In the Vendee Globe, flying François Gabart stepped up his challenge with an unprecedented display of lightning fast sailing in the middle of the Indian Ocean today. The youngest skipper in the race who, remarkably, is a rookie to solo sailing in the Southern Ocean has set a set a truly electric pace – consistently at a level which none of his rivals have matched – to send the 24 hours solo monohull distance record soaring to a seemingly stratospheric 545.3 miles over the 24 hours to 1500hrs UTC this afternoon.
By 0800hrs UTC this morning 29 years old Gabart had already bettered the recent mark of rival Jean-Pierre Dick, set only ten days ago at a yet to be ratified 502.9 mm when he made 515.6 miles.
This new best 24 hours distance, riding at the front of a generous low in a good sized, orderly swell reflects an average speed of 22.3 kts and also surpasses easily the two handed record of Dick and Loick Peyron at 506.333 nm set in the last Barcelona World Race.
For a solo ocean racer on a 60 footer, 30 days into a nonstop, no outside assistance three month race, the distance even compares impressively against the outright crewed monohull record of 596.6 miles set in the 2008-9 Volvo Ocean Race by Ericsson, and is only 21 miles shy of the best 24 hour run on the last Volvo Ocean Race.
' I can’t really explain why I’m going so fast in the same weather conditions as the others… Maybe my sail settings are different from Armel’s. I’m sailing at 22-26 knots, and it should be like that for several more hours. It’s very noisy but you get used to it, same for how much the boat shakes. These things become familiar conditions, the norm,' reported Gabart.
' The autopilot is just fine, the boat is perfectly balanced, so I’m not even worrying about that. That’s what allows us to sail fast and effortlessly.'
Whilst the record as it stands is a nice Indian Ocean souvenir for Gabart and his Macif team, looking longer term the race’s youngest skipper is sitting with the highest average speed for the actual miles sailed so far in the race, presently at 14.9kts. Compared with the 2008-9 average of Gabart’s mentor Michel Desjoyeaux, at 14kts for his existing record of 84 days 03 hours 09 minutes, then a sub 80 days circumnavigation is on target.
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Gabart’s attack took him back into the overall lead this afternoon, ahead of Armel Le Cléac’h by just over one mile after making up more than 54 miles to Le Cléach’s Banque Populaire since yesterday evening.
Speeds between the two leaders, racing side by side, separated by just 3.5 miles of ocean, had evened out to around 21kts this afternoon.
' I think I’m doing great in terms of performance, I can see Macif on my AIS. My average speed is about 20 knots but he’s obviously been faster last night. But congratulations on his 24-hour record! 23 knots of average speed is really something, maybe he’s taken a bit more risks. Same for the skippers behind, but so far they’re doing ok. But I’m focusing on my own race, not the others’, and there’s still a long way to go.' Le Cléac’h responded on Vendée Globe LIVE!
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While the leading group are well established on their low pressure ride which will stay with them for some days to come, it is more complex now for the trio Mike Golding, Jean Le Cam and Dominque Wavre who have high pressure and lighter winds chasing them, forcing open their separation to the pacemakers.
At 30 days at sea since the fleet left Les Sables d’Olonne on 10/11/12, skippers confessed today what they were missing and not missing:
Arnaud Boissières, skipper of Akéna Vérandas said: 'I don’t really miss much, I am good here at sea, but being 450 miles closer to the lead group would be nice.'
Top of the miss list otherwise was family. Jean-Pierre Dick: 'My little family and the warmth of human interaction, which is welcome and reassuring sometimes.' Bernard Stamm said ‘I miss my family’.
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Alex Thomson, too agrees with that sentiment, but also misses fresh, warm bread.
Tanguy De Lamotte: 'I miss eating at a fixed table with more than just one person. When I passed the Cape of Good Hope and I had to have my little party on my own it would have been nice to share the experience with, but it’s fine I have enough to occupy myself.'
But leave it to Team Plastique’s Italian skipper Alessandro di Benedetto to not state the primal urges!: 'The first thing I miss…… well I can’t tell you (laughs). The second is fresh fruit.'
All new record speeds need to be ratified by the World Speed Sailing Records Council.
Francois Gabart, FRA, (Macif): I can’t really explain why I’m going so fast in the same weather conditions… Maybe my sail settings are different from his. I’m sailing at 22-26 knots, and it should be like that for several hours. It’s very noisy but you get used to it, same for how the boat shakes. They become familiar conditions and I can still get some rest despite all that. The autopilot is just fine, the boat is perfectly balanced, so I’m not even worrying about that. That’s what allows us to sail fast and effortlessly. Maybe I’ll see Armel soon, it will depend on the visibility. I can see him on my AIS, though. I can even tell you his speed and heading!
I’m not sure I’ll even try to go even faster, it will depend on the conditions. We’ll see.
Alessandro Di Benedetto, ITA, (Team Plastique): We had gusts around 50 knots, so I adapted my sails to that. But then the other problem I had to deal with right after the gusts was an iceberg alert but I had the right information so I could get out of that dangerous area. I stayed awake, with my radar on, just to stay safe. I’m fine now, so I’m back on my planned route. I hoisted the mainsail again recently. It wasn’t that bad, the wind was never more than 50 knots, and the fastest I sailed was 30 knots.
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Armel Le Cléac’h, FRA (Banque Populaire): I think I’m doing great in terms of performance, I can see Macif on my AIS. My average speed is about 20 knots but he’s obviously been faster last night. Congratulations on his 24-hour record!23 knots of average speed is really something, maybe he’s taken a bit more risks. Same for the skippers behind, but so far they’re doing ok. But I’m focusing on my own race, not the others’, and there’s still a long way to go anyway. The deck is drenched, there’s water everywhere, even inside, because you’re very wet when you get in. It’s pretty cold, too. And there’s a lot of stress, too, even though the sea isn’t too rough. It’s difficult to sleep, you always want to keep an eye on things.
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Mike Golding, GBR, (Gamesa): We are doing ok, we have around 15-16 knots of breeze, sailing downwind on 130ish angle with a code sail and full main, so it is not unpleasant at all, but it is not blistering either, a steady speed. Hopefully by the latter part of today we should start to see the breeze head us slightly so we can point slightly down towards the mark and start to increase the speed. I don't think we are going to get caught by the ridge that is behind us, unfortunately I think Dominique has fallen off the back into it but we are keeping going, providing the weather routing is correct.
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Vendee Globe website
by Vendee Globe - 5:44 PM Mon 10 Dec 2012 GMT
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2012 Vendee Globe
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