Reaching the Pacific (Vendée Globe)

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Jean-Pierre Dick onboard Virbac-Paprec 3
Rough seas in the Indian Ocean – Jean-Pierre Dick onboard Virbac-Paprec 3

It is day 39 of the Vendée Globe round-the-world, non-stop, single-handed yacht race. Most of the fleet is still crossing the Indian Ocean. However two of the skippers have entered the South Pacific Ocean. Early this morning, Armel Le Cléac’h & François Gabart crossed 146°55′ E longitude which marks the border between the Indian and Pacific Oceans. This line of longitude runs approximately halfway through Tasmania.

The race leaders have been taking advantage of a low pressure system to rocket ahead. At the moment Armel Le Cléac’h is in the lead with François Gabart roughly 2 nm behind him. Jean-Pierre Dick is ~383nm behind the leader Armel in third, and Alex Thomson is ~822nm behind the leader in fourth. Bernard Stamm is right behind Alex and ~850nm behind the race leader. The rest of the fleet is scattered across the Indian Ocean, yet to cross the Cape Leeuwin / Perth lines of longitude. Allessandro Di Benedetto is in last place, ~3923nm behind the leader.

Events in the past week: François Gabart set several new records: 545.3 miles for the 24 hours solo monohull distance record; and crossing the Indian Ocean in 11 days 6 hours and 40 minutes (between the Cape of Good Hope and Cape Leeuwin). Tanguy De Lamotte almost lost his gennaker before entering the Indian Ocean. Javier Sanso lost part of his rudder but didn’t discover it until he gybed (then the damaged rudder was to windward and out of the water). Dominique Wavre, Mike Golding and Jean Le Cam got stuck in some light winds and made little headway for several days.

Mike Golding was out of the hole (the light winds) and completing a sail change when the furling line on his huge code zero sail broke! Mike had to reduce pressure on his rig in order to bring the sail in. These Open 60 sailboats have canting keels which can pivot to the starboard or port sides of the boats; they are pivoted to windward to counteract the heeling force of the sail. The canting keels also use water for ballast. Mike dumped the keel ballast in order to deliberately put his boat on her side and ease the force on his rigging.

Weather in the Indian Ocean has been described as wet and wild. On Sunday Javier Sanso described his past 24 hours as very intense: 3 reefs, 50.3 knots of wind and 5 gybes. François Gabart complained that it was “freezing” and said he had a bit of snow … he even had to wear gloves! Javier Sanso also mentioned the cold, wet and choppy conditions; he has water leaking into the stern of his boat and the only dry clothes he has are inside vacuum packed bags.

Interesting tidbit: They call Armel Le Cléac’h “The Jackel” because of his relentless hunting-the-leader sailing exploits.

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