowledgable insights.
Tomorrow lighter winds are forecast and this will be a further test of the changes made to Ineos as she was poor in lighter conditions before. Can’t wait! In the Vendee Charlie Dalin in Apivia is holding his leading place, just 22 miles ahead of Louis Burton in Bureau Vallee. But there are only 81 miles between the top 6 boats with poor Yannick Bestaven’s Maitre Coq in 6th place. His position further west, partly forced on him by condition a few days ago, has not paid off and he has been bleeding miles. Boris Herrmann in Seaexplorer has had the best days run of 373 miles which has propelled him into 3rd place 39 miles behind the leader . Then comes Linkedout, and Groupe Apicil just 3 and 7 miles further back respectively. Its very tight up there at the head of the fleet and the squally conditions, which mean sudden changes of wind force and direction, make for tiring work. There are no real tactical moves available at the moment, it’s all about heading north and getting to more stable weather conditions.
Romain Attanasio, husband of Sam Davis, was thrown hard against a winch yesterday and has suspected fractured Ribs. He has been prescribed Pain Killers and is continuing. He was lying 13th at the time, 1,000 miles ahead of Charal and 350 miles astern of Clarisse Cremer in Banque Populaire. He has my full sympathy. Just before the Velux race in 2006 I slipped and cracked my Coccyx. For the first month of the race this was a serious handicap as it meant I could not lift heavy weights, and sails on these Open 60’s are heavy weights. Considering my lifestyle it is remarkable that this is the only time I have every fractured anything!
Pip Hare still holds 17th place and Miranda Merron 23rd. The leading Lady is Clarisse Cremer in 12th place.
Edmund de Rothschild has suffered the frustrations that the Inter Tropical Convergence Zone, better known as the Doldrums to most, can bring. The wind has eased and their lead over their target to gain the Jules Verne Trophy has disappeared. They are faced with the squalls that are so familiar to those of us to sail up and down the Atlantic. The only good thing is that these squalls often bring sharp bursts of cooling rain, which is wonderfully refreshing in the heat. Olivier de Kersuason’s great remark in this area when we raced him for the trophy in 1994 was “All that is missing are the flies!”
Thursday 14th January 2021
The leaders are experiencing some difficult weather. No, not high winds and heaving waves, but squalls that accelerate the wind and alter its direction as they pass. Its frustrating sailing as they have to stay alert for the squalls, which are hard to see at night and also take advantage of every wind change to keep pressing forward towards Recife, some 450 miles ahead, where the winds should become more stable.
Charlie Dalin in Apivia holds a 19 mile lead over Louis Burton in Bureau Vallee. Yannick Bestaven is 37 miles from the lead closely followed by Thomas Ruyant’s LinkedOut at 44 miles and Damien Seguin’s Groupe Apicil at 58 miles. All have been averaging between 10 and 14 knots for the past 4 hours in the right direction. Tail ender of the leading 9 boats is Jean Le Cam, 183 miles behind. This group are showing ENE winds of between 12 and 15 knots. Its pretty tense out there with the boats so close. My infallable Clipper Deputy Race Director has estimated the winner will reach the finish line within 2 weeks!
Jeremie Beyou in Charal continues his progress through the fleet to 14th position. Japan’s Kijoro Shiraishi is the latest boat to round Cape Horn in 20th position. He is 400 miles astern of Pip Hare. Miranda Merron in 22nd place still has 1,200 miles to sail to reach the Cape. Sebastien Destremau, bringing up the end in 26th place, is about to pass south of New Zealand.
The maxi Trimaran, Edmond de Rothschild, 4 days 6 hours into her attempt to wrest the Jules Verne Trophy from Idec Sport’s current record set in 2017, has managed 785 miles in the last 24 hours, putting her some 145 miles ahead of the target and is about to cross the equator.
Just heard from Ben Aisnlie as tomorrow morning my sleep pattern will be disrupted by the first two races for the Prada Cup in Auckland, the start of the Challenger series to decide which one of the three challenging boats from Italy, the USA and the UK will finally go up against the holders, New Zealand. Ben Ainslie’s Ineos is racing twice tomorrow, once aganst each of the others, and it will be interesting to see how improved Ineos now is. She certainly looked a lot better earlier this week.
There is plenty of sailing excitement to keep us distracted from the spread of the Virus at the moment.
Wednesday 13th January 2021
What a competition! With approximately 4,600 miles to the finish just 127 miles separate 1st from 9th this morning on the 65th day in this most closely fought solo non stop around the world race ever. The winds have not yet steadied and are still a bit variable in strength and direction off the coast of Brazil but this leading group are all reporting winds from the ENE which are expected to swing round to the east further north level with Recife.between 10 and 14 knots and their speeds are varying between 8 and 12 knots. Yannick Bestaven, furthest west of the group, has squeezed back into the lead with a two mile advantage on Charlie Dalin’s Apivia. Louis Burton in Bureau Vallee, who lost time repairing his mast track in the lee of Macquerie Island has moved up into third place just pushing out Thomas Ruyant in LinkedOut but he is only 24 miles from the top.
Charal in 16th place is about to overtake La Fabrique, with Pip Hare 87 miles further back. Pip is 2,171 miles behind Maitre Coq. They have fresh to strong SW winds at the moment on the back of a low pressure system and are making the most of them as it looks as if another High Pressure will form near them by Thursday evening. Three more boats will round Cape Horn to-day and Miranda Merron, holding 22nd has probably got 4 more days sailing before she gets there.
Alex Thomson has left Capetown to sail his boat Hugo Boss home to Gosport. It must be so frustrating for him, knowing he should have been up there with the leading group if not leading them had he not suffered a broken rudder.
The 23 metre long trimaran Edmond de Rothschild had a bad day, covering only 627 miles in the last 24 hours, an average of 27 knots, but she is now showing 34 knots as she passes the Cape Verde Islands in some productive North East Trade winds.
Tuesday 12th January 2021
It has taken Charlie Dalin in Apivia 4 days to close the 450 mile gap between himself and Yannick Bestaven’s Maitre Coq and he has now taken the lead of 18 miles. But his lead over Bestaven is already 26 miles as Thomas Ruyant in LinkedOut has moved into second place. There is nothing more demoralising than knowing that you can do nothing about holding off your competitors, just over 100 miles further east but in different winds and these last four days must have been agonising for Bestaven.
But this race is far from over and with so many boats close together it would be a brave person to predict who will stand on the podium at the finish. Only 110 miles separates Apivia from 6th placed Boris Herrman’s Seaexplorer and there are only 380 miles between the leader and the tenth placed boat. Why mention tenth place? Well because that gap is now less than the leader held four days ago. The High pressure system is expected to move further east later to-day, bringing some steadier North Easterly winds to the leading group and this wind will follow the usual pattern at last and slowly swing round to the East. If they can hurry north they might get through the Inter Tropical Convergence Zone quite quickly as the main area of the calms are over to the east at the moment.
Pip Hare is round Cape Horn now in some benevolent weather and the forecast shows some strong southerly’s for the next few days which should rocket her group north. Pip, still in 17th place, is 60 miles astern of Charal. Miranda Merron, is still some 1,700 miles from Cape Horn holding 22nd place.
In its attempt on the Jules Verne record for the fastest non stop circumnavigation of the world, the Maxi Trimaran Edmund de Rothschild has averaged just over 32 knots since her departure from Ushant on Sunday morning and is now well past the Island of Madeira.
The news that a British Lorry Driver had his ham sandwich confiscated by the Dutch Customs as there is now a ban on the bringing animal products into the EU from the UK, should worry we yachtsmen who enjoy our visits across the Channel. Will this apply to food carried on British Yacht? Is it just fresh food or does it apply to tinned and freeze dried food as well? What happens if you are coming from Northern Ireland? It’s still a part of the UK, but sort of in the EU. We could do with some clarification as to what these new EU rules imply. If we are not allowed British animal products aboard our yachts, then don’t stock up for a Channel Crossing. One can only hope that our officials don’t apply the same rules to EU yachts visiting the UK. Apart from the fact they spend their Euros, there is no need for us to be daft on both sides of the Channel.
Special America’s Cup Update:
The Kiwi’s are saying that the reason their boat capsized so spectacularly was because they got too high in their gybe and that caused the capsize. The boat looked OK on its foils when being towed back subsequently so the cause may not be a foil control problem which was one of the suggestions immediately after the accident. Another reason was that the downdraft of a helicopter getting too close caused the problem. People underestimate the effect of a Helicopter’s downdraft, its a good Force 5
The Kiwi explanation being the case, it just goes to show just how sensitive these foilers are.
That brings even more respect for the skill of the crews sailing them. When I was privileged to sail on Britannia 1, there was one crew member whose sole job was to control the height of the boat above the water (Just above the surface, almost touching, to reduce drag on the foils) Its all a black art to marline spike seamen like me, but Oh to have been 50 years younger!
I know people are saying that the boats are too dependent on technology and very expensive, which they are, and they think we should go back to boats where the crew skills were more relevant. That is an argument for after this series is completed, but it cannot be denied that the racing we have seen so far has been very exciting.
Good to hear people saying that Ineos is now a different boat, so over Christmas, Ben and his team must have found some solutions to the problems they obviously had earlier.
Roll on the 15th January even if it means putting my clock on New Zealand time and losing my nights sleep!
Monday 11th January 2021
The elastic has tightened in the front of the fleet as Maitre Coq tries to work through a patch of lighter winds with speed reduced to 6 knots. Apivia is now only 97 miles behind and making 16 knots. This situation is unlikely to last as Apivia will slow as she gets to the lighter winds. So with 5,000 miles to the finish, the race is getting closer and it’s a question of who picks up the Trade winds which are just to the north. Group Apicil is making 12 knots, 204 miles from the lead with Linked out just 10 miles further back which was making 15 knots. Just 500 miles separates the first ten boats and with calm winds now, at the Equator and very likely in the north Atlantic from the Azores High, this race is far from decided.
Four boats should round Cape Horn to-day including Pip Hare, still in 17th place, leaving 9 boats yet to get there with Merci still 4,600 miles to the Cape bringing up the tail end. Miranda Merron has 1,900 miles to go to get round.
The giant Trimaran Edmond de Rothschild with 6 crew lead by Co-Skippers Charles Caudrelier and Frank Cammas left the start line off Brest yesterday morning in its attempt to break the record for the fastest non stop circumnavigation. This is their second attempt this season as they had to pull out at the end of November when they struck something and damage a rudder and foil. To obtain the Jules Verne Trophy they must finish by 0200 on the 20th February.
Sunday 10th January 2021
Isabelle Joschke has been forced to retire. The repairs to her keel rams, which control the angle of the keel either side of the centreline, failed. So MACSF, which had been sailing well amongst the leading group of 11 boats is out and waiting to see where to sail so that repairs can be made. It’s a sad end for Isabelle as she has been sailing well. You think that once you have rounded Cape Horn into the Atlantic that the weather is going to be more clement, but this area is famous for its nasty little depressions that come off the South American coast. That brings to 7 the number of retirements to 7, a far smaller proportion than on any previous race.
Charlie Dalin on APIVIA has continued to close up on Maitre Coq, now some 190 miles behind and wrestling with a High Pressure bubble. But Yannick Bestaven is in ESE winds of 11 knots whereas Dalin has SW winds of 9 knots. Groupe Apicil and LinkedOut are 267 and 278 miles behind the leader. Only 5 miles to the next Waypoint separates Seaexplorer and Prysmian Group in 8th and 9th places, just over 500 miles behind but making the most of stronger SW winds to close the gap on the boats ahead.
Whilst the leaders work their way through a calmer patch, down near the Falklands there is a nasty low bringing N to NW winds, slowly moving eastwards and bringing good SW winds in its wake. This will benefit Pip Hare who should pass Cape Horn tomorrow just behind Charal which is still working its way through the fleet. She is currently 17th and Miranda Merron has moved up to 22nd with the loss of MACSF.
