Le Diraison heading for Melbourne
French skipper Stephane Le Diraison, who was lying in 10th place in the Vendée Globe solo round with world race, is making a course for Melbourne, Australia 950 nautical miles away, after his IMOCA 60 Compagnie du Lit / Ville de Boulogne-Billancourt was dismasted yesterday evening.
The solo skipper spoke to Race Direction around midnight last night and explained that he has cut away the damaged rig and rigging, he is in fair spirits, and was working hard to set a jury rig - probably with his boom. He was working as fast as he could while he had daylight until around 0400hrs UTC. Le Diraison had told Race Direction at 1742 UTC last night that his mast had failed when he was sailing in 30-35kts NW'ly winds. This morning he is reported to motoring north for a few hours in 25.30kts of NW'ly wind. He has about 300 nautical miles to make before he can escape the usual zone of the low pressure train.
The match race between Jérémie Beyou (Maitre CoQ) and Paul Meilhat (SMA) 1350 miles east of South Island New Zealand, sees the advantage swing back to the younger rookie on the former MACIF. Ironically the two boats the ex MACIF and former Banque Populaire are the same two which were also similarly locked together all the way around the course in 2012-13 before Armel Le Cléac'h prevailed on Banque Populaire. Dealing with an unpredictable low pressure the duo, 34 miles apart laterally, are now in less breeze than they expected yesterday. Beyou reported this morning "I suddenly got 50 knot winds 24 hours ago. I hadn't seen that coming. So I quickly went from mainsail and small gennaker to just the mainsail with three reefs. The mainsail didn't appreciate that and my repair job didn't hold out with the tear getting worse. For the moment, it's in one piece with patches stuck on it by me from the end of the boom, but I'm going to have to do something about it later. My impression that I've no idea where I'm going has been strengthened. My aim is to get to Cape Horn in one piece, even if that means being conservative in my sail choices to avoid any nasty surprises. I spent the night close to SMA so we talked a bit. He's got his problems, but the fact that he has access to weather data means he can feel more relaxed than me. Then, this morning I lost sight of him. All down to a cloud? With me upwind and him sailing downwind. You really get the feeling you're not in control."
All of the skippers are making good speed on this 42nd day of racing, except for Armel Le Cléac'h (Banque Populaire VIII). As forecast, the race leader has slowed in a wind hole. His speed is down to eight knots, while Britain's Alex Thomson continues to make progress at 16 knots. We could see a slight narrowing today in the 442-mile gap recorded in the 0400 rankings. Jean-Pierre Dick (StMichel Virbac) has gained more ground in ideal conditions. Averaging 18 knots, he is now ahead of Yann Eliès (Quéginer Leucémie Espoir) by 8 miles.
Thomas Ruyant has got back up to speed after fleeing the big low pressure system, which was chasing him. He managed to avoid the 60-70 knot winds that were forecast. The skipper of Le Souffle du Nord pour le Projet Imagine told us this morning that the seas were still heavy with more than 40 knots of wind. "I avoided the worst of the area of low pressure, but did get up to 45 knots of wind. I managed to keep going, even if this little detour to the north meant I lost a lot of time and sailed extra miles. Since 2200 UTC I have been heading towards the SE, but I won't be able to hoist more sail for another 24 hours."
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