Given that the Vendee Globe fleet started on Sunday 8th November in Les Sables d’Olonne with a record sized fleet of 33 IMOCAs and there are still, technically, 31 tracked on the race course, it is not entirely unexpected to have no fewer than nine boats (and ten skippers) cross the longitude of the Cape of Good Hope today.
But this is a unique, unprecedented statistic for a unique and ever more engaging edition of the solo non-stop round the world race.
Passing at 0230hrs UTC this Wednesday morning in fourth place was Sébastien Simon on Arkea Paprek. The 30 year old Les Sablais skipper has been showing good speeds in recent days on the 2020 Juan K design. But no sooner was he into the Indian Ocean than he reported substantial damage to his starboard foil and its casing after hitting an object in the water at 0820hrs UTC this morning.
An inspection of the damage revealed that the foil’s lower wedge at the entry point (where the foil rests and is linked to the boat) and the foil housing (where the foil goes inside the boat) were no longer attached to the boat itself.
Simon slowed the boat which had some unspecified amount of water ingress, and had stabilised the situation, this afternoon making between eight and 12kts on port gybe racing towards the back of a low pressure system.
After Arkea Paprek crossed Good Hope the IMOCAs passed Good Hope like buses, Germany’s Boris Herrmann (Seaexplorer-Yacht Club de Monaco) at 1hr 4min after Simon, Jean Le Cam (Yes We Cam!) crossed 1hr 17 min after the German skipper, then Damien Seguin (Groupe Apicil) 42mins later, Yannick Bestaven (Maitre Coq IV) 3hrs 09mins after, Benjamin Dutreux (OMIA-Water Family) 1hr 50 mins later, Giancarlo Pedote (Prysmian Group) 2hrs 12 mins later, then came Sam Davies (Initiatives Coeur) 1hr 50m later. Isabelle Joschke (MACSF) crossed 1hr 4mins after Davies.
The proven reliability of the 2016-17 race winning boat, now Bureau Vallée 2, and the desire and confidence to attack hard seem to be the key to Louis Burton’s progress up the leaderboard.
So far he has routed south, closer to the ice exclusion zone and so sailing less miles but always in stronger winds and bigger seas. The 35 year old from Saint Malo was seventh on the last edition of the race, blessed with a passage through the southern oceans mostly in relatively benevolent conditions thanks to a high pressure system which he rode for weeks.
Rescued Kevin Escoffier and his rescuer Le Cam were called by Skype onboard Yes We Cam! by the President of France, Emmanuel Macron who congratulated Le Cam on his seamanship, saying,
“I was reassured by the news. I am a fan of Jean’s. So I wanted to say hats off to him. We are extremely proud of Kevin and you and for the whole ‘family’ and of what you did.” Said Macron
It is still planned to drop Escoffier on a French navy frigate the Nivose which could rendezvous with Yes We Cam near the Crozet or Kerguelens but this has not yet been confirmed by the authorities. If not it might be New Zealand before Escoffier could be taken off.
For all that the latest generation of high speed foiling IMOCAs are designed for top speeds of more than 30kts, now racing in the steep, short seas of the Indian Ocean, race leader Charlie Dalin has been through his biggest storm to date and today said he is having to learn how to slow his boat and manage it.
“I am discovering something I have never had to do before.” said Dalin, “I have to un-trim, detune my boat. I feel now 50 per cent of the time I am trying to trim the sails and the foils and keel to go faster, and 5o per cent of the time I am de-tuning the boat.
“I find myself looking for the brake pedal. The sea state in the Indian Ocean is really what is limiting my speed. Sometimes the boat accelerates in the surf and we go to 28-30 knots and you don’t know how it is going to end.
“It is a really weird to way to think, ‘I have this wind strength, this wind angle is this and I have these sails up, and I have the foil set like this, but if I change all these settings I should slow the boat down, and slow the boat down.’ I never had to do this before in my racing career.”
With a lead of over 250 miles Dalin admitted today he no longer routes his rivals, Burton tracking 165 nautical miles south of third placed Ruyant, not because he doesn’t care but he considers it wasted energy when they are in different wind regimes.
“I have stopped routing them – entirely,” he said. “I have voluntarily stopped taking the GRIB files back to Thomas. I cannot do that. I don’t want to know what conditions he is going to have. There is not much point.
“We have different weather systems, we are a bit more than 12 hours apart, so there is not much point. I focus on my race, my course. And we will see how it turns out. I have given up. I don’t find it useful to do this.”
Main image © Yvan Zedda/Alea