Sunday, December 21, 2008

Vendée Globe leaders reach halfway point, to face icebergs

[Source: Vendée Globe] The leaders continue to drag race towards the New Zealand gate this evening, newly moved north in order to bring the fleet away from the ice risk below the West Pacific and East Pacific gates — not everyone will be hoping for a white Christmas this winter.

Previous editions have seen this section of the race dotted with icebergs — in 2004, Jean Le Cam took the lead on 20th December. Two days later, he informs Race HQ that he has seen a dozen icebergs, and on the 23rd December 2004, Sébastien Josse hits a growler and breaks his bowsprit. That Christmas Day, Mike Golding added his concerns after seeing some more icebergs.

Four years later, and Seb Josse and Jean Le Cam are still right in contention – Le Cam is currently 200 miles off leader Foncia, fourth of the leading, southerly group. Mich Desj’s relentless pace continues, with Foncia once again the fastest boat in the fleet this evening, currently sailing at 18 knots and covering over 375 miles in the past 24 hours.

Video highlights from day 42 of the Vendée Globe. 21 December 2008. Video copyright Vendée Globe

Behind them, taking a more northerly line, Armel Le Cléac’h (Brit Air) and Vincent Riou (PRB) have tonight cleared the East Australian gate, meanwhile Dee Caffari (Aviva, GBR) and Arnaud Boissieres (Akena Vérandas) have reached the West Australia waypoint.

Of the international skippers, Brian Thompson has a long night ahead of him. Bahrain Team Pindar is still making nearly 10 knots, but is now on a north-easterly heading and has covered just over 100 miles in the past day as Thompson battles to make good his structural repairs. In his latest update Brian reported that some of the carbon laminating he did yesterday has failed to set because of the movement of the boat, so he is going to cut up floorboards to stick to the damaged section, then use epoxy, adhesive sealant, and bolts to hold it all into place.

“I have about 18 hours before the next depression starts rolling through to get it done. I have not looked at all where the other boats are, it is likely they are streaking away and I am getting caught from behind, but that is really not an issue until I can get this broken boat mended to restart the race.”

Others facing a tough evening are those at the back of the fleet, particularly Norbert Sedlacek (Nauticsport Kapsch) and Raphael Dinelli (Fondation Océan Vital), who have been skirting to the north of a low pressure system predicted to bring storm force winds overnight.

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