sail-world.com -- Vendee Globe - It's a Merry Christmas as Le Cléac’h claims narrow lead
Vendee Globe - It's a Merry Christmas as Le Cléac’h claims narrow lead
Tue, 25 Dec 2012
In the Vendee Globe, it was the night before Christmas when the top two skippers exchanged positions once more, Armel Le Cléac’h taking over the lead by a mere 2.5 miles. Other than for Swiss skipper Bernard Stamm who is climbing north towards New Zealand and better weather, the entire Vendée Globe fleet are set to spend their Christmas Day sharing the same present, strong wind.
There will be little time to celebrate Christmas aboard Armel Le Cléac’h’s Banque Populaire or François Gabart’s Macif today, nor indeed will there be any more or any less than the usual goodwill evident between the two leading rivals, but the two top skippers were once again very close during last night. Le Cléac’h was consistently faster, nearly two knots quicker than Gabart overnight, between the 2000hrs and 0500hrs (French time) rankings. As they cross the western mark of the Pacific West gate, 1800 miles east of Dunedin and with 2860 miles to Cape Horn, Le Cléac’h has his nose in front again. They look set to spend Christmas Day in close company, fast reaching in 25kts of SW’ly winds. When yesterday they were separated by 20 miles of lateral distance last night it was reduced to just a couple of miles at times.
If third placed Jean-Pierre Dick has a significant margin to close on the leading duo, just over one day behind at current express speeds, the French skipper of Virbac-Paprec 3, who is spending his fifth Christmas at sea, has cut 50 miles from that margin during Christmas Eve, building the best 24hrs run of the Vendée Globe fleet at 423 miles.
British skipper Alex Thomson will doubtless have mixed feelings about his Christmas on the Vendée Globe, but he too has not been exactly hanging around. Quickest overnight of the fleet, Thomson will be quietly content that, at the third time of trying, this will be his first actual Christmas Day spent on the Vendée Globe and he is now enjoying a very solid fourth place.
But the affable British skipper who is sailing with very tightly rationed electrical power might perhaps be feeling doubly alone and isolated today. He will miss out on all the calls home to friends and family which might otherwise have enjoyed, but also with his long time Swiss rival Bernard Stamm routing sharply north towards New Zealand, On Hugo Boss Thomson has Dick nearly 500 miles ahead and Stamm, already 800 miles behind.
Bernard Stamm’s best gifts would be better weather and a safe, secure anchorage to make a rapid fix to his hydrogenerators. Stamm is heading towards Dunedin on New Zealand’s South Island making some 12kts in 30kts of contrary NW’ly winds. With 170 miles to sail Stamm might expect to reach the haven later today.
The misfortunes of the Swiss soloist on Cheminées Poujoulat become the gain of Jean Le Cam. On the 0500hrs ranking Le Cam was just 35 miles from the longitude of Stamm’s northerly course and the popular skipper who was second in the 2004-5 race looks set to take over fifth place today, giving chase to Thomson who sails the same older generation of Farr design.
Le Cam’s breakaway from Mike Golding on Gamesa, now at 465 miles, will not be adding much good cheer to the British skipper’s limited festivities today but the losses have very definitely stabilised and Golding is matching his French rival for speed, racing in lumpy, wet and challenging 35kts winds last night on the heels of a low pressure system. He still has the threat of Dominque Wavre on Mirabaud some 27 miles behind. Winds are slightly eased at around 25kts for this duo but will veer from SW to WSW for them over the day.
Some 220 miles behind Wavre, Spain’s Javier Sanso has much the same wind and looks set to have sporty, fast Christmas on Acciona 100% Eco Powered.
Nearly 3000 miles west of the leaders, Arnaud Boissières passed the Australia East gate at around 0300hrs last night making nearly 15kts of speed, setting up to gybe south again.