Vendee Globe

Colman fixes in stormy conditions, leaders in the trades

From one of the most remote locations of the Vendée Globe race course, 1700 miles west of Cape Horn in the middle of the Pacific some very hostile conditions with winds still between 40 and 50kts, the exhausted Kiwi skipper Conrad Colman has reported that he has managed to make a temporary fix to his forestay on Foresight Natural Energy.

Colman told Race Direction at the Paris HQ that he has managed to secure the forestay to the bow. After working on the bow in horrendous conditions Colman is now exhausted, saying he would rest before continuing eastwards towards the Horn. He still had winds of 40kts and big seas but they should subside progressively today. Jacques Caraës, Race Director said this morning: "Conrad has really been through it. He had to fight hard to lock his stay in place. He is exhausted, but got back racing at 0200 hrs.” In the same area of the Pacific some 340 miles to the East, conditions have already improved for now for Nandor Fa (Spirit of Hungary) who said, after the same storm as Colman: “After a day and a horrible night with winds in excess of forty knots, I suddenly found myself with no wind in 6-8m high waves. It was horrible!” The heavy weather is now passed for the Hungarian skipper. “The wind is now reasonable again. There is even some sunshine. I'm fine and can start to sail again.” Back marker Sébastien Destremau has now stopped in Esperance Bay, Tasmania at around 0130 UTC to check the rig on his TechnoFirst-faceOcean. And Spanish skipper Didac Costa in 15th place on One Planet One Ocean has had to drop his mainsail to make repairs.

Sailing aerial images of the IMOCA boat 100% Natural Energy, skipper Conrad Colman (NZL), during training for the Vendee Globe 2016, off Belie lie in South Brittany, on October 13, 2016 - Photo Jeas - Marie Liot / DPPI / Vendee Globe

The race leaders, Armel Le Cléac'h (Banque Populaire VIII) and Alex Thomson (Hugo Boss) now 136 miles behind, are among the slowest in the fleet this morning making ten and nine knots respectively. Thomson has tacked this morning on to starboard to finally head northwards after getting into the NE'ly trade winds. Though this trade wind will progressively veer to the east and south east as they rise northwards, the trades remain light at only up to 15-18kts. But towards this upper end of this wind range Thomson should be back close to the optimum advantage for his working foil. They should reach the Equator between the seventh and eighth of January and weather routing predictions still has them only seven to eight hours apart on today's models.

Like Colman and Fa, but some 960 miles behind in a different low pressure system, Alan Roura (La Fabrique), Fabrice Amedeo (Newrest-Matmut), Arnaud Boissières (La Mie Câline) and Eric Bellion have all had some strong winds, as has Rich Wilson (Great American IV). Bellion, the skipper of CommeUnSeulHomme has consolidated his tenth place having been the sailor who sailed the greatest distance in the past 24 hours: 371 miles. Others in this group sailed between 246 and 362 miles. The Pacific is not being kind to Irishman, Enda O'Coineen (retired), whose speed is very low as he heads for Dunedin and was down to just two knots this morning. Kilcullen Voyager-Team Ireland will not be able to avoid the gales moving in and will have to weather another storm before finding shelter in New Zealand.

Louis Burton at the Horn tomorrow morning
Fortunately the Pacific and Atlantic are being kinder to others. Louis Burton (Bureau Vallée) is expected to round Cape Horn on Wednesday morning at around 0400hrs UTC. He has found what he calls exceptional conditions. ”I have 23 knots of wind and calm seas. It's fantastic! I'm really happy and it feels like one of those incredible, yet stressful moments that are so exciting.” He is making it sound easy but Burton spent the whole day at the helm on New Year's Day, while repairing his two autopilots.

In the Atlantic, it is Yann Eliès who has had the best day on Quéguiner-Leucémie Espoir. He was the fastest of the six leading boats and has got back to within 45 miles of fourth placed, Jean-Pierre Dick on StMichel-Virbac who continues to be consistently slower. Eliès is ahead of Jean Le Cam (Finistère Mer Vent) by around thirty miles. It's been smooth sailing for Jérémie Beyou in third place with the skipper of Maître Coq gaining 70 miles on Alex Thomson, although the British sailor is still 580 miles ahead.


Rich Wilson (Great American IV):
"We are still standing. A very bad night. The violence that the sea can heap on a boat is not describable. It was bad when the front was approaching, we were heading east, going across the seas, with a north wind, and thus a north to south sea train. Then when the front arrived, and the wind started to go from North to North Northwest to Northwest to West Northwest, we followed it around, keeping at right angles to it. The problem then is that we end up sailing directly into the sea that has been built up and the crashing gets much, much, much worse. I'm sitting at the chart table, watching instruments. The boat crashes off of, or gets crushed by, a breaking sea, or whatever, a big crash, and my finger moves off the barograph, across the keel canting control panel, and stabs the Standby button on the autopilot, which is about 8 inches away, which turns off the autopilot, so the boat then crash tacks, everything in the cabin comes flying across the cabin, the boat lays over on the other side, 4 tons of ballast water on the wrong side, 3 tons of keel bulb on the wrong side, the mainsail and boom are held by the preventer, the storm jib is backwinded into the daggerboard, the boat lies at 50 degrees of heel, and sits there, going sideways, making a bow wave with the side of the boat. Eventually crash tacked back and continued. Utterly Exhausted. Sorted the boat, got going where we wanted to go, went into the cabin, closed the door, climbed into the sleeping bag, and left the boat to do hopefully, the right thing."


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