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Aug 7, 2006

Currently Still In The Race:

Armel Le Cleac'h/Banque Populaire
Alex Thomson/Hugo Boss
Jeremie Beyou/Maitre Coq
Jean-Pierre Dick/St. Michel/Virbac
Louis Burton/Bureau Valee
Nandor Fa/Spirit of Hungary
Conrad Colman/Foresight Natural Energy
Rich Wilson/Great American IV
Pieter Heerema/No Way Back
Didac Costa/One Planet One Ocean
Sebastien Destremau/TechnoFirst faceOcean

Retired from the Race:

Bertrand DE BROC/MACSF (collision, hull damage)
Vincent Riou/PRB (keel damage)
Morgan LAGRAVIÈRE/Safran (rudder damage)
Kojiro Shiraishi/Spirit of Yukoh (lost top of mast)
Kito de Pavant/Bastide Otio (keel damage causing water ingress, rescued)
Sebastien Josse/Edmund de Rotshchild (damage to port side foil)
Thomas Ruyant/Le Souffle du Nord (collision with major hull and deck damage)
Paul Meilhat/SMA (damage to keel canting mechanism - safely arrived in Tahiti)
Enda O’COINEEN/KILCULLEN VOYAGER - TEAM IRELAND (dismasted off the SE coast of NZ)

What is the Vendee Globe?

It's a sailboat race around the world. In this edition, 29 boats, each crewed by a single sailor, sail around the world nonstop from France by way of rounding the Great Capes (Cape of Good Hope/Cape Agulhas, Cape Leeuwin, and the granddaddy of them all, Cape Horn). There is a southern "exclusion zone" at the cost of penalty the sailors must not violate due to the risk of iceberg collision.

The first Vendee was in 1992 and most recently it's been run every four years, this is the eighth edition.

The boats are 60 foot monohulls.

The major elements of a winning campaign: the boat and boat design, the skill and experience of the skippers and the quality of the weather information they receive, the skippers' ability to endure the emotional and physical strain of such a lengthy nonstop event, lots of luck in colliding with underwater objects (whales, mostly submerged shipping containers etc.), luck in whether the boats sustain damage due to collision, weather, mechanical failures etc. (although the decisions made by the skippers and how they sail the boats go a long way to influence such events too). And, as the event is a nonstop, singlehanded no assistance event, the ability of the skippers to repair or jury rig various problems that inevitably arise plays a big part in their chances for victory. They may need to be diesel mechanics working on the engines of their boats (needed to generate electric power for their instruments, comms and autopilots), be able to work on navigation instruments atop the mast of their boat, take down, repair or even cut away damaged sails, repair damaged rigging etc. Examples of some of these are in the YouTube videos at the bottom.

Things that have happened in past Vendee races:

Sailors lost at sea, presumed dead. Keels knocked off boats, presumably striking whales. Capsized boats. Broken femurs.

One guy bit the end of his tongue off when struck by something, and had to receive instruction and sew the end himself while underway.

What's new: Hydrofoils!

Hydrofoil technology, while it's been around for quite a long time, has in recent years made major inroads into the world of big time sail racing. Pictured is the Hugo Boss boat skippered by Alex Thomson, which is one of the current leaders in the Vendee. Note the hook or wing like appendage on the port side of the boat. These provide lift in the by the same principle as an airplane's wings, allowing a large portion of the boat's hull to ride up out of the water under the right conditions so the boat can sail (or fly) with minimal drag and much greater speed. This is the first year the Vendee has allowed hydrofoil boats (although the boats still must be monohull, multihull foil boats are the fastest sail powered boats around at the moment), foiling boats are now in the America's Cup and appear to be here to stay.

This year's Vendee has a mixture of foil and traditional designs. It's accepted that the foiling boats will be the fastest entries (and this has certainly been true during the race so far), but the question is whether the foil appendages will withstand the rigors of a race around the globe. One of the major questions before the start of the race was whether the foilers will have all the fastest boats but all be forced to retire short of the finish line due to damage, with the race being won by "slow and steady" non foiling tortoises.

The Skippers:

This year's Vendee has a strong group of competitors, including prior winner Vincent Riou (now sadly retired from the race due to keel damage) and strong finishers like Alex Thomson, Armel Le Clea'ch.

The race is generally dominated by French sailors, the French have long had a strong tradition and interest in trans-oceanic sailing and racing. All seven of the previous races have been won by French sailors. This year's race is notable for the Brit Alex Thomson being one of the favorites to win.

Other interesting entries:

-The first Asian competitor, Kojiro Shiraishi aboard Spirit of Yukoh.

-New Zealander Conrad Colman aboard Foresight Natural Energy trying to be the first "zero emissions" boat to complete the race without burning any diesel, generating all its power through solar and wind energy including a hydro unit below water converting water energy to electricity.

