As second placed Thomas Ruyant (LinkedOut) completed surgery to his port foil yesterday and scaled his mast again to sort out his various issues, Charlie Dalin (Apivia) leads the 32 boat Vendée Globe fleet into the south with a margin, already at 200 nautical miles, which looks set to grow.
Dalin’s yellow hulled Verdier design is at the gateway to the Roaring Forties this morning and should pick up speed eastbound over the course of the day. Meantime Ruyant nearly 170 miles to the north still slowed in the South Atlantic high pressure.
Ruyant said this morning “It was a busy night trying to get out of the centre of the anticyclone and to the south where I will be soon I hope. It is all good and sorted on board. Yesterday morning I climbed my mast to finish sorting the little problem at the top of my mast and got to work on my port foil. I cut a bit to limit its power. It was quite fragile, it was cracked. And so we took the decision to reduce the power. There is a bit left that comes out the hull. But it is done, it is the Vendée and this is not my specialism. It was not easy. I cut two metres from the tip.”
Meanwhile Alex Thomson was also slowed through yesterday evening relative to the boats around him and Hugo Boss is 12th this morning. Speed in the late afternoon and evening was 18-19kts and overnight 6-7kts. At the same time Sam Davies and Louis Burton actually pulled miles back on Dalin, now averaging 18kts compared with the leader’s 10-12.
Today and the weekend looks set to be crucial to the rest of the race, even though the leaders have covered only one fifth of the 24,295 nautical miles that make up this Vendée Globe course
At the front of the fleet, as the leaders light up in the stronger winds now at boatspeed averages around 20kts, others will still be slowed in the sticky South Atlantic. Note the temperature differential between front and back, Jérémie Beyou still has 30 deg C in the Doldrums while leader Charlie Dalin (Apivia) is in fleece layers and hats in the first of the Roaring Forties, 10 deg C at night and by the time he gets to the Kerguelens it will be barely 3 deg C.
The lead group have already seen their first albatross, but so too there are bird species when the sailors pass nearer land, petrels, terns and shearwaters close to the Nightingale Islands, Gough, Inaccessible, Trsitan de Cunha islands. The skies are different, the stars are brighter and the light is more piercing, the sea darker and more threatening. This is the South.
And this is it. The Roaring Forties now last a long time. From here to the exit at Drake’s Passage at the very tip of South America, there are 12,000 lonely miles between the yellow bow of Dalin’s Apivia – and Cape Horn. He is now well ahead of a peloton which now extends more than 1,000 miles back to Stéphane Le Diraison (Time for Oceans).
The Saint Helena anticyclone is still proving problematic for some, Thomas Ruyant and Jean Le Cam are the last to plunge south towards the Forties.
Three days ago, Louis Burton (Bureau Vallée 2) was the first to break south in an attempt to get out of the clutches of the High followed a few hours later by Briton Sam Davies (Initiatives Coeur). Others followed on this curve, tracing the curve of the high pressure’s contours it’s anticlockwise wind fields.
Who is going to do the best? Those who are furthest south soonest, no question. As the high will finally be broken up by a depression finally rumbling south east from Argentina, pressing the high eastwards to Africa, those furthest to the south most probably will catch the eastbound ride, ahead of the front Davies and Burton, a few hours behind Sébastien Simon and then the Herrmann-Escoffier-Bestaven a half day later.
Behind them (Dutreux-Pedote-Seguin, and even further, Joschke, Sorel, Attanasio, Roura, Crémer) there is another low for them but it will not be until after the weekend. As Ruyant, entangled in the last of the anticyclone he will see Dalin race away (this morning he is already 200 miles ahead). And meanwhile Jean Le Cam must wriggle south as best he can.
And so it will be early next week before the fleet takes a shape which, all things being equal, will be the imprint for the next month in the south. Already thousands of miles separate Dalin from the tribe off Brazil. Amedo, Barrier and Merron. The North Atlantic made the cracks, the South Atlantic opened them much further.