Saturday 9th January 2021
The gap at the front has narrowed. Charlie Dalin’s Apivia is now 327 miles behind Maitre Coq after posting a 421 mile Days Run in the last 24 hours. Maitre Coq only managed 202 miles and is currently reporting West South Westerly winds of 9 knots whereas Apivia has West North Westerlies at 15 knots. Maitre Coq is inshore of the following boats who have seen the High Pressure system slowing the leader and it appears their winds are pushing them eastward which may benefit them for a while. The whole leading group will face northerly winds as they get close to Cabo Frio where the normal weather circulation system is operating. It’s then a question of pushing north to take advantage of the wind slowly swinging round to the east for the reach up to the Equator. But first they have to get through the jumble of weather in front of them.
Pip Hare’s group have been slowed but a new system is on its way which will bring winds in excess of 30 knots to propel them towards Cape Horn later to-day. She is still 17th after losing time to replace her damaged rudder yesterday and Charal is breathing don her neck 50 miles astern. Miranda Merron is in 23rd place.
Friday 8th January 2021
Pip Hare discovered a crack in the stock of one of her rudders. Fortunately she carried a spare rudder but replacing a rudder anywhere at sea is not easy and particularly so in the Southern Ocean. It is made more difficult as the rudders are lighter than water and don’t just drop out. She had practised this operation before the start though and it appears she used the technique first tried by Conrad Humphreys in the 2004 race of using his anchor chain to weigh the rudder down. Anyway she managed it, a very nice piece of seamanship, and she is now back in the race reporting a boat speed of a comfortable 15 knots although the operation cost her two places and she now lies 17th. Miranda Merron is still holding 23rd.
In the Atlantic Maitre Coq has extended her lead to 435 miles, sailing in North Easterly winds whereas her two closest pursuers, Apivia and LinkedOut are experiencing northerly winds. Geographically Maitre Coq is now about 30 miles south of Punta Del Este in Uruguay.
Fourteen boats have now got passed Cape Horn, Romain Attanasio, 14th, is now clear, and the next tight group of 4 are still a 1,000 miles to go.
Hard to say what will happen with the weather over the next 24 hours as the race site gives one picture, based, I think, on the reports from the boats, and Windy is showing a different picture. As I said before, there is a lack of a decent meteorological data base for this area but if Windy is right the wind is due to go round to the south later to-day which will benefit the whole fleet back in the Atlantic. There is some way to go to pick up the “normal” wind circulation, but the boats will want to get over to the east a bit more as they head north to make the most of that. But not too far to the east though as the South Atlantic High Pressure lurks mid ocean about the Latitude of Rio de Janeiro.
Thursday 7th January 2021
Maitre Coq continues its excellent progress and has put more than 400 miles between itself and the pursuers with a Days Run of 353 miles aided by Easterly winds of 17 knots. The weather systems in the area are still confusing. Only 2 miles separates Apivia, Groupe Apicil and LinkedOut but their wind is North Easterly, forcing them west of north for the moment but they are likely to get a complete wind shift later to-day caused by a low pressure system off the Argentine coast which will make their inside route profitable for a while. The next 7 boats, spread over 300 miles have northerly winds and as a group decided that east offers them better chances as they race to get north of an area of high pressure with its promises of easterly winds. Getting north is richer for them as well. The South Atlantic High system is in about 25 degrees south Latitude, some 800 miles north of the Maitre Coq, but with another low pressure system in the way. Only when that is reached do the winds look like they will become predictable again.
Romain Antanasio in 14th place is rounding the Horn now, some 1,200 miles ahead of Pip Hare, in 15th place, who is having autopilot problems. Miranda Merron has still 3,000 miles to go to the Cape.
Chatting to Conrad Humphreys yesterday, we agreed that this race is different. The speeds may not have been as great, mainly due to the messy weather situation in the South Atlantic on the way out and now on the return, but by this time in past races about half the fleet would have retired for one reason or another whereas there are still 27 boats racing at the moment out of the 33 starters. That is pretty good.
Wednesday 6th January 2021
Is Maitre Coq going to pull off a jump forward? He has SSE winds at 8 knots at the moment whereas his two pursuers, Apivia and Linkedout, 210 and 300 miles further back respectively and have North Westerly winds of the same speed.
This would tend to indicate that Maitre Coq has got north of the small High Pressure system off Argentina whilst the others are still to its south. So Maitre Coq has better options for the moment, the others are forced more to the North East. But another meteorological puzzle awaits just to the north of Uruguay with a small low disrupting the normal weather systems for this area This might provide the opportunity for a sling-shot north, but currently into another area of light winds as the South Atlantic High begins to have influence. But if he can get there first the others will still have to go through it as well.
In circumstances like this, as so often in Ocean Racing, the fastest route is not necessarily a straight line. Choosing the most favourable wind systems is what matters. To win, these skippers have to be good at meteorology.
Damien Seguin in Groupe Apicil has had a Day’s Run of 393 miles which puts him 300 miles behind the leader in 4th place, but just half a mile further back than LinkedOut, both making 12.5 knots VMG. Apicil is making 16 knots with westerly winds. Clarisse Cremer in Banque Populaire is round the Horn about now, and the next two will round later to-day or early tomorrow. Then there is a gap of 1,100 miles to Pip Hare in 15th place. 1,700 miles further back is Miranda Merron still in 23rd place. Samantha Davis has now passed south of New Zealand.
Tuesday 5th January 2021
They went past thick and fast yesterday and this morning. By this morning the 11 leading boats had all passed Cape Horn and were starting their final 7,000 mile leg back to Les Sables. The shortest gap was between Prysmiam Group and Seaexplorer in 9th and 10th positions, a mere 55 minutes. It is a phenomenal situation to find this leading group so close after some 20,000 miles of racing.
Maitre Coq has increased her lead over Apivia to 235 miles as both boats have set courses which will put them to the west of the High Pressure system off Argentina. They are counting on that system moving moving eastwards as predicted. But this is only one of the systems in their path, another lies in wait further north. The problem with forecasts in this area is that the data base is not as good as elsewhere so the forecast models are not so reliable. The old sailing ship route was to head further east to skirt the South Atlantic High and keep the wind astern, but the mix of weather forecasts at the moment would mean a huge detour to achieve this and the leading two boats have gone for the almost direct route. LinkedOut has gone to the west of the Falkland Islands and could benefit from the stronger winds there. The current system means headwinds for a bit, but then it could just pay off.
Isabelle Joschke, who was lying 5th, has had a bad few days and is now 11th. Her autopilot will no longer work in wind mode, she tore her Genniker and then the hydraulics controlling her keel ram adjustment failed. Fortunately she can lock the keel. On my 60. I had a system of heavy plastic half tubes which I could fit over the rams between the keel and the side of the keel box which could be held in place with masking tape. Although we tested the system, fortunately I never had to use it in anger. The next boat to round will be Bank Populaire, sailed by Clarisse Cremer, which is 200 miles behind Isabelle making 15 knots. She will round thsi eveningPip Hare is in 15th place, 1,500 miles behind Clarisse and Miranda Merron is a further 1,700 miles astern.
Someone asked me what Cape Horn is like. I think one of the best descriptions comes from the British Admiralty Pilot for South America..
The numerous islands fringing the western coast of the mainland, between Magellan’s Strait and the Penas Gulf form the Patagonian archipelagoes; these, like the southern and western parts of the Archipelago de Tierra del Fuego are about as inhospitable as anywhere on the globe. The land is mountainous, presenting an alternation of impenetrable forest, bare rick, and deep bogs, and is cut up by deep channels into peninsulas and islands, as yet very imperfectly known. Drenching rains, varied by snow and sleet, prevail throughout the year, whilst furious westerly gales succeed each other with rapidity. The scenery is magnificently stern, but seldom seen to advantage, the clouds and mists usually screening the higher peaks and snow fields.
Having cruised around the area with Skip Novak, and soloed from the east along the Beagle Channel to Ushuaia and back, I can vouch for this! Rounding Cape Horn is a trophy for all sailors, but there is huge releief when it has been left to the west.
Monday 4th January 2021
Yannick Bestaven and Charlie Dalin are now heading into the South Atlantic, 147 miles apart. Thomas Ruyant has passed Cape Horn and Damien Seguin is there now, both experiencing westerly winds of 24 knots. The next 7 boats, lead by Omia, with 240 miles to the Cape, are spread over 130 miles A depression is sweeping up behind this group and will coincide with their passage around the Cape from tonight our time providing some hairy conditions. There have been reports of sleet and ice on the decks of some of the boats. Pip Hare still has 15th place, 26 miles ahead of La Fabrique and Miranda Merron is holding 23rd position.
There has not been such a concentration of traffic here for years, and it will bring some excitement to the Chilean Navy Petty Officer who mans the famous Lighthouse. It’s a lonely posting. When we visited the Petty Officer at the time had his wife and two daughters with him, the latter being educated on the Internet. They showed us round and we reciprocated with the customary fresh vegetables and meat as they are only re-supplied every 6 months. A large part of the Island was mined 11 years ago so we kept to the paths.
Ahead of the fleet is a High Pressure system off the Argentine coast with some other calm patches to its north and the South Atlantic High Pressure system, with its calms, is right in the middle of the ocean on the same Latitude as Capetown and is not showing much sign of moving, although it extends and contracts to give the meteorologists a justification for their existence. Later this week a low will develop mid ocean as well, and by the weekend there will be another one in the way adding to the puzzle as just what is the best route to take. The traditional weather pattern for this ocean has disappeared
Sunday 3rd January 2021
Yannick Bestaven passed 80 miles south of the Longitude of Cape Horn yesterday about midday our time, having had another fast day’s run, of 463 miles. He experienced winds from the North West of 33 knots. Charlie Dalin followed 15 hours later. Both made Day’s Runs of 383 miles since yesterday morning. LinkedOut is 330 miles further back leading the hunting group of 9 now spread over 300 miles and all of them should be past by Tuesday morning. Pip Hare is still lying 15th and Miranda Merron 23rd
The time for Maitre Coq was 55 days and 22 minutes from Les Sables to Cape Horn. Its not the record, that is just over 47 days, but it illustrates how far we have come with design and equipment in half a century. 52 years ago it took me 217 days to get to the Horn from Falmouth, or almost 4 times longer. OK, the waterline length of Suhaili is only 26 feet, and the Open 60’s have a waterline length within inches of 60 feet, and yes, an Open 60 has 4 times the sail area, but the fascinating thing is how sailing has developed to produce such fast craft.
Of course, in those days one had no idea where the competition was. Bernard Moitessier had been 4 weeks behind me at New Zealand but neither of us knew where the other was after that. I fact I rounded the Horn three weeks before him but we only found out about that some months later. He and I used to exchange letters for many years after the Golden Globe race. We only met once, at the announcement of the Jules Verne Trophy, but I wish I could have spent more time with his company.
Back then no one was sure what the ideal boat was for a solo circumnavigation. There were boats especially built for the voyage that failed. There were few written records of experience of the Roaring Forties and Screaming Fifties to use for reference of what to expect and how to handle the huge waves to be expected. There were no satellites to allow us instant communication or access to weather information, well, there was no weather information available anyway. We could only rely on the Barometer, the wind direction and the clouds, but nothing could tell us how low and nasty an approaching depression might be
Was Suhaili the ideal boat? No one thought so when we set off. She is a John Atkins design from 1922, his Eric. It was designed for cruising, not racing, but based on the Colin Archer designs for the Norwegian sailing lifeboats, it was inherently seaworthy, provided you handled her sensibly. And it took time in some rather nasty and frightening weather, to learn how she wanted to be handled. Her rugged build undoubtably helped as it gave time, whilst she was being punished, for me to think out what she wanted for both of us to survive.
So now the leaders are around the great Cape. It is a different game these days as all have access to weather, instant communications and amazing equipment. But is it any easier? The winds are the same, the huge waves are still there, the dangers are still there. The difference is that these sailors have to compete with similarly equipped boats, and they know where their competition is. This is an added pressure on them. It is how they interpret all that information that satellite communications provide and are prepared to press on, that will count in the end.
