VG2020 : a “red belt” doldrums and an abandonment

This morning, after weeks of valiantly battling serious damage, Sébastien Destremau threw in the towel. Merci’s skipper has been heading since this morning to the port of Dunedin, in the South Island of New Zealand, or to Christchurch, which is easier to access and where he will find the equipment to repair. Up front, it’s time for the second leg against the doldrums!

It was too much…

Sébastien Destremau will have gone to the end of his adventure, with amazing patience and persistence. Having set off for the race after having obtained additional time to measure his boat, Merci’s skipper worked until the last hours before the start, putting on a cardboard cap that was supposed to protect him from the liquid waves on his boat. It’s well known that trouble is flying in squadrons and, for once, an entire fleet has passed over its makeshift cap. Set off with the intention of going piano, due to the imperfect preparation of his Merci, the Toulonnais had not been at sea for two days, having already climbed the mast. On his way, he will have come across “routine shit” (a faulty lazy jack, a flood, an electronic failure), keel hydraulics, anemometer and, from the southern seas, worries. otherwise more worrying: its autopilot, an infernal soap opera for a solo sailor, then again its keel and its steering systems, both the main and the secondary. Several times, the last of the Vendée Globe 2016-2017 has announced its intention to retire and, several times, it has found the resources to start again. Until this Saturday, when Seb Destremau noted this Saturday, that he could no longer continue his journey without really putting himself in danger in the waters of the Pacific.

The Toulon-based sailor-slammer set sail for New Zealand this morning. With the race management, which ensures his safety, he still oscillated between Dunedin and Christchurch for refuge. A hairy depression runs along New Zealand; shelter is urgently needed, but it is in Christchurch that he will find the suitable pontoon and shipyards.

For two more miles

In the 3:00 pm standings, Charlie Dalin (Apivia) was 2.1 miles ahead of Louis Burton (Bureau Vallée 2) who increased his pressure as the doldrums arose. Shifted sideways 35 miles, it is the latter that is both the most westerly and the most northerly. In the evening, the leading duo will enter the doldrums, in its west, which is generally synonymous with a lesser evil, but… “It’s always unpredictable with fairly sudden changes in wind strength and direction. , summarized Charlie Dalin. At night, it is often more active than during the day (and the leaders will spend the night there, editor’s note) and we will see how that takes shape. I would say (if the doldrums were a judoka, editor’s note) that he is a “blue or red belt”: it is neither a “black belt” nor a “green belt”. He has a good intermediate level. I am adjusting my East / West positioning to try to finalize my front door. Afterwards, we’ll get down to business ”.

The duo gained a very slight advantage of 41 miles over Boris Herrmann (Seaexplorer – Yacht Club de Monaco) who came to slip under his wind, no doubt to make the most of the sails he can deploy, but also to target the zone of the doldrums least prone to thunderstorms, which have gathered in recent hours. Thomas Ruyant (LinkedOut) is struggling to contain his losses, and he’s doing it pretty well, less than 90 miles behind. At 108.9 miles, in the 3 pm standings, Damien Seguin (Groupe Apicil) continues his demonstration not very far from the coast of Fernando do Noronha, in an easterly flow that has taken from the south. 6th, Yannick Bestaven (Maître CoQ IV) no longer widens his deficit, while Giancarlo Pedote (Prysmian Group) is less than 200 miles from the lead. Behind, Benjamin Dutreux (OMIA – Water Family) plays all possible adjustments to stay in the pack, like Jean le Cam, 9th at 273 miles from the lead … and who loves what is happening on the water! “Compared to what we’ve experienced, we can’t complain. At night, there are stars in the sky, the sea is flat, the boat is moving well, there are small squalls from time to time, but overall it’s perfect. There it lights up, we walk like a plane. It will maybe start a little bit ahead, but less than I thought. We go north to the bottom! Normally, we’re a lot further west, and logically the doldrums are nicer in the west than in the east, but we’ll see as we go. We are in the best possible position: we are the hunter. There are the ‘explorers’ who are ahead and we who can make our choices based on what is going on ahead. We have nothing to lose, we have everything to gain. The situation is not bad, I have my boyfriend Benjamin (Dutreux) who is downwind, I would have done most of the Vendée Globe with him. We had lost sight of each other in the south a little bit, but on the descent we were together all the time, and for the ascent, it looks like we will meet soon. I do my best and for the result… we’ll see at the end! “

At 1094 miles from the lead, Armel Tripon (L’Occitane en Provence) indeed managed the high pressure episode which threatened to disconnect him from the lead. Since then, in the slightly more established trade wind than when the leaders passed there, the Nantes driver has been on the run. 50 miles to the south, the first woman in the Vendée Globe awaits her release. Clarisse Crémer took the opportunity to rest… and sunburn. As far as Pip Hare, which winds its way along the Argentinian coast by the north face, upwind, the fleet moves slowly. Ahead of a depression in southern Argentina, Stéphane le Diraison (Time for Oceans) and Didac Costa (One Planet One Ocean) are doing well. You need that to escape 33 knot southerly winds at your back!