-The oldest competitor is also the only American in the race, Rich Wilson at age 66.

-Rounding out the geezer entries is Enda O'Coineen, the first Irish racer, at age 61. It's my understanding that he's not really a major competitive international sailing champ like the others but a rich dude who likes sailing doing this as a bit of a lark.

The Current State of the Race:

The 2016 race started on November 6. The initial leg from France to the Cape of Good Hope was characterized by record speeds by the leaders due to both the boat designs, skill of the skippers, and very good weather conditions.

The racers are now spread out over a huge range. There is a tense duel for the lead by the Hugo Boss and Banque Populaire boats which are often separated by less than 20 nautical mile, with the next competitor Sebastien Josse being hundreds of nautical miles back, and a large pack of boats thousands of miles behind. A large pack of boats got stuck in low wind/high pressure conditions heading south in the Atlantic and thus fell much farther behind the leaders than the speed of the boats would account for.

There have been a number of notable boat damage events including some resulting in the boats retiring from the race, and others that have and will continue to seriously impact the contestants.

As the racers enter the challenging weather conditions of the Southern Ocean, more attrition due to boat damage and other weather related events is to be expected.

Of the current leaders, the most important event has been damage to the Hugo Boss boat during the first part of the race. Hugo Boss appeared to be the fastest design in the race and opened up a lead of about a hundred nm in the early race. Hugo Boss's starboard foil was damaged, presumably by impact with some UFO (unidentified floating object). While critical boat elements like the hull, keel, rudder and mast are intact and the boat is able to continue with the race, she no longer has foiling capability while on port tack (wind coming from the port/left side of the boat with the boat heeled over onto its starboard/right side, where the foil would normally provide lift and a substantial speed advantage). The remaining stump of the foil is a liability, providing no lift but representing extra weight and drag. It remains to be seen whether Thomson will attempt to saw off or smooth down what remains of the foil stump during a long stretch of starboard (edited to make correction) tack.

The Banque Populaire boat, another one of the top foiling entries skippered by two time Vendee runner up Le Clea'ch, was able to close the gap and since then the two boats have traded leads and dueled while gybing in zig zag fashion just north of the ice exclusion zone:

Thomson has done well to not allow the BP boat to run away with things, but the question remains whether Thomson has to push his boat to the limit to maintain his current position, increasing the risk of other boat failures that will end his campaign, and whether BP has an "extra gear" she is holding in reserve, knowing that more than half the race remains and that she can stay with Thomson but then push the boat when the time and conditions are right and minimize her own risk of damage and failure.

The strategic questions are: what are the relative performance of the Hugo Boss and BP boats while on starboard, and on port tacks, and how much of the race will be spent in each mode? This information is critical to the strategic plans of both skippers for the race going forward. Thomson would like to do whatever is possible to maximize the amount of time and distance spent on staboard (edited to correct error) tack where he is still the fastest boat.

The final leg north from Cape Horn to France will be largely upwind where the lack of the starboard foil should prove a huge disadvantage to Thomson, should the two leaders be close entering the final stage.

The major "big picture" strategic aspect for the skippers in the race is the ability to catch and stay with favorable weather systems and wind conditions, and avoid or outrun unfavorable conditions. This is where fast boats like Hugo Boss and BP can magnify their advantage by catching good weather conditions further ahead while other boats get stuck in high pressure systems with low wind. While it appears to be a two man race at this point, it's possible for a racer like Josse to catch a favorable system and make up a substantial amount of ground on the leaders, and there is still much time and distance to achieve this.

It goes without saying that damage and boat failures are a major issue that can affect any of the racers at this point and play a huge role in determining the outcome of the race. Much of this is luck, although skippers opting to push their boats hard over long distances clearly increase the risk of such failures.

Retired from the race :

Vincent Riou/PRB - struck UFO, damage to keel integrity became evident. Retired and safely diverted to Cape Town. Riou was a prior winner of the Vendee and was the only nonfoil boat to be among the top five before suffering this damage.

Morgan Lagraviere/Safran - struck UFO with damage to starboard rudder. Retired and diverted safely to Cape Town.

Tanguy DE LAMOTTE/INITIATIVES COEUR - mast damage early in race, retired and returned to France.

Bertrand de Broc/MACSF - hull damage, retired from race, returning to France

Kojiro Shiraishi is retiring from the race after losing the top of his mast. He is headed safely back to Cape Town.

Notable damage:

Alex Thomson - starboard foil broken off after collision with UFO. Still viable and in fact he is in an extended duel with the Banque Populaire boat for the lead.

Sebastian Josse - struck UFO causing rudder damage. Reparing rudder cost considerable time and distance but Josse is still in third although far off from the two leaders.