For all the competitors it will be a huge relief to get free from that constant series of depressions and the relentless swell they have experienced ever since passing the Cape of Good Hope. But their problems are not over. The South Atlantic is showing some very confusing weather system for them to steer through. And with so many boats close together no one can predict who might get lucky or get it right.
From a spectators perspective, it does not get much more exciting.
Saturday 2nd January 2021
Almost there. Maitre Coq should clear Cape Horn in the next 12 hours, but the sea conditions may slow him as the winds, averaging 33 Knots but probably 20 knots more in gusts, will build up a nasty sea with troughs of 8 metres or more. Charlie Dalin in Apivia is hanging on to his coat tails, 146 miles behind and will probably have worse seas. Thomas Ruyant has dropped further back in 3rd place, now 478 miles behind about the same distance as yesterday. Lous Burton in Bureau Vallee brings up the tail end of the chasing group 734 miles from the lead in 11th place, and these 9 boats should get round before the next area of strong winds arrives on Mnday evening.
Daniel Seguin, sailing Apicil in 4th place is a double Paralympic Gold Medalist, born without his left hand is 522 miles from the leader He is showing that he does not consider what would be a handicap to most of us, as any excuse not to push hard in the toughest challenge for any athlete.
Pip Hare has moved up to 15th place. Charal, sailed by one of the favourites at the start but who had to return to Les Sables for repairs after the start, sailed by Jeremie Bayou, now in 18th place, continues to move up the fleet, now just 130 miles behind La Mie Caline, just showing what his boat is capable of. Sadly the competition between him and Alex Thomson was not to be.
Of course everyone expects the weather at Cape Horn to be nasty, but when I went round on the 17th January 1969 I was completely becalmed about 7 miles off the Cape and it was the current that pushed me round. The next two times the weather was not so clement and on Enza we hove to for a while. The last time was only a Force 6 with Skip Novak, but that does not really count as we had existed from the Beagle Channel and a real passage has to include the Roaring Forties and screaming 50’s.
If there is anywhere where you don’t want to hang around it is off the Cape, and I could see the dark, threatening clouds over Tierra Del Fuego and wondered when they would come out to sea and hit me. In fact they didn’t, but within the next day I had to put up with a gale from the east and very cold winds. It looks as if the leaders wont have that problem as the winds look westerly for the next few days which will propel them into the South Atlantic and the relief of being free them from the endless westerly swell they have experienced ever since they entered the Roaring Forties at the south of the Atlantic. Cape Horn is the main objective at the moment but once past they have to start working out how best to deal with a tangled meteorological situation in the South Atlantic. and with such a close fleet the whole race placings could be turned upside down in the next weeks.
As a thank you for keynoting in our Offshore Sailing Leadership Symposium, a clock from Gifted of Larchmont was sent as a gift to RKJ – this was his response:
My Mantlepiece was empty. It needed something spectacular to enhance its appearance.
So, all of a sudden, a rather lovely clock has arrived. Even better it has the sign of the StormTrysail Club upon it.
It is a lovely gesture, as much appreciated as it was unexpected. But it will be treasured.
Thank so much
Thursday 31st December 2020
Will the depression making its way towards Cape Horn to the north of the fleet collide with the leaders? By Saturday midday there will be 40 plus Knots at the Cape, which means gusts of quite a lot more and this s not a good place to have this sort of weather.
What makes Cape Horn so dangerous? Around our planet, south of America, Africa and Australia/New Zealand lies an ocean of roughly 2,000 miles to Antarctica, known to sailors as the Roaring Forties and Southern Ocean. This is the only place where no land blocks the relentless passage eastward of a frequent depressions. In theory there is no limit to how large the waves can be but in practical terms the largest waves reach 27 to 30 metres in height, the equivalent to a ten story building. Only in one place does the huge ocean narrow, and that is at Cape Horn, where, at Drake’s Passage south of the Horn, the gap is reduced to 600 miles. So a 2,000 mile wide river has to squeeze through the gap. Adding to this, the water shallows, creating shorter and steeper waves. As if this were not enough, the Andes Mountain range in South America forces the depressions south and into this area. So, in all, it is not a place where you want to arrive with a depression.
A collision with the latest depression is going to be very close for the leaders in the Vendee and they know it. That is one of the disadvantages of modern communication, you have forecasts transmitted via satellites so you know waht is coming. (I think it was less worrying in my day as one did not have any idea what might be coming, except for a dropping air pressure and signs in the clouds, so less foreboding). The leading group are trying to hang on to the east side of the depression, making fast times with a North Westerly wind and trying to stay ahead. Maitre Coq has made 404 miles in the past 24 hours, and Apivia has done 494 miles but headed a bit more to the north which is why she still trails the leader by 104 miles. Groupe Apivil in 3rd place has dropped back to 270 miles off the lead with a Day’s Run of 330 miles, and the overall spread between 1st and 11th has expanded to 530 miles. If this group have deliberately slowed to avoid the depression at the Horn I don’t blame them. After all, in this race, one bit of serious damage and you are out and preserving the boat becomes more important than good speeds when conditions deteriorate. It’s a question of preserving the boat and living to race another day.
Further back Pip Hare has squeezed up into 16th place and Miranda Merron holds 23rd.
Friday 1st January 2021
Happy New Year.
Maitre Coq has, as the French put it, Crushed the Mushroom, referring to a type of accelerator in French cars. Still riding on the front of the depression he has reeled off 452 miles in the last 24 hours. Charlie Darlen’s Apivia made 418 miles and is trailing by 141 miles. These two now have a gap of 260 miles behind Apivia to 3rd placed LinkedOut which has East North Easterly winds. The gap to 11th placed Prysmian Group has almost doubled to 702 miles in just two days.
The Depression will be centred on Cape Horn by Saturday evening our time, blowing more than 40 Knots which is approximately when Maitre Coq should round. But these winds will be from a north of west direction and it will only be the size of the waves that will restrict speed. For the chasing boats the wind will be a more moderate 20-25 knots by then but not for long as another depression is sweeping past to their south bringing 30 knots of wind by midnight on Monday. The Cape is living up to its reputation.
Pip Hare is holding her 16th position, 18 miles behind La Fabrique and 55 miles ahead of La Mie Caline, 2,320 miles from the leader. Miranda Merron has made 331 miles in the last 24 hours as she comes up to the Longitude of New Zealand nearly 5,000 miles from Cape Horn.
Wednesday 30th December 2020
The 11 boats in the leading group are all experiencing westerly winds of 19 to 21 knots, except Apivia in second place, where the wind is 15 knots but she is making the best runs at the moment and is just 127 miles behind Maitre Coq still in the lead. There is a mile between 3rd and 4th places with Groupe Apicil just holding off LinkedOut. 11th placed Bureau Vallee, the tail ender in this group, has taken 80 miles out of Maitre Coq’s lead in the past 24 hours and just 375 separates 1st and 11th. Jean Le Cam, 200 miles from Maitre Coq, is in 5th place.
Brewing up to the north of the fleet is a depression heading eastwards which looks as if it will pass them to their north and is expected to clear Cape Horn late Saturday. The leaders should miss the worst of this as they are predicted to start passing the last of the three great Capes on Sunday.
5,500 miles to the west, Merci brings up the tail end of the fleet. Pip Hare is still in 17th, 2,000 off the lead and Miranda Merron in 23rd is a further 1,600 miles astern. Sam Davis, sadly out of the race, is starting to overhaul the tail enders
Tuesday 29th December 2020
Maitre Coq has extended its lead over Apivia to 145 miles whilst LinkedOut has closed to 60 miles on Apivia but is still 200 miles from the lead. The leading group are riding the top of a depression which is due to move off to the South East and sharing winds from a westerly direction of 20 – 26 knots.. The next dominant system is another Low forming on Wednesday to the fleets north which will intensify, and is forecast to pass Cape Horn on Saturday morning with winds of 40 knots. The Southern Ocean does not let you pass easily.
Bureau Vallee in 11th place, the last of the leading group, has made a days run over the past 24 hours of 396 miles and is now 455 miles behind Maitre Coq. If they continue like this we could see 11 boats rounding Cape Horn within a 24 to 30 hour period which has never happened before in any race around the world. Effectively the race will re-start as they enter the Atlantic with its somewhat complex systems of High and Low Pressures.
Pip Hare is still in 17th place with a days run of 353 miles and Miranda Merron is in 23rd with a days run of 296. 26th placed Alexia Barrier had the nightmare of her main runner block exploding which almost cost her the mast. Fortunately it held and she gybed to change runners. But until she gybed all that was holding her mast up was the tension on the main sheet. These boats, because of the huge roach on their mainsails, do not have fixed backstays so every tack or gybe requires exchanging the two running backstays. Stephane Le Dirasion in 19th place was heading for the lee of Macquarie Island to repair his top mainsail slider and hook. There have been a number of problems with these through the fleet, but he has managed to fix it.
Monday 28th December 2020
A tight low pressure system has developed just to the south of the leaders and Yannick Bestaven has 29 knots of wind from the North North West and has speeded up averaging 16 knots over the past 4 hours. Charlie Dalin in Apivia is now nearly 100 miles behind with 14 knots of wind from the same direction. Thia low is due to move south and east, giving the boats favourable winds to propel them towards Cape Horn. 170 miles behind Apivia, Thomas Ruyant in Linked Out has West South Westerly winds of 33 knots having narrowed the gap to the lead by almost 60 miles. There are 280 miles between Linked out and Bureau Vallee. All have winds from a Westerly direction and are making the most of them. Bureau Vallee has averaged 20 knots over the past 4 hours although it has less wind than the boats in front, but probably calmer seas.
The predictions show these westerly winds holding for the next 5 days which will put the fleet very close to Cape Horn just as a sever gale, with 40 knots of wind arrives there from the Pacific.
Jean Le Cam holds 6th place 1 mile closer to the next Waypoint than Boris Herman. Sam Davis’s husband Romain Attanasio is in 14th place, 1,000 miles off the lead, averaging 16 knots, 3,600 miles ahead of his wife. (Grandparents have their uses when both parents decide to sail off around the world!) There is then empty ocean for the next 900 miles to Alan Roura in 15th place. Pip Hare is still in 17th and Miranda Merron in 23rd, 2,000 and 3.500 miles behind the leader respectively.
So we can expect some good speeds from the leading group for the next few days and only the size of the waves will restrict how fast they can go.
Sunday 27th December 2020
Looking at the Vendee fleet this morning, none of them have winds as strong as were experiencing last night along the Welsh, English and Brittany coasts. At 0500 this morning the Bramble Bank was showing 42 knots with gusts over 50, and the Dover Straight 47 knots. By 0700 the wind at the brambles Bank had halved.
Yannick Bestaven in Maitre Coq has increased his lead over Charlie Dalin’s Apivia by 12 miles, or half a knot average. They have winds from the North East at 18 and 14 knots respectively and Bestaven is making 10.5 knots on a direct course for Cape Horn 2,000 miles away. So no one is going to reach Cape Horn this year. These two are well ahead of the group of nine spread over 140 miles between them with Thomas Ruyant’s LinkedOut in 3rd place 322 miles behind the lead and Bureau Vallee’s 11th place 465 miles from the lead. Both have North Easterly winds but at 10 and 3 knots. Pip Hare has 23 knots of Northerly winds and is making the most of it, covering 70 miles in the last 4 hours and holding off 18th placed Charal 400 miles behind but sailing slower in 37 knots of northerly wind. Charal has covered 53 miles in the same time period which would suggest the seas are slowing him down. Miranda Merron is still in 23rd with Westerly winds of 21 knots and averaging 13 knots. The 3 tail enders have still to cross the Longitude of Cape Leeuwin but for some the objective is to complete the course which will be no mean achievement in itself.