Miranda Merron (Campagne de France) and Clément Giraud (Compagnie du Lit – Jiliti) are now just a few hours away from crossing Cape Horn. Routings give them to the tip of Tierra del Fuego around 10 am this Sunday morning. By then, Charlie Dalin and Louis Burton may have revealed their truths out of the doldrums. Perhaps, for once and in order to vary the pleasures, the weather episodes will prove those who are ahead?


Thomas Ruyant, LinkedOut

I am focused on the present moment, I hope to move my boat forward as I can. It’s a long starboard tack that’s been engaged for a while and takes us to the latitude of the Azores, in a very long tack. Unfortunately, this is not the right one for me. The small edge of the foil that remains degrades a bit and causes drag in the water. It’s not going very fast, but I’m not giving up, I’m listening, I’m keeping pace, but it’s hard to compete with 100% boats like Boris and Louis; Charlie still has his tip. It’s not a very pleasant situation, it is delicate: I watch things happen,; I’m trying to get a decent line and go forward with what I can.

Anyway, 88 miles behind, after 70 days at sea isn’t much, but we’re only ten days away from the finish … it’s still a gap. Before the doldrums, anything can happen. In the return direction, it is less complicated even if the latest satellite images show it to be active. I’m trying to move west from the boats, where the crossing point is, I get the feeling. With a doldrums ahead, no, 88 miles is not much.

Romain Attanasio, PURE – Best Western

I had a little scare this morning. When I started my engine to recharge the batteries, it suddenly slowed down. When I opened the hold, it was full of water. An exhaust hose broke. I have dried everything and everything is working again. My hands are full of sludge, but as long as the engine is running, I’m fine! Yesterday I took off the fleece for the first time and today I took off the tights. In two days, we went from winter to summer, life is much easier. This is the good news of the good weather. I think I will see the first flying fish soon, it will be a sign that the water is warm. My first concern is to move forward and manage to leave this windless zone to join the trade winds which will be like a highway towards the equator. After that soft spot, it’s all right. It won’t be very pleasant because we will be reaching so the boat will be underwater and, as soon as we get out, we get sprayed. But we are moving straight towards the goal. I think I’ll be at the equator in five days!

Giancarlo Pedote, Prysmian Group

I am a hundred miles off the coast of Brazil: the wind is quite cooperative and I have just looked at satellite images, and the clouds are under my wind. I am heading due north (5 °) for a passage to 31 ° West but I will refine because for me, the “gateway” to the doldrums is rather between 29 ° and 32 ° West . It’s a bit like the day of reconditioning, the boat and the man. It’s the first day for a long time where the wind is more stable, even if I struggled in a soft early Friday afternoon: I was a little lost but then I landed and the boat took off of this windless area. Now, things are going well at an average of 17-18 knots: as soon as things get a little unbridled, with the foils, things get much better! The race is open! I’m on the cleat … It’s the final sprint: there is still some ground to grind. There is a choice of how to approach the doldrums; So far, it doesn’t look like it changes configuration within a mile! Then, it will be more J2 than a gennaker: you still have to go upwind, it will be close oceanic. You have to have the right angle because there will be about 20 knots of breeze. Today, it’s the regatta: you have to set the sails well, take care of the boat, pay attention to the weather to aim for the pot, prepare the boat for the pot and the trade winds.

Rankings at 3pm French Time

  1. Charlie Dalin, Apivia, à 3370.4 miles from finish
  2. Louis Burton, Bureau Vallée 2, 2.1 miles from leader
  3. Boris Herrmann, SeaExplorer – Yacht Club de Monaco, 41.5 miles from leader
  4. Thomas Ruyant, LinkedOut, 88.9 miles from leader
  5. Damien Seguin, Groupe APICIL, 108,9 miles from leader

Photo Credit: JL. Carli

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