Jeremie Bayou/Maitre CoQ - loss of satellite antenna function, leading to loss of communications with shore and detailed weather information. He has, I believe, received limited information relayed to him via VHF radio when he's been near other competitors.

Conrad Colman has apparently suffered sail and electrical damage but he and the boat are apparently intact and in no immediate danger, no details yet.

Sebastien Destremau's engine starter has fried:

How to follow the Vendee:

The race's own website, linked at the top of the thread, has extensive news updates and video snippets, as well as profiles of the skippers.

In addition, the following graphical race tracker, created by a sailor and race enthusiast, is a good graphical representation of weather conditions superimposed over the race route and boat standings:

VendeeGlobeTV as well as the various race teams all have their own YouTube and other social media channels and feeds.

Geoff Waller's YouTube channel has nice programs that discuss and summarize the notable events of the race.

Various Vendee media:

Alex Thomson, filmed from a French naval helicopter while sailing the Southern Ocean, flies the Union Jack for the fans:

Kojiro Shiraishi climbs to the top of his mast to fix a broken instrument:

Kojiro Shiraishi enjoys some ocean fresh sushi:

Sebastien Destremau's engine starter motor has failed, leading him to resort to a rather sketchy and dangerous looking start method:

Stuck in calm conditions, Conrad Colman dives his boat to check on his prop:

Louis Burton shimming a wonky rudder:

Safran, retired from the race due to rudder damage, greeted by whales upon arrival in Cape Town:

Zwabu fucked around with this message at Jan 2, 2017 around 16:32


Feb 14, 2012


This is stupendous and fascinating and I can't wait to hear more!

Aug 7, 2006

A lot is happening in the last day or so.

-Le Clea'ch/BP has resumed the lead and is opening up a little distance on Hugo Boss. Now 48 nautical miles, although this is a blip compared to the distances between the leaders and the rest. It's possible Alex's course is designed to maximize his time and distance spent on starboard tack (I wrote this incorrectly earlier as port tack, starboard is the tack where Alex/HB is the fastest boat).

Or it could simply be that BP is the faster boat at this point and that she will simply increase her lead.

-As the rest of the racers approach and clear the Cape of Good Hope and enter the tough weather conditions in the Southern Ocean, we are beginning to see boat damage events at a much higher rate.

Recent damage events:

Spirit of Yukoh has been dismasted.

Electrical and sail problems aboard both Spirit of Hungary and Foresight Natural Energy:

Nandor Fa posted:

Nándor’s (Spirit of Hungary) Ship’s Log, 3rd dec. 07:50 UTC

“I had a very eventful night. After my autopilot turned off by itself for the second time, my boat gybed with the mainsail and the A7 gennaker. This is a very dangerous situation! I called Peter [Nándor’s electrician] to explain how to switch the autopilot’s propulsion to reserve. At the second blackout of the autopilot I realized it wasn’t a problem of the control but it was the propulsion that keeps going away. While I was looking for the necessary switches in the back of the boat, I discovered that one outlet was corroded. I was trying to switch to spare mode but it took some time. It is impossible to do longer work while running with high speed. Finally I released the A7 sail and stopped the boat to repair the autopilot. The cable was so corroded I couldn’t even unplug, I had to cut it. I cleaned the cables, and reconnected them. It worked. I turned back to my track, rolled out the gennaker and continued sailing. I lost approximately 40 minutes all together, which means 9 – 10 SM.

Everything went all right until the morning. I just went outside when the wind increased, but it was still all right for the current sail combination. So I was standing there, fully dressed, and the following happened in front of my eyes:

An enormous wave and a big gust came at the same time. Of course the boat went into surfing mode and dove completely into the next wave ahead. The boat was shaking, vibrating, struggling. Then I heard a loud crack and the A7 sail was broken in half with one quick motion. The whole thing was in the water within one second, hanging on the right side of the boat. I jumped to pull it out but we were running with 16 – 18 knots speed, it was impossible. At the same time there was a chance it would tangle around my rudders so I had no other choice, I had to cut it off and let it go. Unfortunately it took one of the halyards too, I couldn’t save it. Needless to say, I’m very disappointed as this was my favourite sail. Now I have to manage the rest of the race with these sails I have left. I’m going to miss it, but this is part of the business. When you dance on the edge of the knife, there’s a chance you cut yourself.

The whole day there’s been 35-45 knots of wind, with aggressive waves. We’re going fast but it comes with a price. The boat is fighting and I’m fighting too, in order to stay in the safe zone. I saw a coal-black line on the sky where the Westerly wind turned into SW. The wind shift came with 45 knots and the world got almost completely dark. Then the sun came back just as the same. I needed to gybe. I started several times but each time the wind got stronger so I didn’t want to risk, I finally furled in the solent and gybed with the main only. It went more or less smoothly and I was lucky to have carried it out without any gusts coming on me. We’ve been running with an average speed of 18 knots (varies between 15 and 26) ever since. The waves are still very fresh and wild, they’re aggressively yanking the boat. It is impossible to move around inside without holding onto something. We’re progressing, and that is the most important thing, after safety.