Saturday 26th December 2020
There are now 11 boats within 380 miles of each other at the head of the Vendee fleet as they come close to halfway across the mighty Pacific Ocean. All these boats, with favourable winds, can cover that distance within a day. I do not remember such a close solo race around the world where the prize of the top place on the podium is within the reach of so many competitors. There is everything to go for after 17,000 miles of racing, but with 9,600 miles to go wear and tear will be on everyone’s minds. Although there is a gap of 200 miles between the two boats at the head of the fleet and the pursuing group of 9, that can disappear in half a day with even a small repair causing a loss of speed.
The High Pressure system which now lies across the path of the does not show any signs of dissipating before Sunday evening. The more favourable winds are tantalisingly close but keep moving at about the same speed as the boats. High Pressure systems are less predictable than Low Pressure ones so a slight movement is always possible, but who might get the best of it?.
Maitre Coq has retaken the lead from Apivia by 32 miles, and both are experiencing easterly winds so they are having to tack towards the east and Cape Horn. The decision to bite the bullet and beat eastward on the north side of the high has paid off for Yannick Bestaven so far. Bureau Vallee has made up some of the time it lost making repairs in the lee of MacQuarie Island and is in 11th place, but with Northerly winds so is eating into the lead. Jean Le Cam has moved into 3rd place but Boris Herrmann in Seaexplorer is only a mile behind.
Pip Hare is in 17th position, 400 miles ahead of Charal which ahs consistently shown greater speeds than any of the boats around it. Miranda Merron is still in 23rd place, whilst Sam Davis ahs overtaken Mercia at the rear of the fleet.
Friday 25th December 2020
The boats are not very far from my position on Christmas Day 1968, only I had more wind and gave myself appalling indigestion with ym attempts at a Chrisitmas Pudding!
It looks as if Charlie Dalin’s tactic has played off so far as his distance from the leader to the next Waypoint is down to 1.2 miles but this is mainly down to Maitre Coq heading North East to try and get into stronger winds on the north side of the High Pressure system whereas Apivia is in the south with lighter winds. For both the objective is to get to the east of the system and pick up stronger winds from a more favourable direction and whoever gets there first will have the lead. But the High is moving eastwards and extending and it may be a day or two before it becomes clear who got the best of it.
LinkedOut has dropped right back to 8th position having gone further north to search for better winds, and third place is now held by Boris Herrmann’s Seaexplorer 294 miles from the lead having closed 80 miles in the past 24 hours as has Jean le Cam, just 1 mile difference from Seaexplorer. Four miles separate the next 4 boats, just 24 miles further behind.
Pip Hare has covered 370 miles in the past 24 hours and should pass the Longitude of Tasmania tomorrow 2,581 miles behind the lead and Miranda Merron is a further 1,000 miles astern. Jeremie Beyou in Charal continues his remorseless progress into 19th place, 3,000 miles back. He won’t be able to make up for the time he lost at the beginning but has not given up.
Merry Christmas everyone.
Thursday 24th December 2020
Leader Maitre Coq is trying the northern route around the High Pressure system which lies in the path of the Vendee fleet and currently has 12 knots of wind from the South East. Charlie Dalin in Apivia is now 170 miles further south, sailing along the Ice restriction line with 9 knots of South Westerlies. The gap between these two is now reduced to 30 miles. They have made their different choices and the next day or days will show who has taken the better option and whether the lead will change. The high is moving slowly east at about the same speed as the boats adding to the uncertainty.
Thomas Ruyant in LinkedOut has not done so well and has dropped back to 233 miles from the lead. He is sailing in East South Easterly winds. Only 4 miles separate the next 5 boats in their distance behind the leader, which have closed to around 370 miles from the leader. In order they are Groupe Apicil, Seaexplorer, Omia, Jean Le Cam, in 7th place, who has North North Easterly winds of 12 knots and Macsf, sailed by Isabelle Joshchke, the leading Lady sailor. The winds are unusual and the air temperatures are higher than they are in the south of England but it is creating a wonderfully exciting and close race!
No change in Pip Hare and Miranda Merron’s placings and they are currently making 13 and 16 knots respectively. Sam Davis and tail ender Sebastien Destremau are close together over 5,000 miles behind the lead in WNW winds making just over 10 knots each
Wednesday 23rd December 2020
Can Maitre Coq get ahead of the High Pressure? It has been described as the Jackpot if he can, because he would get himself into stronger favourable winds. He is making ten knots and Yannik Bestaven is not getting much rest as he strives to get past the High. If he cannot get past then those behind will close in on him as the High moves east and south until they come into its influence and will be slowed. .The next two boats are currently making similar speeds. Apivia in second place is still 94 miles behind and LinkedOut in 3rd is 170 miles from the leader, a small gain of a 1/4 of a knot over the day. Pip Hare and Miranda Merron remain in 17th and 23rd places. Sam Davis is still close to the tail ender Merci.
It is an unusual weather system, not what is normally expected at 55 degrees south Latitude, but it is creating a fascinating competition. Another factor which is making this Vendee race so interesting is that there are only 560 miles between the first and tenth boats. If Bestaven cannot get away then there is going to be a rush of boats around Cape Horn and everything to race for over the last leg northwards up the Atlantic back to les Sables.
Tuesday 22nd December 2020
No change at the front but the winds have eased. They are lower throughout the 5,000 mile spread of the fleet at the moment with only one competitor showing more than 20 knots of wind. So, for the moment, at least, the Forties are not roaring, and the high pressure system near the leaders looks as if it will extend eastwards and south by Thursday.
The weather so far for the 44 days that the sailors have been at sea on their own in this race has not provided record breaking conditions. The strong westerly winds are further south and beyond the ice restriction line. Maitre Coq has averaged only 10 1/2 knots for the past 24 hours as Bestaven gybes close to the ice line, as close as it can to the stronger winds, and the others are following him. Apivia has average 12 knots and closed to 94 miles, whilst third placed Linked out has averaged less than 10 knots and dropped back to 175 miles from the leader, but is 140 miles ahead of Bois Herrmann in Seaexplorer who has averaged 15 knots. Jean Le Cam is 37 miles astern of Seaexplorer and has averaged 14 1/2 knots over the past 24 hours. So the fleet is concertinering again.
Louis Burton in Bureau Vallee is back in the race having repaired his mast track and sorted out his auto pilot. Lying 11th but facing headwinds from the high pressure ahead of him. He is relishing being able to set full sail again. Miranda Merron lies 23rd still, 4,100 miles from the leader and Pip Hare holds 17th still, 3,100 miles from the head of the fleet.
One of the things that used to worry me most when I was running the BOC Challenges in the 1980’s were the tail enders. If anything went wrong with them there is no following boat to offer assistance and the southern seas do not have a lot of traffic. As we have seen in this race, when Kevin Escoffier got into difficulties it was possible to divert 4 boats to go and find him. We were able to rescue Jacques de Roux by diverting Richard Broadhead, and John Martin was collected by Bertie Reed because they weren’t too far away in the BOC’s. Merci is 500 miles behind the next boat, although at the moment Sam Davis is close to him, but she is sailing a lot faster as she continues her circumnavigation outside of the race. As an organiser one breathes a sigh of relief when the last boat gets around Cape Horn and back into the South Atlantic.
Monday 21st December 2020
With Cape Horn 4,000 miles to the east, perhaps 8-9 days away, the leaders are now caught between a High Pressure system to their north, which is lying well south, and the artificial, but mandatory ice limit to their south. It is a narrow corridor causing them to have to gybe frequently before a moderate westerly wind on the same Latitude of Cape Horn. The forecast shows the corridor expanding by this evening but they will have to get a move on as the High Pressure system is moving east and then south by Thursday and this could even put headwinds in their path. Yannick Bestaven in Maitre Coq continues to hold the lead, 126 miles ahead of Apivia sailed by Charlie Dalin, with Thomas Ruyant a further 30 miles astern. The next group, lead by Boris Herrmann are a further 240 miles astern. Jean Le Cam just 30 miles behind Boris, but they may get slowed if the High Pressure extends south and the top three will extend their lead. Bureau Vallee has dropped to 11th as Louis Burton struggles with technical difficulties in the lee of Macquarie Island.Pip Hare is still in 17th place and Miranda Merron 23rd. Sam Davis re-started having completed her repairs in Cape Town which disqualified her from the race, but she has decided to complete the circumnavigation and is closing in on the tail ender, Sebastien Destremau in Merci.
Sunday 20th December 2020
An area of light winds lies ahead of the leaders and they have taken the choice to go south towards the ice limit where the wind is stronger. This weather pattern is remarkably similar to that which we found 26 years ago in Enza. The normal South Westerly winds in the route we had chosen were replaced by Easterlies created by a long ridge of high pressure. To find favourable winds we ducked down to 64 degrees south and found ourselves in sight of icebergs. We sailed between two small ones only to discover that they were joined underwater! Boards up quickly and sighs of relief as the rudders missed.
Maitre Coq has increased its lead to just over 100 miles from Apivia which is 50 miles ahead of Linkedout. Boris Hermann has moved into 4th place a further 210 miles west, 50 miles ahead of Jean le Cam. Bureau Vallee has dropped to 10th place and now has auto-pilot problems. Pip Hare has moved into 17th place and Miranda Merron still holds 23rd.
Damage and breakages should not be a surprise at this stage when the leaders of the fleet are over halfway having sailed 15,000 miles non stop. In fact is that only 6 boats out of 33 have had to pull out because of damage. There will be an assessment as to why some baots sustained structural problems but there is no greater test for modern materials and equipment than a solo non stop circumnavigation through some of the most ferocious seas on our planet. The lessons learned filter down to the whole world of sailing.
Also teaching us something new about sailing, racing in the Americas Cup series in New Zealand had to be cancelled yesterday (overnight for us in Europe) through insufficient wind as the first race, between Emirates New Zealand and Ineos GB could not finish within the 45 minute time allowance and both boats were off their foils at the end. Ineos has problems. Her foils are different to the Kiwis and don’t seem to be able to provide lift as easily at low speed and the elsson that is coming out of the racing so far is that you must keep on the foils.
Thanks to thsoe who sent messages regarding the abrupt loss of power to myelena house yesterday which closed down the Wi-Fi, as well as removing heat and light. The Electric light Company has installed a temporary generator outside my garages whilst they investigate the source of the problem and I am buying more candles. I have a couple of paraffin pressure lamps somewhere, back to what was standard in solo sailing 50 years ago!
Elsewhere the Sydney to Hobart race has had to be cancelled because of the virus.
Monday 21st December 2020
With Cape Horn 4,000 miles to the east, perhaps 8-9 days away, the leaders are now caught between a High Pressure system to their north, which is lying well south, and the artificial, but mandatory ice limit to their south. It is a narrow corridor causing them to have to gybe frequently before a moderate westerly wind on the same Latitude of Cape Horn. The forecast shows the corridor expanding by this evening but they will have to get a move on as the High Pressure system is moving east and then south by Thursday and this could even put headwinds in their path. Yannick Bestaven in Maitre Coq continues to hold the lead, 126 miles ahead of Apivia sailed by Charlie Dalin, with Thomas Ruyant a further 30 miles astern. The next group, lead by Boris Herrmann are a further 240 miles astern. Jean Le Cam just 30 miles behind Boris, but they may get slowed if the High Pressure extends south and the top three will extend their lead. Bureau Vallee has dropped to 11th as Louis Burton struggles with technical difficulties in the lee of Macquarie Island.Pip Hare is still in 17th place and Miranda Merron 23rd. Sam Davis re-started having completed her repairs in Cape Town which disqualified her from the race, but she has decided to complete the circumnavigation and is closing in on the tail ender, Sebastien Destremau in Merci
Friday 18th December 2020
The leaders are halfway around their global course as they enter the Pacific Ocean but well behind the timings of the 2016 race. They have been greeted by a patch of light winds which enables the second group to close up. Yannick Bestaven’s Maitre Coq still holds the lead but it is down to 100 miles this morning. Charlie Dalin on Apivia appears to have made repairs on his foil problem and has gone back to fast sailing. He has moved into second position taking 48 miles out of Maitre Coq in the last 24 hours. LinkedOut has slowed right down after her forward hatch opened and flooded her bow compartment Louis Burton in Bureau Vallee is going to get into the lee of Macquarie Island on Saturday evening so he can climb his mast and effect repairs to his mainsail track which secures his sail to the mast. He has tried to do it whilst racing but found the constant Southern Ocean swell threw him around too much and made the task impossible. Now lying in 7th place he is clearly frustrated at having to sail with 2 reefs in his mainsail. As anyone who has climbed a mast at sea knows, the real trick is to secure yourself to something that prevents one being thrown around, but it is not an 100% solution. Jean le Cam lies 4th almost 417 miles behind the leader., reduced from nearly 500 miles yesterday.
