Crash hats on, it's going to be a bumpy ride
February 03, 2009 09:42 by http://www.vendeeglobe.org | 0 comments
Le Cléac’h is expecting winds of over 45 knots, gusting to 60 knots with a big, awkward cross seas to contend with, as he counts down the final 1000 miles to the finish line.
Le Cléach said today:
“I am not thinking about the place at the moment, I will think about it when I get across the line. Just now I need to get through these big winds.”
He was making over 16 knots this afternoon and is over 1100 miles ahead of Sam Davies, GBR, (Roxy).
Arriving yesterday in the commercial port of Porto Delgado, Sao Miguel in the Azores, Roland Jourdain’s keel inspection revealed virtually nothing. That is, there is virtually nothing left: only a short twisted stump of keel blade remaining. Having sailed more than 700 miles with no keel, his decision to abandon handed his second place to Le Cléac’h. Jourdain explained today that his personal belief is that the keel fractured in two stages.
“In my opinion, I think the breakage happened in two stages, otherwise I would have capsized the first time. The bang I heard, I thought it was the bulb and in fact I think that when the keel broke, it twisted and a piece stayed attached to the hull, which stopped me from capsizing. Then at a later moment, when I was taking in a reef, I heard a cracking sound coming from the hull and that must have been the piece breaking off.”
Some 1100 miles behind Le Cléac’h Sam Davies and Marc Guillemot are intent on playing out their different strategies at the Azores High. They were separated by more than 250 miles laterally this morning. Although Guillemot is in the possession of 50 hours of redress, he stated again today is that he is determined to beat the English skipper who has a home in Brittany, on the water. Davies leads him by 165 miles and had gained 14 miles since this morning in terms of Distance to Finish, although the French skipper has been consistently faster on his route round the west of the high pressure system, similar to that taken by Michel Desjoyeaux routing to Cape Finisterre.
America skipper Rich Wilson was recovering today and had Great American III back under control after a long night during which his autopilot linkage failed. A bolt in the main self steering linkage failed when the American skipper was in the midst of an unexpected episode of 35-45 knot winds and big seas. He had to hove to – backing the staysail and countering its turning moment with the helm hard over – as he climbed into an inaccessible aft compartment ‘which even Olga Korbutt the gymnast would have struggled to get into’ to make his repair. When he managed to re-boot both his autpilots he had just returned to ‘situation normal’ on Great American – upwind, getting another pasting.
Marc Guillemot (Safran): “I’m making good speed towards the high. The trajectory isn’t the best in relation to the finish, but I think it’s worth it in terms of speed. In 36 hours, I think I’ll be past the high. Over the past two days, I’ve been on a route further north-westwards than the direct route. The idea is to get around the high via the west and then at the top, I should reach the front. This is the fast track home. I think it will pay off, even if it means a lot of manoeuvres. If I’d stayed close to Samantha sailing upwind, it would have been unlikely that I would have caught her. As for my ETA, I’d say the 12th February. I’m getting a bit low on bread and biscuits, as I hadn’t planned on spending so much time out here. I have enough to eat though, except I’m really missing fresh fruit and vegetables. My real favourite is oysters and I know my oyster farmer friend will be waiting for me at the finish.”
Sam Davies (Roxy): “I’ve had the same conditions for 5 days, even if the waves have calmed slightly and we’re not slamming as much. I’m currently doing around ten knots and trying to see whether I have made the right choice. I’m happy with my position. The high is a long way west. I think I should get through without too many hold-ups. I’m wondering what I would do if there weren’t other boats around me. I’m not really taking a short cut, as I’m staying on the edge, so the route is a bit longer. Roxy is doing fine, but must be tired after three months on the water and sometimes I haven’t been kind to her, but touch wood, everything is fine. As for me, I’m looking forward to finishing and I can feel that I’m really tired now. When I arrive I think I’ll just collapse. I’ve got plenty of food left. Too much in fact, so I’ve been throwing stuff to the fish after taking off the wrappers. But I don’t really like doing that when people like Cali don’t have enough. I wish I could leave him a big package.”
Armel Le Cléac’h (Brit Air): “Time to put the crash helmet on! For the next few hours, we’re going to be facing some difficult conditions. Some heavy seas and very strong winds. Right up to the finish, the weather will not have been on my side. But that’s something you just have to deal with. We’ll ride out the storm and if all goes well in 24 hours, it should start to ease off. The sea is already starting to get rough and it’s slightly on the beam, so we can’t go too fast and we’re really slamming. There’s about 35 knots of wind and it’s going to strengthen during the afternoon to reach 45 knots this evening. We’re going to have to be careful as they have forecast 8-10 metre high waves…
In virtual terms I’ve always been ahead of Samantha, because she would need to be 500 miles in front because of my redress, but I’m determined to battle it out without taking that into account. We’ll see in 40 hours or so where we are, with me in the north and Samantha in the high.
© Jacques Vapillon / DPPI / Vendée Globe