Vendee Globe : Burton goes back to the future as Gabart powers on

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Louis Burton was winning his race against time yesterday as he limps back to Les Sables d’Olonne after his collision with a French fishing boat at 0300hrs on Wednesday. He had 408 miles to go at 1600hrs (French time) after and making 263 miles in the last 24 hours.

The 27-year-old Parisian, the youngest sailor in the race, is preparing to round Cape Finisterre for the second time and the weather forecast suggests he will have a difficult passage through the Bay of Biscay. The damage to his port shroud – the rigging that supports the mast – means he has to stay on a starboard tack whereas he would normally do the opposite in the wind angle he is likely to find.

Denis Horeau, the race director, said that under race rules he can be towed back the last 100 miles but he must remain on the boat alone if he wants to re-start.

His team hope he will arrive on Sunday November 18 and are trying to locate a spare that they will try and fit so he can restart before the deadline of 1302hrs (French time) on November 20.

Not so far away Zbigniew Gutkowski, the Polish skipper nicknamed ‘Gutek’, is soldiering at the back of the fleet after a tough 24 hours trying to fix multiple electronic problems. His autopilot is malfunctioning and not recording the true wind angle making it impossible for him to race. He is also unable to control his canting keel properly and the media computer is not working, which further explains the lack of communication. He thought it would take two days to fix.

I have a couple of issues with boat’s electronic and electrics,” Gutkowski said. “The main issue is that my autopilot is not functioning in a way it is supposed to, and it goes like that from the start, so I can’t sail at speed at all; besides that I made a wrong decision to go West. It’s not good with sleeping as well.”

Normally a loud and ebullient presence on the radio, Gutek sounded tired but determined today. It was further evidence of the stress the skippers are under in these difficult conditions of busy shipping and fishing lanes and a messy sea state. But he had a better 24 hours making 278 miles, closing slightly on some on the back of the fleet.

Front of the fleet:

Francois Gabard, leading since Saturday night and by almost 60 miles overnight, saw that cut almost in half in the space of four hours as he slowed dramatically as he hit a ridge of high pressure passed the latitude of the Canary Islands, 250 miles to the east. Armel Cléac’h, still making 12.8 knots, was just 29.7 miles south east with Bernard Stamm a further five miles behind – the pair have exchanged second place six times in the last two days. Stamm had the best last 24 hours, making 399.5 miles.

The compression at the front of the fleet was expected. It remains to be seen if the closing boats, all to the west of Gabart, will lose as much speed as he has. Alex Thomson, the leading British sailor at the moment, kept pace after moving into sixth place and was in better spirits on the radio after managing to get some sleep at last. He did admit that his manflu is still troubling him.

The messy sea state is stressful for the whole fleet at the moment and a good early test for the new light French-designed boats in the top 5 (all except Stamm) with big swells coming from the west being confused by the north westerly winds bearing north.

In the Middle:

Javier Sansó, in 12th, lost ground after the track on his mainsail halyard failed on Wednesday evening and his mainsail came down. He is waiting for calmer conditions before going up the mast to assess the damage.

Tanguy Delamotte and Samantha Davies, in 13th and 14th had the most  complicated weather conditions, buffeted by westerly and then south westerly winds and forced to almost backtrack west. Davies, was able to make only 150.7 miles in the last 24 hours, the least in the fleet. Bertrand de Broc, 15th, continued his comeback after being forced to restart on Sunday morning because of hole in his hull.

Ranking at 1500 UTC 15/11/2012

1 Macif, François Gabart, 22572.7 miles to finish
2 Banque Populaire, Armel Le Cléac’h FRA, +29.7 miles to leader
3 Cheminées Poujoulat, Berrnard Stamm, SUI, +32.9 miles to leader
4 PRB, Vincent Riou, FRA +103.6 miles to leader
5 Jean-Pierre Dick +115.7 miles to leader

Other International:
6 Alex Thomson, Hugo Boss +119.8 miles to leader

9 Mike Golding, Gamesa, GBR, 166.2 miles to the leader

10 Dominique Wavre, Mirabaud,SUI +198 miles to leader
11 Javier Sanso, Acciona 100% Eco Powered, ESP, +336.6 miles to leader
14 Samantha Davies, Savéol, GBR, +492.2miles to leader
15 Alessandro Di Benedetto,Team Plastique, ITA, +653.7 miles to leader
18 Zbigniew Gutkowski, Energa, POL, +663.6 miles to leader

See  Vendée Globe images

Last Updated ( Thursday, 15 November 2012 )