Pip Hare is still holding 18th and Miranda Merron 23rd
In Auckland, Team Ineos had sorted out their problems and raced twice against Team New Zealand. They lost both, but were showing some signs of good speed and Ben demonstrated his abilities at the start of the second race by completely out playing the Kiwis. Still development work to be done, but they got nothing from the first two races. The racing was fantastic to watch, real amtch racing, but watching it is doing nothing to alleviate my sleep deprivation!
Thursday 17th December 2020
LinkedOut has discovered flooding in her forward compartment and hove to to find out the reason, so Maitre Coq has sailed into a 127 mile lead. However LinkedOut is back sailing fast according to the latest reports. Apivia seems to be back on pace in 3rd place, 158 miles from the lead. So Charlie Dalin must have satisfied himself that his port foil housing is alright. This leading group, 340 miles ahead of the next group of 8 boats spread over 300 miles being lead by Jean le Cam, are passing south of Tasmania now with the wide Pacific ahead of them to Cape Horn, the last of the three Great Capes that separate Africa, Australia and South America from Antarctica.
The lead has been changing over the last few days, but in each case the leader has developed a problem that has forced them to slow of even stop. Its very frustrating when even a small problem can lose a few hours, especially when a 5 hour loss can equal 100 miles thrown away
Pip Hare is still in 18th place and Miranda Merron in 23rd.
The Jury have announced the redress to be awarded to the boats that went to the assistance of Kevin Escoffier. Yannick Bestaven in Maitre Coq receives compensation of 10 hours and 15 minutes, Boris Hermann in SeaExplorer, received 6 hours, and Jean le Cam, who actually picked up Escoffier, received 16 hours 15 minutes. These times will be deducted from their finishing times.
Fir those interested in the first Americas Cup races, American Magic had the best of the 4 races held, winning both her matches. Prada and Team New Zealand won one each. Ineos had problems with her foils from the start and with these boats if you cannot control your foils you are out of control. The foils are a standard issue so all the boats have the same, but clearly Ineos has some control problems to resolve. But its early days.
Wednesday 16th December 2020
LinkedOut , averaging 17 knots, still leads by 8 miles from Maitre Coq. Apivia has dropped further back and is now 160 miles from the lead, averaging 13 knots. The damage to the port foil appears to be in its housing and Charlie Dalin has taken his foot off the throttle at the moment. There is a large area of High Pressure south of Australia which will move eastwards and south in the next day, right into the path of the leaders before it disappears on Friday. In a completely different weather pattern Pip Hare holds on to 18th position and Miranda Merron is back in 23rd. Sebastien Destremau, lying 26th, has auto pilot problems and may have to pull out of the race. Without his auto pilots operating reliably he cannot continue.
One of the questions that needs to be addressed is that the Ocean Race, ex Volvo Race will include these Open 60 yachts in 2022. Since they will be crewed, it is likely that they will sail even harder than the solo sailors are doing in this Vendee Race. Looking at the retirements through damage so far, is the engineering of the current boats going to be able to cope with even harder pressure when the boats are crewed? We can all understand the quest for speeds and lightness to reduce resistance, the Open 60 class has always been a development class since we produced its first rules back in 1983 after the first BOC Challenge. So we must expect failures as sailors, designers and engineers push the boundaries. But has strength been sacrificed too much in the search for speed?
The Vendee has been fortunate so far. The only real danger to life was dealt with by Jean Le Cam picking up Escoffier after his boat folded. The remainder of those who have retired so far have realised that they cannot race effectively any longer and have damage that could be a threat to their lives and their boats. They have been able to make a safe port and not needed any assistance from the nearest rescue services . That is a credit to the sailors themselves. But with the Ocean Race there are going to be 5 lives at stake in each boat. Can we always rely on other competitors to rescue the crew from a damaged boat? Are we going to call on the rescue services of South Africa, Australia or Chile to put their people out to sea to make rescues? Should we rely upon these services anyway?
Sailors, whether we be solo or with crew have a responsibility to take care of ourselves so we don’t need to ask for assistance Yes, of course it was simpler 50 years ago when we did not have the communications that are available today. If we got into trouble it was difficult to ask for help anyway. It’s a different world today. If we have problems we can make instant satellite calls for help, (there were no satellites 50 years ago) and that assistance will be forthcoming. But surely we have a responsibility to ensure that we have the right boat, strong enough for the extreme conditions you experience in the Roaring Forties, and properly prepared so we don’t need to call on outside assistance? There will always be exceptions, and the rescue services will understand that, but they should always be the exceptions. We sailors who take on these challenges have a duty to make sure we are not an”exception.”
Tuesday 15th December 2020
Charlie Dalin on Apivia has reported damage to his port foil. There was a load cracking sound last evening and he promptly slowed down to explore the reason. Water is not entering the boat and he is in consultation with his team ashore in France to assess the damage so we await further reports. He does not think he hit anything though so this may be another structural failure in the fleet. It is devastating for Charlie Dalin who has lead all the way across the Indian Ocean with a lead of over 200 miles at one time.
Whilst Apivia has slowed to 8 knots the other two in the leading group have continued their headlong progress. LinkedOut has taken the lead followed closely my Maitre Coq. There is now a distinct leading group of LinkedOut, Maitre Coq and Apivia just a few miles apart, and then a large gap of between 346 and 378 miles to the next group of five yachts which have run into much less wind of 4 to 6 knots and slowed right down. Jean Le Cam, the hero of the rescue of Kevin Escoffier, is in the second group lying 5th and will learn tomorrow what redress he will be given for the time he lost performing the search and rescue `long with the other boats that stopped racing to assist zat the time.
Pip Hare is holding onto 18th position averaging just over 14 knots for the past 4 hours whilst Miranda Merron has dropped one place to 24th. Charal, skippered by Jeremie Beyou, a firm favourite with Alex Thomson at the start, but who had to return at the beginning of the race to make repairs, has moved into 22nd place now and is sailing some 8 knots faster than the boats around him.
Monday 14th December 2020
The gap between the leading 3 boats has tightened with LinkedOut now only 55 miles astern of Apivia and Maitre Coq just 22 miles further back, all have averaged 19 knots over the previous 4 hours. The next 7 boats are between 280 and 450 miles behind and are slowing slightly. This leading group are behind a depression to their south which is moving rapidly eastwards and will be south of Tasmania tomorrow. As it moves ahead lighter winds will follow in the Great Australian Bight and speeds will fall. The fleet is already running 6 days behind the previous race in 2016 and the chance of catching up on that time now seem remote.
Pip Hare has dropped a place to 19th and Miranda Merron still holds 23rd place.
Sunday 13th December 2020
On the 36th day into the Vendee race the leading group continue to close up on the leader, Apivia as it has experienced lighter winds but is now averaging 17 knots. Its lead over 2nd placed LinkedOut is down to 62 miles and Maitre Coq is only 6 miles further behind. Then there is a gap of 180 miles to 4th placed Apicil which is showing slower speeds along with the rest of the front group. Pip Hare is in 18th position and going through a calmer patch and Miranda Merron is averaging some 11 knots in 23rd position 3,500 from the leader.
But all the remaining participants have now passed the Longitude of Cape Town, just as the three leading boats will pass the Longitude of Cape Leeuwin later to-day. The fleet is well spread out and the gap is now an ocean!
It has been some week for the Vendee. Starting withJean Le Cam’s excellent rescue of Escoffier, a great piece of seamanship and determination to find and recover a fellow sailor. Jean Le Cam is still up there with the leaders despite the fact that he does not have foils like all the other leading boats. You cannot help wanting him to do well. It’s not just down to his determination. He is also showing that foils are not necessarily the solution. You have to survive in this race, and Jean le Cam is showing that he is a survivor.
The fleet is now down to 27 boats from its original starters of 33 yachts. So far so good, but as usually about half the starting fleet finish and we are not halfway through the route yet, there is plenty to watch over the next few weeks. The chances of setting a new record for the race are becoming steadily less. The chances were made very difficult by the South Atlantic weather systems earlier in the race and now after 36 days the fleet is not even halfway.
Friday 11th December 2020
Group Setin, lying 19th has had to slow to repair a crack in her port rudder. Yes, more damage, but it is worth reflecting that the average yachtsman probably does not sail 3,000 a year and re-fits each winter. So these boats have already sailed the equivalent of 4 years average sailing without any attention. The skipper, Manuel Cousin worked all night to remove his rudder and effect repairs and hopes to resume racing shortly.
Out in the lead Apivia, which is now halfway between the Kerguelen Islands and Cape Leeuwin, is losing miles on second placed Linkedout as she has only 12 knots of wind, 4 knots less. Maitre Coq and Bureau Vallee with the following group have also closed on the lead with stronger winds. Another depression is approaching the Kerguelens further south and this will gradually bring more wind to the fleet from the back forwards. Much further back, some 2,600 miles, Pip Hare is still in 20th and Miranda Merron 22nd over 3,000 miles astern.
The huge Trimaran Sodebo, which is making its attempt to win the Jules Verne Trophy for the fastest non stop unassisted circumnavigation with her crew of 8, has also slowed. Her last 24 hours she has only made 560 miles which puts her over 100 miles behind the record she is trying to beat, but she will have overtaken the entire Vendee fleet by this time tomorrow.
Thursday 10th December 2020
No change at the front where the depression that has given the leaders some strong winds and awkward cross seas the past couple of days and has now moved off to the South East. This has given the boats some respite, albeit at the cost of speed and there are some calmer areas ahead of them. The straightforward Highs to the North, Lows to the South has been interrupted by some mixing which makes routing choices more complicated. Apivia still leads, although Linkedout has closed sightly to 186 miles. Bureau Vallee, the southernmost boat in the fleet, is a further 100 miles astern, 10 miles ahead of Maitre Coq 1V. Pip Hare still holds 20th place, 2,600 miles behind the leader and Miranda Merron is in 23rd 3,360 miles back. Yes we cam is lying 6th, 382 miles behind Apivia but has made good 359 miles in the past 24 hours.
The maxi trimaran Sodebo has gone much further south than the Vendee fleet as it is not restrained by the ice limitations put in by the organisers of the Vendee race, where it is finding stronger winds. It has a crew of 8 so can keep a constant lookout for ice although ice bergs do not show up as well as land on radar. We found that in those latitudes a lookout had to be relieved every 20-30 minutes because of the cold, and frequently visibility was down to less than 50 yards. Sodebo has covered 693 miles have been covered in the past 24 hours, which is an average speed of 28.875 knots compared with the 253, or 10.5 knots of Apivia
Tuesday December 8th 2020
The lead is still firmly held by Apivia, 209 miles ahead of Linked Out as they pass well north of the Kerguelen Islands. They have fresh to strong Northerly winds at the moment but a high pressure system lies ahead of them which is making its way east south of Australia. Ideally they want to move along with the winds they have which will keep them ahead of a deepening Low pressure system building up to their south and west. Bureau Vallee has run into light winds further south and averaged only 6 knots over the past 4 hours, but stronger winds are on their way. Third place is now held by Maitre Coq 1V., 340 miles astern of the elader. Jean Le Cam in 5th place has slowed right down for some reason. Pip Hare is in 20th place, just passing the Longitude of Cape Town. Miranda Merron is in 22nd place in the rear group of 8 yachts.
