VG2020 : A rescue and uncertain times

This morning, Kévin Escoffier left Jean Le Cam’s boat and was successfully recovered by the Nivôse frigate of the French Navy which is heading for Reunion. Charlie Dalin, who is spending his 14th day in the lead, and Thomas Ruyant are about to make a difficult choice in the face of a depression that awaits them on Tuesday. Behind, Alan Roura, Stéphane Le Diraison, Armel Tripon and Arnaud Boissières, who are due to cross the Cape of Good Hope this night, also see a depression approaching… Story of a studious Sunday when no one stopped thinking.

With the end of the year celebrations, Christmas and its parade of good feelings, it is time for TV movies and great stories. The Vendée Globe did not wait until December 24 to offer one. The decor ? The Indian Ocean and its turpitudes. The protagonists ? A shocking duo. Jean Le Cam, gruff and iconoclastic skipper with Kévin Escoffier, 1st Vendée Globe on the clock, but nautical adventures in shambles. The first had recovered the second after 12 hours of uncertainty, on the night of Monday to Tuesday last. An endless wait, then the joy of seeing their two faces framed by a screen, their smiles and their instant complicity. A cathodic duo formed, the jokes erupted and we got used, all week, to see Kévin transforming into a commentator of the deeds of “King John”. The sea definitely brings people together and even more adventurers.

Thumbs up, smiles slung, mission accomplished

Their common journey therefore ended this Sunday morning. It was dark in France (3:10), the sky was clear in this remote corner of the Indian Ocean. Where only two fishing boats were present for more than 600 miles around, there was the frigate Nivôse. A 93.5-meter-long ship of the French Navy, dedicated to the surveillance of the French maritime spaces in this far corner of the world. On a mission for several weeks, he was diverted to get closer to Yes We Cam!

The maneuver is delicate: a semi-rigid is dispatched on site with three soldiers on board. “It’s not easy to stall with the conditions,” admitted the skipper of PRB a handful of hours earlier. And then he dressed from head to toe and dived into the water before being picked up by the military. “Thank you, my quail,” he says affectionately on board. Thumbs up, smiles slung over the shoulder and a successful mission. Another happy illustration of the solidarity of the seafarers. “Kévin is in great shape, he is going to enjoy a hot shower,” confides Frédéric Barbe, the commander of the Nivôse. The frigate has set sail for Réunion and should arrive next Friday. The captain assures him: “A beautiful day begins! “

Time of choice for leaders

There are less certainties in the minds of the skippers who continue their journey in the heart of the Indian Ocean. You have to decipher each weather file, protect yourself, keep your spirits up when the sky is heavy and the sea is rough, because the weather to come is definitely very uncertain. For the two leading men, Charlie Dalin (Apivia) and Thomas Ruyant (LinkedOut), still separated by 200 miles, the dilemma is this front which arrives next Tuesday, dark red spot on the weather maps and conditions close to chaos in its center with 45 knots and 7.5 meters deep. Tomorrow, we will have to make a choice. “Either they go through the front and find themselves in the heart of the storm, or they slow down and the front will go faster than them”, explains Sébastien Josse, Vendée Globe consultant. Charlie Dalin seems to be taking the more cautious option as he has already slowed down this Sunday.

In the leading group, composed of 11 skippers, all are wondering what attitude to adopt. “I planned to do a round back,” said Benjamin Dutreux (OMIA – Water Family), still impressive to keep up with the pace of the moment. Louis Burton (Bureau Vallée 2), who has resumed his journey after solving his autopilot problems, also wonders: “I will try to be as quick as possible. If the front passes over us in two days, it will involve a jibe before continuing to starboard. “

A happy duo, a quartet that doubts

450 miles further west, smiles are back on the faces of a duo: Romain Attanasio and Clarisse Crémer. The two are finally finding stronger winds (over 15 knots since this morning) and having fun chatting on WhatsApp. The skipper of PURE-Best Western Hotels & Resort relishes: “I really picked up speed. The boat is hitting the waves, there’s a hell of a racket and it’s going to last for five days. When you miss a surf during a transatlantic, you blame yourself, but then you’re happy, it gives you a bit of a break! “

Respite is not really plan of the day for the next quartet, nearly 600 miles further east. Alan Roura (La Fabrique), Stéphane Le Diraison (Time for Oceans), Armel Tripon (L’Occitane en Provence) and Arnaud Boissières (La Mie Câline – Artisans Artipôle) will certainly pass the Cape of Good Hope during the night. Despite very light winds all day, there was no time to dwell on it. Because everyone has an eye on a depression coming from Port-Elizabeth which is widening, descending towards the south and which they should face in two days. “They will be stuck in front of the ‘ZEA’ and have to go upwind as long as it does not drain further south,” notes Vendée Globe meteorologist Christian Dumard. “It will not be really easy to manage,” confirms Alan Roura, guest of Vendée Live this afternoon.