Position on 3rd december, at 17:30 UTC: 38° 47′ S, 012° 47′ E,

almost everything’s all right.

Aug 7, 2006

Maitre CoQ has suffered some kind of problem or damage to the mainsail. Details are lacking but it's apparently serious enough that the skipper, Beyou, is diverting course to get out of the difficult weather and possibly anchor in a harbor to make repair. The rules allow for this as long as the skipper does not come ashore.

Aug 7, 2006

Various highlights, including some footage from Hugo Boss showing Banque Populaire visible on the horizon. Also, one of the sailors, Dick, violated the ice exclusion zone and had to sail back to the point where he entered as a penalty, losing several hours in the process:

Zwabu fucked around with this message at Dec 4, 2016 around 15:50

Aug 7, 2006

Conrad Colman's Very Bad Day: Electrical issues lead to autopilot failure resulting in a knockdown of the boat. Dude has an incredible attitude though. I want to buy him and Kojiro all the beers.

Welcome to GBS
Feb 26, 2011

Don't have time to dive in right now, but I've favorited this thread and will be following closely!

Aug 7, 2006


It looked like LeClea'ch/BP was pulling away from Hugo Boss for a while but Hugo Boss has made back ten miles out of a hundred and is now about 90 miles bacck as they head for Australia.

Sebastien Josse in third place looked well poised to make a move towards the leaders with some serious wind, but it was too much of a good thing. He has damaged his port side foil after surfing/plunging down the face of a huge wave. If you look at the tracker he appears to have been in 35ish knot winds for a while. He appears to be headed south, possibly past the exclusion zone, to safety to wait out the weather and preserve his boat. The penalty incurred is less of a consideration than staying afloat. Little information so far on whether he can remove or repair the foil.

Beyou/Maitre CoQ has repaired his mainsail issue which was not the sail itself but the traveler car, and has resumed racing. He is still without satellite weather data though.

Nonfoiler SMA seems to be making a decent move. Josse's misfortune puts him in a good position to move into third place in the near future.

Earlier I showed the video of Destremau whose starter motor had fried. He has managed to jury rig a system to start his engine, apparently using the tension of the jib sheet to provide cranking power:

To give an idea of how much faster the leaders are in this year's race, Alex Thomson/Hugo Boss cleared the Cape of Good Hope in about 17 days versus 22 days being the previous record. Le Clea'ch and Thomson are on pace to clear Cape Leeuwin around 6 days ahead of the previous record.

The single day distance record has still not been broken though. Thomson basically broke it but because his distance was less than a nautical mile more than the old record it's considered a "tie" by the conventions of the Vendee.

This "World on Water" episode is a lengthy summary of recent events:

Aug 7, 2006

Skipper Kito de Pavant has suffered massive keel damage after striking something in the water, and his boat is taking on water in a big way. He's notified authorities and made ready to ditch, but the nearest ship is about ten hours away.

Hopefully his vessel can stay afloat until it arrives.

tentish klown
Apr 3, 2011

This is the really scary poo poo. The oceans are full of crap these days, they're all hitting UFOs and at the speeds they are foiling at, it's no laughing matter when they do hit one.

Aug 7, 2006

Kito awaiting rescue. Video shows water in his keel compartment. The keel is apparently hanging by a thread and you can hear the noise that is probably the keel swinging back and forth. Should it give way and fall off his boat could capsize immediately. Apparently the boat has a decent chance to stay afloat either way. Without rescue on scene his best chance of survival would be to stay atop the overturned hull.

The water is like 5 degrees C and high winds so abandoning ship (as he is contemplating in the video) is no bargain either.

Apparently he has his survival stuff at the ready. I'm assuming he may have put together a ditch bag with a little stuff he might need.

I don't know at what point you don a survival suit and how much that impairs your movements.

The research ship Marion Dufresne has arrived on scene but it's dark, they are awaiting morning light to attempt rescue ops, launching a boat to recover Kito. Depending on the sea state rescue might not be any easy affair either.

Aug 7, 2006

Kito is safely aboard the Marion Dufresne!

Jun 7, 2010

Not Vendee Globe but Thomas Colville is attempting to break the single handed round the world record on a 100ft trimaran.

He's currently at cape horn and way ahead of the record pace and looks certain to break the record.

