VG2020 : the emotional lift

Sébastien Simon dejected, overwhelmed by a feeling of injustice and by the extent of the work he would have to do in a uncertain future. Sam Davies, sobs in her voice, shocked by his abrupt buffet stop yesterday at nightfall and the damage around the keel of his boat. These two sailors who were up to now perfectly in the match (ARKÉA PAPREC was still 4th Wednesday morning and Initiatives-Cœur 11th) are now in a waiting situation off the Cape of Good Hope, faced with questions to which they do not yet have an answer: Will I be able to repair? Will I be able to continue?

A great sailor before being race director of the Vendée Globe, Jacques Caraës imagines the emotional storm that is shaking the two skippers today. He explains: “Usually when you get to the gateway to the Indian Ocean, you go into another world, in another mode. You are more on the reserve, in a more conservative attitude. So if you go in there with structural damage, it kisses you to the ground, it shoots your morale. Because the Deep South is a long tunnel, there is no other solution than to go to the end. And the exit is Cape Horn (after more than 10,000 miles in the Indian and the Pacific, editor’s note). There isn’t too much of a way out, not really a port of call … Psychologically, under these circumstances, it’s hard. “

Ups and downs

At this point in the race, fatigue has also lodged itself deep in the bodies. After 25 days at sea, 25 days of sleeping little, eating poorly, crawling on all fours when the boat slaps too much, checking your equipment, making daily repairs, hearing bad news from friends… the sailors are on edge. Not just those who enter the vast maritime desert of the Great South. But at all levels of the course and the ranking. In a video sent today, Jérémie Beyou evoked, the mine defeated, its erratic progression in squalls and light winds off Brazil. For the skipper of Charal, who left 9 days after his comrades, it is double the penalty.

But this emotional lift in which the 31 Vendée Globe competitors are embarked is also powerful in the other direction. In one of these beautiful and sensitive texts, Armel Tripon is moved at the sight of the first albatross in his life, who has come to open the doors of the “kingdom of shadows” to him. For his part, Arnaud Boissières savored the surf of his boat sliding at high speed on a sea that was still manageable and marveled at the bluish light of the dawn in the roaring 40th …

Surfing on isobars

Beyond the contemplative pleasures and states of mind, the race continues. In the lead, it is led with full speed by a group of 15 boats which surf the isobars of the vast low pressure system which will take them to Kerguelen.

Between Charlie Dalin, who begins his 10th day of racing in the lead, and the 15th Clarisse Cremer, there are certainly 1,000 miles – almost two and a half days apart -. Not all of them are sailing on the same side of this low, but the goal is to continue to be carried away by these strong but favorable winds for as long as possible. While preserving the integrity of his boat.

Saint Helena, pray for them

As if to respond to this immense southern fan, the Saint Helena anticyclone is spreading in width, from the middle of the South Atlantic, to the Indian Ocean, and in length well below the 45 ° south! Its bypass concerns the entire second half of the fleet. However, these sprawling high pressures could trap several groups of boats that will have no escape, because they are blocked to the south by the Antarctic Exclusion Zone (ZEA). Gaps will inexorably widen between those who managed to catch the first set of depressions and the pursuers. That’s the big deal for the middle group, from Stéphane Le Diraison to Pip Hare.

A possibility of recovery for Kévin Escoffier

Finally, the Nivôse – a French Navy frigate responsible, among other things, for monitoring fishing in the Indian Ocean – has the green light from its superiors for a possible recovery of the PRB skipper. For its part, the Vendée Globe race management is in contact with Jean Le Cam to consider the possibility of a meeting point with the Nivôse around December 6 in the north-east of the Crozet Islands. If, for any number of reasons, Kevin’s landing proved to be too risky or complicated, then we would have to wait for passage through southern New Zealand.


Sébastien Simon, ARKÉA PAPREC

I am a little annoyed, disgusted. I want to complete this round the world trip, I don’t think I deserve this, I think it’s an incredible injustice. The foil is damaged but the structuring part of the foil is not broken. I can’t use it as is. The foil damaged the lower part of the foil well which separated from the boat and brought in water. The only way to fix this is to cut the foil into pieces. The foil is still close to 300 kilos and I can’t cut it from the outside. To succeed in repairing this I have to cut the foil into pieces and then go and plug the well from the outside and the inside. I have to lean outside the boat, but for that I need stable sea conditions, and that is not the case today, not in 12 hours, nor in 24 hours. So I am forced to get closer to a land. On top of that, I have a damaged bulkhead behind, under the cockpit. I don’t know if it’s related, if it’s collateral damage or not. I realized this when I went to empty some water. I know that the day before this partition was not broken, and that today it is. And since trouble never happens on its own, I have the rudder shaft boot which is torn. So every two hours I have to go pumping for 40 minutes under the cockpit floor, which is not a pleasant place at all.

