Vendée Globe : Goldenboy Gabart bullish at the front

Thursday, 15 November 2012


Winter sun seekers often head to the Canaries looking to leave their stresses behind, but there will be no relaxing for the Vendée Globe skippers as the leaders race south past the holiday islands today.

Already three of the twenty have fallen and the fleet still have shipping and fishing boats to contend with. Louis Burton’s race-within-a-race to get back to Les Sables d’Olonne in time to repair his boat and restart by 1302hrs on November 20 – the ten days skippers are allowed before the start line closes – will be a constant reminder for the rest of what a collision can do to your dreams.

Francois ‘Goldenboy’ Gabart continued his unrelenting pace at the front of the fleet, night reaching in the north westerly wind and this morning will pass the Canary Islands 200 miles east, but even he must feel the anxiety that pulses through the skippers every time one of their colleagues suffers a blow.

That anxiety is not obvious from Gabart’s message overnight. « Macif heading south, » he said. « Unfortunately the wind has eased so it is not at the same pace as yesterday. Shame...It was really nice. » But Gabard is a disciple of his mentor Michel Desjoyeaux, one of the best poker playing sailors in the world.

Compression at the front

Still 50 miles behind Gabart and slightly to the west, Armel Cléac’h and Bernard Stamm continue to fight it out for second.

Vincent Riou, the 2004 winner, kept pace as the most westerly boat in the fleet. Inside him Alex Thomson had the best night, going past Jérémie Beyou and fellow Briton, Mike Golding.  Thomson was just five miles behind fifth-placed Jean-Pierre Dick, this morning and they make gains on those ahead today as they have 20 knots breezes, and Cléac’h has a small high pressure ridge ahead of him.

Golding and Jean Le Cam, the most easterly of the leading group, look set for an interesting tussle of the next couple of days as they judge when to head west.

Sansó heads to Madeira

Behind them, Arnaud Boissiéres might be able to see Madeira, just 15 miles to his east. Javier Sansó will having an even closer look as he heads there for some shelter while he goes up his mast to assess a small problem.

Electrical problems for Gutkowski

At the back of the fleet, Zbigniew Gutkowski explained his early course west by the fact that he has been having multiple electrical problems and his alarms were not working. It is hard enough to sleep at the best of time in a shipping lane, but without alarms the anxiety is too great.

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Last Updated ( Thursday, 15 November 2012 )