On this ascent to the equator, off the open sea of Bahia in Brazil, the sailors have grain, or rather grains, to grind. The wind varies sharply in strength and direction, you have to be on the lookout, one hand on the sheets, one eye to observe the sky, another on the radar. In the 3pm standings, Charlie Dalin, in the lead, is 20 miles ahead of Louis Burton. Yannick Bestaven is relegated to 6th position behind Thomas Ruyant, 3rd, Damien Seguin, 4th and Boris Herrmann 5th. All these little people can be held together in less than 100 miles: crazy, crazy, crazy this 9th Vendée Globe!
Second behind Charlie Dalin on December 4 in the Indian Ocean before suffering serious damage, Louis Burton is back at the forefront, he who had fallen a hair’s breadth away from corrections during the Macquarie episode. Le Malouin exults and is enthusiastic about the fight at the head of the fleet and we understand it! Charlie Dalin displays the same state of mind: “The Vendée Globe could very well have ended in Australia or New Zealand, there I’m still racing, I got my head back, so it’s really great” confided this morning the skipper of Apivia, whose port foil does not allow him to be fully efficient, but has nonetheless posted an average speed of more than 16 knots for 4 hours. The fastest of this compact group is the German Boris Herrmann with an average of almost 17 knots who returns to the top 5 like a ball… Until Recife, we will have to deal with squall lines whose wind is showing strong on the edge and zero under the clouds. The high-performance radars on board for the first time on this 9th Vendée Globe will be valuable allies. Yannick Bestaven must wince, his shift to the West has made him lose everything: 6.3 knots average speed over the last 4 hours! Here he is relegated to 96 miles from the head of the fleet.
On the same side on starboard tack
The leading group therefore has a lot to do between the immediate management of the elements and the trajectory to be considered for the future as soon as the horn of Brazil is overwhelmed. This speed race takes place exclusively on starboard tack, the wind gradually strengthening and increasing as the ascent northward. No convict maneuvers on the program, no big change of sails, but rather fine adjustments, a few inches and a lot of time at the chart table. Because the North Atlantic is looming in the near horizon and with it a Doldrums (not very active), a high pressure in the southern Azores and then a big depression. Never before have the Sables d´Olonne seemed so close, and never has the slightest mistake paid off so cash. In 12-13 days, who will win at Les Sables d´Olonne? The bets have been made.
Friends first behind the fleet
There is the fight in front of daggers drawn, and the race behind in a rather good-natured atmosphere. Groups and duels formed since the end of the South Pacific have created strong bonds. So, it talks on the VHF, it communicates by Whatsapp. Clarisse Crémer and Armel Tripon for example: “It’s cool to have a petole companion. We are chatting, he told me he doesn’t have much food, I hesitate to refuel him. In return, he gave me advice on how to recalibrate my aircraft, which I’m having trouble with. In the trade winds, he will make the powder speak: his flying machine will send wood, so much the better for him! »Said the skipper of Banque Populaire X, first woman in the ranking in 13th position. Jérémie Beyou, 15th, talks a lot with his playmates, Arnaud Boissières and Alan Roura, and sees the race in a different way: “As I move up the fleet, I interact with all the guys and girls, and they all have enormous merit. It’s nice to chat with them, to discover their issues and you also realize that it’s easier to chat with people a little further behind rather than with leaders who sometimes have trouble responding. That’s not a criticism, it’s just that when you’re up front, and I know that, you let little information out compared to the competition. I am discovering something else and honestly it is not at all worse! When I do a regatta again and get ahead, I’ll think about it. Miranda Merron and Clément Giraud, fast over the past 24 hours, also feel less isolated 1,000 miles from Cape Horn. They have become traveling companions….
Yannick Bestaven, Maître CoQ IV
I look at the routes, which take me to Les Sables d’Olonne in 13-14 days. So much for long-term thinking. The strategy is to see how to negotiate Recife, with its complex areas: we must not get stuck to the coast, with the counter-currents, the windy areas and squall lines. There, we can lose a lot. Morally, it’s tough, I feel like I haven’t been varnished: I was arrested first, and necessarily the longest. Then I couldn’t gain enough in the east to control my pursuers, and it was much easier for them to shift in the sustained wind. We didn’t have the same weather conditions or the same timing in the cold front. Better to come from behind! There’s going to be another level crossing later. The Doldrums will be over soon enough, but there is another small barrier awaiting us in the North Atlantic. I have Les Sables-d’Olonne at the end of the bow, we’ll see what happens at the end! The last part of the race will be interesting: there are several of us who can win, and this is unheard of in the Vendée Globe.
Benjamin Dutreux, OMIA – Water Family
It’s not obvious at all, it’s quite complex even. I haven’t slept for another night, I’m really starting to get tired. I find it hard to rest because grains are passing. I had 37 knots last night. I thought I was going to tear all my sails. And just behind, I had 1.5 hours of calm with really 0 knots of wind. This is pretty crazy. It’s a kind of Doldrums from the South. I wasn’t expecting that, I wasn’t really prepared for it. Oddly, I have more trouble picking up the image on radar than in the Doldrums. Otherwise, I try to observe, but it’s not easy to do much so often we suffer. At the front of the cloud, the wind refuses in full force, it’s super strong and just after, it’s sluggish so you have to be very present on the sheets not to damage the boat during squalls and after also to restart the boat in a very soft wind.
Manu Cousin, Groupe SÉTIN
It’s starting to smell Cape Horn! I am taking a nap in anticipation of the fiesta that will be on board. For the past two days, I haven’t slept: the wind was very unstable behind the low. It varied from 15 to 30 knots in strength: you had to adjust all the time, it was complicated to rest. Now that it’s more stable, I can get some sleep. I’m not hiding from you that after a little tour of the boat, that’s what I’m going to do. I did the routing several times to see if I could make a detour to see the stone, but it is far away: I would lose 20 hours. The goal is still to go fast. I would have been willing to waste an hour or two, but this is too much. It will be a good reason to come back! I am a refugee in Les Sables, but I do not forget my Norman roots. My friends are helping me with that: I’m going to celebrate with a little drop of Calvados.
Charlie Dalin, Apivia
I am happy to find this position again. There are a lot of people not far behind, but you can’t have butter and money from butter. We cannot come back to Yannick and have the other boats blocked behind. It’s normal that the others have come back as well, so it’s up to me to handle this. I am all the more happy to be back at the head of the fleet after the problem I had with my foil hold a month ago in the Indian Ocean. So even if this is not my favorable edge, I am fighting, I maneuver, I do the weather and I will do everything to keep this place. So I can no longer deploy my foil, but when I list, it enters the water a little bit, so from a certain heeling angle it helps me a little bit anyway. Obviously, this is much less effective than if it were fully deployed. The speeds Apivia could do with a deployed foil would be a whole other dimension than what I can do today. But all this is just a bonus since my damage.
Rankings at 3pm French Time
- Charlie Dalin, Apivia, à 4 069.54 miles from finish
- Louis Burton, Bureau Vallée 2, 20.39 miles from leader
- Thomas Ruyant, LinkedOut, 55.02 miles from leader
- Damien Seguin, Groupe APICIL, 67.88 miles from leader
- Boris Herrmann, SeaExplorer – Yacht Club de Monaco, 88.94 miles from leader
Photo Credit : V.Curutchet
– PR –