Thursday, 12 February 2009

Vendée Globe: Less Than A Fastnet to go for Sam

A happy Sam Davies on board Roxy. Image copyright Sam Davies/Roxy/Vendée Globe.

Roxy ploughs into a wave. Image copyright Sam Davies/Roxy/Vendée Globe.

by Véronique Teurlay

In the moderate downwind conditions they have been enjoying the differences in speed between Sam Davies’ Roxy and Marc Guillemot’s doubly handicapped Safran have not been too great.

The British skipper has had a good night pushing averages of 12-13 knots while Guillemot has been closer to the 10-11 knots and this morning is within 90 miles of Roxy in terms of distance to finish. As the low pressure to the north contains the high a little then they have been able to keep moving perhaps a little better than was expected, and a Saturday finish seems to be on the cards, although Davies considers that the final 200 miles late Thursday and Friday will still be slow. Davies is 300 miles NW of Cape Finisterre this morning and Guillemot 385 miles to the NWW of the Cape.

Roxy's cockpit fills with water. Image copyright Sam Davies/Roxy/Vendée Globe.

From Sam Davies: "I am writing this in the moonlight which is streaming into the cabin as Roxy trundles along under her big (Sophie) spinnaker. The moonlight is shining behind the spinnaker and the girl that is painted on the sail is silhouetted out - just beautiful!

"I had two sail changes today - first Genevieve (who was very happy to unroll her cloth as she had been very tightly rolled in 30 knots of wind the previous day), then Sophie the spinnaker. Each time it is extremely hard work to heave the sail to the top of the mast as it weighs about the same as me. I am left sapped of energy for a few minutes afterwards. My hands are suffering too; I think it will take more than a manicure to turn them back into girl's hands!

"These are the times I prefer - we are powering along with big sails in the dark of night. It is a bit of a buzz to let Roxy sail herself with so much power, and takes practice to be able to sleep. Luckily, I have had plenty.

"I have had a little snooze already but I was rudely awoken when my bed, normally horizontal, became very steeply angled and I found myself in a heap where my feet normally are – a little wipeout caused by a very impolite 22-knot gust! I was on deck in a matter of seconds to ease the sheets and Roxy was soon back upright and pointing in the right direction. The only trouble was that in the rush I had put my boots on the wrong feet!

"I don't know why, but it is a common occurrence on this trip to put at least one boot on the wrong foot. I have even written "port" and "starboard" on my boots but it hasn't helped. I have taken to using it as a sign of how tired I am: if I get both boots on before I realise that they are on the wrong feet then I am definitely too tired!

"I have just over 600 miles to go - a mere "Fastnet Race" - and my latest ETA is for early Saturday morning. This could still change though, as the winds look pretty light and tricky for my last 200 miles.

"S x"

Morning moon, as seen from Roxy. Image copyright Sam Davies/Roxy/Vendée Globe.

Fast reaching in their southerly breezes of just over 20 knots has Bahrain Team Pindar in a particular sweet spot and Brian Thompson, GBR, has been eking out the miles on Dee Caffari, GBR, (Aviva). NW of the Azores now Brian was especially quick in the small hours of the morning, making over 17 knots, while Dee has been in the range 12-13 knots on average, perhaps more obviously punished now by her progressively disintegrating mainsail. Thompson is now just over 91 miles ahead of Caffari.

Arnaud Boissières on Akena Vérandas did have a promising spell around midnight last night and was making over seven knots this morning, but he has been very stuck in the centre of the second high pressure in the north Atlantic, and average less than five knots last night. That has allowed the regular Steve White, GBR (Toe in the Water) to catch more miles and he is now 620 miles behind, as close as he has been since White was snared by a high pressure in the South Pacific. White has gained 120 miles on him since the same time on Monday morning, and can expect to carry on his gains for at least another two days of trade winds sailing for the British skipper.

Rich Wilson, USA, (Great American III) is still 175 miles south of Salvador de Bahia and is making a steady 8-9 knots is light easterly trade winds. Behind him Norbert Sedlacek, AUT, (Nauticsport Kapsch) has been able to eat into the lead of Raphael Dinelli (Fondation Océan Vital) who has strayed too far into an anticyclone just now and was making less than 5 knots for much of the night. The Austrian skipper is 361 miles behind Dinelli this morning but had a very difficult time in the big low pressure system, spending lot of time at the helm because his autopilot has not been working; three knock-downs on Monday. Yesterday was repair and clean up day. He says his eyes are still stinging and swollen, but he is feeling better.

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

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