Vendee Globe

New Year, Same Story

Racing upwind off Rio Alex Thomson (Hugo Boss) and Armel Le Cléac'h (Banque Populaire VIII) are separated by just over 180 miles as the New Year continues to favor the French skipper, who will again move into slightly stronger, more favorable breeze than the British solo racer who is chasing him.

Le Cléac'h tacked this morning at around 05:00hrs UTC and continued to be about half a knot to a knot quicker than Thomson, but this differential may increase when Thomson tacks back onto port tack when he will have no foil. They have another 3-400 miles of the Atlantic to negotiate before they get to a more promising E'ly wind direction.

In third place Jérémie Beyou (Maître CoQ) will take some satisfaction in closing down a few more miles on the dueling duo in front of him. Passing the latitude of Montevideo (Uruguay) this morning he has ideal conditions to go fast and is 859 miles behind Thomson and nearly ten knots quicker.

Romain Attanasio / Famille Mary - Etamine du Lys - # Vendee Globe

A strategic decision as to how he would best use a little low pressure system was yesterday's conundrum for Jean-Pierre Dick (St Michel-Virbac) as he passed to the west of the Falkland Islands - the first and only skipper to have done so, so far, in this eighth edition of the Vendée Globe. But Dick has positioned himself to the north-west of the system and has a brisk 35kts of SW'ly wind pressing him northwards up the Atlantic to ensure that his first days of 2017 should be fast.

The 'noisy neighbors' Yann Eliès (Quéguiner-Leucémie Espoir) and Jean Le Cam (Finistère Mer Vent) are just eight miles apart with Eliès leading the way only eight miles to the east of the Falklands Islands. The duo are stalled slightly by the center of the low pressure, but should emerge into a more beneficial wind later today.

For Louis Burton (Bureau Vallée), the first Cape Horn of his career should come on Wednesday 4th January 4th. After a long, long period of everything falling his way, he hit a pothole yesterday in as much as he had a short interlude of upwind sailing in a variable breeze. But Burton is back on track today with 850 miles to go to the mythical cape and his release back into the Atlantic.

Nandor Fa (Spirit of Hungary), the mild mannered but hard driving Hungarian skipper, has no options just now than to take in his stride the slower speeds and gentler winds caused by a high pressure ridge, which he is bouncing into the back of. It is moving eastwards with him. This is allowing rival Conrad Colman (Foresight Natural Energy) to close miles on his friend and rival with whom he completed his last circumnavigation in race configuration on Fa's Spirit of Hungary. Colman has gained 150 miles and is now 225 miles behind Fa and set to continue to gain miles today.

The group of four, Eric Bellion, Alan Roura, Fabrice Amedeo and Arnaud Boissières are all ahead of the long awaited low pressure system, which they have all taken time to get north and east of to ensure they have positioned themselves as best they can. The winds are around 15-20kts from the NW but will build as the low arrives.

Rich Wilson (Great American IV) is already feeling the effects of the first of the strong winds of the system, which shows 35-40kts in the GRIB files, with the potential of a little more in the gusts and squalls for the American skipper. Enda O'Coineen (Kilcullen Voyager-Team Ireland) has a good opportunity to close miles and test his recent repairs as he sails east in 35kts of wind, which should allow him to make good some of his losses to the boats in front after his 48 hours stopped at Stewart Island. He is some 556 miles behind, west of Wilson.

Didac Costa (One Planet One Ocean) passed into the Pacific last night making good speed and extending away from his nearest rival Romain Attanasio (Famille Mary-Etamine du Lys) who is 135 miles behind and slowed in a cell of high pressure making just eight knots.

At the tail end of the fleet, both Pieter Heerema (No Way Back) and Sébastien Destremau (TechnoFirst-Face Ocean) are now angled more to the SE and therefore set to pass to the south of Tasmania.


Rich Wilson (Great American IV):
"Now, we start counting down longitude, toward Cape Horn, toward France, although at the moment, both seem very far away. And that is also because we face two big storms in the next week, one going through into today. Our whole group of boats has taken some effort to head to the north. We have gone the furthest so far, but we will not be able to escape it. Perhaps we can reduce the worst of it.

Needless to say, I am anxious about it. We are pushing right now to sail northeast, with mainsail +1 reef, and the fractional gennaker, to make good speed. When the wind starts to shift to the West-North-West, and push us further East, it should also diminish for a period. In that time, we'll take down the fractional gennaker, put it away in the forepeak, get the storm jib rigged and hoisted, and perhaps get ahead of the game by going to the second reef. Ultimately, we'll get to either 3rd reef, or 4th reef, plus the storm jib."

Conrad Colman (Foresight Natural Energy):
"Happy New Year! Whether you're watching the silver ball fall in Times Square or watching the sun come up on a beach on the east coast of NZ, or indeed anywhere in between, I hope that 2017 is the year that you're able to achieve your goals, set new scarier ones and have a great time along the way. The start of this edition of the Vendee Globe meant that 2016 was a red letter year, a goal that I aimed at for a long long time and now as I slip quietly through the grey scale of the southern ocean, I'm busy coming up with new projects and adventures to share with my friends and family. Never stop dreaming, or better yet, goal setting! I wish you all the best with the festivities and for the coming year."


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Video of Dragonsbane, a globe-trotting 43-foot Sceptre, at the 35th Heineken Regatta in St. Maarten, March 2015.
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