Tuesday, March 2, 2021
Home Events Regatta The ninth edition of the Vendée Globe: The Sting in the Tale

The ninth edition of the Vendée Globe: The Sting in the Tale

Nearly every Vendée Globe, including this ninth edition, has delivered a sting in the tail of one sort or another to unfortunate solo skippers. While the most damaging this time was Boris Herrmann’s collision with a Spanish fishing boat at 90 miles from the finish line, the last miles are often the most tense, as the most recent finisher Manu Cousin noted last Saturday morning:

“At about 40 miles to the finish I had a moment where I finally felt I would make it and could finally release myself and enjoy knowing what I was accomplishing,” he grinned on the dock on Port Olona two days ago.

And these past three weeks the Bay of Biscay have not been easy, with the Azores high pressure displaced from its normal position, and the train of Atlantic low pressures have rolled in one after the other unchecked into Biscay. 

“In winter, these lows that form on the east coast of the USA or off Canada can be deep and can follow one another regularly with only 36 to 48 hours between two frontal passages,” explains Christian Dumard, the Vendée Globe weather consultant. “And the key thing is this rapid succession of lows generates a residual swell in the North Atlantic. The wave heights now can be similar to those encountered in the Deep South”.

“At the edge of the continental shelf, the sea depths rise from several thousand metres to a few hundred metres. This rise in the sea bed creates dangerous seas. We have the same thing in the South of New Zealand and at the approach to Cape Horn” continues Dumard. “The problem is that when the boats get into the Bay of Biscay, there is no way out. It is like a funnel and the end of the funnel is the finish off Les Sables d’Olonne.” 

This year it has, perhaps more than in recent editions, been about timing and avoiding the worst of the stormy winds and seas. Such as was the case with Armel Tripon, who stayed on hold for almost 48 hours off the coast of Portugal to avoid sailing into the Bay of Biscay with 50 knots of wind and eight metre high waves.

“You have to factor in the fatigue accumulated by the skippers and by the boats, the very busy hotspots of maritime traffic and the fishermen. A return to the Atlantic coast in winter is not always as much of a pleasure at the end of the race.” sums up Dumard.

Indeed many solo racers have seen their dreams shattered or at least severely compromised just a few days from the finish.

In 2016-17, Conrad Colman dismasted between the Azores and Portugal, 750 miles from the finish (he finished under jury rig 12 days later). In 2013, Javier Sanso capsized in the southern Azores after losing his keel. The same year, Jean Pierre Dick anchored for three days in the north of Spain to avoid a big gale after sailing his boat without a keel from Cape Verde (he finished fourth). In 2008, it was another keel failure just before the Azores that prevented Roland Jourdain from finishing. Four years earlier, the same concern for Brit Mike Golding, whose keel  broke off 90 miles from the finish (he nevertheless finished 3rd). Catherine Chabaud dismasted at 250 miles from Vigo (Spain) during the 2000-2001 edition and even in the second edition Philippe Poupon lost his mast a few days from the finish line and lost second to Jean Luc Van Den Heede but became the first skipper to finish under jury rig.

And so the final two skippers still racing Ari Huusela and Alexia Barrier will be extra prudent, as will Isabelle Joschke and Sam Davies who are ‘hors course’. Joschke is due back in Les Sables d’Olonne Wednesday and Davies Thursday.

But lack of wind, rather than too much has plagued Ari Huusela for 36 hours now. The Finnish skipper had made just 45 nautical miles in 24 hours on board his Stark IMOCA but appeared to be emerging into stronger winds this afternoon.

“The thing is I will now have upwind conditions, up to 25 to 30kts, and that will not be pleasant but I would rather be upwind than stopped in no wind!” declared Huusela today.

- Advertisment -

Subscribe to our newsletter

To be updated with all the latest news, offers and special announcements.

LATEST ARTICLES

Lürssen shipyard delivers Project Opus, the 141.6-metre Nord

On the 19th of February 2021 the 141.6-metre Nord (previously Project Opus) left the Lürssen shipyard and began her maiden voyage.

Youth Foiling Gold Cup: first event of the year for Young Azzurra

The Youth Foiling Gold Cup will be the first international event of the year for the Young Azzurra team, the sporting project...

Onda Tenders – Limousine tenders for a new generation

When we think of the conventional limousine tender, most of us bring to mind a classic watercraft, perhaps styled after the popular...

Yanmar powers Award-Winning Norwegian hybrid Fishing Vessel

Yanmar has delivered engines for an innovative hybrid power solution for the live fish carrier, Ro Vision, the winner of Norway’s Boat...

RP-Nauta 100 Morgana: genesis of a smart custom, the film

Delivered in December 2020, the Custom RP-Nauta 100 Morgana completed her maiden voyage from Cape Town to the Mediterranean Sea 30 days after her...

Alexia Barrier’s Fighting Spirit Gets her Across The Vendée Globe

On a perfect Sunday morning, with calm seas and just as the new dawn was breaking on 28th February, at  06 23...

36TH America’s Cup match Covid19 restrictions update: race postponed

36TH America’s Cup match Covid19 restrictions update: first weekend of the America’s Cup Match postponed. In light of the...

Sunbeam Concept ONE

What we’re witnessing is known as the Sunbeam ConceptONE, created by two designers, Maximilian Troicher and Anja Didrichsons. To make...

Sam Davies Completes Solo Vendée Globe Route Outside The Race

After being forced to abandon her race on 5th December following a violent collision with a floating object south of Cape Town...

The 52 Super Series Reschedules 2021 Season And Venues

With the prospect of being unable to run the early season events to an appropriate standard and have them properly accessible to...