Apicel, lying 7th, is having auto-pilot problems. Both its Autopilots, which electronically control the steering, are giving trouble. It’s a nightmare on these boats. The skipper cannot steer as well as deal with the problem. T happened to me departing Fremantle in the Velux5Oceans race, when my pilot started to switch itself off. After the third time, when I was trying tos ort out a change of sail in the sail locker and found myself trapped by the weight of the sail for 10 minutes, I turned back. There was now way it was safe to continue like that. The problem turned out to be that the wire to the rams that controlled the rudder were too small to convey enough power when the loads came on. It had happened once or twice on the voyage from Bilbao to Fremantle. Once thicker wire was installed I had not more problems. Think about the size of wires required by your car’s starter motor and you will understand. Damien Seguin has my sympathy.
Here is a little taster of what the Vendee sailors are going through. It was taken 2 years ago in the same area of the Roaring Forties aboard one of the Clipper around the world yachthttps://fb.watch/2dLRumoj26/
After 12 days 2 hours and 5 minutes at sea, Sodebo Ultim 3 crossed the longitude of the Cape of Good Hope today at 4:00 am in its Jules Verne Trophy attempt.Since leaving Ushant on November 25 at 2:55 am, Thomas Coville and his seven crew have covered 8,154 miles, at an average of 28 knots. When passing the Cape of Good Hope, they had a 17 hour and 35 minute lead over the holder of the Jules Verne Trophy (626.73 nm advance as of 20:45
Sunday December 6th 2020
Well this Vendee Globe race continues to provide drama, both afloat and ashore. Kevin Escoffier was picked up by the French Warship Nivose just after midnight our time this morning from Jean Le Cam\s boat “Yes we Cam”. I understand he will be taken to Kerguelen Islands and Jean Le Cam continues his solo race.
More sad news in that Sam Davis has withdrawn. The damage to her boat is such that she feels she must get the boat properly repaired in Cape Town and, once repaired, then sail on to complete the course even though outside the race, in order to promote cardiac surgery for young people. Whilst I am disappointed for her, I think she has made the right decision in view of the damage to her boat, and I admire her determination to complete her solo circumnavigation.
Out on the race track, Apivia has extended her over second placed Linked Out lead to 219 miles, with Bureau de Vallee dropping 20 miles behind. Pip Hare is in 20th place, averaging 15 knots and Miranda Merron is in 23rd making just under 15 knots.
The Maxi Trimaran made 867 miles in the last 24 hours (36.12 Knots) and is very fast approaching the longitude of the Cape of Good Hope.
French website gossip on the Vendée Globe:• The problem with Escofier’s boat (and that of Alex and others with foils) is that the loads go up by the square of the speed. So for these high speed boats, the loads are increasingly exponentially and despite people making computer simulation and models of the impact on the hull of waves etc, they cannot predict all wave patterns and conditions and hence the reason why we are seeing early failure. Waves are not easily modelled on computers. It explains that the issue is that the boats are lighter yet the loads have significantly increased and can’t be reliably modelled on computers so we are now paying the price. It referred to the deck crease of an Imoca in the last race as an example of a boat failing but not as dramatically as Escofier’s PRB. It went on to explain that this failure in the last race was the start of the 90 degree fold which Escofier suffered but not as extreme – hence the boat did not snap in half. RKJ
Friday December 4th 2020
The bad news this morning is that Sam Davis is heading towards Cape Town. She describes a very serious collision with something unknown that brought the boat to an immediate stop from 20 knots to Zero, (She describes it as like hitting a rock) flinging everything forward, including herself, from which she has suffered bruised ribs. An investigation yesterday showed that her bulkheads and keel were fine, but the longitudinal stiffeners around her keep box are cracked and she is taking in a small quantity of water although it is not clear where this is coming from although possibly the bellows around her keel rams. Her pumps are working and she is safe, which is the main thing.
She now joins Hugo Boss (Alex Thomson) and Arkea Pabrec (Sebastian Simon) heading towards “The Tavern of the Seas” as Cape Town is known. It may seem like a bit of a demolition Derby but all three boats have struck objects in the sea which is outside their control.
Alex should arrive in Cape Town to-day.
Back on the race track, where the latest Depression has now moved East of the fleet, Apivia (Charlie Dalin) has its lead cut back to just 149 miles which indicates a speed difference between him and second placed Bureau Vallee (Louis Burton) of some 4 knots over the past day. Burton has taken a more southerly route. Linked Out (Thomas Ruyant) has also closed on the leader to 202 miles but not on Bureau Vallee. The non foiling Yes we Cam (Jean le Cam), has dropped to 6th place, but of course he will get redress in due course for the time and distance he lost during his rescue of Kevin Escoffier. The next depression is forming up south of the Cape but looks as if it will fade by Monday
The rescue took place at night. Jean Le Cam decided that he would go on deck and see whether he could spot the light in Kevin Escoffier’s liferaft in the dark and did. The rest is history. Full Marks to Jean le Cam for the initiative as well as the recovery.
So the leading group now have a period of fresh to strong South Westerly winds which will give them good speeds eastwards. At he back of the fleet, Charal, (Jeremie Beyou) , a favourite at the start but had to return to Les Sables, continues to close in on the 5 tail enders after losing nearly a week at the start, and this group, which includes Miranda Merron and Kojiro Shiraishi, the latter being my old sparring partner in the 2006/7 Velux5Oceans race although, in fairness, I never really threatened him in his Samurai mood, are all there to complete the challenge. Hy may seem well behind, but in this race, staying in the race always means you are still in contention.
In Vendee there are those who enter and are out to win, and those who enter because they want to complete a solo non-stop navigation and join a very small group of some 180 people who have completed such a voyage since 1969 and want to put the trophy of having sailed solo and non stop around the world on their mantlepiece. As Dick Giordano, Chairman of the BOC Group, which owned Airco in the USA, said in 1983 at the end of the first BOC Challenge, anyone who can complete this voyage is a winner. He put his finger on it.
Thursday 3rd December 2020
More damage to the Vendee Fleet.
Yesterday morning Sebastian Simon in Arkea Pabrec, lying in forth position, reported that his starboard foil had struck something and damaged his foil and his hull. Without the starboard foil he will only be able to sail effectively on the starboard tack, a major disadvantage. Pictures sent back show water sloshing around within the hull.
Then yesterday evening Sam Davis sailing Initiatives Coeur reported she had also struck something. The extent of the damage is not known at the moment.
Both boats are heading north to get further away from the centre of the depression into calmer conditions to assess their damage and we should learn more to-day.
Charlie Dalin still has the lead by 230 miles. Linked Out has lost a lot of miles against Bureau Vallee, now a gap pf 60 miles, which has chosen a more southerly course. Pip Hare is in 23rd position more than 2000 miles behind the elader and Miranda Merron is lying 27th. The Trimaran Sodebo, sailed by Thomas Coville in his attempt on the Jules Verne Trophy is now beginning to overtake the tail enders. Alex Thomson continues to make good progress towards Cape Town with just one rudder..
Striking flotsam is becoming an increasingly frequent cause of damage to the modern generation of very fast sailing boats as the force of the impact is so much greater on account of their speed. When we sailed at 5 knots we usually just bumped into anything floating and usually brushed it aside, but the velocity of these modern boats makes such a strike far more dangerous and so the damage is greater..
On “Enza,New Zealand” in our first attempt at the Jules Verne Trophy in 1993, we hit something a third of the way between Cape Point and Cape Leewin in Australia, which made a hole in our hull. The buoyancy was not under threat as we had bulkheads about every two metres of the length of the boat, but we knew that if we continued, the force of the water would slowly tear our Nomex hull apart so we had to pull out and head for the nearest port which was East London in South Africa. We were never able to work out what we had hit, or, maybe, what had ht us.
There is a lot of rubbish out there in the oceans, some sinks, some floats. It is often impossible to see ahead so it is pure luck that you don’t hit anything. Discarded fishing lines, as those that removed Alex Thomson’s starboard rudder are only just one of the threats. The aquatic life is also a threat, or, equally, threatened by our faster speeds. Crossing the Atlantic towards New York 14 years ago in my Open 60 I was awakened in the middle of the night, well, thrown out of my bunk, when we hit something – twice, Once on the forward port side and then very soon afterwards on the aft starboard side. .The person on the helm yelled down that he thought we had hit something. Picking myself up from the deck where I had been thrown, I could only think of saying “I think you might be right!” Fortunately a check around the boat indicated no obvious damage having been sustained but we diverted to Halifax in case. We think what we struck was probably a whale. It did damage us, but did not affect our watertight integrity, I just hope we did not damage the whale. That was an older generation of Open 60 and probably weighed a couple of tons more than the modern boats because she was built more strongly.
These sailors have to be sail trimmers, navigators, meteorologists, seaman, very competitive and self sufficient, and able to keep their boats maintained and repaired when necessary. This requires a very broad spread of skills, but without those skills you will be extremely lucky if you complete your voyage.
Tuesday December 2 2020
Charlie Dalin continues to hold the lead with a margin of 222 miles over second placed Linkjed Out. South of them is Bureau Vallee 2, 359 miles astern of the leader. Whilst the leaders are now on the west side of the first depression. Another depression whose centre will pass south of the fleet to-day is moving eastward. Behind that there are lighter winds for a while. Jean Le Cam continues in the race with is “Passenger” Kevin Escoffier. It is unclear what their plan is but logically it would be to drop Kevin off at the French Kerguelen Islands. Jean e Cam will not carry enough food to feed them both for too long and complete the race.
Sam Davis still holds 11th position 565 miles behind the leader, and some 2,125 miles from the lead Pip Hare is holding her own with her group. Miranda Mellon is 2,800 miles from the lead.
Alex Thomson is making his way towards CapeTown.
The International Jury is now meeting to decide the redress to be given to those boats that stopped racing to go to the assistance of Kevin Escoffier. This is standard. It is not designed to be a reward, just to compensate for the time or position lost when asked by the Race Committee to stop racing and deal with another boat’s emergency. It can never been 100% accurate of course, and my own experience of sitting on these juries is that those seeking redress always feel they were not given enough compensation, whilst the rest of the fleet feels they were rewarded!
Chasing the Vendee fleet is Frenchman Thomas Coville, in the 32 metre long Trimaran Sodebo, and his 8 man crew. Coville’s objective is to claim the Jules Verne Trophy for the fastest non-stop, unassisted circumnavigation by any boat. The time to beat is 40 days 23 hours and 30 mins. At the Equator Coville was 9 hours, 21 minutes faster than the time that the current record holder, Francis Joyon set in 2017. He has crossed the Equator from his start point off Ushant in North West France in a time of 5 days, 9 hours, 50 minutes. He will start to overtake the Vendee fleet beginning with the last boat in the fleet Charal, skippered by Jeremie Bayou which had to return to the start line for repairs snd has been trying to make up time since with very different weather conditions.
Monday December 1 2020
Yesterday Kevin Escoffier set off his alarm saying his boat was leaking. He then took to his Liferaft. Jean Le Cam was closest and diverted immediately, saw the liferaft, but then lost sight of it in the 5 metre high seas as darkness fell. Three other contestants diverted to assist in the search. The position of the liferaft was being transmitted by a safety beacon Jean Le Cam was in contact with the race organisers by video and shortly after 0200 this morning suddenly disappeared from the screen and then reappeared with Kevin who was still wearing his survival suit. Very fine seamanship by Jean Le Cam and the race organisers, and relief all round. In due course we will learn what went wrong with Kevin’s boat PRB, but almost inevitably, after Alex’s structural problems, there will need to be some thought given as to whether the search for lightness has been at the expense of necessary strength. The roaring forties can be a merciless place which is why it is such an interesting challenge.
