BATTLES TO WIN AND LOSE
By Philippe Jeantot
The return to Atlantic waters has been quite a shock for those Vendée Globe skippers who have already rounded Cape Horn. The fifth skipper was Thomas Coville (Sodebo) at around 2200hrs French time on Sunday evening, his third passage but first in solo mode. The sea has changed dramatically from the sweeping Southern swell to choppy, roughed up waves, thanks to the opposing winds dominant in that part of the world.
For third placed Marc Thiercelin (Active Wear), this isn’t good news as his port side rigging remains slightly loose, and yet it is the tack on which he is forced to sail upwind right now. He is still within a threatening 200 mile range of his main target, Ellen MacArthur (Kingfisher), and yet admitted that “her boat is a little more adapted to upwind sailing than mine”. One advantage he pointed out was his experience of managing himself and the boat during this final third stage of the race. “I1ll still push the boat hard but not like four years ago where it stressed me out. I think I1m less fatigued than Ellen, whereas it1s her first Globe.”
Fourth placed Roland Jourdain (Sill Matines La Potagère) has finally set off again after a stop-over totalling 17 – 19 hours to fix his track back on the mast. A bit of a harsh time penalty for a job that took just 3 – 4 hours to complete. His humour hadn1t failed him though, as he joked about how “surreal” it was to realise that he was “stuck up the mast at the end of the world, with only seals and birds looking curiously on”. Back into the unwelcoming boat-bashing upwind conditions, will Jourdain come back with the same kind of performance in the Atlantic leg that he has been capable of in the last two Transat races?
Catherine Chabaud (Whirlpool) has come through “the hardest 48 hours since the start”, namely a strong depression with winds of up to 45 knots, nearly throwing her off the boat when she was trying to move along the deck. She is savouring her very last Southern Ocean moments before reaching Cape Horn in a couple of days, knowing that she will not return to that part of the world’s oceans again alone.
Two degrees North of Chabaud in pursuit is Josh Hall (EBP/Gartmore), who has also found the last few days his worst in the race so far, but for very opposite reasons. “An unexpected trough formed behind the strong depression that passed us on Friday and left me with big seas and absolutely no wind…it has been worse than the Doldrums and I have been desperately making manoeuvres to achieve 1 or 2 knots of speed.” His gain on Whirlpool in the last week now crumbling before his eyes, Hall is due to arrive at Cape Horn himself on Friday, with 1150 miles to go until he reaches this gateway to the Atlantic Ocean.
Two boats in sight of each other below 50 degrees South in the great Pacific Ocean – could this be imaginable? Mike Golding (Team Group 4) actually filmed himself passing the ‘red cigar’ yacht of Joé Seeten (Nd Pas de Calais/Chocs du Monde) yesterday just 3 miles apart! Golding is in 11th place now and within 200 miles of the next two boats, Bernard Gallay (Voila.fr) and Patrice Carpentier (VM Materiaux), clocking slightly faster speeds in the hope of passing them soon as well.
Yves Parlier (Aquitaine Innovations) has successfully completed his operation to build an 18 metre mast. However, the announced force 8 – 9 storm force winds are now his main worry, if he is to safely cast off from his anchorage. “I’m in my survival suit inside the boat. It’s night time. I’ve plunged in up to my waist to tie a second line around a huge rock. There’s a way I can get the boat out of the inlet under bare poles. I’ll set off tomorrow night and I can set the storm jib and staysail immediately.”
News from the very back of the fleet is not so good. Russian skipper Fedor Konyoukhov has reported in with a litany of problems, which beset him over the weekend. His electric pilot burned out, and while he