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Dalin: I feel like I’ve earned my stripes as a sailor in the Southern Oceans

Race leader Charlie Dalin took advantage of a few hours of well deserved respite after the big Indian Ocean storm of Tuesday night, but has accelerated again to take full advantage of the much improved wind and sea conditions.

That is the case for much of the fleet today as an interval of relative stability prevails through most of the 28 boat fleet. Among the top group the average speeds are around 15 knots as they trundle east, Armel Tripon continues to blaze his trail on L’Occitaine in 14th making more than 20kts at times and even back marker Seb Destremau on Merci in the South Atlantic is making 16.4kts.

For all that he has been through recently leader Dalin is prompt and punctual on his morning call to Race HQ in Les Sables d’Olonne.

0401hrs.

“I’m still a little tired,” he says as Apivia slides along at 18 knots. His voice is clear his mood upbeat this is a morning to reflect on a job well done. The leader of the Vendée Globe describes himself as “empty” but “relieved” after a long night when he had faced his worst conditions since the start. But, he says, “I feel I have earned my stripes as a sailor in the southern ocean.”

Dalin recalls, “It kind of feels like fate that I lost my ‘wind info’ two hours before the storm started. I never really knew what maximum wind speed, which is maybe no bad thing. I was really at the limit. At one point, I didn’t know what to do to slow down. “

He reported how he retracted his foils, rolled his storm jib and just held on.  And then yesterday the wind started to shift and the centre of the low finally moved off.  Charlie texted his partner and Antoine Carraz, his project manager, to tell them that “the big one is over”.

“I was very apprehensive so obviously, I’m happy to have passed this hurdle.”  He said this morning, “I had less wind than I expected for a while then but that allowed me to do a full structural check of the boat and then to sleep well. With the energy that then had I could recover to think about myself a little. I feel that I am marked by this episode, it will take me a little longer to recover”

Dalin is over 180 miles ahead of second placed Thomas Ruyant (LinkedOut). He smiles: “I think I’ve earned my stripes as a southern oceans sailor. But like Armel Le Cléac’h and François Gabart before him, the skipper does not speak of “pride”. Such words are less easily used at sea than on land. The oceans, and the Indian in particular keep sailors in their place, remaining humble. “I don’t know, I’m just happy that I didn’t have any little worries that could so easily have escalated.”

Dutreux, Le Cam and Seguin always up to speed
A night of sailing east with no major mechanical problems seems to have been shared evenly through the fleet on this vast race course. Thomas Ruyant (LinkedOut) is solid in 2nd place making  18 knots overnight. Yannick Bestaven regained 3rd position and has gybed back south.

In the chasing group, Benjamin Dutreux (Water Family) on his first time in the south continues to be impressive pacing Jean Le Cam (Yes We Cam!) who did after a complete check of his boat yesterday – Le Cam has been only just the fastest and while the worries and problems Damien Seguin (Apicil Group) had do seem to definitely be behind him.  A sustained southwesterly wind of 25 knots is blowing for Isabelle Joschke (MACSF), Giancarlo Pedote (Prysmian Group) and Maxime Sorel (V and B – Mayenne). Among this peloton of 11 skippers, only Louis Burton, the most southerly of this pack  had very irregular speeds (12 to 16kts overnight) in an area of lighter winds.

Behind them Romain Attanasio (PURE-Best Western Hotels & Resort) and Clarisse Crémer (Banque Populaire X) are doing 15kts averages. Just under 500 miles behind them Armel Tripon (L’Occitane en Provence) slides along the AEZ at 18 knots on average and has much more of the same to come ahead. Tripon gained 440 miles – almost a day – on  rivals Alan Roura, Stéphane Le Diraison and Arnaud Boissière. Of this trio, La Fabrique is doing the best, while Time for Oceans and La Mie Câline – Artisans Artipôle are still battling depression.

On board PURE-Best Western Hotels & Resort, Romain Attanasio chuckles this morning “Sorry, I forgot your call, I was chatting on WhatsApp with Clarisse”. Both finally have a bit of a break after gusts of over 40 knots yesterday. The skippers share news by messages and texts. “We take advantage of the fact that communications are cheaper this year,” he laughs. In fact, all the skippers often communicate in a WhatsApp group to which only they have access. Attaasio reveals some secrets: “It was Boris (Hermann) who set it up. He is the most active and sometimes we blame him because he talks too much (laughs)! Sam (Davies) sends photos of her work progress, everyone tells a little about their days. Last Sunday, Benjamin Dutreux commentated on the rugby match (France-England). The English were at full bore! “

So despite being in this waterborne lonely no-man’s land, a closeness is formed between these men and women who share their experiences, their humour, their us and downs and support each other. The Vendée Globe 2020 is not just a race between skippers but a family of racers forging solid bonds with each other.

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