Out on the race course Charlie Dalin still has a comfortable lead in Apivia of 200 miles over Linked Out. They were too far to the east to assist with the rescue of Escoffier. Sam Davis is 521 miles astern in 10th place
Alex is making his way towards Cape Town. 14 years ago when in the region south of the Cape of Good Hope, his swing keel broke loose in the Velux5Oceans race making his boat unmanageable. He was picked up by Mike Golding who was also in the race. Then Mike’s boat was dismasted but they reached Capetown safely. So this is not an area of the Roaring Forties to be taken lightly. I dropped in on his team yesterday, and subsequently Alex reported that he thought his rudder might have been damaged by striking some fishing gear. This is quite likely as the Korean boats just dump it. I caught a section around my keel in the Velux further east in 2006 and it took me 19 hours to clear it, involving a cold swim to put a line on the wire reinforced rope so I could haul it aboard and cut it away with a hacksaw.
Someone asked me to make a comparison between my experience more than 50 years ago, and what these sailors are going through. Well the weather is the same, but the boats are so different it is like comparing the Wright Brothers with Concorde! These boats are averaging almost 5 times faster than I could make then. This means they can hang onto depressions for much longer whereas, at my average of just over 5 knots in the Roaring Forties, the depressions caught and rolled past me. I had 6 gales in 10 days whilst passing south of Cape Point. I could not outrun them.
The difference is important as if the wind is 40 knots and you are sailing at 20 Knots, the wind over the boat is more or less just 20 knots. If you are sailing at 5 knots, the wind over the deck is 35 knots. 25 years ago on Enza we were averaging 19 knots between the Cape of Good Hope and Australia, fantastic sailing, especially when we surfed down the waves reaching 28-30 knots of boat speed, but she was 92 feet long, not 32 feet like Suhaiii. It means you handle the waves very differently. And it is how you handle those waves that matters when they are so large. Suhaili would be swept by them, Enza just surfed. Recent research has shown waves of more than 80 feet in height in the Roaring Forties. The residual swell waves make up most of this, but the sea waves, created by the current wind, are the ones that create the problems, as 5 entrants in the recent Golden Globe race discovered when they were dismasted. When the crests of the residual waves and the sea waves coincide is when you get that very nasty really big threatening combination.
Sunday 29th November 2020
As Alex Thomson makes his way towards CapeTown with only one rudder, which creates considerable difficulties, Charlie Dalin holds first place averaging 17 1/2 knots with a lead of 285 miles over second placed Thomas Ruyant in Linked Out.. The next 16 boats are spread over 700 miles to the west, with Sam Davis in the middle 579 miles behind the leader averaging just under 14 knots.
To the south of this group, a large depression is making its way east and its centre will pass south of Cape Point tomorrow morning with predicted winds of around 40 knots. There are two more depressions following and the leading group will ride these for the next few days. This is the Roaring Forties.
Now Alex is out, my interest has lessened slightly. I so wanted him to win this one but it looks as if technicalities have failed him. It is 51 years since a Brit last won a solo non stop around the world race when we dominated this particular sport and I hoped Alex could do it. He must be devastated but he has not disgraced himself, far from it, and I hope he will be back again in 2024.
Why did he have that problem with his hull in the bow? Why has his rudder failed? We know Alex sails hard, but he was doing about the same speed as the other boats around him, so cannot be accused of pushing more than them.
I will update every 3 days from now on so as not to bore you, focusing on the battle at the front and Samantha Davis, Pip Hare, and Miranda Mellon, our three lady entrants. In recent years, apart from Alex and Mike Golding, it has been our British Ladies, like Ellen MacArthur, who have waved the flag for us. We do have some excellent solo sailing men, very capable of putting the French under pressure, but they have difficulty in raising the sponsorship to participate.
Saturday 28th November 2020
Just as it looked as if Alex Thomson was on his way again we learn that he has damaged his starboard rudder last evening. Now the problem with these Open 60’s is that they are wide, so when they heel over the windward rudder is usually out of the water, or mostly. He will be able to sail as normal when on the starboard tack, as his port rudder is OK, but when he has to gybe or tack onto the port tack, without his starboard rudder he won’t be able to over press the boat in order to keep it more upright and the port rudder in the water. Details of the damage and its possible cause have yet to come through., but in the last four hours he has been averaging only 10 knots whilst the boats around him are sailing almost twice as fast.
I am not sure whether he has a spare rudder aboard or he will have to go back to using his boatbuilding skills to make repairs., if that is an option. He is not having much luck, but remember the old saying, “When the going gets tough the tough get going!”
When I went round the world in 1968/9 my spare rudder was a steering oar, standard equipment in ship’s lifeboats in those days. ( In medieval times, before the invention of rudders, this was the standard method of steering and the oar was usually on the starboard side, hence Steerbord, which became, in English, Starboard) That could work on an Open 60, although no one seems t carry an oar for this these days, but it could only work at very reduced speed and how long can you steer in a day?
The current speeds given on the website can be a bit misleading, they appear to be snapshots, so I prefer to look at the averages over the past 4 hours for each boat. The leading boats are now having to consider the exclusion zone, put in by the organisers to keep the boats away from Antarctic ice. Large bergs can drift north and flying along at close to 20 knots, even with all the modern technology aboard, icebergs do not show up well on radar so this is a sensible restriction. Apivia is still holding a comfortable lead over the rest of the fleet, 324 miles ahead of second placed Linked Out. Jean Le Cam still holds 3rd place with a cushion of 80 miles over 4th placed Maitre Coq IV. Sam Davis is making good speed in 9th position 548 miles astern of the leader.
Saturday 28th November 2020 – Later that same day
An absolute tragedy that Alex Thomson has had to retire from the race as his boat showed so much potential. But without his starboard rudder he could only sail safely on the starboard tack and that would have created huge and potentially dangerous problems if he had continued. He is heading now for Capetown, 1,800 miles away, which, as he is nursing his boat, should take him 7-10 days.We know that if it had been possible to find a way to repair the damaged rudder he would have done it but he has had to accept that good seamanship could not have got him out of this problem.He has made the right decision in the circumstancesIt will be a bitter disappointment fo Alex, who was our best British hope for a Victory for the first time ever in the Vendee Globe Race. What a B——t. Tragic.
Friday 27th November 2020
Those in the western group who headed south earlier are now benefiting from a depression coming off the Argentine coast as it reaches them first. Sam Davis, one of the first to make the southern choice, is one of the beneficiaries and making 16 knots at the last poll, lying 9th and 596 miles behind the leader which is still Apivia making 13 knots. Alex has dropped to 12th, 658 miles behind the leader, but was showing 19 knots. Thw two boats ahead of him are less than 10 miles in front but both are making over 18 knots.
As this depression moves eastward it will pick up the southern members of the fleet and they will start that headlong rush through the Roaring Forties, known as Running your Easting down in the days of sailing vessels.
Thomas Ruyant in Linked Out has cut away his damaged foil and is still holding second position but 200 miles behind the leader. Since it is his port foil, he will be sacrificing speed when on starboard tack for the rest of his circumnavigation, but is continuing nevertheless. Still holding third place is Jean le Cam in the foiless Yes we Cam, 354 miles astern of the leader making 14 knots. He has been doing very well but will begin to suffer once the foilers get into the same wind pattern.
These Open 60 boats do not require very high winds to achieve their full potential. In fact high winds build up the seas, and make the passage more uncomfortable and takes more out of the boat. I have always found that about Force 6, (25 knots) blowing from the quarter,(45 degrees from right astern) giave me the best speeds and manageable seas from behind. Much above that and the waves are steeper and the seas breaking. So now we watch to see whether the leader can pick up sufficient wind to hold his lead, knowing that there is a pack chasing from behind with the oncoming depression. The next 24 hours will be fascinating.
Thursday 26th November 2020
The South Atlantic High has slowed the two leading boats and the trailing group to the west have picked up some light but favourable northerly winds. These are predicted to back round to the North West This wind should hold and increase as they move further south and into the Roaring Forties. During the night Alex Thomson, in Hugo Boss, was shown making 18 knots and Sam Davis, 25 miles further from the next Waypoint was making nearly 15 knots, but they have both slowed now. At 0730 this morning Sam has got ahead of Alex by 14 miles due to her more southerly position, but her speed is down to 5.6 knots whilst Alex is making over 12 Knots. So how much Alex can close the 680 mile gap depends on how quickly the leading boat, Apivia, can get clear of the High Pressure system and the strength of the winds Alex is now beginning to get. Everything to watch. Thomas Ruyant In second placed Linked In, reports damaging his port foil during the nightMaitre Coq (6th) and Sea Explorer (5th) were match racing in sight of each other 4 miles apart and 500 miles behind the leader. They sent back video of a calm sea and the boats moving along slowly. Lovely for cruising but frustrating when racing.
Tuesday 24th November 2020
Last night Alex was underway again and was looking calm and positive. He has completed the beginning of his repairs, but he has been slow through the night, showing just 3.5 knots He is lying 8th in the fleet at the moment. However he did say that he preferred to continue to work on the repairs in the forepart of the boat at night as it was less humid. He seemed pretty pleased at progress so far, but he will want to make sure that he has restored the strength to hs boat before entering the Roaring Forties.
His planning has been impressive as he carried the bits he needed amongst his stores to enable enabled him to tackle the difficult work.
The South Atlantic High pressure system has established itself over the leading boats, which, from Alex’s perspective is good news. This leads to light and variable winds with calmer which makes Alex’s repairs easier and his competitors are not racing away from him and creating a huge gap. In 1994 we found a small corridor through these variables on “Enza” during the Jules Verne Trophy and it enabled us to create a lead of 1,100 miles over our competition from Olivier de Kersuason in less than a week.
Most of the fleet had swept through the Doldrums earlier at the Equator, but this system is more frustrating. The best speed showing this morning amongst the front ten boats is 13.7, but only 3 others are making more than 10 knots. Alex is 471 miles behind the leader whose speed is down to 5.9 knots. Sam Davis is still holding 10th place, 548 miles behind the leader but only making 4.8 knots.
Monday 23rd November 2020
No news yet as to whether Alex has completed his repair, has allowed it to cure and can get moving again. He has been very calm about the damage and repair, just getting on with it and having to accept the loss of miles. His position is currently 5th, nearly 300 miles behind the leader, making 5 1/2 knots. It is frustrating for him, but in the previous race the leader had a much better margin over Alex as they rounded Cape Horn and Alex closed right up and nearly won, despite a broken foil.
Alex was well prepared and carried the materials he needed to effect the repair. On a modern GRP or Carbon boat, it makes sense to have some resin aboard and teams can spend days discussing what to carry “just in case” as in the Vendee, like the Golden Globe, outside assistance means disqualification. Run your eyes along a boat inside and out and then consider what might break and have to be repaired. The list can become endless and there has to be a limit or the boat would be overloaded. When my main boom gooseneck broke, it took two days of drilling, with a hand drill, to make a 1 inch diameter hole in 1 inch thick mild steel to make a repair. Another two days were spent tacking a strip of copper, which just happened to be aboard, along the Garboard seam, the gap between the lowest hull strake and the keel, on both sides to stop 200 gallons of water coming in every day. Deep breath, duck under 5 feet, put a tack in, come back u and repeat the process. The alternative was to pull out which was not an option. This task was interrupted by a curious shark swimming round to investigate a potential food source. He paid for his curiosity!. Then of course there are sail repairs, these days special sticky tape is used for a lot of tears, but 50 years ago it was sewing with a palm and needle.
Ocean racing is not just sitting around steering or trimming sails, its knowing how to keep the boat functioning as there are no shops in mod ocean. The lead has changed. Apivia, sailed by Charlie Dalin has taken over the top spot from Linked out by 18 miles as they try to escape the effects of the South Atlantic, or St.Helena High Pressure system. Samantha Davis still holds 10th position
Hopefully tomorrow we will be seeing Alex back up to full speed and starting to reel the leaders in.
Sunday 22nd November 2020
Not good news this morning. Last evening Alex’s team contacted the race organisers to say that they were investigating a potential structural problem. Hugo Boss ahs slowed to just under 6 knots whilst the boat is checked and whatever the problem might be can be properly assessed. Alex is fine, just one suspects very frustrated.The lead is still held by Thomas Ruyant in Linked Out, whose speed has dropped to 11 knots, and 19 miles behind him Charlie Dalin on Apivia is making 15 knots as they thread their way through. Alex is 91 miles astern of the leader still heading in the right direction. Jean Le Cam has closed up a little to 260 miles of the leader. Sam Davis is making 14 knots 400 miles astern and there is a cushion of 200 miles between her tenth position and the 11th placed boat.So we have to wait to see what Alex and his team make of whatever problem they think they have, as the rest of the fleet progresses south, but not at the flying speeds they were making a day ago.