It's intersting that he went much farther south than the no go vendee globe ice limit. He almost went to 60degrees!

kierrie fucked around with this message at Dec 8, 2016 around 03:36

Aug 7, 2006

Sebastien Josse, skippering the foiler Edmund de Rothschild, has retired from the race. Apparently the damage he did to his port side foil threatens the integrity of the boat and he couldn't see himself making any repair that would be good for halfway around the world.

I hope we can learn the details about this. Unlike Hugo Boss I suspect the foil remnant was loose and moving around with the possibility of causing further damage including holing his hull, I'm imagining having a giant can opener stuck into your hull that digs a bigger hole every time it moves around.

Really too bad, he seems like a cool dude and I was really hoping he could get closer to the leaders and make things more interesting.

Also it looks like Banque Populaire may be pulling away from Hugo Boss despite HB being on starboard tack where she was formerly the fastest boat. Speculation is that maybe the sea state in the Indian Ocean is not conducive to optimal performance. The hydrofoils already only provide benefit in certain wind range, like 12-25kts. Too slow and there's no lift. Too much wind and the sea state may prevent good foil performance as the boats plow into wave after wave instead of riding serenely above the fray.

I'll edit the OP to include the list of skippers and who has retired.

Aug 7, 2006

Current state of the race:

-The two leaders, Armel Le Cleac'h/Banque Populaire and Alex Thomson/Hugo Boss, have reached the halfway point of the race each with about 12,000 nautical miles to go. They are separated by about 130nm and Thomson is hanging in there and not letting the BP boat run away with things.

-Armel and Alex are about to get hit with a major low pressure weather system so both are likely not sailing their boats as aggressively as they could right now, they are looking to avoid critical damage and sail conservatively until the system passes.

-With the retirement of Sebastien Josse/Edmund de Rothschild, who had been in third place, 7 out of the original 29 boats have been retired. 2 of the hydrofoil entries are out including Edmund de Rothschild and Safran. Of the remaining boats, many have suffered significant damage, to rudders, starter motors, electrical systems, sails etc.

-The distance from the leader to last place spans some 6,000nm.

-The historical record of Vendee Globe racers is 50 percent of the racers able to finish. With a quarter of the racers out and the leaders at the half way point we seem to be on pace for a similar result.

Someone apparently took some drone footage of Romain Attanasio of Famille Mary, anchored in Simon's Town, South Africa, working on his poor broken rudders. Remember, the rules allow for the boat to anchor but the skipper can't go ashore or receive any outside assistance:

I don't know anything about Simon's Town but it's got to be so tempting to just go ashore, get a nice hot shower and go to a nice restaurant, have a great meal and a whole bottle of wine.

Conrad Colman is a bad, bad man, chapter 92:

Conrad Colman posted:

Update day 32: Mast climb!
Conrad Colman
Without sounding too morbid, I feel a little like I'm sitting on death row and my fellow competitors have already been taken to have their last meal. It's emotional and shocking to hear about Kito's rescue and to think that for the third time in a row he won't make it back to Les Sables under his own steam. With such great teams as Gitana and PRB also falling to misfortune it's just the proof that the ocean does't look at your bank balance or the size of your team when dealing out the hard cards.

Mich Desj, two time winner of the Vendee Globe, says that you need to be mentally prepared for one major problem per day and so far I'm keeping up with his tempo. I am still working to get the battery pack online after the fire and whenever I look around there's a new error message displayed on the instruments. It appears that I'm still losing a little oil from the hydraulic ram I repaired in the doldrums and I just got back on deck after over an hour up the mast to repair a sail.

When the wind shifted this afternoon from NW to N, I changed from my bigger reaching sail to my smaller flatter sail, the Solent or J2 which means it's the second biggest jib on the boat. When I unrolled it I saw that the pocket that holds the sail onto the cable was damaged and the sail risked to unzip itself completely. As the front of the sail is only exposed when the sail is unrolled I would have to fix it when the sail was working and the boat was fully powered up because I couldn't bear away onto a run because the Ice exclusion zone isn't far to leeward.

So, with the wind blowing at 20 knots and boatspeed sometimes the same, I climbed almost to the top of the mast and then hand stitched the pocket closed and then covered the repair with self adhesive sail cloth. Because I had a lot of stitching to do I did it several sections, which of course meant I had to cut new lengths of string and re-thread the needle. 22 Metres in the air, one foot hooked around the sail and the other around the mast, bracing to stay stable and then concentrating on the needle I figured the closest possible comparison would be threading a needle on the back of a galloping horse while doing the splits and situps at the same time. I guess you need to have a head for heights!

By living with a tool kit and multimeter in my hands as much as the helm and the sheets I just hope that I can resolve enough of the problems fast enough to keep me in the race and avoid the fall of the executioner's axe!

