Vendee Globe: Day 50, Pacific Ocean at 800 miles to Cape Horn
Photo: Just two miles separate Armel Le Cléac’h Banque Populaire, (seen on the horizon) and François Gabart MACIF. Photo François Gabart MACIF.
As the leading three skippers of the 13 remaining on this Vendée Globe contemplate passing Cape Horn on the first days of 2013 they may well give thanks that the last month of 2012 has delivered relatively benign conditions in the ‘big south’.
Complacency is not often a failing which visits many solo sailors, but after a five week spell with no abandonments – since Vincent Riou on 26th November – it would be too easy for an outside observer to consider that a successful escape unscathed from the Pacific is a passport to a successful finish in Les Sables d’Olonne.
Recent editions of the Vendée Globe have seen at least one retirement in the Atlantic. In 2009 it was Roland Jourdain who lost his keel and had to retire in the Azores. Four years before, for Nick Moloney it was also keel damage which forced him to abandon, retiring into Brazil. In the last Barcelona World Race Dominique Wavre and Michèle Paret lost their mast on the return up the Atlantic in tough conditions off Argentina.
Ice at Diego Ramirex Island
For the leaders there is an initial worry about ice at Cape Horn, but once they are into the South Atlantic there is predicted to be a succession of low pressure systems which can be as challenging as anything they have had in the Indian or the Pacific.
The ice threat for Armel Le Cléac’h and François Gabart is being very carefully monitored. Closest to their routing for their approach will be a 200 metres long, 100 metres high berg which is reported to be grounded beside Diego Ramirez island – some 50 miles SW of Cape Horn, which is reported to be releasing smaller growlers.
The iceberg is just one of five in the area, the others are more to the east and south of the current course.
“ I’m concerned about the ice in the Cape Horn area.” Race leader Armel Le Cléac’h admitted today to Vendée Globe LIVE, “ It’s a little unusual in that zone, but we’ll deal with it. It’s not fun to sail close to the coast in such conditions, with icebergs, but we’ll use the latest info given by Race Direction. François and I will be very careful and if we do see ice, we’ll let each other know. That’s another good thing about being so close. If you really want to be as safe as possible, the radar is not enough. We’re lucky because when you’re at 56° south, nights are very short and that helps when you are looking around, checking for icebergs. Except when there’s fog, of course!” Armel Le Cleác’h (Banque Populaire) was leading the race by eight miles this afternoon ahead of Francois Gabart with less than 800 miles to Cape Horn.
Stamm in the fog, one speed only.
The return of Bernard Stamm continues as the Swiss skipper chases down Arnaud Boissières on Akéna Verandas which is now around 50 miles ahead of Cheminées Poujoulat. Stamm has been second quickest of the fleet and spoke today to Vendée Globe LIVE for the first time since he made his technical stop off Dunedin, NZ.
Splitting thick fog at an average of 19 knots average, Stamm said he could only see 200 meters. But he confirmed that his two hydrogenerators are working well, restoring his power to well beyond the two hours he had left his batteries when he was on his technical stop. "I had no more than half a liter of fresh water left at one point. There, you can always call for help and throw in the towel." Tenacious Stamm managed to avoid doing that. After 50 days at sea, in 10th position he is clearly intent on staying in the race.
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