Armel Tripon, L’Occitane en Provence

Yesterday morning at the southern gates by 42 ° 38 N and 11 09 W, I go out on the bridge to take a reef, scan the horizon, on the lookout and there, suddenly downwind, at my height, I see it , noble and majestic, in its gliding flight, as if suspended. He welcomes me, opens the doors of his kingdom to me, I meet the eyes of my first albatross. What joy, I laughed alone, moved by this long-awaited and symbolic first meeting. I saw the first albatross of my life, it is no longer an image, a dream, a reading, no, I share its flight for a few moments then come back very quickly to finish my maneuver … The escort will not last only a few moments but this magical encounter seals my trip to the great South in the most beautiful way.

Sam Davies, Initiatives-Cœur

I had gybed behind the front, there was 30 knots of wind. I was sailing between 15 and 22 knots in difficult seas. I typed as if I was on the heels of a rock: I stopped dead. There were creaks. I flew, everything in the boat flew, including my dinner. It was violent, I hurt myself. I dropped everything right away to stop the boat. I typed a UFO, I don’t know what it was. I went straight to look around the keel, I knew straight away that it wasn’t the foil but the keel.

The bearings are fine, the bulkheads of each front and rear landing are fine. On the other hand, all the longitudinal bulkheads in the keel well are cracked. This is where the shock was absorbed. I’ve done checks, I have the shore crew on standby working with the architects. There, I have to take shelter, I advance towards Cape Town very slowly. I’m downwind, I’m downwind but the seas are quite rough. I’m 310 miles from Cap de Bonne-Esperance.

It happened at nightfall: it’s always the same, it’s always the hard times! Then I was in the dark night to control everything. It was the same when I dismasted, it was in the middle of the night (note: Sam Davies had dismasted in the Vendée Globe 2012/2013). I did what I could, in 30 knots of wind, in huge seas. The priority was to stabilize the boat and put it on a course where there is the least possible strain.

I did checks with the team. The shock displaced the keel cylinder bellows which seals between the keel well and the cylinder. So I took the water. The priority was to manage it, it was a little cracked on the joints. At first I turned on the submersion pump – which is great by the way – I turned it on directly to drain the water coming in through the keel well. It was the most important. I flew in the boat but I was lucky because it could have been worse, but my ribs hurt.

Isabelle Joschke, MACSF

The sea changes quite quickly here! Last night after the jibe it was very difficult and I admit that I didn’t know how to move my boat any more… MACSF was charging all the time, but it seems normal behind the front. Now it’s more manageable but it’s not easy. But the boat is going fast: yesterday I had a very good day before the jibe and I was happy because the seas were perfect. It’s true that things are going fast at the moment too: it’s impressive!

It’s not easy to live with indoors: it costs in terms of comfort! I have to be careful not to bump into myself, but I take advantage of going fast in the wind. We’re getting better and it’s pretty neat. But the South Seas are special: yesterday, I was very happy to arrive in the Indian Ocean, but I had the impression of being “caught” in something very complicated, particularly in the front passage. I told myself that the Indian Ocean was not an easy sea: I am discovering things that are totally new to me.

On board, it’s not easy! The boat has incredible acceleration, and sometimes it slows down as if it were waiting for a wave and then I don’t really know what to do… It’s difficult to move around in the boat: to transport an object, you need ‘one hand and often it takes two to hold. Already doing the minimum subsistence costs me energy! And when things calm down, I take the opportunity to do things that I absolutely must do: eat, store, tinker … It’s complicated to eat and move around, but sleeping is fine.

Arnaud Boissières, La Mie Câline-Artisans Artipôle

It’s great: we have great conditions to go fast. We take waves while surfing even if it has started to ease for an hour. It’s nice to have good speeds! I’m trying to keep up the pace so as not to be overtaken by the forehead and then I have a hare (Armel Tripon) that is going really fast downwind too. There are 25 to 30 knots and the sea is very practicable: I should descend towards the ZEA and this front should take me quite far, but not as far as Cape Horn anyway!

I managed to close the gap on Stéphane Le Diraison and Alan Roura and 500 miles in the Southern Seas is not that big. I’m trying not to fall asleep because this front will really help us get back to the fleet. The foils make noise, but when it whistles, it also means that I’m going fast: it doesn’t bother me too much … At the start of the night, it was a bit sluggish but there is no heavy seas and this is really nice.

Life on board is not “normal”, but we still manage to sleep and eat and I drink a lot. On the other hand, you have to move on all fours! These are only the beginnings of the South Seas: it will dawn in a bluish gray, with a little freshness and already there are a lot of birds in the wake… The landscape is really magnificent: I am savoring it.

Rankings at 6pm Fench Time

1. Charlie Dalin, Apivia, at 16 657.7 milles from finish
2. Louis Burton, Bureau Vallée 2, at 148.69 milles from leader
3. Thomas Ruyant, LinkedOut, at 202.73 milles from leader
4. Damien Seguin, Groupe APICIL, at 374.36 milles from leader
5. Yannick Bestaven, Maître CoQ IV, at 387.34 milles from leader

Photo Credit : Vincent Curutchet

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