Aug 7, 2006

American skipper Rich Wilson on Great American IV gives a tour of the instrumentation around his chart table:

Aug 7, 2006

Two more entrants have had to retire due to damage and are attempting to make their way safely to shore:

Stéphane Le Diraison and Thomas Ruyant have suffered, respectively, a dismasting and serious hull/deck damage from a UFO collision. Le Diraison can be seen as the yellow boat headed up towards Australia (Melbourne), and Ruyant is near the southern tip of New Zealand, but as he has serious hull damage and the boat is literally falling apart, the last hundred or so nautical miles he has to make it to shore will be a LOONGGG one.

Photos of Ruyant's boat:

Photos of mast remnant (carbon splinters) from Le Diraison:

Le Diraison has managed to erect a 7m tall jury rig mast and is under sail with one of his storm sails and managing 4-5 knots but has a long way to go to Melbourne, the better part of a thousand nautical miles.

Ruyant's situation is much more dire, the front of his boat could fall off at any time really although he is much closer to rescue. His situation is really dicey. Not sure if there is any beach at the southern tip of New Zealand he could just run the boat up onto.

As far as the rest of the race, Armel Le Cleac'h has a commanding lead of 500nm or so over Hugo Boss and should have the win barring damage. By the time he reaches Cape Horn and turns north he could have a two day lead.

Someone else to keep an eye on is Sebastien Destremau, the guy who had to jury rig his engine start method earlier:

He's suffered significant damage to his rig and has had a lot of troubles generally although he seems to be one of the more likeable blokes in the race. He's suffered at or near the back of the pack the whole way. I hope he makes it around but not too optimistic about his chances.

Aug 7, 2006

Six racers have now rounded the infamous Cape Horn and are now working their way up the Atlantic along the coast of South America to the finish line in France:

Alex Thomson rounds Cape Horn on Christmas Day:

Banque Populaire and Hugo Boss are still well in the lead, with BP's lead over HB fluctuating between 120-200 nautical miles.

BP had an 800 nm lead upon rounding Cape Horn but fell into some low wind holes and HB made up for early bad luck breaking her starboard foil by having good wind after rounding the horn. HB ate up several hundred miles of BP's lead and the lead was as small as 30-50nm before BP caught some wind again. With over 4 thousand nm to go, BP has a significant advantage but there is a real race for first place.

Additional retirements due to damage:

Paul Meilhat/SMA suffered a failure of the keel canting mechanism. On these boats the keels are not fixed but have a hydraulic ram device that can change the angle more towards one side or the other to counteract heel. In the event of a failure the keel can be fixed and locked into the middle position (although this procedure is apparently not easy either), but the boat is not designed to sail this way and with a third or so of the globe to cover there is a real risk of catastrophic failure (keel breaking off resulting in a capsize and a huge hole in the hull, etc.) Meilhat opted to seek safety, and nice weather, in Tahiti. It's a drat shame because Meilhat was one of the better skippers and was the leading non foil entry, spending the race in fourth or third place before this damage. The SMA boat was the winning boat in the last Vendee.

Meilhat arriving safely:

Enda O'Coineen was dismasted in heavy winds, the mast broke off at the deck. He had to cut away the mast and rigging to prevent the hull getting a hole smashed into it. This event happened about 180nm from the SE coast of NZ so he should hopefully be able to motor safely to a port.

Ruyant was able to safely make harbor in NZ in a boat that was basically held together by string (see the video in my earlier post), an amazing feat.

Stéphane Le Diraison was able to make it safely to Melbourne with his jury rigged vessel after his dismasting (the mast is what used to be his boom):

So 11 out of the original 29 racers are out, already close to the average tally of half the racers lost to attrition from damage or injury. 4 are due to mast damage and a similar number from keel damage and hull damage.

Of the remaining racers it's a good bet that at least a few won't make it all the way around. Sebastien Destremau is going to anchor someplace off Australia to check his rig and try to make repairs, with the amount of damage he's sustained I'd be surprised if he finished with half the globe still to cover.

Pieter Heerema on (the perhaps aptly named) No Way Back is now dead last and has been having huge autopilot issues for most of the race, if he doesn't get the autopilot sorted it would be difficult to see him finishing. Remember he's one of the Rich Old Guy Vanity/Bucket List entries.

Conrad Colman has been getting his rear end absolutely kicked in heavy weather in the middle of the pack, he's one of my favorites and I hope he makes it around.

Terrible Robot
Jul 2, 2010


Slippery Tilde

Just wanted to say thanks for doing this thread, I got turned on to it a month ago and have been following ever since. This might be my new favorite race.

Aug 7, 2006

Terrible Robot posted:

Just wanted to say thanks for doing this thread, I got turned on to it a month ago and have been following ever since. This might be my new favorite race.

Cool, I'm glad you appreciate it.

