This week’s run up to Christmas for the top three skippers in the Vendee Globe is set to be dominated by a large light wind high pressure system that is currently blocking their path through the Indian Ocean as it drifts inexorably to the south east.
Just how the weather scenario will play out is causing plenty of head scratching for leader Yannick Bestaven on Maître Coq IV, second placed Charlie Dalin on Apivia, and third placed Thomas Ruyant on LinkedOut.
It’s likely going to be the weather gods who have the final say, but if Santa Claus has any say in it we could be about to find out which of the top three skippers have been naughty or nice this year.
Dalin and Ruyant look almost certain to get caught in the high’s light wind clutches no matter what they do and could have to take a northerly detour in search of a route around the top of the high.
That’s a frustrating prospect for the French duo who run the risk of being closed down from the tightly packed chasing pack from behind led by fourth placed German skipper Boris Herrmann on Seaexplorer – Yacht Club de Monaco, with Jean Le Cam on Yes We Cam in close pursuit in fifth.
“It is going to be a game of gybes in the right ‘timing’ at the right moment,” said Ruyant today.
“With just a small mouse hole to go through, even if there’s a little chance that we’ll actually go through with wind all the time, there’s going to be some moments where we just get stalled,” he said. “We will have to pass the centre to get pressure again.”
But taking the northerly route means a big diversion from the rhumb line course and there’s a risk of being left trapped in no wind while the group behind sail past further south.
“I think it would be a long way north to go,” commented British weather expert and Volvo Ocean Race navigator Libby Greenhalgh today on the Vendee Globe Live Show.
“It will be interesting to see if second and third take that on. With the chasing peloton, you are almost better parking yourself up in front of them, instead of taking a risk on something that five days later is going to work the way the models say.”
Meanwhile, as frontrunner Bestaven is carefully weighing up whether he is far enough advanced on the high-pressure system’s south easterly path to try to enable him to try to squeeze his way between its southern border and the ice exclusion zone to the south.
The obvious risk of getting stuck for a prolonged period in flat calm conditions is high, but if he pulls it off, the routing models show Bestaven making a significant gain on the rest of the fleet.
At 1700 UTC today, as Bestaven, Dalin, and Ruyant continued to gybe their way along the corridor between the high to the north and the exclusion zone to the south, Bestaven held a 117 nautical miles (nm) lead over Dalin in second, with Ruyant just 45 nm behind in third.