Vendee Globe: Gabart & Le Cléach, the ‘Sundance Kid’ & ‘Butch Cassidy’, shrug off pursuers at Cape Leeuwin
Friday, 14 December 2012
Francois Gabart and Armel Le Cléac’h are the double act which have shared the top two places on the Vendée Globe through the Indian Ocean locked together for six consecutive days now.
This evening, probably around midnight, the race’s runaway leaders should pass the longitude of SW Australia’s Cape Leeuwin in quick succession.
They continue to step further and further ahead of third placed Jean-Pierre Dick who is now 329 miles behind Macif.
Le Cléach’s Banque Populaire trails leader Gabart’s Macif by some 26 miles as the young Vendée Globe rookie contemplates passing his second of the course’s three Great Capes. His passage of the worst that the Indian Ocean has thrown at the leaders so far can be characterised by huge confidence and a natural feel for his boat which have almost certainly been the foundations of his consistent speed edge:
“I think it's a question of feeling. There are times when you are more or less at one with your boat. During the record period, I really felt I understood MACIF and she was well trimmed and I felt very confident. But that can change. A couple of nights ago, for example, Armel was faster than me. I found it harder to feel how the boat was doing and find the best way to trim her.” Gabart explained today.
Technically the two IMOCA Open 60’s, Macif and Banque Populaire are all but identical but Gabart highlights one difference:
“ We don't have the same keels. His fin is made of carbon, which may be lighter, but it is thicker and when averaging 20 knots or more the hydrodynamic aspect means it gives more drag.”
Gabart does not think it at all unusual at all to find himself alongside Le Cléac’h racing head to head for days and nights on end:
“ Because of the training and all the preparation we did in Port La Fôret it just does not surprise me. And meantime the pack is dropping behind Armel and I. They no longer have the same conditions and that means we are generating some sizeable distances. And there is every chance the elastic will continue to stretch in the coming hours.”
Thomson prepares for his date with Claudia
In fourth place, Britain’s Alex Thomson his preparing to engage with Claudia, the low pressure system previously classified as a cyclone. He been making sure that Hugo Boss is in the best possible shape for what promises to be a more challenging spell of fast reaching.
He plans to use a preliminary period of lighter winds tomorrow morning to try and finalise repairs to his damaged rudder cassette.
Meantime his technical team at their base in Gosport, England have been working hard to create a solution for Thomson to fashion a replacement leg for the smashed hydrogenerator bracket which normally supports the power generating propeller in the water.
“This will be a long term project, something I wont be able to fix until after Cape Horn.” Thomson reported today, “But I can do the building slowly over time.”
So far Thomson and Hugo Boss have been functioning well in ‘power save mode’. A broken hydrogenerator means that the skipper has had to reduce the use of electricity to the absolute minimum. Vital priorities in the south are the autopilots which draw the most substantial charge, the watermaker, computers and satellite communications equipment. So far Thomson has had to rely on his limited diesel fuel but when he changes on to starboard gybe for a longer period, then the fully functioning hydro should work as normal. Ironically his nearest rival on the course Bernard Stamm, some 90 miles behind in fifth, also has some serious repair work to do to make either of his hydrogenerators work. Claudia is anticipated to bring the duo winds of over 30kts with gusts to 40kts and periods with big seas.
A benign Indian?
Compared with the last edition, raced in 2008-9, so far the Indian Ocean has been relatively benevolent. Over the period 7th to 22nd December 2008 there was an unprecedented string of damage and retirements. Rudder damage to Jean-Pierre Dick’s Virbac-Paprec 2 on December 7th was the prelude to the successive retirements of Loic Peyron, Dominque Wavre, Bernard Stamm, Mike Golding, Jean-Baptiste Dejeanty, Yann Eliès and just after that Dick.
“This time, so far we have had no real big storms in the Indian which has been very good for us, very good for the race. It is a nice surprise and now looking ahead to the south of Australia and New Zealand there appears to be nothing nasty.” Affirms Vendée Globe Race Director Denis Horeau.
I’m having fun shooting videos. I’m getting used to it no, so it doesn’t take me that long now. Everything’s fine on board, a lot of waves and swell, and even albatrosses behind us, as you can see. We’ll reach the gate soon. (To Charles Caudrelier) You’re the one who first told me about Mécénat Chirurgie Cardiaque, and we just made it possible for a 4th child to get heart surgery, it’s a little girl from Madagascar, her name is Fana, thanks for making that possible.I can’t wait to be back in Les Sables in February to share it all with you.
Every new day now is a new record for me, I’ve never been alone at sea for that long.
Tanguy De Lamotte, FRA (Initiatives Coeur)
The conditions are great, very favourable for high speed, the wind is strong and at a perfect angle. So we can go east very fast. This is pretty much what I was expecting. The Indian Ocean was fast but not too tough. But it’s been more difficult since yesterday, I’m glad we didn’t have the same conditions for 15 days. I have an extremely efficient boat, I’m very happy with that.
François Gabart, FRA, (MACIF)
Now that I’m not holding the receiver upside down, I can gear you loud and clear! Claudia who? Ah, Claudia!!! She’s not here yet.
I sailed near St Paul Island, no one is supposed to live there but I saw lights, I was a little surprised. But I saw on the AIS that there was a boat in stand by there, it looked pretty big, I guess it was a fishing or exploration boat. I found that strange… But I’m not looking for trouble so I sailed away, not looking back. I’m sailing at 10 knots but it’s frustrating to see others sail at 20 knots. I do have very good wine on board, but only three half-bottles. One every month, it’s all right.
Jean Le Cam, FRA, (SynerCiel)
Last Updated ( Friday, 14 December 2012 )