We're now at the point that first place should finish the race in about ten days. After Le Cleac'h (who has the very cool nickname The Jackal among the sail racing press) extended his lead over Alex/Hugo Boss to about 800nm when he reached Cape Horn, he saw almost all that lead evaporate when he got stuck in the doldrums for days just past the Cape, and Alex seemed to have the luck of the devil himself in having almost none of that slow wind after he rounded Cape Horn.

The lead, and the race, is undergoing an accordian or bungee effect in the final leg up the Atlantic. You can see, if you look at the wind map on the Vendee tracker link that I posted:

There are a lot of "holes" with very little wind on the way up the Atlantic after rounding Cape Horn (the blue areas, such as Louis Burton is currently in, and Armel, the leader is maybe just escaping one:

If you scan around the map on the tracker you will see there is very little of this in the Indian Ocean and the Pacific in the lower latititudes in the area below the Great Capes, but there are long stretches with lots of wind and weather, hence the nickname The Roaring Forties (latitude).

As the racer in the lead hits a wind hole, he moves very slowly, and the racer behind him in better wind catches up. Now if the conditions remained exactly the same all the time at every point on the map, then the leader would still stay ahead because the pursuer would slow down and eventually the leader would speed up out of the doldrums and the pursuer would have to endure the same period of slowdown as the leader had. But, as with the area just past Cape Horn, conditions change and there's both skill in weather routing (done by the skippers on board, to be fed a routing from shore is forbidden - presumably the race monitors the satellite comms to shore? otherwise it's a lame honor system), and a considerable amount of luck.

Alex was very unlucky to have damaged his starboard foil. He appeared to be the fastest boat in the first leg and poised to run away with the race, and after his damage, The Jackal (whose boat is no joke either) reeled him in and then got a considerable lead. But now Alex has been rewarded with a great stroke of luck in making up several hundred miles since Cape Horn (the lead was down to around 30nm at one point) and now the accordian effect is on in earnest, with Alex closing in, then Armel extending the gap again, only to hit a wind hole and get caught.

As of the most recent report, The Jackal's lead is only 68nm, just a handful of hours sailing after two months and tens of thousands of miles going round the world! But Alex is slowing down while Le Cleac'h is speeding up after his latest wind hole. The question is whether Alex makes up ground each time to close the gap by the finish?

I feel for anyone to finish this race at all is a great accomplishment. Even aside from the issue of routing and going the fastest, which involves considerable skill and judgment (but much of which is due to having the best boat and team and the most funding, the top teams with the most resources will of course try to pick the best sailors for their entry), just finishing, going nonstop, being unable to resupply or go ashore, and having to repair everything yourself, is just an incredible feat of seamanship and physical and emotional endurance.

I'm rooting for both Armel and Alex almost equally but I have to concede I'm rooting a bit more for The Jackal even though he doesn't come across as much of a personality as Alex, at least to the English speaking world, for the simple fact that he's been runner up in the last two, it would be unbelievably heartbreaking to lead for like 80 percent of the race and then finally get caught and beaten in the final bit. Alex has been a high finisher in the Vendee with a third place and he would certainly be a very deserving champion as well.

I think every single entry has had some minor and occasionally major damage incidents, certainly to sails and rigging, and occasionally race ending damage to keels, hulls, rudder and mast. Some of the entries like Conrad Colman and Ruyant, Le Diraison have been very forthcoming with a lot of details and pictures and videos showing the damage to their vessels and the procedures used to address them. Colman showed taking in his mainsail while his boat was sideways to begin the procedure to recover from a knockdown, which he's now done many times. Le Diraison showed the process of erecting his jury rig boom/mast on a YouTube video. Ruyant showed on a video in great detail how he effected a repair of a major leak in his boat (from damage to the snorkel that brings in sea water to the water ballast tanks), and sadly, the catastrophic damage to his boat after a major collision that ended his race. Alex Thomson has documented many breakdowns and problems that he's had to address during his race, with the notable exception of showing a picture of his damaged starboard side foil.

As far as I'm aware, there have been no such reports of any kind from The Jackal. From a race strategy and psy ops standpoint it makes sense, especially if you are the leader. If they never hear any reports of issues you have had, repairs to sails, rudder etc., and you are in the lead, it can be discouraging to the other racers who might feel you are suffering no such problems when in fact you are. You are just the invulnerable monolith, maintaining that mystique unless some major failure occurs. I think from an image standpoint Le Cleac'h kind of comes across like the Ivan Drago fighter in Rocky IV, the grim unbeatable sailing robot, the end boss you have to overcome in the final level to win the game. Despite this I'm rooting for him because I want him to win instead of being second again.

