Broken satellite system a blow for Beyou
Vendée Globe title contender Jérémie Beyou has revealed he is racing 'blind' after the satellite system he uses to get weather information broke.
The fifth-placed French sailor was today powering east at more than 20 knots, riding on a fast-moving depression 500 nautical miles south of South Africa and 700nm behind the leading pair of Alex Thomson and Armel Le Cléac'h.
Without the capability to look at what weather systems lie down the track for his Maître CoQ IMOCA 60 yacht, Beyou said he was having to glean whatever he could from safety reports from the Vendée Globe Race Management.
But he is effectively just having to deal with whatever the wind gods throw at him while trying to stay in touch with fourth-placed Paul Meilhat, whose SMA is just two miles ahead.
Thankfully Beyou has plenty of experience at ocean racing without weather information – he is a three-time winner of the Solitaire du Figaro, a solo race where any weather info is banned.
"Right now I'm simply operating on a day to day basis," the 40-year-old from Morbihan in Brittany said. "I can't really follow what's going on ahead as I'm still lacking weather information due to a broken fleet satellite.
I am getting some information in the safety reports sent out by Race Management and I'm able to download the odd weather file with the Sat C.
Essentially, it's difficult to form a real game plan for more than 24 or 36 hours down the track so I'm making headway by observing the conditions around me and correcting my course accordingly.
It's not great but it reminds of a Solitaire du Figaro, where you're not allowed weather information.
I'm spending a lot of time at the chart table but, needless to say, it's not super efficient because just recently I was expecting 20 knots and ended up in gusts of 30 knots. It's a handicap to say the least."
The battle for first place took yet another twist today when Armel Le Cléac'h moved ahead of Alex Thomson for the second time in two days.
The pair have been split by just a handful of miles since passing the Cape of Good Hope in record time two days ago.
At the 1400 UTC position report the pair were neck and neck, but Le Cléac'h's Banque Populaire had the tiniest of advantages over Thomson's Hugo Boss.
Dutch skipper Pieter Heerema has broken from the large group of boats languishing in the mid South Atlantic in the clutches of the St Helena High.
The No Way Back skipper is aiming to skirt round the bottom of the high pressure, a move that has already rewarded him with better breeze but uncomfortable conditions for racing.
"I should be more or less into the high pressure, but the wind is surprisingly strong," the 65-year-old reported today. "It's been around 18 knots and it just went up to 20 knots.
The waves are huge and I've been bashing into them for more than 24 hours. It's not pleasant, but I think in the long term it'll be better to go along the sides of the high instead of the middle of it."
Initiatives Coeur skipper Tanguy De Lamotte, who turned back to Les Sables d'Olonne with mast damage 10 days into the race, is due to reach the Vendée Globe home port tomorrow, but not before he gets one last thrashing from the elements in his home waters of the Bay of Biscay.
"I'm leapfrogging off the waves in Biscay, while the others are making headway in the Southern Ocean," - he said.
We're heeled right over, slamming through the waves so I will be happy to get to my destination, even though I'll have to resign myself to officially retiring from the race just before my team climbs aboard. I'll be the first to make it back to Les Sables, but without going around the world alas."
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EXTRACTS FROM TODAY'S RADIO SESSIONS
Pieter Heerema (No Way Back): "I'm heading south - I should be more or less into the high pressure, but the wind is surprisingly strong. It's been around 18 knots and it just went up to 20 knots. The waves are huge and I've been bashing into them for more than 24 hours. It's surprising because normally the conditions in a high pressure are calm with light winds and no waves, but this is a different one I guess. But everything is fine. It's getting cooler - it's more like Europe now - and you can really notice that the temperature drops another notch every five or six hours.
I planned to go south until I got this front and I rode the front east for one night. It was fantastic with reaching at 20 knots of boat speed. But when I looked further along the track, there was a very big risk I'd end up in a big high so I left the front and decided to go south again. It's not pleasant, the boat is making nasty movements with big smashes into the waves, but I think in the long term it'll be better to go along the sides of the high instead of in the middle of it, but we'll have to see."
Sébastian Destremau (TechnoFirst - faceOcean): "As soon as I started getting my plans together for the Vendee Globe, the Southern Ocean was all I thought about. I'm excited and nervous about it. I'm looking forward to it but equally it's very scary. I've been there with a team but this is very different. You're alone on a big boat, in big seas, with big everything. It's a huge thing the Southern Ocean. It's out of this world, in the middle of nowhere. This is what the Vendee Globe is all about. Right now we're effectively cruising. The Southern Ocean is no holiday! "
Jeremie Beyou (Maitre CoQ): "Right now I'm simply operating on a day to day basis. I can't really follow what's going on ahead as I'm still lacking weather information due to a broken fleet satellite. I am getting some information in the safety reports sent out by Race Management and I'm able to download the odd grib file with the Sat C. Essentially, it's difficult to form a real game plan for more than 24/36 hours down the track so I'm making headway by observing the conditions around me and correcting my course accordingly. It's not great but it reminds of a Solitaire du Figaro, where you're not allowed weather information. I'm spending a lot of time at the chart table but, needless to say, it's not super efficient because just recently I was expecting 20 knots and ended up in gusts of 30 knots. It's a handicap to say the least. I've spoken to Paul but I haven't spotted him yet. Together with the albatross we're not alone out here…"
Kito De Pavant (Bastide Otio): "Tristan da Cunha. With a name like that, there was no chance of this island ever becoming a top rate tourist destination. I don't think that's the only reason either… Firstly, you must admit that it's a long way from everything and close to nowhere. Added to that, it has a volcano that culminates at more than 2,000m, which spits out lava and toxic smoke from time to time, which led to the population being evacuated to England, only apparently it's no better there because they came back!!! Yes indeed, there are residents, but not many (264). The other major disadvantage is that the island is round and there is no shelter for boats. When you see the type of seas you get in this part of the world, it can't be too easy to make landfall there every day. On the other hand, this island at the edge of the world has the huge benefit of brightening my cartography. It makes a bit of a change from the wind barbs, the isochrones, my pivoting routing and the desperate positions of my playmates.
And if you're thinking about your next holidays, I'd like to draw your attention to the presence of another island, which is equally exhilarating, with the evocative name of Gough. It's 200 miles further south and to be frank with you, even the organisers of the Vendée Globe have not allowed us to take a trip there as it's in the exclusion zone. Otherwise, apart from the paradisiacal islands I've just told you about, I've nothing new to report. The weather is fine, the sky is clear but the wind has begun to ease so I've had to hoist some more sail to continue to make a little headway."
Tanguy De Lamotte (Initiatives Coeur): "I'm leapfrogging off the waves in Biscay, whilst the others are making headway in the Southern Ocean. We're heeled right over, slamming through the waves so I will be happy to get to my destination, even though I'll have to resign myself to officially retiring from the race just before my team climbs aboard at the Nouch Sud mark. I'll be the first to make it back to Les Sables, but without going around the world alas. That said, there have been a lot of positive points about my journey. In terms of bringing generous people together it's been a great success as no fewer than 34 children with a heart malformation can now be operated on thanks to this project. That's just crazy! We've exceeded our objective in that regard. My misfortune at sea is a good lesson because it teaches you that sometimes elements come together that are stronger than you are and you have to remain humble. I will take a few days' respite once I get back to digest all that's happened but life goes on. My wife is due to give birth to our 2nd baby in May and I have future boat plans too."
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