There’s no denying that the Vendée Globe is a race of attrition. Twenty skippers started from Les Sables d’Olonne on November 10, and before the fleet was even 25% of the way around the course, 35% had retired from damage to their fragile boats, the latest being Vincent Riou on PRB.
This weekend Riou, the winner of the ’04-05 edition of the race, reported he’d hit a wayward navigation buoy in the middle of the Atlantic. "It was a huge metal buoy, something you find in a commercial port," he reported. "Because it was almost submerged it must have been at sea a long time. I think the buoy was half air and half water. The Vendée Globe turns on very small details like rubbish you can find on the water.”
Initially, he thought he’d be able to continue the race after he repaired the hull, but closer inspection of the carbon-fiber outrigger shroud revealed the damage was too great. He announced his retirement yesterday. "I thought really hard before making the decision, I wanted to make sure there was no other possibility for me to be able to continue in the race," he said. "But at one point you have to be resigned, I just couldn’t continue with a boat in that state."
That leaves 13 boats on the course in three packs and one straggler. The lead pack — Armel Le Cléac’h (Banque Populaire), Fraçois Gabart (MACIF), Jean-Pierre Dick (Virbac Paprec), Alex Thomson (Hugo Boss) and Bernard Stamm (Cheminées Poujoulat) — have passed Rio and are on their way to the Cape of Good Hope, while the straggler — Alessandro Di Benedetto (Team Plastique) — just crossed the equator this morning.
Though it will be a few days before they reach it, the first ice gate at the Cape of Good Hope was moved one degree north and seven degrees east to keep the racers safe from growlers and icebergs. Race organizers are carefully tracking the movement of ice and will adjust the ice gates’ locations accordingly.
A common question cruisers hear all too often is, "What do you do with all that free time?" Experienced cruisers laugh and try to explain that there’s never any shortage of tasks to complete, whether is schlepping miles to the nearest grocery store, repairing worn sails or giving the bottom a good scrub. But many cruisers want to spend what spare time they have giving back to the communities they visit. Molly Arnold and Bryce Andrews are one such couple.
"We sailed from San Francisco in the ’11 Ha-Ha and, as typical newbies, were consumed with the new lifestyle and making new friends," they report. "This month we returned to La Paz not only ready to get our CS36 Abracadabra out on the water again, but also to find ways to give back a little of our good fortune.
"Sure enough, there are plenty of ways to get out and get involved in the community. We listen to the local Net where people are often organizing fundraisers and volunteer projects. La Paz’s Club Cruceros is another great source of information. Through a flyer posted at the Marina Palmira we learned of an Ocean Conservancy beach cleanup just outside town at Balandra Bay.
"We, along with many cruisers — including our friends Jeff and Julie Leonard from the Ventura-based Catalina 42 Buena Vida — La Paz nonprofit partner ConCiencia, as well as area residents, helped get the beach a little cleaner. After a hot and dusty morning, we proudly presented our giant Costco bag of trash to add to the group’s clean-up efforts and were surprised to get a t-shirt in return! You can do well while doing good.
"We plan to keep our eyes and ears open for more such activities this season. As cruisers it’s fun to get out and get involved."
If Molly and Bryce are near Puerto Vallarta December 12-14, they could have a great time for a great cause. The Banderas Bay Blast, including the Pirates for Pupils Spinnaker Run, is a fabulous way to give back. The Blast is three days of ‘nothing serious’ Ha-Ha-style racing, sponsored by the Punta Mita Yacht & Surf Club and the Vallarta YC. The annual fundraiser for primary schools in the Punta Mita area is better than free, as participants get a night of free berthing at the Marina Riviera Nayarit and a night of free berthing at Paradise Marina. Last year, $3,000 was raised, but organizers know cruisers can do better, so they moved the dates later in the month to allow folks more time to get down there. Let’s make this the best Blast ever!