Thursday, November 20, 2008

Vendée Globe leaders struggle in the Doldrums

[Source: Vendée Globe] The goal posts are moving today for the leaders as they struggle to exit from the Doldrums and all the time they do, the chasing group are making a regular gain in better breezes.

The worst of the band of light, variable breezes in which the leading group of five are sailing is moving slightly south with them this morning. In relative terms it has affected perennial leader Loïck Peyron first and the lead of Gitana Eighty has been more than halved.

Seb Josse compresses to be just 14 miles adrift of him, with a more easterly position with BT, while the gains of third, fourth and fifth placed boats all are around 20-25 miles.

Call it the concertina or the accordion, but the squeeze is real, as the leader slows and the gains magnify as the chasing boats have better breeze for longer – until they progressively slow as well.

So Seb Josse has managed to keep going twice as quickly as Peyron. While Gitana Eighty has been ghosting along at between two and five knots, averaging 3.3 knots, Josse’s average is a much more healthy 7.6 knots.

Day 10 of the Vendée Globe. 19 November 2008. Video copyright Vendée Globe

Weather forecasts suggest that the leaders should emerge into the first of the trade winds later this evening, but they have a period of unstable, variable 4-7 knots breezes to contend with to get there.

While Jean-Pierre Dick (Paprec-Virbac 2) has regained third placed, Vincent Riou (PRB) reappears from ‘stealth mode’ in fourth place, 30.8 miles behind Peyron, having gained 30 miles since yesterday evening, very much a reduction commensurate with his position in the pack, the engine room driving the pace. In broad terms the 7-10th boats gained around 20 miles, the 10th – 15th somewhere around 30 miles.

Mike Golding’s gain amounts to 19 miles, holding seventh place behind Yann Elies (Generali). Golding, GBR, admitted this morning that much of the gains in the Doldrums can be about leaving the boat well set up with a good sail-plan. In his experience manoeuvres and sail changes can often cost distance. He has Roland ‘Bilou’ Jourdain on Veolia Environnement outside him, 50 miles to the west. Bilou’s gains have stabilised slightly.

Brian Thompson, GBR, (Bahrain Team Pindar) has taken back 12th from Sam Davies, GBR, (Roxy) making a net 15 miles gain to be 8 miles ahead.

And in turn Dee Caffari, GBR, is making good speed on Aviva, gaining more than 30 miles on Peyron, but she has Steve White 14.3 miles behind. Toe in the Water is the next target for Mich Desj on Foncia who is now 332 miles behind the leader, and has just eight miles to close on the young British skipper White.



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