Worst storm of this Vendée Globe awaits trio, says Meteo France

There has been little time for respite for Dee Caffari, GBR, Arnaud Boissiéres and Brian Thompson, GBR, as Cape Horn looks set to deal them their second big storm in just three days, one which Meteo France suggested this morning could be the biggest of this Vendée Globe race so far. 

While Cape Horn’s fearsome reputation is well deserved, for ocean racers it is as readily associated with release, the transition from the Pacific to the Atlantic. And while Thompson, with his 170 miles advance on the French skipper, may avoid the very worst of it, Caffari and Boissières could see gusts to 80 knots after they have passed the Rock, in the Maire Straits, the narrow gap between the Cabo San Diego and the Isla de los Estados overnight between Thursday and Friday. 

For Caffari, who has sent pictures of the latest damage to her badly deteriorated mainsail, these are particularly worrisome times as she seeks to become the first woman to sail solo non stop round the world in both directions.

2,500 miles further north up the Atlantic, off the coast of Rio de Janeiro, the leaders are forced to enjoy sunshine and light winds as the tentacles of the high pressure ridge still continue to grip leader Michel Desjoyeaux for longer than he would like. His patience with the situation, struggling to average 10 knots for more than two days, is steeled today by the expectation that he should emerge into the slightly feeble – but nevertheless more favourable – SE’ly trade winds by this evening. He told today’s radio vacations that he feels he should be on the same tack now all the way to the Doldrums and should start to open his margin again on the pursuing Roland Jourdain who is now less than 230 miles behind and has gained nearly 130 miles in 36 hours. And while Desjoyeaux parried questions on exactly when he expects to finish in Les Sables d’Olonne, so his friend and adversary Roland Jourdain suggested that perhaps the Professor’s slower speeds might be due to him doing some kind of ‘extra work’.

Marc Guillemot (Safran) stopped on the north east corner of the Falklands Islands at 1000hrs to make his repair to his mast track and was expecting to be moving off later this afternoon.

Dee Caffari, Aviva: “A nightmare twenty four hours where I spent most of it in 50 to 65 knots of wind. Aviva survived, I survived, but the mainsail didn’t. No great surprise as the wind was vicious but it was the sea state that was the scariest thing. I have never seen sea so huge before. The wind has eased but has left a messy and still big sea state which is making progress difficult with a mainsail that can go no higher than four reefs. I am stuck with this until I can get conditions where I can assess the damage and decide a repair to get me going again. My biggest concern now is the fact that slow boat speed may mean I will be hit by the next storm too and I do not think I can do it all again!”

Michel Desjoyeaux (Foncia) ” It’s not too bad, in fact, this morning.  We’re still heeled over and we’ll be on the same tack for a while all the way up the Brasilian coast to the Doldrums.    I have finished climbing the stairs.  Each step up required a lot of work.  I think now I have reached the top.  With Roland, we’re seeing the accordion phenomenon: if you look at all the zigzagging back and forth we’re still more or less the same distance apart, so there’s nothing unusual about that.  In any case Roland is going to be following the same trajectory and I’ll be back on a straight course at 12-14 or even 15 knots, so at that point the “accordion” will stretch out again in my favour. I reckon there’s really 350-400 miles separating us. I was lucky to round the Horn in calm conditions, and get around on the right side of the low. For now, we’re heading up to the Doldrums, which we should cross between 28 and 33 West. I took a look yesterday at the wind charts for 10-15 days ahead, but seeing what a mess it was, I didn’t really study it. It’s so unstable that you cannot see that far ahead and we’ll have to wait until we’re there. I don’t have a crystal ball and am no astrologist, but we should finish in the first few days of February.  We’ll know a couple days after the Equator once we’ve reached the Azores high.” 

Roland Jourdain (Veolia Environnement:  “We’re in a different world.  It’s 27°C outside and the sea is at 24°.  The wind is stable and the sea is settling down. The icing on the cake is that I’m gaining ground without really doing anything. Just as well, as I’m feeling a bit exhausted after all my work with the composites.   What with recovering what I could, observing the situation and the DIY work, I haven’t had much time to look at the weather charts, but the speeds look weird to me.  I’ve been wondering whether Mich (Desjoyeaux) hasn’t had more work to do than he is ready to admit to. I ought to have spent more time studying the charts, but my nose tells me there’s something odd happening.”

Latest rankings
1 . Michel Desjoyeaux (Foncia) at 4617 miles to finish
2 . Roland Jourdain (Veolia Environnement) at 229 miles from first place
3 . Armel Le Cléac’h (Brit Air) at 710 miles from first place
4 . Sam Davies (Roxy) at 1651 miles from first place
5 . Marc Guillemot (Safran) at 1988 miles from first place
6 . Brian Thompson (Bahrain Team Pindar) at 2561 miles from first place
7 . Arnaud Boissières (Akena Vérandas) at 2731 miles from first place
8 . Dee Caffari (Aviva) at 2786 miles from first place
9 . Steve White (Toe in the water) at 3873 miles from first place
10 . Rich Wilson (Great American III) at 5004 miles from first place
11 . Norbert Sedlacek (Nauticsport . Kapsch) at 6645 miles from first place
12 . Raphaël Dinelli (Fondation Océan Vital) at 6672 miles from first place