Sunday, 1 February 2009

Vendée Globe: Desjoyeaux Due Back in Les Sables d'Olonne This Weekend

At 1000am GMT, on 31 January 2009, Michel Desjoyeaux had 246 miles to the finish to complete an historic second Vendée Globe victory, the first skipper do so.

Foncia approaching the finish in Les Sables d'Olonne, France. Image copyright Jean-Marie Hauw/Marine Nationale/Vendée Globe.

by Véronique Teurlay

Desjoyeaux had a cold front to deal with last night 45 knots of wind then later this afternoon and tonight he has a high pressure ridge to negotiate bringing light NE’ly winds expected to be around 6-8 knots. So, a slow final night for him until the wind starts veering to the SE around 2 am.

Foncia: full speed ahead to the finish. Image copyright Jean-Marie Hauw/Marine Nationale/Vendée Globe.

He has a choice just now: the quicker he goes in the next few hours, the shorter the length of time he will suffer in the area of light winds ahead but he sails further.

The further south-west he digs, the slower his progress is likely to be.

Tomorrow access to the harbour is not possible between 1000 and 1600 GMT due to the low tide.

Roland Jourdain has just had the front too, it stretched all the way south of the Azores but for him it meant 30-35 knots of breeze from the W and SW but with a NW’ly swell, Sylvan Mondon seems to think that Bilou should have the worst of his problems – weather wise – behind him by the time he reaches the Azores. Roland Jourdain was making over 6 knots this morning and averaging about the same.

Armel Le Cléac'h behind in third is in the ‘bullseye position’, right in the middle of the Azores high pressure system and is very slow 1.6 knots at the moment and 1.6 average since 0330hrs this morning, so for the moment the ‘Jackal’ has his claws clipped.

L'Argonaute/Marine Nationale has picked up a shipping container on the race line of the skippers. Image copyright Jean-Marie Hauw/Marine Nationale/Vendée Globe.

Davies and Guillemot are in the NE’ly trades which will veer as the day goes on, 20 knots wind speed with about 100 miles between them. They are very evenly matched – good racing set to line up evenly for a drag race for the next three or four days.

Brian Thompson is starting to emerge from the Doldrums at the moment, making 9-10 knots and easing clear of Dee Caffari. Caffari is stuck for the moment making 1.5 knots and might be very slow for a while according to Meteo France. Now Aviva is 138 miles behind Bahrain DeArnaud has gained a little, made 40 miles on her since this morning, he has light easterly trade winds.

Steve White is leaving his thundery low that he has had and is facing a day of transition

Rich Wilson is in strong NWly wind which will veer to the NE while Raphael Dinelli and Norbert Sedlacek have a front passing over them and have under 600 miles to Cape Horn. Dinelli should be there Monday afternoon.

A summary of what the French-speaking skippers said today:

Michel Desjoyeaux on board Foncia. Image copyright Michel Desjoyeaux/Foncia/Vendée Globe.

Michel Desjoyeaux (Foncia): Not just the final day of January, but also the final day of the race. Speed starting to slow slightly. Cannot say when he will finish. The weather charts don’t agree. With the current winds, he won’t be there until Monday morning! (laughs) Over past hour a lot less wind. Boat surfing a bit and then slowing. Has been racing against a cargo vessel this morning.

Is going to have to hoist more sail to step up the pace. Joy of being at sea in nice weather. Transition from solitude to being in midst of thousands of people will be a shock, but festivities are going to be great fun. This second win is different as can look forward to it more serenely than first.

Crossed shipping lane last night. Has put an alert on tracker for ten miles around him, so when a boat gets near, he is alerted with an alarm and can even identify the boat and enter into contact with them. A lot less stress this time than 8 years ago. Has enjoyed the race. Just a short stretch left now. Will probably be at the helm this afternoon for the pleasure. Will shave and clean himself up this afternoon. Looking forward to excitement of harbour entrance and hoping the crowds will turn out, particularly as it’s a Sunday. Come and celebrate with me!

Marc Guillemot (Safran): Upwind sailing and not very comfortable. Not the most exciting phase of the race. You get through one or two waves but then slam into third. Several days of this ahead. Even preparing to eat is not easy as food spills everywhere. Not easy to sleep either as boat suffering, so he’s on edge too. Michel had high speeds in spite of sailing cautiously and not taking unnecessary risks. Only criticism is his attitude towards some of the other competitors, which hasn’t always been very kind. Doesn’t know yet whether he’ll be back again in 4 years. He’s staying with Safran and Safran will be there. Thinks he has gained a lot of experience and learnt a lot anyway.

If you are in the Vendée Globe, it’s because you want to be there, not just because you have a sponsor. So will see later whether he really wants to be there again. Difficult when under 20 knots of wind with reduced mainsail, but mustn’t complain as others are in a worse situation.

Careful! I don’t mean Mich Desj irritates me, but sometimes his comments can appear very cold. They lack warmth and emotion sometimes. Maybe he doesn’t realise that. That doesn’t take anything away from his excellent performance

Sunrise from on board Roxy. Image copyright Sam Davies/Roxy/Vendée Globe.

Roland Jourdain (Veolia Environnement): Progressing well as long as seas aren’t rough. Early in the night was fine, but the sea is getting rougher and that means he cannot control the boat’s movements. Stressful with breakers. May have to change course. Hoping to head for Sao Miguel (Azores), but that will depend on sea state. 25-35 knots of wind this morning 3-4m of swell. Wind will veer NW, but thinks these conditions will last 24 hours, so this is the trickiest part. Priority remains safety. Not going to do anything stupid. Has been looking at charts. If downwind conditions forecast for a week, should be possible. If upwind will have to look at the situation very closely as that would be risky. Managing to get a bit of rest, but not very restful sleep. This was the Vendée of Mich, or of Mich and the others.

Armel Le Cléac'h (Brit Air): As forecast, light winds. Occasional squalls allowing him to make a bit of headway occasionally. Should improve in a few hours. A swell causing the sails to flap. Hopes this evening or early tomorrow will be picking up speed again. Clouds arriving, which is a good sign. Didn’t sleep during the night, as concentrating on getting the boat moving. For Mich, it was an almost perfect race after his difficulty at the start. He was one of the favourites. Not a lot to say, but he’s simply confirmed his talent and experience. Behind, we’re trying not to arrive too long after him.

"Happy of the Vendée", Sam has even has a good sense of humour about her dirty washing! Image copyright Sam Davies/Roxy/Vendée Globe.

Sam Davies (Roxy): Conditions are fairly good 20 knots of wind. Sailing upwind and boat slamming. This is set to continue for some time, maybe 4 days right up to where Armel is at the moment. Mich is my hero. I always said he would win. Has sailed like a god.

Time to put a foot up: Sam Davies on board Roxy. Image copyright Sam Davies/Roxy/Vendée Globe.

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