Such a difficult progression in the South Atlantic

This chain of depressions and anticyclonic bubbles specific to the South, some are far from it. The last group, made up of eight skippers, still points to the heart of the South Atlantic. Among them, Fabrice Amedeo (Newrest – Art & Fenêtres) finally found more pleasing conditions (20/24 knots of wind) after being stuck in the Saint Helena high. “The transition is delicate, I had lost my habits of speed, of heeling, of having a noisy boat,” he said.

A little further on, Sébastien Destremau (merci) kept morale high – “I didn’t know that we had been racing for 27 days” – despite a night complicated by strong variations in the wind. “I had a front that wasn’t straightforward and it wasted a hell of a lot of time. This is slave labor! “Behind, nothing is easy for Jérémie Beyou (Charal) either. “He could have dreamed of reaching the Cape of Good Hope on reaching, but there, because of the conditions, he will have to cover twice as much and tack,” explains Sébastien Josse.

So when everyone has to fight, apprehend the near future and move forward despite difficult conditions, each small victory is a satisfaction that can be enjoyed without counting. Louis Burton, who had considered quitting while struggling with his electrical systems, no doubt felt this discharge of pleasure as he hit the road. Damien Seguin too, when he glued the sails of the sail compartment cover which protects it from salt water splashes. The pleasure also lies in hearing the waves rushing frantically on the deck, in feeling the force of the elements and the surf that follows one another …

The monohulls, in this setting of chaos, thus offer the best they have: moments of freedom and exhilaration that explain, basically, why these adventurers take so much pleasure so far from the land.


Louis Burton, Bureau Vallée 2

I’m pretty burnt! My problems started at 6 p.m. the day before yesterday and I went to bed at midnight last night. There is fatigue that accumulates. And then you know that to restore a boat, you need calm. Now, when you look at the horizon for the next few days, it’s going to be complicated. For a while, I couldn’t even steer, I steered, and I couldn’t resolve the autopilot issues. So you slump, you let the boat drift, you try to deal with the problem. And when it goes on for hours and hours, at some point you tell yourself you’re not going to be able to keep going … I hope I’ve eaten my black bread and it’ll be cooler now.

Benjamin Dutreux, OMIA – Water Family

I had a pretty horrible night because I got stuck in a slack all night. We sailors complain all the time, we complain when there is too much wind, when things move too much, when there is not enough… I did not really understand, there may be a grain which has passed and which has drawn wind around. I had hoisted all the sails and here it is again so I will have to lower everything, because I have 18 knots again. I have work to do before the coming front which is going to be pretty solid! I’m super happy, it’s great to be in this group. And I’m hanging on to stay there!

Romain Attanasio, PURE-Best Western Hotels & Resort

I’ve really regained some speed, the boat is going full blast, I’m at 20 knots. I did it all night long under a large gennaker and this morning I knew I had to slump because the wind was going to get stronger, I must have slumped in 25 knots! Since then, the boat has hurtled down waves, they pass over the boat. I got the depression in front of me which I will keep for 5 days. I’ll be a little underwater for the next few days. I hope not to hit anything like that, if I hit something at 22 knots, I can’t even imagine what it will do. I had Sam (Davies) a little while ago on the phone, it’s terrible. She really wants to leave the race, that would be great. She is still a little shocked. I continue, and it’s the game, it’s the life of the Vendée Globe, it’s a cruel race.

Fabrice Amedeo, Newrest – Art & Fenêtres

I just moved 6 miles from the Tristan da Cunha Islands. It was quite a magical moment, it was the last moment of blue before gray. The first time I heard about this island was from Bernard Moitessier in “La Longue Route”. These are special moments, especially since I’m not doing the race I want, it’s a great reward. I did well not to descend too far south, because the depression is severe. I started bringing the plexiglass back from my cockpit for shelter and it’s gone for a whole month, I’m ready!

Sébastien Destremau, merci

I’m great ! I have no particular concerns on board after a long, rather complicated night. It was around 1 a.m., we were in full swing and it started to rain downpours. A front has arrived. It wasn’t blunt at all and the wind started to weaken, pick up, weaken, turn… It wasted a hell of a lot of time waiting for it to set in the southwest. It’s slave labor. The descent of the South Atlantic is a bit long. We are not yet in the hard, we have to wait a few days. But conditions are starting to get tougher, temperatures are dropping. We’re coming to the south!

Rankings at 3pm French Time

1. Charlie Dalin, Apivia, at 15 652, 8 milles from finish
2. Thomas Ruyant, LinkedOut, at 200,1 milles from leader
3. Louis Burton, Bureau Vallée 2, at 213,1 milles from leader
4. Damien Seguin, Groupe APICIL, at 332,5 milles from leader
5. Yannick Bestaven, Maître CoQ IV, at 362,7 milles from leader

Photo Credit : French Navy / Marine Nationale

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