Saturday 21st November 2020
Comment by Simon Rowell, Meteorologist for the British Olympic team and ex Clipper Skipper and Deputy Race Director:
” That corridor of wind is just ahead of a front stretching down from the South American coast to a Southern Ocean low well South. It’s the only route to take but is a fine balancing act – if it passes over them they will wallow in the lighter wins behind. There’s a secondary low moving with them down the front, the longer this keeps going the more secure their wind will be. “Cheerio, Simon
The bad news this morning is that Alex has dropped to second place, some 24 miles behind Thomas Ruyant in Linked Out. That is just over an hour difference at the speeds these boats are currently making. It may appear significant but a few miles separation can make a difference in the wind and therefore the speed. Both are now heading down a corridor of favourable winds between developing areas of calmer winds either side and may be able to hold the wind system until it joins the westerlies of the Roaring Forties. By Sunday night this corridor will have largely disappeared but it looks as if the leaders will be through the High Pressure system developing in its place which could frustrate the boats further astern. These areas move around so there is always a certain amount of luck involved however accurate the weather information being received.The speeds being averaged by these foiling boats is nothing short of incredible. The third boat, Apiva, Charles Dalin, is 50 miles behind Alex and then there is a gap of 200 miles before Jean Le Cam who does not have foils but is nevertheless putting up a brilliant performance. Sam Davis has dropped to 10th place, some 400 miles behind the leaders although she haas averaged 18 knots for the past 24 hours. She reports having taken a shower in sea water of 27 degrees celsius!Life aboard at these very high speeds is not comfortable. Water is constantly flying across the deck and stings when it hits bare flesh. Any job that requires work outside means getting soaked, well as soaked as the clothing allows. Alex relies on cameras to keep him informed of what is going on outside which project in his control console and tell him what is happening outside. His “cockpit” is below decks in the centre of the boat where he can trim his sails without exposing himself. But not everything can be done from there. A headsail change, or reefing the mainsail requires deck work.So now we watch the developments in the next 24 hours as the fleet flies south.
Thursday 19th November 2020
The leading group are through the Doldrums, or squall ally, and making good speeds south. The boats further back look like they will run into much calmer winds when they get to the ITCZ which will spread the fleet out more. Its pretty depressing when you see the leaders getting more favourable winds and there is nothing you can do about it. Thomas Ruyant is showing 22 miles behind Alex and sailing faster this morning, but he is further East so this will show him closer to the ideal route. Alex will be feeling the backing of the wind now as it comes round to a more favourable direction for him, from East South East more towards the East. His average course has come round nearer to due south as a result as he comes level with the easternmost point of Brazil.He has some keep competition though in Royant, currently sailing faster, and there are a couple more within 100 miles astern. At 20 knots 100 miles is a mere 5 hours away! Ahead of the fleet, the South Atlantic High Pressure system, also known as the St Helena High, is establishing itself with a ridge of High Pressure extending across their direct route. This is going to give all the sailors an interesting problem. But ocean sailing has always been Chess with Pull-ups, and this will be a serious Chess bit. For those who have a weather system app, such as Windy, you can see what is coming. Sam Davis is in 9th, 246 miles astern of Alex, but holding up well.
Wednesday 18th November 2020
Alex has slowed as he is approaching the equator and the wind appears to have veered so he has it more on the beam as expected. But he has only slowed to 14 knots! He has a lead of 89 miles over second place who currently is showing slightly faster, but all the leading boats have slowed. The wind will veer more as the boats get across the equator into the South Atlantic anti-clockwise circulatory system, but then slowly back as they get further south and everyone will speed up again. In simple terms, mid South Atlantic, the wind on the African side comes from the south and on the American side, they are from the north, and they swing round from south through east to northerly at the equator which is what the boats have now. Following this, the winds will tend to be westerly when level with the southern tip of Africa, and this where it joins the westerlies of the Roaring Forties. (For those confused, winds are named for the direction from which they come)So it will be hot on board right now, very hot, but there is some wind across the deck which brings a bit of relief. The next British entry and First Lady is Samantha Davis who is 229 miles astern of Alex but has moved up to 7th position. Jean le Cam has dropped to 4th place, but has closed a bit to 106 miles behind Alex. The differences in speeds are just proportions of knots, so keeping the concentration for the extra farction of speed is what counts.
Tuesday 17th November 2020
The rich get richer. Alex has averaged and incredible 19 knots over the past 24 hours, and others in the leading group are making similar speeds, just not quite so much. Thomas Ruyant, in another foiler, has moved into second place 107 miles behind Alex and Jean Le Cam, with a non foiling boat, is now a very creditable third. Samantha Davis lies in 9th position but in the leading group. But whilst the leaders continue to hold strong favourable winds, further back the boats have sailed into a calm patch, so the fleet will start to spread out further. There is a patch of lighter winds close to the equator which may slow the leaders tomorrow for a while, but it does not look like the complete lack of wind in that area that so many of us have experienced in the past and it still looks good for a speedy transit of the ITCZ. One entrant was dismasted yesterday. Fortunately no injuries, and is now heading for the Cape Verdes.
Monday 16th November 2020
Alex in Hugo Bass continues to extend his lead, and provided there are no problems, it looks as if he will increase it. He is making close to 20 knots, a formidable speed, and one can only wonder what it must be like onboard when even small waves make the boat shake. How much is he being thrown around inside that machine of his? How is he managing to get any useful sleep?. How are his competitors managing in the same conditions?
Think about how responsive automatic pilots have to be at those speeds.
He is rapidly approaching the area where the Doldrums are to be expected, but there is no obvious calm gap between the Northern (Clockwise) and Southern (Anti-Clockwise) circulatory systems. We had that system on Enza in 1994, but our speed halved to give us our worst days run of the whole circumnavigation of 186 miles. The wind will ease for a short time, and those behind may catch up a little for a short time, but then they will face the same drop in wind and Alex will be in the Southern hemisphere and accelerating away, the concertina effect..
Looking down the track, the South Atlantic has an interesting pattern of pressure systems at the moment which will take careful navigation although by Wednesday it is becoming more easy to read. It looks as if it will pay to stay not too far off the Brazilian Coast at least until that turns south westward, and then dive for the Roaring Forties, navigating between calm patches.
Behind Alex, now over 80 miles distance, Jean Le Cam, in a non foiler, is in solid second sailing the race of his life. 80 miles may seem a lot but at these speeds it is a lead of only just over 4 hours! 274 miles further behind, Samantha Davis, the leading Lady is lying 11th just ahead of Boris Herman and both making close to 20 Knots.
Sunday 15th November 2020
For a brief spell Jean Le Cam just nipped into the lead but this has clearly spurred Alex who has opened up a small lead, but he is sailing faster now. Good speeds in perfect conditions, one can only feel envious!The average speeds for the leading boats were all close to 15 knots over the previous 24 hours, Boris Herman fractionally the best but only by a mile in the day.So now they are in the Trade winds, just over halfway between the Canaries and the Cape Verde Islands. In a couple of days they will start to experience the change in the wind direction as they approach the equator and the southern hemisphere wind rotation. This is another tactical situation, although currently the Doldrums are not showing anything to worry about, but that can change very quickly as we all know. The interesting thing will be to see how far west in longitude the boats are as they cross the equator. Historically it was usually best, which means quickest, between 27 and 29 degrees west.Fascinating to observe.
Saturday 14th November 2020
Jean le Cam had closed to within 3 miles of Alex this morning, both boats showing 17+ knots of speed, but Alex still has the lead . There is a large group of boats not far behind all showing good speeds. After leaving storm Theta to the east the fleet will enter a zone of lighter winds for a while, but that should not slow these boats very much, and then they are into the predictable Trade Winds where we will be able to observe who has the best boat speed.
Friday 13th November 2020
Well Alex has taken a nice lead this morning, some 34 miles from Jean Le Cam, an experienced solo sailor. He is closing in on Storm Theta’s influence, but to its west where the winds, though strong, are favourable for him. So the next few days should be glorious fast reaching/running with blue skies and increasingly warm temperatures and hopefully opening out his lead..The disadvantage of being in the lead is that if you run into a calmer patch, those behind can see you slow and so alter course to avoid the patch, but once past Theta he ought to have favourable winds for a few days.In order to keep those skills active, perhaps Dale could give us an ETA for the equator?
Thursday 12th November 2020
Alex is nicely past the front and lying a comfortable 4th, making good speed just 22 miles behind the leader, or under two hours. The fleet reported winds of up to 50 knots as the Front closed on them, not much fun when you are going into it and other damage has been reported but nothing structural. There is still a tight group of boats heading towards the eastern side of the Azores Islands, but his main competition, Charal, has turned back towards Les Sables with a damaged board and broken backstay. Now they have to head South West to work their way to the west of storm Theta and through some variable winds but mainly favourable. Once past Theta they are basically into the Trade winds and can blast down to the Inter Tropical Convergence Zone (The Doldrums) and that is when we will see who has the best boat speed.For regular updates go to vendeeglobe.org
Wednesday 11th November 2020
Looks like the northern group have got through the front and are now in favourable winds, albeit probably still having to cope with some large residual waves which will slow them for a while until they subside. Alexis nicely in this northern group. The Southern group is closing in. The race re-starts this morningTheir next obstacle is Storm Theta to the south and an interesting mix of weather to its north which will take some careful routing.
Tuesday 10th November 2020
This race has not got going. The Open 60’s are not built for windward work and that is what they are getting at the moment. The Azores High has been replaced by a Low and the result is serious headwinds. There are more favourable winds to the west but the boats have a nasty front to get through so as to reach them. Damage mitigation whilst clearing that front is important. Once past the Front then the best option looks to be to head west of the centre of the low lying west of Madeira and get into a NW-N’ly air stream which looks as if it will be the Trade winds. Then the race will start.Alex is in a good position considering the conditions. He needs to get through the front without damage and then he can open up that machine of his. I get the positions of the fleet via Alex Thomson Racing.com
Sunday 9th November 2020
Looks like Alex has had a good and sensible night and is lying 10th. Well placed. He will be able to tack before long when the wind veers and he can then clear Cape Finisterre and start winding in those boats that pressed on harder during the night. But in a non stop circumnavigation like this race, don’t break anything!
Friday 7th November 2020 – 2 days before the start
I spoke with Alex this morning and he said he had put my picture in his cockpit as he wanted to be able to chat to me about issues as he sails the Vendee race, what he really means is that he wants time to think.
He sounded on very good form… Ready to go, confident, knows he has a very fast boat, probably the fastest in the whole 33 boat fleet off the wind, and he has so much experience of this race to draw upon. Third two races ago, second last race, where else can he go but first this time?
The weather forecast is not good for his boat to start with, but it has been built for down wind performance, not beating to windward which is what the fleet will get for the first few days. So don’t be worried if he is not that quick for the first week as he intends to sail conservatively (well. that is what he told me!). He will make it up once he is off the wind, and round the world on this route is mainly downwind.Four Brits, three females (we breed them tough here) in this Vendee and a chance for a Brit to win a solo non stop, unassisted around the world race for the first time for 51 years.
Just so sorry that the Covid Lockdown has meant that our plans to sail down to Les Sabes to yell him off had to be cancelled .
As background, Alex sailed with me to Greenland in 1998 as my Mate as I was assessing him to be a skipper in that years Clipper around the World Yacht Race. I decided he was ready, at aged 24, and, well, he won the race convincingly. One of his crew was Keith Mills who has supported him ever since and the rest is history.
But, by the time Alex finishes, first, we can hope to have won the America’s Cup as well.
Go Alex, Go. This is your race.