Even though I'm a sailor and I'm biased, I'm sad that an incredible event like the Vendee has so little exposure in the world, mainly (and understandably) because yacht racing is a rich man's game. I think the nature of the event should hold a lot of interest to many people with no knowledge of sailing or boats at all. Think of all the contrived bullshit drama that is manufactured to make reality shows interesting, contrived challenges and tasks, bitchy interpersonal politics etc. An event like the Vendee creates all the drama needed by its very nature. Many of the personalities are quite interesting, anyone who would embark on something like this isn't exactly wired the same as everyone else.

I bet if a network paid some sponsorship to the boats and paid for onboard camera systems to run all the time, and produced an hourly show each week, they could have a decent product that would be compelling and entertaining for a LOT of people beyond people who already sail or have boats.

Hell just check out some of the videos on the official Vendee Globe YouTube chanel:

And to close this post, here's Alex answering some viewer mail including questions about whether he showers and/or washes his clothes:

Zwabu fucked around with this message at Jan 9, 2017 around 05:07

Aug 7, 2006

Cooking underway with Alex Thomson:

Aug 7, 2006

The leaders are now seperated by only about a hundred nautical miles, with about 1500nm to the finish. Even though they are on starboard tack, which should be favorable to Alex Thomson since he has use of his port side hydrofoil, their speeds seem about even in similar conditions the last few reports.

This doesn't bode well for Alex as the last stretch once they pass Spain should all be on port tack until the finish line where he will probably give up a knot or two of speed to Le Cleac'h due to the lack of a hydrofoil.

Alex is starting to run out of distance to catch up and it may take extraordinarily bad luck for The Jackal to lose. Either some kind of breakage, or for him to hit a low wind hole that Alex gets spared.

Even if Alex averaged a knot faster than Armel, it would take him over four days to catch up to the lead, and he only has a few more days than that.

It's been very quiet the last few days in terms of reports of damage from the fleet including those still in the Southern Ocean.

Aug 7, 2006

We are less than 2 full days to the finish.

After an extended stretch by both leaders averaging over 20 knots, they are now in slower wind on the way to the finish.

Alex Thomson is only 42 nm behind the lead but that represents about 10 percent of the distance Armel Le Cleac'h has to cover to reach the finish line.

Making matters a bit worse for Alex is the fact that soon the boats will have to tack and go to the finish on port tack, where the Hugo Boss boat does not have a functioning hydrofoil and will presumably not be the fastest boat.

Still, it's close enough that any minor tactical error or damage could determine the outcome. Le Cleac'h should still be favored to win by a few hours but he must be feeling the pressure and cannot afford any error.

Aug 7, 2006

Livestream video coverage of the race finish:

Mar 17, 2010

Zwabu posted:

Livestream video coverage of the race finish:

Different feed, in English:

Lots of helicopter coverage on this one.

MisterOblivious fucked around with this message at Jan 19, 2017 around 15:18

Aug 7, 2006

MisterOblivious posted:

Different feed, in English:

Lots of helicopter coverage on this one.

Great! Here is the live stream on Vendee Globe's Facebook page:

Mar 17, 2010

Aug 7, 2006

Armel smashes the previous Vendee record by 4 days.

Apparently he was keeping things close to the vest. In an interview prior to the finish he revealed that his J1 sail was damaged as of a month or so ago and he's been without the use of it since. This likely cost him a lot of performance and miles in light wind conditions and accounted for at least some of the loss of hundreds of miles off his lead after rounding Cape Horn.

Must be an awesome feeling after coming in second twice in a row!

Welcome to GBS
Feb 26, 2011

Good for him, and for Alex. What an amazing race, and I must say the race seemed to get a lot more traction in my sailing circles than it ever did in the past.

Aug 7, 2006

Well, half the fleet is in, but unfortunately fan favorite Conrad Colman of New Zealand has dismasted during the final leg up the Atlantic, less than a thousand miles from the finish.

This after suffering and recovering from numerous knockdowns, a fire on board, and having to make numerous repairs to his sail and rig during his run through the Southern Ocean.

He had to cut away the mast and rig to spare his hull, but he did save most of the boom and cut away a part of his main, and after a couple of days has fashioned a jury rig sail and is underway again and intends to try and finish the race, with about 700nm between him and the finish.

He is making way with the jury rig with the last two trackers showing him in the 3-4 knot range. Food provisions may become a limiting issue. If he is able to finish it will be the biggest story of the race aside from the winner. He will have to find a route that will allow him downwind sailing towards the finish.


Aug 7, 2006

Conrad Colman has uploaded some pictures of his boat sailing under jury rig that he took with his drone, and I must say they are sweet:

It's worth reading his blog entries. They guy is a very good writer, and he certainly hasn't lacked for interesting experiences during this race. Quite a lot of good photos and video too. I don't think anyone else brought or used a drone.

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